by Buck Institute

World’s first Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality established at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging

July 25, 2018/Novato, CA: The Buck Institute announced today that it is establishing the world’s first Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality.  A $6 million gift from Nicole Shanahan provides seed money for an effort to address an inequality which has existed throughout human history: men can reproduce throughout their lifespan; but women's fertility begins to decline in their early 30's.

“While aging research is seeing unprecedented acceleration, the area of women’s reproductive longevity remains underappreciated or even ignored,” said Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO. “Beyond reproduction, the end of fertility sets off a cascade of negative effects in women’s bodies. We want to intervene in that process. The goal of this new center is to develop strategies to prevent or delay ovarian aging.”  The Buck is actively recruiting faculty and researchers for the new center.

“Reproductive equality is an issue near and dear to my heart,” said Shanahan, who is a lawyer turned legal technologist, social justice philanthropist, and founder. “On a societal level, reproductive equality impacts women’s health, family planning, infertility, and career development. I am excited to support groundbreaking work that has so many touch points for rebalancing our culture and economy.”

Age is the most important factor affecting a woman’s chance to conceive and have a healthy child. In humans, a woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30’s. At 40 a woman only has a 5% chance of becoming pregnant in any month.  Verdin says recent small investigational studies suggest that there are several potential molecular mechanisms that contribute to ovarian aging, including impaired DNA repair, metabolic and energetic disorders, and mitochondrial dysfunction.”  The Buck has active research programs that address the areas already implicated in ovarian aging,” he said. “We believe we can make rapid progress and that this new center can quickly become a global resource and thought leader in this field.”

Buck Professor Judith Campisi, PhD, applauds the recruitment effort. She studies DNA repair as an aspect of cellular senescence, a cellular mechanism which causes aging-associated inflammation and tissue degradation, and promotion of disease.  Campisi, who was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences, says studies show that women who have later menopause tend to live longer and have enhanced abilities to repair damaged DNA.  “It’s possible that we could exploit this advantage to benefit all women,” she said. “It’s one of places where we could start the larger inquiry.”

The Buck Institute has 19 labs, each run by a principal investigator. Additional research programs which would be immediately relevant to the new Center for Female Reproductive Longevity and Equality involve basic mechanisms of aging; stem cells and regenerative medicine; cellular stress and disease; mitochondria and bioenergetics; and exercise, nutrition and metabolism.

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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