Elçin Ünal


My research is focused on how the cellular signs of aging are erased in gametes—the reproductive cells that carry an organism’s genetic material to the next generation. When gametes are made, their biological clocks must be reset: children are not born with cells the same age as their parents. As a postdoctoral fellow, we discovered that the gametes produced by old yeast are indistinguishable from those made by young yeast: the cellular damage that had accumulated in their older “parents” had disappeared. My laboratory is now studying the mechanisms by which reproductive cells wind back their biological clocks. We have already identified one factor: a protein that controls the activity of genes during reproductive cell development and is capable of extending the lifespan of elderly yeast. By unraveling how this protein helps to rejuvenate old cells, this work will enrich our understanding of the molecular basis of aging, a finding that could lead to new approaches to reverse cellular damage and increase healthy lifespan.

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