Honoring the Women who came before us

Honoring the Women who came before us | Oxford Healthspan

We have the honor of having two fantastic female scientists on our Scientific Advisory board, and because we're curious, we decided to ask Professor Katja Simon and Dr. Ghada Alsaleh who there s-heroes were: who inspired them to become scientists?

Both Professor Simon and Dr. Alsaleh agreed that Cynthia Kenyon, molecular biologist and biogerontologist known for showing that ageing of the C. elegans worm is under genetic control, was a source of inspiration.

This is the work of Cynthia Kenyon, as described by Professor Simon:

Through visionary and rigorous studies with C. elegans, Cynthia Kenyon showed that a hormonal pathway controlled by insulin-like and IGF-1-like hormones (daf-2) is a major determinant of the rate of ageing in the worm. In 1993, Kenyon’s pioneering discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of healthy, fertile C. elegans roundworms sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Her findings showed that, contrary to popular belief, aging does not “just happen” in a completely haphazard way. Instead, the rate of aging is subject to genetic control: Animals (and people) contain regulatory proteins that affect aging by coordinating diverse collections of downstream genes that together protect and repair the cells and tissues.

Sparked by Kenyon’s work on the genetic basis of ageing, the field has made significant progress over recent years, identifying several candidate ageing hallmarks that together determine the cellular ageing phenotype and underlie age-related diseases and with increasing evidence that genetic or drug-induced extension of life and health span will delay the onset of diseases of old age. As a consequence, governments, charities and philanthropists have increasingly made large investments in the last few years. Novel classes of drugs (e.g. senolytics, repurposed drugs e.g. rapamycin) and recommendation of lifestyle changes (e.g calorie restriction, intermittent fasting) are a product of this intensified research.

In addition to Kenyon's work, Dr. Alsaleh has had a wide array of inspiration, which is very encouraging to see in the field!

In her words:

"I had this question recently and my answer was Katja Simon. When I was younger, I was fascinated by Marie Curie. Nowadays, I harness inspiration from Jennifer Anne Doudna, a biochemist known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene editing, Emmanuelle Charpentier, a professor and researcher in microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry Nina Tandon, biomedical engineer: they are all changeling the world with their science."

Today we recognize and celebrate these women, honoring the trail that they have blazed so that women like Katja and Ghada can do the work they do today and continue to forge the path for the future generations. 

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