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American Federation for Aging Research Announces Recipients of Irving S. Wright and Vincent Cristofalo Scientific Awards

New York, NY (PRWEB) April 02, 2013

The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) has announced its latest honorary scientific awards. Gary Ruvkun, PhD, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School will receive the Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction, while Valter D. Longo, PhD, Director of the Longevity Institute, Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences and the Edna Jones Chair of Biogerontology at the University of Southern California, has been named recipient of the Vincent Cristofalo Rising Star Award in Aging Research.

“These awards are given annually to members of the aging research community whose work advances the field, and advances our understanding of aging,” said AFAR Executive Director Stephanie Lederman, EdM. “Both awards are named in honor of visionary scientists, and the recipients are chosen for their vision and accomplishments as well.”

Nominations for the awards are by invitation, and are judged by an independent panel of leading aging researchers. Nominees must have made significant contributions to both aging research and to AFAR.

Wright Award Honors Exceptional Science

The Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction is named in honor of the founder of the American Federation for Aging Research and honors exceptional contributions to basic or clinical research in the field of aging. The award is a framed citation and carries a cash prize of $2,500. The "Wright Award of Distinction Lecture" is given by the recipient at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. The award has been given since 1982.

In noting Dr. Ruvkin’s achievements, one nominator noted that in the 1990s Dr. Ruvkin, “discovered the involvement of the insulin signaling pathway and FOXO as key molecular players in aging. This work was quickly validated in more complex organisms and the pathway is the most studied and best understood in aging. His mechanistic insights have all been pivotal in our understanding of this novel method of aging regulation.”

A microbiologist, Dr. Ruvkun is co-discoverer of microRNAs (miRNAs) as central regulators of gene expression and development. These regulatory molecules have been implicated in a wide range of normal and pathological activities, including embryonic development, blood-cell specialization, muscle function, heart disease and viral infections.

Their discovery has opened new fields of research. His lab has also made significant discoveries in the regulation of aging and metabolism.

Cristofalo Award Recognizes “Rising Stars”

The Vincent Cristofalo Rising Star Award in Aging Research is named in honor of the late Dr. Cristofalo, who dedicated his career to aging research and to encouraging young scientists to investigate important problems in the biology of aging. The award is conferred annually in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Aging Association (AGE). The winner has an opportunity to give a talk on his or her research work at a special symposium at the meeting. The award was established in 2008.

In nominating Dr. Longo, one scientist stated that he, “has been a key player in studies of the basic molecular pathways mediating dietary restriction / stress / longevity responses.” Following success in lab studies that showed that fasting could induce the same physiological responses as long-term dietary restriction, Dr. Longo showed in human studies, “that a four-five day fast was needed to produce the same responses. He convinced surgeons and oncologists to embark on preliminary studies. Surgical trauma was reduced and the side-effects of chemotherapy were dramatically reduced.” He has started a large clinical trial at three major medical centers that looks at the effects of food deprivation on advanced breast and lung cancer.

Dr. Longo, a biochemist, is interested in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of aging in yeast, mice and humans by using genetics and biochemistry techniques. He also researches the molecular pathways conserved from simple organisms to humans that can be modulated to protect against multiple stresses and treat or prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases of aging.

About AFAR

Founded in 1981, AFAR has championed the cause and supported the funding of science in healthier aging and age-related medicine. To address the shortage of physicians and researchers dedicated to the science of healthier aging, AFAR funds physicians and scientists probing the fundamental mechanisms of aging, as well as specific diseases associated with aging populations at critical points throughout their careers.

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