E. Jane Albert Hubbard Lab

How do diet and aging affect stem cells?

We study these questions in vivo using germline stem cells of the nematode worm C. elegans as a model. The germline stem cell pool is remarkably plastic and is responsive to multiple genetic and environmental cues. Our work takes advantage of this system: we can easily manipulate the diet and genetics of the worm, and the worm’s lifespan is short. In the lab, the worms feed on and live in bacteria. We found that the quality and quantity of the bacterial dietary and sensory environment influences the stem cell pool via conserved signaling pathways such as insulin-IGF, TOR, and TGFß. We recently discovered a mechanism whereby bacterial abundance can directly modulate Notch pathway activity, a canonical developmental decision pathway. Our aging studies also implicate insulin-IGF signaling in regulation of the aging stem cell pool, but in a manner that is anatomically distinct from the effect of this pathway on organismal lifespan.