Human metabolism is the complex system of how our body breaks down what we consume and gets rid of waste.

The study of metabolism must deal with countless variables- diet, lifestyle, genetics, and the interactions between each of these. Currently, good lifestyle and nutritional habits are among the factors currently known to be most beneficial for fertility with age, but more specific details of how are largely unknown. Our grantees are conducting projects to understand how certain features of our metabolism affect reproductive aging. The study of what we consume, how, and when, may uncover simple and immediately impactful interventions to help extend fertility and delay menopause.

GCRLE Grantee projects

Dr Zita Santos and Carlos Ribiero: Human metabolism changes dramatically with age. Eggs have specific metabolic needs required for normal function, so modifying their nutrient environment can influence how eggs develop. Drs Santos and Ribeiro believe that age-related decay in fertility can be partially attributed to changes in metabolism, leading to poor or adverse nutrient environments for egg maturation. If true, certain dietary interventions could feasibly delay the loss of fertility. They are investigating these interventions in flies, a powerful biological model that allows the researchers to rapidly test numerous diets, dietary preferences, and metabolic profiles, then test those that appear most strongly implicated with reproductive aging.

Dr Mary Zelinski: Many studies investigating the mechanism of how diet and metabolism can influence aging have pointed to TOR as a key node in the system. TOR is a protein complex named for its relationship with the Rapamycin molecule (Target Of Rapamycin). Addition of Rapamycin has in some cases delayed many common characteristics of aging, but despite strong preliminary evidence, has not yet been rigorously tested in a reproductive context. Dr Zelinski’s lab is determining how a chronic, low dose of rapamycin affects the number of healthy eggs that remain as we age.

Dr Min Hoo Kim: The human microbiome- the collective name for the trillions of microbes that live in and on our bodies- has been increasingly implicated in the function of much of human physiology. Gut microbiota composition can affect how we digest certain foods with effects on the levels of certain hormones estrogens or inflammatory molecules. How our microbiome interacts with us, our metabolism, and what we consume may in turn affect the process of aging, including ovarian aging. Dr Kim is performing pilot research to determine if there is indeed a bidirectional relationship between the gut microbiome and ovarian aging by transplanting microbial species from aged mouse models of menopause into young mice.