Student Research Projects

 
One of SRF Education’s most important activities is to help university students complete research projects related to rejuvenation biotechnologies. We offer assistance on projects in the hard sciences, psychology, philosophy, political science, and related fields.
 
To complete a research project with us, you will first need to join SRF Education.
 
How We Help
We can help students find a research project, provide them with mentoring to guide them through the project, and (in some cases) provide a monetary grant to cover the cost of laboratory materials.
 
Selecting a Project
Students who have joined the Initiative can pick up one of our listed “unassigned projects,” or create their own. Such a project could either be a literature review or laboratory-based work under a professor at the student’s university. When a student is working on an SRF Education project that involves laboratory work, that student may apply to us for a grant to cover the cost of materials.

Literature review projects currently in progress

All rapidly-growing cancers require an effective mechanism to maintain their telomere length - either the telomerase enzyme or, less often, the poorly-understood ALT mechanism. Small molecule drugs called G-quadruplex (G4) ligands are being developed to block this capacity by greatly stabilising telomeric regions, preventing their extension entirely. This project comprises a thorough evaluation of the therapeutic value, side-effects and ultimate efficacy of G4 ligands versus multiple forms of cancer, as well as their potential use as tools for research into the ALT mechanism.
Re-activation of telomerase is essential for the development and proliferation of cancer cells, since it is normally inactivated in somatic cells. WILT (Whole-body Interdiction of Lengthening of Telomeres) is a theoretical cancer therapy involving removing the telomerase gene from somatic cells, to stop cancer cells from re-activating it. However, this may have undesirable side-effects, as telomerase may have other effects besides those on telomeres. This project involves looking for presently unknown extratelomeric effects of telomerase, as well as reviewing known ones.
Recent studies in the field of regenerative medicine suggest that scar suppression might facilitate full recovery from severe injury (e.g spinal cord damage). While astrocytes are involved in building scar tissue to safeguard the healing process, they also release of neuro-developmental inhibitor molecules and thereby limit axonal regrowth. Researchers are now investigating to what extend scar suppression can lead to further or even complete regrowth of injured axons after CNS damage. This project is a multiphase literature review examining in-situ regeneration and scar suppression, the current state of the art and future directions.
Long-lived animals achieve a high age due to certain adaptations solving some of the most pressing causes of aging, such as oxidative damage. This project consists of a comprehensive literature review on these organisms and the biochemical mechanisms that might lend them their abnormally long lifespans.
Lysosomes are organelles performing critical functions within the human body. Better understanding and modification of lysosomes could help to rid the human body of age-related damage, which would otherwise accumulate and eventually limit the life span. This project consists of various literature reviews studying lysosomal enzymes in different species and their involvement in aging.
MicroRNA is another form of cell regulation and has recently been reported to be regulating aging specific signaling in cells. Specific types of microRNA have been found to be linked to aging, senescence and p53 expression. The role of microRNA in cell proliferation and aging is not well understood but help to understand age-related changes in gene expression. The review should discuss the microRNAs found to be specifically up/down regulated in aged or senescent cells and discuss the function and interaction partners of these microRNA.
The allocation of resources in the field of biomedical engineering is largely determined by the consensus ethical paradigms of the time, which have been to date largely subjective and unscientific, reflecting many of the illogical cognitive biases common to human reasoning. This research proposes a solution in the form of an objective, scientifically based system of ethical valuation, placing consciousness and complexity as the fundamental units of value. The implications of this ethic, if adopted, would be a more rational and scientifically grounded basis for action selection, evaluation, and resource allocation to that which aids the survival of consciousnesses, such as biomedical engineering.
In order to grow large enough to be clinically relevant, tumour cells frequently require a mechanism to maintain their telomere length. In cells without the telomerase enzyme, this role is filled by ALT, a poorly-understood mechanism involving homologous recombination. In this review students will evaluate the current state of knowledge relating to the ALT process, particularly seeking to understand how it is triggered and which components of it are functionally essential to healthy, non-cancerous cells.

Unassigned Projects:

Adult stem cells when transplanted into the brain help to increase neurogenesis and seem to help repair damaged areas. Recent publication using human cord blood derived stem cells showed improvement in stroke but more importantly in normal aged rats (Bachstetter et al., 2008; Liao et al., 2009) Adult stem cells can secrete growth factors and cytokines, providing a regenerative environment for repair. Studies suggest that MSC transplantation into the human brain might be an effective tool at combating degenerative diseases. Promising results in animals have already been reported for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer and other medical conditions commonly associated with older age.
Otto Warburg first indicated in the 1920s that a decline in mitochondrial energy metabolism combined with an increase in glycolytic flux might result in cancer. This project includes multiple literature reviews examining the link between mitochondrial function and cancer and in how far forced aerobic respiration can treat/cure cancer.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary intervention that has been suggested to have benefits similar to those of calorie restriction (CR), although the mechanisms and pathways by which IF works are not as well-studied as those of CR. This project consists of comprehensive literature overviews on intermittent fasting and its effects on health and lifespan.
The cryopreservation of cells and tissues is of great relevance for a range of applications in regenerative medicine and may yield strategies to achieve reversible vitrification of whole organs or organisms. Standard cryopreservation solutions contain ethylenglycol and dimethylsulfoxide (or other), both of which can have detrimental side effects. A third well known cryopreservation solution is based on hydroxyethyl starch (HES), mainly used for blood products and cells. This review should focus specifically on HES in cryopreservation of cells and tissues.

Completed Projects:

The epigenetic mechanism of DNA methylation plays critical roles in mammalian development and gene regulation. Genomic methylcytosine patterns are created and maintained by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), a family of enzymes whose activity has been directly linked to aging, autoimmunity, and cancer [1, 2]. Thus, elucidating the roles of DNMTs and DNA methylation may help to build a better understanding of the mechanisms behind senescence as well as spark ideas regarding its prevention and/or reversal.
Cathepsin D is a protease thought to be involved in the breakdown of hyperphosphorylated tau protein aggregates, a hallmark of Alzheimer's Disease. In this project, we investigate the effects of various chemical modifications (including oxidation, s-nitrosylation and glutathionylation) on the enzymatic activity of Cathepsin D.
This project investigates the ability of silent information regulator 2 proteins (SIR2) to regulate lifespan in the mosquito species Anopheles stephensi. It does this by measuring lifespan in three separate groups - each of which is fed varying concentrations of a pharmacological agent. One group is fed resveratrol (an alleged and previously reported SIR2 activator), another AGK2 (reversible inhibitor of SIR2), and another AGK7 (structural isomer of AGK2 that poorly inhibits SIR2).
The aim of this editorial is to highlight how the social perception and financial reality of Regenerative Medicine may act to hinder its evolution into the principle healthcare option for the future. We also aim to explore ways in which this can be facilitated, for example, increasing public awareness. Further, we consider the effects of the changing social attitudes towards the field, as well as taking into account the influence of current and future political thinking. From a financial viewpoint, we analyse the compatibility of the current venture capital model with Regenerative Medicine start-ups, and explore approaches to ensure sufficient funding and support throughout all stages of product development.