Gettysburg College student, prof unlocking secrets of aging process

How do muscles age, and can exercise slow the aging process?

A Gettysburg College student's original research is helping to answer those questions, thanks to a grant from the American Physiological Society (APS).

As one of only 24 APS Undergraduate Research Fellows across the nation, biology major Dawnette Urcuyo is collaborating closely with health sciences Prof. Josef Brandauer. The two have teamed up to extend Brandauer's research into sarcopenia, the age-related decline of muscle mass.

The research team also includes two groups of mice, one that has learned to run on a laboratory treadmill, and another that gets to lie around. After an hour of scurrying, Urcuyo and Brandauer compare levels of key proteins in the active mice's muscles to those in the sedentary group.

 

Josef Brandauer and Dawnette UrcuyoTheir work has shown that exercise may increase levels of a potentially age-fighting molecule called Nampt. The next step will be to be to see which types of exercise are most effective.

Urcuyo, who hopes to publish their findings in a scientific journal, has already reported preliminary results at a regional meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and will present in April at an APS conference in California. Her grant included travel funds as well as a $4,000 summer research stipend. Her work will continue through the 2009-10 academic year.

"Dawnette is doing great work," Brandauer said. "Her project ties in beautifully with the liberal arts curriculum: she has to think and work independently and synthesize ideas from different areas into one coherent message." It will also help her with her longer-term goals, he said.

"I want to be a doctor," said Urcuyo, who has taken advantage of Gettysburg College's pre-health professions program and plans to work in a research lab for a year before medical school.

Opportunities for student-faculty collaboration helped draw Urcuyo to Gettysburg College, where her experience has also included an externship at Genentech, a leading genetic engineering firm. (See externship video.) Urcuyo is a member of the Class of 2010.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With some 2,500 students, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Jim Hale, online content editor

Posted: Tue, 24 Nov 2009

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