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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA)—the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging—has chosen Sean P. Curran, PhD, of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology as the 2014 recipient of the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award.

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

The award presentation will take place at GSA’s 66th Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held November 5-9, 2014 in Washington, DC. This conference is organized to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, educators, and practitioners who specialize in the study of the aging process.

At USC, Curran is an assistant professor of biogerontology in the Davis School of Gerontology; of molecular and computational biology in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences; and of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Keck School of Medicine.

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 understanding 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 2014, 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.”

Curran said receiving the Shock Award was an incredible honor, and he 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 as well as earned a Mellon Mentoring Award for his work with USC students.

Press release courtesy of the Gerontological Society of America. Additional reporting by Beth Newcomb.

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