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Curran to be honored for advancing research on aging

The Nathan Shock Investigator Award is named after a leader in gerontological studies

Sean Curran studies aging
Sean Curran conducts research on mechanisms that regulate organism survival and longevity. (Photo/courtesy of USC Davis School of Gerontology)

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — an interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — has chosen Sean Curran of the USC Davis School of Gerontology as this year’s recipient of the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award.

The honor is given for outstanding contributions to new knowledge about aging through basic biological research. It was established in 1986 to honor Nathan Shock, a founding member of GSA and pioneer in gerontological research at the National Institutes of Health.

Previous Shock awardees are leaders in the field and researchers I look up to.

Sean Curran

The award presentation will take place at GSA’s 66th annual scientific meeting, which will be held in November in Washington, D.C. The conference is organized to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, educators and practitioners who specialize in the study of the aging process.

Metabolism’s key roles

Curran is an assistant professor of biogerontology at USC Davis who has joint appointments at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

His research focuses on molecular, genetic and biochemical approaches to identifying evolutionarily conserved mechanisms that regulate cellular and organism survival and longevity. He is combining genetic, molecular biology, and biochemical techniques and approaches to understand the vital roles of metabolism in normal aging and aging pathology. He also is combining studies in worms with mammalian cell structure and mouse studies to validate the universality of his findings.

In February, Curran published a widely discussed article in Cell Metabolism that explored a novel cellular pathway, alh-6, in C. elegans. The study demonstrated the worm’s ability to age successfully on various diets when the pathway was active; however, when the pathway was inactive due to a mutation, the worms would age prematurely when fed a diet outside of a specific regimen.

“We have identified a novel pathway that facilitates successful aging on multiple diets. We call this dietary adaptation, or the ability to use multiple types of diets,” Curran explained. “We believe this is just one of many types of gene/diet pairs out there. This pathway is highly conserved even in humans and perhaps is similarly utilized to facilitate adaptation to the diverse types of food we eat.”

Gratitude for a special honor

Curran, who said receiving the Shock Award was a special honor, thanked the GSA for the recognition of his work.

“Previous Shock awardees are leaders in the field and researchers I look up to,” Curran said. “I am humbled to be included in this group.”

Curran has received national attention from the Ellison Medical Foundation, the American Federation for Aging Research and the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research. He earned a Mellon Mentoring Award for his work with USC students.

Beth Newcomb contributed to this story.

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