Grady Lee Thomas
Associate professors of biology Jerome Garcia and Kathleen Weaver shared their research on DNA in a lecture titled “Modification and Mutation of Mitochondrial DNA: Implications for Aging and Age-Related Disease,” Monday in the President’s Dining Room.
Garcia and Weaver spoke about their work, which may have the potential to treat diseases commonly associated with aging, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even ordinary wrinkles.
“We began to brainstorm the idea of analyzing DNA and decided to try it out,” Weaver said. “If we can find where problems exist in the cell, we may be able to influence cell processes and do treatment and therapy on the cell in order to preserve it.”
Weaver specializes in biogeography, conservation genetics and mitochondrial DNA. Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species, while mitochondrial DNA converts chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use in order to function.
Garcia specializes in age-related diseases as well as free radicals, or oxidants, which play a major role in the aging process and also may cause many of the diseases we associate with old age. Free radicals are formed by oxygen the body does not successfully convert into water.
Our bodies naturally produce oxidants and if these oxidants are exposed to cells in excess, they cause the cell to die or become distorted.
This process may be the cause of many diseases associated with old age.
“It is cool how Professor Garcia put the presentation in a way that us non-scientific people could understand,” said sophomore speech communications major Brittany Martinez. “I was not aware about how the oxidants our bodies produce could harm us and even cause diseases.”
Although the study by Garcia and Weaver did not yield results, a foundation for further research was formed.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and do research, but in the context of developing and mentoring my students,” Garcia said.
“In the end, it goes back to the fact that I’m here for the students and this is all about their experiences. If we get our work published, it’s icing on the cake. I would be completely happy if none of this came to fruition and students got a learning experience and got to fulfill their dreams,” Garcia said.
Grady Lee Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.