PHILADELPHIA - James Eberwine, PhD, professor of Pharmacology, at the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received a Senior Scholar Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation. This supports basic biological research in aging, for $600,000 to be disbursed over the next four years. He is one of 20 investigators to receive this award.

“This grant will enable us to use cutting-edge technologies to assess the contribution of protein synthesis in modulating the aging cell phenotype,” says Eberwine. “One of the unique aspects of these studies is our ability to assess translation of multiple RNAs simultaneously in subregions of aging cells.” 

The Ellison Senior Scholar program in Aging is designed to support established investigators to conduct research in the basic biological sciences relevant to age-related diseases and disabilities. It supports the development of new, creative research programs by investigators who may not currently be conducting aging research or who may wish to develop new research programs in aging. The Award stimulates new research, which has rigorous scientific foundations, but which may not be currently funded adequately, because of its perceived novelty, its high risk, or because it is from an area where traditional research interests absorb most funding.

Eberwine’s team will study the translation of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) in dendrites -- the ends of nerve cells -- as a function of aging to ascertain whether dendritic protein synthesis contributes to the cognitive decline often associated with the aging process.  This line of work will try to answer if the decrease in neural connections seen in aging can be modulated through regulation of dendritic protein synthesis.

They will look at dendrites in neurons isolated from animal models of aging and isolate mRNAs from individual synapses using a new technique developed in the Eberwine lab. These isolated mRNAs will then be sequenced using next generation nucleic acid sequencers to identify subpopulations of mRNAs that co-localize to individual synapses and are therefore candidates for regulating synaptic function. Translational regulation of this subset of mRNAs will be visualized using novel imaging techniques and algorithms developed to directly quantify this phenomenum.  Should protein synthesis of synaptically localized mRNAs be altered during aging the translation of the dysregulated mRNAs will be experimentally manipulated in an effort to assess how aging induced changes in dendritic physiology alters cellular function. 

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