Faculty

John Newman, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Buck Institute for Research on Aging
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Gerontology

Overview

The Newman lab focuses on understanding how cellular metabolism interacts with the genes and pathways that regulate aging has led to many of the potential interventions now being investigated to promote healthspan. Exercise, fasting, and dietary restriction all work to promote health by activating specific cellular signaling pathways. Many of these signaling pathways involve ordinary cellular metabolites like acetyl-CoA and NAD, which have “secret” lives regulating enzymes and genes. The Newman lab focuses on an emerging signaling metabolite, the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate, and the roles it may have in responding to stressors and regulating healthspan.

Ketone bodies are the energy currency that allows the body’s cells to utilize fats for fuel. They are made normally in the liver from fats whenever carbohydrates are scarce, as when fasting or exercising. Ketone bodies are to fats what glucose is to carbohydrates. But beta-hydroxybutyrate has signaling activities as well, including regulating gene expression, modulating inflammation, and controlling metabolism by inhibiting enzymes, binding to proteins, and activating receptors. We have found that long-term exposure to ketone bodies using a ketogenic diet can extend the healthy lifespan of normal mice and, in particular, protect the aging brain. We seek a mechanistic understanding of how ketone bodies might work in an aging mammal to promote health, particularly in age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Our goal is to develop targeted therapies that might enhance the resilience of older adults to diseases like Alzheimer’s and stresses like hospitalization.