Dr. Annika Barber, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and the Waksman Institute, received a Glenn Foundation for Medical Research and American Federation for Aging Research Junior Faculty Award. This 2-year award supports projects concerned with understanding the fundamental biology of aging, rather than disease-specific research. Dr. Barber’s proposal investigates how aging and dietary stress interact to alter the way our bodies keep time. Degradation of circadian rhythms of behavior and physiology reduces both life- and healthspan across species. Surprisingly, daily oscillation of clock molecules in the “master clock” in the brain remains robust, even as circadian behavior and physiology become disorganized with advancing age. Importantly, the interaction of age with environmental factors can accelerate circadian rhythm deterioration. Using the Drosophila model, the Barber Lab will investigate how signals from the circadian clock become dampened, even as the molecular clock keeps ticking. They will also determine whether the age-induced dampening of clock function sensitizes flies to the effects of a high-fat diet. This basic research will eventually aid in identifying pharmacological, dietary and lifestyle chronotherapies to improve quality of life into old age.
The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research (GFMR) and AFAR provide up to $100,000 for a one- to two-year award to junior faculty (MDs and PhDs) to conduct research that will serve as the basis for longer term research efforts on the biology of aging. The major goal of this program is to assist in the development of the careers of junior investigators committed to pursuing careers in the field of aging research. GFMR and AFAR support research projects concerned with understanding the basic mechanisms of aging rather than disease-specific research. The GFMR and AFAR award only approximately 10 junior faculty awards a year.