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Biomedical Aspects of Aging


Course Director: Dr. Federico Sesti

Dept. of Neuroscience and Cell Biology



Course Overview


Aging is an important aspect of human civilizations especially in light of the pressure that growing elderly populations are putting on modern societies. This course covers an important topic and also fills a gap, since there is no course dedicated to aging in the curriculum, despite the relevance of this process to human societies as whole and to disciplines such as biology and medicine. The new course explores aging at a 360-degree perspective. It goes from a brief introduction of the social and economical aspects of

aging, to its biology and etiology and to its associated pathologies (i.e. neurodegenerative disease) including clinical and psychological management.


Course structure


This course will meet two times a week during the spring semester. The course will use a combination of lectures, group discussions and case studies. The course explores 5 major topics (blocks). Each block is reinforced by a case study in which the students, in turn, will prepare and discuss a disease related to the topic. The five broad topics are:


Topic 1: Aging in human culture Economics of aging Sociology of aging


Topic 2: Cellular and organismal senescence

Genetics of aging

Metabolism of aging 1: caloric restriction

Metabolism of aging 2: insulin IGF-1-like pathway


Topic 3: Molecular basis for aging

Telomere shortening Free radical theory DNA damage Reproductive cell cycle

Stem cells theory of aging


Topic 4: The aging brain

Changes in the aging brain 1: chemical

Changes in the aging brain 2: neurophysiological

Changes in the aging brain 3: molecular




Topic 5: Neurodegenerative disease

Psychology of aging

Pathology 1: Huntington disease

Pathology 2: Multiple sclerosis

Clinical case 1: Clinical management: Alzheimer

Clinical case 2: Psychological management: Parkinson




Each broad topic will be covered in approximately two weeks. Faculty members will give formal lectures and studies in some topics will be discussed as a group. Reading and discussing case studies will follow each block. Masters students will be required to lead

the discussions. No textbook is required. Students use the PowerPoints of the lectures, as reference material.


Learning objectives


Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


      Understand the challenges that an aging population poses to the economy, for example, discussing possible solutions to prevent the surplus of the social security from drying up.

      Understand the impact of aging on the metabolism. This includes recognizing major effects of starvation and understanding the role that caloric restriction has in prolonging lifespan.

      Understand the major mechanisms of aging. These include telomere shortening, increased free radicals and DNA methylation.

      Describe the effects of decreasing the amounts of ROS in: a) C. elegans, b) Drosophila c) rodents.

      Recognize the role of 8-oxo-deoxyguanosine is a biomarker of aging.

      Recognize the most common techniques used to measure brain’s shrinkage in patients affected by neurodegenerative disease.

      Recognize changes in cognitive performance and executive function in aging patients.

      Describe the mechanisms responsible for decreased synaptic strength during aging.

      Describe the role of depression in neurodegenerative disease and its management.

      Recognize biomarkers for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

      Recognize symptoms of early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease.




Assessment and grading: A, B+, B, C+, C and F


There will be a mid-term examination and a final examination. The goal of the mid-term examination is to provide a self-evaluation and help the students to familiarize with the format of the final examination. It will not be used for grading purposes. The exams can cover material presented in both formal lectures and case studies/discussion papers. The final examination will count for 75% of the total grade. Class participation will count the remaining 25% of the final grade.


Excused absences because of illness or family emergency may be granted only by the

MS/MBS Program Director.

In the event of illness or emergency, students should contact the MS/MBS Program

Director as soon as possible. If an excuse is granted, the Program Director will notify the course director. Make-up examinations will be given only to students whose absence from an examination is judged by the Program Director to be for valid cause. Otherwise the exam score will be recorded as zero.

Planned absences that conflict with an exam (Medical School Interviews, religious observations, etc.) must be scheduled at least one week prior to the exam and are granted at the course director's discretion.

Make-up exams will be made available to students granted an excused absence.


Course Evaluation: This course will be evaluated by online survey as administered by the MBS/MSBS program.


Academic Integrity: Each student is expected to be familiar with the academic integrity policies in the GSBS Student Handbooks:

• _Piscataway/New Brunswick



All work that carries your name on it is considered yours unless specifically stated otherwise by properly citing the research and ideas of others. Failure to read and understand the policy is not an acceptable excuse for violating the policy.