This research thread focuses on the role of RNA regulation in ageing and longevity in mammals. We are currently investigating two aspects of this regulation in depth.
Firstly, we are looking at alternative RNA splicing. This is a highly important process which contributes towards the ability of an organism to respond effectively to changes in environment or other stressors. We recently published a study showing that key regulators of the splicing machinery are expressed differently in long-lived strains of mouse and that some of these effects are present in young animals, suggesting that these could be early-life determinants of lifespan. We also found that some of these changes in expression are associated with parental age at death in a human cohort (this measure is used as a proxy for an individual’s longevity as most of the volunteers in our human cohort are still alive and so we do not have lifespan data for them).
Currently we are also analysing data from a longitudinal study that will allow us to see whether the expression (or change in expression over time) of these same splicing regulators is useful as a predictor of future outcomes in terms of disease or other features of ageing in humans.
We are also investigating the potential role of microRNAs in ageing and lifespan. MicroRNAs are endogenously expressed short, non-coding species of RNA molecules that function to regulate gene expression.
This study is being written for publication at the moment, but in short we have found a small number of microRNAs that are associated with lifespan in both mice and humans.