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Published: 2024-02-15 Updated: 2024-03-01, 10:30

IceLab opens the 2024 Lunch Pitches with a focus on aging

NEWS From the microscopic to the population level, two pitches by Verena Kohler and Mattias Forsell highlighted different aspects of aging in an open request for collaborators to help develop data processing pipelines and large scale data analysis.

The Integrated Science Lab (IceLab) organizes the interdisciplinary research Lunch Pitch series with the goal of helping researchers at the university connect with each other across disciplines, with the goal of launching new collaborations. This spring IceLab will hold eight Lunch Pitches, every two weeks on a Wednesday from February 14th through May 22nd. Thanks to funding support from KBC, the lunch is included and free to participants.

The Ageing Chaperome: A New Perspective on Health and Disease

The first Lunch Pitch featured Verena Kohler, Assistant Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology. Her pitch focused on the chaperome, a network of protein quality control factors. As Verena explained in her pitch, for our cells to function properly, we need well functioning proteins. One aspect that is important to protein function is its shape, and as we age, that shape can start to change, and misshaped proteins can accumulate. As we age, protein quality control is not as effective and diseases like cancer or neurodegenerative disorders can arise. Verena's group focuses on understanding how aging affects the cellular chaperome, starting by using yeast as a model system before transitioning to exploring the question in human cell cultures. Now Verena is looking for collaborators who can help develop sensors for mass spectrometry, introduce machine learning into her screen analysis and explore automation of her cross-correlation approaches.

Understanding factors that may improve or decrease lifespan at old age

Mattias Forsell, Professor at the Department of Clinical Microbiology, gave the second pitch. Mattias's pitch centered on the connection between aging and death from infections or comorbidities. Mattias Forsell's group, together with collaborator Anders Johansson (also Professor at the Department of Clinical Microbiology) and his group, have been performing biomonitoring in care homes for the elderly since late 2021. They have dissected the role of Covid-19 vaccination response for virus-associated mortality in that population. They now also have access to national registry data on comorbidities (combinations of different diseases or factors affecting health), mortality, reported infections, medication, staff attending the person, and the geographical location of the participants. Health information of the staff at these elderly care centers will also be available. In other words, Mattias and Anders have access to an incredibly rich dataset that, once detangled, could elucidate risk factors that lead to increased or shortened life expectancy in older individuals. It is precisely with that goal in mind that Mattias is seeking collaborators to help with the large data analysis needed.

Lunch Pitch 2024-02-14: Verena Kohler and Mattias Forsell

IceLab records the Lunch Pitches and posts them to their Lunch Pitch channel on UMU Play. You can see the slides and listen to the pitches from the February 14th pitch above.