Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Aging decline is a universal and unescapable phenomenon; as organisms reach maturity and continue living, physiological function inevitably declines, resulting in mortality. While the study of mortality has been long studied, technical and practical challenges have limited the equally important study of how/when individuals deteriorate and what types of factors affect that deterioration. This gap in knowledge is not only evident in a relative lack of empirical data on physiological decline, but considerable debate around the analysis and conceptual interpretations of the little data that is available.
In this dissertation, I use quantitative reasoning and analysis of longitudinal data to address major issues in the current understanding of age-related decline. In these studies, I rely on the model organism C. elegans. Recent advances in the technologies available for longitudinally observing individual C. elegans allow the collection of lifelong physiological data in high-throughput and scale. I choose to focus on movement decline as a model of physiological decline; it is a simple behavioral output that is straightforwardly assessed with standard microscopy and is a universally phenomenon of aging individuals across taxa. I will use data from such studies to share new biology that we have discovered that lead not only to new biological inquiry, but also improve the design, execution, and interpretation of experiments in longitudinal studies of aging.
Zachary S. Pincus
Dennis L. Barbour