The Cohen Lab

The Cohen Lab’s research centers on mitochondrial biology and mitochondrial derived peptides (MDPs), which our group recently discovered. The lab studies the relation of these novel peptides to cellular and organismal processes including metabolism, carcinogenesis and aging. The focus of the research is in trying to understand their role in diabetes, cancer and neurodegeneration. The laboratory studies the basic physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and molecular biology of mitochondrial-derived peptides (MDPs), such as humanin as well as the clinical relevance of these phenomena. We are developing new systems in vivo, in humans, mice and worms as well as in vitro, in novel cell models, and in situ, in tissue samples, where we hope to continue to characterize the role of these peptides in basic molecular events and disease processes. Our major projects include the cloning of novel MDPs for functional studies, the discovery or novel response genes through the use of genome-wide scans, and the identification of transcriptional regulators of MDPs. We also seek to translate these discoveries towards novel diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions.

Dean, USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology
Executive Director, Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center
William and Sylvia Kugel Dean’s Chair in Gerontology

Email: hassy@usc.edu
Office Phone: (213) 740-1354
Fax: (213) 740-5694

Primary Research Areas

  • Unraveling processes related to aging, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and cancer.
  • The emerging science of mitochondrial-derived peptides including,
  1. humanin, a peptide encoded from the mt-16S-rRNA which is a novel, centrally acting, insulin sensitizer and metaboloprotective factor representing a new therapeutic and diagnostic target in aging, diabetes and related disease
  2. MOTS-c, a second peptide encoded from a small ORF in the 12S region of the mitochondrial chromosome, that has potent anti-diabetes and anti-obesity effect, acting as an exercise-mimetic.
  3. SHLP2, a peptide encoded from the light strand of the mt-16S-rRNA region whose levels correlate with prostate cancer.