The National Institutes of Aging awarded a Children's Hospital researcher a four-year grant to investigate the role biological errors play in age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

The NIA grant will support Marc Vermulst, PhD, of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine, in his investigation of the role non-genetic errors made during cell transcription and translation play in age-related diseases.

This is a new, "non-DNA centric way to understand how aging results ultimately in age-related diseases," Dr. Vermulst said.

Dr. Vermulst developed a number of novel assays to conduct this research, which he hopes "may significantly deepen our understanding of aging and age-related pathology and help identify new targets for treatments or prevention strategies in the clinic."

In their experiments, Dr. Vermulst and his team increased the error rate of transcription in living cells and found "features that are indicative of accelerated aging," he said. For example, Dr. Vermulst pointed out that some age-related diseases are caused by an aggregation of proteins. As the researchers increased the error rate of transcription, they also increased the rate at which these proteins aggregated, which suggests that a link exists between transcription errors and age-related diseases.

While his investigation is basic and clinical applications of the work remain in the future, Dr. Vermulst said the project's focus on establishing a better understanding of the mechanisms of aging could lead to future treatment strategies.

He has been working with the National Cancer Institute's Jeffrey N. Strathern, PhD, and the University of North Carolina's Dorothy Erie, PhD, on the project. To learn more about the groundbreaking research being conducted at the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine, visit CMEM's website.