MGH Research Scholars Program
The MGH Research Scholars Program was established to support early career researchers with innovative yet unproven ideas that have the potential to transform the future of medicine. Funded 100% through philanthropy, this program gives researchers the freedom and flexibility they need to follow the science wherever it leads. History has shown that brilliant scientists who are given free rein to explore new frontiers make the greatest, often unexpected, advances.
Alexander Soukas, MD, PhD, is working to identify genetic “switches” that can be activated to promote health span and mitigate aging-associated diseases.
Exploiting Ancient Genetic Pathways to Promote Healthy Aging
The rising tide of age-associated diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s dementia threaten a public health crisis of epic proportions.
Strategies to promote health span, the proportion of an individual’s life that is healthy, productive and disease free, are desperately needed to avert this crisis.
In spite of this mandate, interventions that promote health span are scant.
My research program has the major goal of identifying genetic “switches” that we can turn on to promote health span and mitigate age-associated diseases.
In order to identify these switches, we endeavor to understand at a fundamental level how we can reverse changes in metabolism that occur with aging and contribute to disease.
Specifically, we will pursue three major projects:
1) Determine the mechanism by which the antidiabetic medication metformin exacts its anti-cancer and prolongevity effects
2) Determine how insulin signaling can be manipulated in order to promote healthy aging and reduce age-associated diseases
3) Identify new therapeutic targets for obesity through understanding of starvation defenses
The completion of these projects, which relies upon an innovative combination of invertebrate and vertebrate genetics, will inform the next generation of preventive strategies and treatments for age-associated diseases.