Know someone over 50 who is making a difference? Nominate them for the AARP Purpose Prize. Nominations close March 31!
by Margaret Guroff, AARP The Magazine, January/February 2008 issue
"I always wanted to be a pioneer," says molecular biologist Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D. Casting about in the late 1980s for an understudied field to focus on, she found aging, which was then seen as simple decay. "People thought you just wore out, like an old car," recalls Kenyon, 53. "And I thought, 'No, there's going to be something beautiful here.'" The beauty Kenyon discovered is that aging can be turned on and off. In youth, a body's cells repair the small metabolic glitches that can occur as cells divide. But at a certain age that repair system slows down and mistakes accumulate, which causes symptoms of aging. Kenyon sought to delay the age at which that happens. Her breakthrough paper came in 1993: by tweaking a single gene in a one-millimeter worm, she had doubled its healthy life span. Because aging research was considered such a career killer at the time, Kenyon had difficulty enlisting grad students; now, students flock to her University of California, San Francisco, lab—and to the field—to build on her monumental work. One biographer likens Kenyon to the biblical Eve: the woman who brought knowledge to humankind. Kenyon's latest research links tumor growth to the aging process. Fiddle with worm genes to slow aging, and the side effect is resistance to cancer. Kenyon believes that future studies will show the same link to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other diseases of aging: "The big, big, big payoff will be going after all the age-related diseases at once, just by going after the genes that control aging."
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members save up to $100 per person on select guided tours.
Members save 15% all day, every day at participating locations.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at