The rapid deciphering of the human genetic blueprint gives researchers more tools than ever to chip away at the mysteries of aging. Scientists interested in the aging process are poring over the information generated by the Human Genome Project with an eye to connecting specific genes to the finest minutiae of aging.
These researchers will gather April 24-27 in Seville, Spain, for what is billed as the world's first "Functional Genomics of Aging" Conference.
The Sam and Ann Barshop Center for Longevity and Aging Studies, part of the growing aging research presence at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), is one of the sponsors. Jan Vijg, Ph.D., director of the Human Genetics Program at the Barshop Center and professor of physiology, and Yousin Suh, Ph.D., a professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, are the conference organizers and co-chairs.
"This is the first meeting of its kind," Dr. Vijg said. "Functional genomics can be defined as a comprehensive approach to study the dynamic network of genes that ultimately determines the physiology of an individual organism. This new discipline emerged after the human genome was sequenced. We now have the opportunity to connect genes with function — to implicate genes that control aspects of aging and its inherent diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. These genes control whether we live productively into our 80s, 90s and beyond."
Because of its complexity, aging has been difficult to address using classical gene-by-gene and protein-by-protein approaches. "In a way, you can almost say that aging was waiting for functional genomics to come around and solve it," Dr. Vijg said. "We believe this will be a major conference and the first of its kind in the world. Insight into the molecular and cellular targets of the aging process would offer the unprecedented opportunity to postpone aging and disease."
Speakers will include highly prominent scientists such as Dr. Leroy Hood, one of the fathers of modern genome research, Dr. Edison Liu, the former director of clinical sciences of the National Cancer Institute and presently the director of the newly established prestigious Genome Institute of Singapore, and Charles Cantor, one of the originators of the Human Genome Project.
Sponsors include the U.S. National Institute on Aging, the Academy of Applied Science, the Korea Research Foundation for Health Science, the Sam and Ann Barshop Center, the American Federation for Aging Research, the Ellison Medical Foundation, Elsevier Science, Silicon Genetics, Amersham Biosciences and SK Chemicals.
The deadline for submitting research abstracts is Feb. 1, but researchers may early register through March 27. For details, go to http://www.elsevier.com/homepage/sah/ageing/menu.html.
The Sam and Ann Barshop Center for Longevity and Aging Studies was created in 2001 and is named for Texas philanthropists Sam and Ann Barshop, who donated $4 million toward the center's funding. The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio has more federal funding for aging research than any center in the country except Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.