Development, Aging and Regeneration

“Junk DNA” drives embryonic development

“Junk DNA” drives embryonic development

Dr. Mark Mercola and his team discovered that microRNAs play an important roll in embryonic development.

Recycling fat to live longer?

Recycling fat to live longer?

Dr. Malene Hansen and her lab are unraveling how the interplay between two cellular processes—autophagy and lipid metabolism—influences lifespan in C. elegans worms.

Sanford-Burnham research projects selected to go to space

Sanford-Burnham research projects selected to go to space

Space Florida to send two experiments from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute to the International Space Station.

What is development, aging and regeneration?

“Development, Aging and Regeneration” sums up the major life changes in any organism that includes the potential to renew tissues and organs. The research conducted in this program aims to understand these processes in model organisms and ultimately in humans. We are interested in elucidating the secrets and delineating the mechanisms of how embryos and organs form, and how they deteriorate with age or disease, with the goal of identifying potential ways to reverse or ameliorate the debilitating insults of age or disease in humans.

What is the focus of our program—What questions are
we asking?

Our program currently takes a three-pronged approach to understand development, aging and regeneration using model organisms, such as mice, fish, flies and worms, as well as human stem cell derivatives: (1) by unraveling how gene functions are regulated either via a change in the genetic code itself (mutations) or by modifications in regulatory molecules associated with the genetic material (epigenetic), (2) by studying the development and regeneration capacity of the brain, heart, muscles, pancreas, limbs, liver and other organs, and (3) by probing the biology of aging and organ/tissue homeostasis to maintain a well-functioning organism.

How will our research help patients?

Advances in basic research to understand how cells, organs and organisms assemble and age, how their optimal functions are maintained or how damage is repaired, are the foundation for further dissecting pathological changes in patients and developing novel therapeutic approaches. Therefore, the research in this program is primarily concerned with unraveling the biology of cells, organs and organisms. These efforts invariably include a forward looking perspective into how the new insights are relevant for understanding and ultimately treating diseases. By deciphering the codes for normal development, aging and regeneration, we are gaining the tools to elucidate the specific defects in patients with heart disease, neurodegeneration, muscle disorders, diabetes, cancers and other debilitating diseases, with the aim to uncover novel therapeutic targets and strategies. Thus, basic research is the key fuel for the ‘power to cure’.

Recent Developments


A new target for the development of therapeutics against age-related disorders

Scientists at Sanford-Burnham have identified a key factor that regulates the autophagy process, a kind of cleansing mechanism for cells in which waste material and cellular debris is gobbled up to protect cells from damage, and in turn, modulates aging. The findings could lead to the development of new therapies for age-related disorders that are characterized by a breakdown in this process.  Read More...

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