Inside AFAR
Inside AFAR

Insights, Views, and Interviews

Jan 23
3:45 pm

Grantee Spotlight Interview: Pinchas Cohen View MoreBACK

AFAR’s grant programs in the biology of aging are central to our mission to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research. At leading institutions nationwide, our grantees hard work, ingenuity, and leadership are advancing cutting-edge research that will help us all live healthier, longer. AFAR grantees are making this the age of aging better.

In this Grantee Spotlight interview, Pinchas Cohen, PhD, shares what inspired him to enter the field of aging research and what impact he hopes his research will make thanks to AFAR’s support.

Pinchas Cohen - MD


Leonard Davis School of Gerontology - University of Southern California

Glenn/AFAR Breakthroughs in Gerontology Award - 2017

What inspired you to pursue aging research?
About a decade ago my lab discovered humanin, a mitochondrial-derived peptide that plays a role in diseases of aging, including Alzheimer’s Disease and Type 2 Diabetes. This finding inspired me to pursue research focused on deciphering the function of mitochondria in aging and longevity, with a particular focus on understanding their mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic and diagnostic utility in improving healthspan and lifespan.
In your view, what does AFAR mean to the field, and what does it mean, for you, to receive an AFAR grant now?
Having served as an AFAR grant reviewer myself, I have long-recognized AFAR’s leadership in supporting important aging-related research. In executing their mission to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research, AFAR serves a tremendous value to the field through the funding of specific studies and by encouraging talented scientists to pursue careers focused on investigating aging processes and age-related diseases. For me personally, receiving this grant provides unique support for my research, along with recognition of the importance of such investigations.
What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?
We’ve identified a new set of molecules derived from mitochondria that could prove to be important diagnostic and potentially therapeutic targets for diseases of aging, and potentially for the aging process itself. This research is exciting in and of itself and because it is part of a larger effort focused on understanding the remarkable activity of these novel peptides and how they can potentially represent a different paradigm for drug development for a variety of diseases.
In three sentences, how would you describe your research to one of your grandparents?
The mitochondrion is an important organelle in cells that controls energy production and we know that its function is central to aging and longevity. Earlier research has established that levels of humanin (HN), a previously unknown mitochondrial-derived peptide (MDP), play a key role in this regard and my current research aims to study the healthspan promoting effects of HN, decipher the mechanisms involved, and determine if HN levels are related to longevity and response to aging-delaying interventions, such as caloric restriction. My grandparents are no longer with us but I would tell other grandparents that I think we are on to something critically important that could help current and future generations live longer and healthier lives.