Inside AFAR
Inside AFAR

Insights, Views, and Interviews

Jan 23
9:42 am

Grantee Spotlight Interview: Vyacheslav Labunskyy 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, Vyacheslav Labunskyy, 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.

Vyacheslav Labunskyy, PhD

Assistant Professor

Boston University School of Medicine

AFAR Research Grants for Junior Faculty - 2017

What inspired you to pursue aging research?

I was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School when I first started working on aging. What excited me is that scientists have been trying to understand aging for centuries, but we still don’t have a clear understanding what the aging is. Yet it affects everyone. A part of the challenge is the complexity and heterogeneity of the aging process itself, and another one is that scientists did not have sensitive methods to study aging. But I realized that now, with the development of high-throughput technologies such as next-generation sequencing, proteomics and metabolomics, we can get a better understanding of the aging process. These methods, which can be used to monitor millions of biological molecules and how they change with aging with high accuracy, may finally allow us to define the molecular mechanisms of aging. This is what drove me into this field. I was also very fortunate to work with people who shared this enthusiasm including my colleagues and collaborators, which got me hooked on aging research.

In your view, what does AFAR mean to the field, and what does it mean, for you, to receive an AFAR grant now?

In our work we use a combination of high-throughput sequencing and experimental approaches to study the basic mechanisms of aging. First, AFAR’s support will allow us to pursue novel directions in our research, which could not be otherwise funded, and explore some of the new high-throughput methods such as single-cell microfluidics to investigate the heterogeneity of aging at the population level. But, most importantly, being a part of the AFAR’s community means a lot to one’s success in this very exciting and dynamic area of research. Science is a collaborative effort. We hope to find new and strengthen our existing collaborations through AFAR.

What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?

Aging is a complex process, regulated by a large number of age-associated pathways. Previous studies in humans and model organisms identified hundreds of genes, which can influence lifespan. In addition, aging can be slowed down by environmental interventions (dietary restriction, for example). We are using yeast as a model to identify common gene and protein expression signatures associated with increased lifespan. What’s exciting is that all these pathways have been shown to work in diverse organisms, including humans. We hope that our studies will identify new targets for therapeutic interventions to delay aging.

In three sentences, how would you describe your research to one of your grandparents?

Human lifespan (or how long we live) is determined by a number of genetic and environmental factors. My research focuses on systems biology of aging and understanding how different longevity-associated genetic and environmental factors are related to each other, and how the different aging genes and pathways are coordinately regulated. We are particularly interested in studying the mechanisms, which cells evolved to maintain protein homeostasis, and whether dysregulation of these processes contributes to aging and age-associated diseases such as diabetes and cancer.