MITOCHONDRIAL REGULATION OF AGING IN HUMANS: A TRANSDISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATION
(Columbia Aging Center, Faculty Research Fellowship; Picard, M.)
This transdisciplinary project investigates the biopsychosocial nature of the aging process and its modifiability by bringing together researchers from across campus. An emerging theory of aging implicates the dysfunction of mitochondria, a subcellular organelle that sustains life and enables stress adaptation via energy production and signaling. Mitochondrial signals influence processes within the cell nucleus, including epigenetic modifications and telomere shortening, both of which have been used as “aging clocks”. Moreover, of significance to understand how psychosocial factors influence the aging process, neuroendocrine mediators such as cortisol, catecholamines, and sex hormones released in response to psychosocial experiences directly influence mitochondrial functions through defined molecular mechanisms. Thus, mitochondria may sit at the interface of psychosocial experiences and genetic/epigenetic processes that mark biological aging. This pilot project will investigate the association between mitochondrial dysfunction, and aging at the cellular, physiological, and psychological level in patients with genetic mitochondrial disease and controls.