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Ben Roberts

Ben Roberts. Image supplied

2022: Ben Roberts, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded a Cambridge-Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship for research titled: ‘Leveraging Epigenetics for Healthy Ageing’


Throughout the body almost every cell contains the same DNA, yet hundreds of distinct cell types develop from this same genetic code. This is because each cell has its own unique epigenome, a cell-specific set of modifications, which regulate which genes are switched on and off in a particular cell. What’s more, cellular epigenomes change as we get older, this can be tracked to build epigenetic clocks which estimate an individual’s biological age. There is growing support for the epigenetic information theory of ageing, which states that an important root cause of ageing is epigenome dysfunction, affecting gene expression and many aspects of cellular function.

Ben Roberts has been awarded a Cambridge Rutherford Memorial PhD Scholarship to study the epigenetic clock in ageing and disease. He will use molecular biology and statistical methods to identify the network of epigenetic marks that are consistently associated with ageing. These will be considered candidates for building a mechanistic epigenetic clock. These candidates will be whittled down to focus on the epigenetic marks that are mechanistically important in disease and ageing. Understanding how epigenetic networks change as we age, and influence how we age, could not only help us understand the ageing process, but could provide avenues for novel treatments for age related diseases.

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Ben Roberts at work. Image supplied