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

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. Systematic micro-peptide discovery through unique screening approaches to large genomic databases.
  2. Mechanism-characterization of new mitochondrial molecular pathways
  3. Developing personalized, ethnic-specific, approaches to health disparities via therapeutic- and prevention-strategies to diseases of aging.

Recent Publications

  1. Kumagai, H, Natsume, T, Kim, SJ, Tobina, T, Miyamoto-Mikami, E, Shiose, K et al.. The MOTS-c K14Q polymorphism in the mtDNA is associated with muscle fiber composition and muscular performance. Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj. 2022;1866 (2):130048. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2021.130048. PubMed PMID:34728329 PubMed Central PMC8741734.
  2. Kim, SJ, Devgan, A, Miller, B, Lee, SM, Kumagai, H, Wilson, KA et al.. Humanin-induced autophagy plays important roles in skeletal muscle function and lifespan extension. Biochim Biophys Acta Gen Subj. 2022;1866 (1):130017. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2021.130017. PubMed PMID:34624450 PubMed Central PMC8595716.
  3. DeVito, LM, Barzilai, N, Cuervo, AM, Niedernhofer, LJ, Milman, S, Levine, M et al.. Extending human healthspan and longevity: a symposium report. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2021; :. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14681. PubMed PMID:34498278 .
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