University of California, Berkeley

Role of the Extracellular Matrix in Regulating Mitochondrial Health and Aging

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How can you tell the aging status of a person? At first glance, it is most likely the wrinkles of their skin; wrinkles and loss of elasticity are prominent features of skin aging. These changes directly result from the remodelling of the extracellular matrix, the noncellular component of tissues that maintains their structure and regulates fundamental cellular behaviours. Indeed, remodelling of the extracellular matrix occurs with age in almost all tissues. Elevated extracellular matrix fragments can be detected in blood circulation in multiple age-related diseases. Therefore, remodelling of the extracellular matrix may have profound impact on cellular homeostasis and tissue functions both in proximal and in distal.

My research aims to understand how remodelling of the extracellular matrix may signal to control basic cellular functions, including metabolism, stress resistance, and immune signaling. This study may help to understand the natural aging process, and the etiology and progression of age-related diseases. Moreover, multiple extracellular matrix products, such as hyaluronan, have already been widely used in clinics for eye surgery, osteoarthritis, and to fill wrinkles. Therefore, this study also has direct clinical relevance to facilitate the comprehensive understanding of the impact of existing treatments on human health, and to help repurpose relevant extracellular matrix products for treating aging and age-related diseases in humans.