Steven AustadDepartment of Cellular and Structural Biology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, USA F1000 Faculty Member (since 17 November 2011)
Steven N Austad joined the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology faculty in June 2004. He is Professor of Department of Cellular and Structural Biology.
HONORS AND AWARDS:
A Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America since 1993, he is a past recipient of the Robert W Kleemeier Award (2003) for outstanding research and the Geron Corporation-Samuel Goldstein Distinguished Publication Award (1994) from that Society. He received as well the Nathan A Shock Award (1994) from the Gerontological Research Center of the National Institute on Aging and the Irving S Wright Award (2011) from the American Federation for Aging Research.
He currently serves as Section Editor on the Editorial Boards of Neurobiology of Aging and Aging Cell and as Associate Editor of the Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. With Dr Edward J. Masoro, he co-edited both the 5th (2001) and 6th (2006) Editions of the Handbook of the Biology of Aging.
He also serves (since 2009) as Vice President and Chair of the Research Committee of the American Federation for Aging Research. Since 2001 he has been on the Initial Review Group for aging grants of the Ellison Medical Foundation. He has served on the NIH Cellular Mechanisms of Aging and Development Study Section. In addition, he co-directs (with Dr Gary Ruvkun, Harvard University) the 3-week summer course on the Molecular Biology of Aging at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Dr Austad maintains a keen interest in the communication of science to the general public, and in that capacity has served on the Science Advisory Board of National Public Radio (1992-1997) and has been a consultant to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He has written popular science articles for numerous publications including Natural History magazine, Scientific American, National Wildlife, and International Wildlife. His trade book, Why We Age (1997), has been translated into 8 languages.
A major puzzle in biology is why some species live short lives with rapid physical decay and others live much longer, senescing slowly. Attempting to identify the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms that account for such species differences is the basis of Dr Austads research in comparative biogerontology. Using cells isolated from multiple short- and long-lived species, including bats (which can live 40+ years in the wild), squirrels, marmosets, baboons, as well as traditional laboratory rats and mice, the Austad lab investigates comparative cellular stress resistance, and mechanisms underlying that stress resistance, in particular how species differ in their resistance to exogenous DNA damage and how quickly they repair that damage. The rationale for these studies is that published work on long-lived mutants of worms, flies, and mice suggests that cellular stress resistance is enhanced in long-lived genotypes. Furthermore, species longevity has been reported to correlate with cellular stress resistance. We note that some cell types may turn out to be more informative than others in elucidating critical aging mechanisms. The laboratory has been focusing on dermal fibroblasts, but we are expanding to investigate neuronal progenitor cells as well. An extension of the lab's comparative approach is to identify informative new animal species for development as medical models. A second project the lab is involved with is the development of the common marmoset, a short-lived, rat-sized primate, as a valuable model species for the study of cognitive aging, the impact of diet on aging, therapeutic drug response, and the effects of early life events on later life pathology.
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