Epigenetic change with Age and Diet

Supervisors: Tom Little, Amy Buck

Project description:

Why do we age? One answer lies with epigenetic modifications, the biochemical marks and signals on DNA that change the way genes and cells operate. With age these marks get misplaced, causing degeneration. Different individuals appear to suffer such degeneration in different ways, and by understanding what causes this we can shed light upon how and why we age.  

This project will involve experiments on a small invertebrate called Daphnia that is uniquely suited to disentangling the causes of epigenetic degeneration. The experiments will reveal if each individual is destined, from birth, to degenerate in their own way because it ‘runs in the family’, or if lifestyle, especially diet, is key. The experiments will also test if longer life compromises other health traits. The knowledge gained will improve predictions about the causes of ageing, and help us to make informed decisions about the possible consequences of interventions to extend life.

This project will involve a mixture of whole-organism experimentation, statistics and genomics.


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Vandegehuchte, M. B. & Janssen, C. R. Epigenetics and its implications for ecotoxicology. Ecotoxicology 20, 607-624, doi:10.1007/s10646-011-0634-0 (2011).

Zwaan, B.J., The evolutionary genetics of ageing and longevity. Heredity, 1999. 82(6): p. 589-597.

Jennie S. Garbutt , Philip J. Wilson and Tom J. Little (2014) Maternal food quantity affects offspring feeding rate in Daphnia magna. Biology letters: 10, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0356