Our genes also tell about our age

Our genes also tell about our age
This year, the ELTE Innovative Researcher Award was presented to Tibor Vellai, Head of the ELTE Department of Genetics, and Ádám Sturm, a research associate at the department, in recognition of their work in exploring molecular damage due to aging. Their method was presented on the ELTE Innovation Day on 12 November.

Researchers at the ELTE Faculty of Science have developed an innovative method that can be used to determine age from human DNA. Their method  is expected to be used in the field of forensics. The researchers have also received significant capital investment for further developing their method and launching it onto the market. Additionally, this method can also be of considerable use in biomarker research and in testing procedures aimed at slowing down the process of aging.

Tibor Vellai is a full professor and lecturer at the ELTE Institute of Biology. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in biological sciences at ELTE in 1999, and he was awarded the title of doctor of biological sciences by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2011. His fields of research include C. elegans genetics, aging, the connection of signalling pathways, the function characterisation of Hox genes, apoptosis, molecular evolution, and autophagy. In 2017, he founded the MTA–ELTE Genome Stability Research Group, which is mainly aimed at exploring the mechanisms of the aging process and a better understanding of its regulation. 

Ádám Sturm is also a lecturer at the Institute of Biology and a research associate at the Department of Genetics. He has been working at ELTE since 2017, where he also obtained his Ph.D. degree in biological sciences in 2019. His research interests include genetics, aging, cancer research, epigenetics, CRISPR systems, and machine learning. He regularly contributes to scientific journals (Scientific Reports, DNA Research, Cellular And Molecular Life Sciences).

An earlier video by the ELTE Faculty of Science about the research conducted by Tibor Vellai and András Sturm

The ELTE geneticists have previously observed that the basis of aging is represented by the so-called mobile genetic elements. These elements are able to jump from one chromosome to another, and if there was previously a gene or a regulatory sequence, then they impair its functioning due to transposition. Aging is thus caused by the genome destabilising effect of “jumping genes”.

Tibor Vellai and Ádám Sturm, collaborating with MTA SZTAKI, also predicted human proteins that regulate aging applying the latest machine learning methods. Their list published in Scientific Reports shows the key factors in aging, that is, the proteins that would be most worth studying to understand the molecular basis of aging.

The ELTE Innovation Centre organised its traditional Innovation Day on 12 November. The aim of the event is to encourage the industrial and social utilisation of knowledge achieved at the university, to strengthen relations with the corporate sector, as well as to present funding opportunities and programmes for innovation. The new Innovative Researchers of ELTE introduced themselves at the online event, and the results of the Innovative Student Idea Competition were also announced.

Former winners of the ELTE Innovative Researcher Award