The Ross Lab investigates fundamental questions of aging.
Our primary objectives are directed toward understanding the metabolic consequences and underlying molecular mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases, with a particular focus on brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Our work investigates the interconnectedness of several hallmarks of the aging process: mitochondrial dysfunction, deregulated gene expression (epigenetic alterations), and “inflammaging” (low, chronic inflammation), focusing on the whole body as well as key brain regions and neuronal populations.
Areas of Research
Mitochondrial dysfunction in aging
Mitochondria are traditionally known to be the “powerhouse of the cell”, but these tiny organelles provide input to numerous cellular processes, including calcium and cell-death signaling, steroid and neurotransmitter production, and lipid metabolism, just to name a few. Impaired mitochondria have been highly implicated not only in aging, but also in arthritis, cancers, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, as well as dementia and several neurodegenerative diseases.
Epigenetic alterations in aging
Epigenetics takes into account processes that regulate how and when particular genes are expressed and repressed, with these processes changing with age or exposure to toxins and radiation. Epigenetic alterations affecting gene expression have been found to occur during aging as well as in many age-related diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases; however, it is unclear if epigenetic changes are the cause or the product of these altered states.
Exposure to environmental toxins, such as microplastics, and lifestyle interventions that are clinically translatable, such as diet and exercise, together with pharmaceutical and nutraceutical treatments are also being investigated to possibly counteract aging and disease as well as promote health and longevity.
In order to experimentally test our hypotheses, we will use both in vivo (animal models) and in vitro (tissue-culture) techniques, allowing for a multi-faceted approach to delineate the roles of mitochondrial dysfunction, epigenetic alterations, and chronic inflammation in aging and age-related disease onset and progression, as well as highlight potential therapeutic strategies to improve the human condition.
Ålderstrappan, painting on fabric by Winter Carl Hansson (1777-1805). Photo: Sören Hallgren / Leksands Archives. Scripture (Job, 14.1-2)