Metabolic regulation of stem cell behavior
Organismal aging is inextricably linked to altered metabolism at all levels- from changes in the levels of extrinsic, systemic factors (ex. hormones, insulin/Insulin-like growth factors) to decreased efficiency of cellular organelles, such as mitochondria. Guided by our interest in the biology of aging, we are exploring whether pathways that regulate longevity act autonomously, within stem cells, to regulate stem cell aging. In addition, we are interested to learn how stem cell aging is coordinated with organismal aging and look to metabolism as a plausible link.
Together with our collaborators here at UCLA, we have demonstrated that enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis in stem cells is sufficient to delay characteristics of stem cell aging, with a concomitant extension of lifespan. Therefore, we are exploring how bioenergetic switches in stem cells can regulate fundamental aspects of stem cell behavior. We are optimistic that our experiments will shed light on how metabolic diseases, such as obesity or metabolic syndrome, can impact the ability of stem cells to maintain tissue and organ function and instruct us on how regenerative medicine can be used in patients suffering from such diseases.