“Ageless Quest” by Lenny Guarente


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MIT professor Lenny Guarente is a pioneer and leader in the study of the molecular biology of aging. This book is a popularized account of some of the early research that he and his students and post-docs conducted; research that helped move the study of aging from being a kind of slightly disreputable scientific backwater to one of the most dynamic and exciting fields of modern molecular biology. Guarente’s research focused on sirtuins, which are proteins that are now understood to retard aging in a wide variety of organisms, with mechanisms that vary depending on the organism.”

Ageless Quest” is an easy read and a great introduction to the field. It had a surprising amount of impact on me; after reading this book I decided that I wanted to learn more about what was happening in this very important field, so I audited an MIT reading course on the molecular biology of aging taught by Angeiszka Czopik and Danica Chen, two post-docs in Prof. Guarente’s lab, and then I attended the 2006 Summer School Course on the molecular biology of aging at Woods Hole’s famous Marine Biological Laboratory, organized by Gary Ruvkun and Steve Austad.

This book probably won’t have that big an impact on you! It’s a pretty light book weighing in at only 154 pages; but you can learn a lot whether or not you have a background in biology.

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7 Responses to ““Ageless Quest” by Lenny Guarente”

  1. Mitochondria « Nerd Wisdom Says:

    […] As I mentioned in my previous post about Lenny Guerente’s book “Ageless Quest,” aging research has, within the last 15 years, gone from being a scientific backwater to a […]

  2. The Life of the Lab Biologist « Nerd Wisdom Says:

    […] I mentioned in a previous post, I was lucky to be able to attend, as a student, the 2006 Molecular Biology of Aging summer course […]

  3. bob Says:

    prof Y

    why did you go to a biology course? i thought you did machine learning?

  4. Jonathan Yedidia Says:

    Bob,
    A lot of reasons really. First, I’m just really interested in biology. Second, I was interested in applying machine learning techniques to biology (there’s lots of people [e.g. Daphne Koller and Tommi Jaakkola] in the machine learning community doing just that) and I wanted to try to understand biology the way its practitioners do. Third, understanding how biological organisms work may help us design better machines; organisms are machines after all. This is the motivation for my work on multi-cellular logic circuits.

  5. bob Says:

    that sounds good. were you able to find some overlap? pinching worms sounds a far cry from “Understanding cancer using microarrays”, or “human gene expression programs”, for examples.

  6. Jonathan Yedidia Says:

    To me, it is somewhat a matter of principle. I believe that if one wants to apply the techniques of one field to the subject of another (say machine learning to biology; or statistical physics to communications theory) it is important to understand how the practitioners of the target field think, and what questions are important to them. Otherwise it is easy to make the mistake of solving a problem that is suited to the tools that you bring but is of no interest to the target field.

    Now as it turned out, trying to pick up those tiny worms actually did have a big impact on me, but not directly along those lines. Those little worms are machines containing about 1000 exquisitely coordinated cells, and they can sense their environment and control their movement and shape in ways that outperform robots that we know how to build. So that time in the lab made me start thinking about that problem: how to design machines made out of communicating cells with identical genetic specifications.

  7. Cynthia Kenyon’s Long-lived Worms « Nerd Wisdom Says:

    […] And if you’re interested, here is a video from earlier this year with Charlie Rose interviewing a panel of biologists about the remarkable progress that has been made in aging research recently. Members of the panel include Kenyon and Lenny Guarente, another leader in the field whose book I previously reviewed. […]

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