George Murphy, PhD, and Thomas Perls, MD, MPH
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Rare individuals with exceptional longevity suggest we have within us the potential for longer, more healthful lives. In the last decade, several studies have provided evidence that many centenarians and their offspring delay or escape aging-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, while markedly delaying disability. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally impacted older people with the majority of deaths due to the disease occurring in those over the age of 65. Yet, there appears to be a subgroup of select survivors, centenarians, that despite this age-related trend, survive COVID-19. These findings provide an unexpected and promising entry point for understanding healthful aging and the mechanisms that limit or embolden disease. In this study, we will combine innovative, longevity-specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-based models capable of recapitulating human development with next generation sequencing approaches to identify the transcription factors, signaling pathways, and protein interaction networks that are linked to longevity and act to sustain cellular integrity and functionality during acute disease and in old age. This work has the potential to revolutionize our thinking concerning regenerative medicine and the aging process while unlocking a detailed roadmap to healthful living, disease resistance and longevity.