A Genomics Approach to Understanding Neural Stem Cell Aging

2011 new Scholar Award in aging

Aging is accompanied by deterioration of brain functions. The discovery of neural stem cells and new neurons in the adulthood brings the hope of brain rejuvenation. However, the ability of neural stem cells to proliferate and to generate neurons decreases profoundly with the aging process. Yet, the mechanism for such age-dependent decline is not clear.

Our goal is to understand the genetic blueprints controlling the aging process of neural stem cells in mammalian brains. Although these cells can be cultured in a dish, they do not exhibit the aging characteristics of their counterpart in vivo. For example, while their proliferation rate declines rapidly in aging brain, neural stem cells continue to replicate in culture even after an extended period of culturing. Therefore, cells freshly isolated from the adult brain will represent the best material to address the aging process. We will establish a procedure to perform genomic analysis using stem cells from adult mouse brains. Applying this procedure, we will then systematically analyze gene expression and their function in neural stem cells during the aging process. From this study, we hope to gain novel insight into the machinery governing stem cell aging and to employ this knowledge to addressing problems associated with aging human brain.

Chun-Li Zhang Ph.D.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas