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Health span extension mediated by the diet and microbiota

Primary Supervisor: Dr Andre Pires da Silva, School of Life Sciences

Secondary supervisor: Dr Ioannis Nezis

PhD project title: Health span extension mediated by the diet and microbiota

University of Registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Although human longevity has increased through improved nutrition, sanitation and healthcare in the last century, the full benefits of this increased lifespan can only be realised if there is a parallel increase in the health-span of an individual. Thus, those factors that may influence healthy motor and cognitive ageing, such as diet, exercise, “brain training” and cognition-enhancing drugs, are receiving a considerable amount of attention in a variety of organisms, ranging from the nematode Caenorhabditis elegansto non-human primates. A remarkable degree of similarity has been seen across these diverse species suggesting that the factors influencing the health- and lifespan may be deeply evolutionarily conserved, and, moreover, amenable to manipulation.

In this project with C. elegans, the goal is to establish the role of the diet and the gut microbiome in healthy aging. C. eleganshas close association with bacteria, which are both food source and part of the gut microbiome. In our preliminary experiments using the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, we found mutants that can increase C. eleganslifespan and healthspan by 50%.

The goal of the project is to determine the metabolites produced by the bacteria that influenceC. elegans lifespan, as well as the genetic pathways in C. elegansthat are influenced by the bacteria.

Note: Given the limited access to the laboratory due to the coronavirus, there is flexibility in this project to have a large bioinformatics component.

References:

  1. Zhang, F., Berg, M., Dierking, K., Felix, M.A., Shapira, M., Samuel, B.S., and Schulenburg, H. (2017). Caenorhabditis elegansas a model for microbiome research. Frontiers in microbiology 8, 485.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Understanding of Health, Ageing

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • For the characterization of the metabolites produced by mutant bacteria, we will use metabolomics and proteomics approaches.
  • For understanding the role of bacteria on gene expression in the nematode, we will use transcriptomics approaches as well as transgenic nematodes with reporter genes, or generate mutants.
  • To essay for lifespan, we will use microfluidic devices to determine health span.

Contact: Dr Andre Pires da Silva, University of Warwick