Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Recommended prerequisites are:

7.03 Genetics

7.05 General Biochemistry

7.06 Cell Biology

7.28 Molecular Biology

Course Description

Aging involves an intrinsic and progressive decline in function that eventually will affect us all. While everyone is familiar with aging, many basic questions about aging are mysterious. Why are older people more likely to experience diseases like cancer, stroke, and neurodegenerative disorders? What changes happen at the molecular and cellular levels to cause the changes that we associate with old age? Is aging itself a disease, and can we successfully intervene in the aging process?

In this course, we will explore the scientific discoveries made from studies of model organisms, including yeast, worms, flies and mice, which have led to revelations about the molecular biology of aging. We will discuss calorie restriction, an intervention that extends the lifespan of organisms as diverse as yeast and primates, and the implications for successfully intervening in age-related diseases. We will also discuss the first tests of drugs such as resveratrol (a small molecule found in red wine) and rapamycin, which may target aging pathways in mammals. We will participate in a field trip to a meeting of the Boston Area Aging Data Club, where we will meet the authors of some of the papers that we have covered in class and hear a presentation by a researcher actively working on a hot topic in the field of aging.


This course will meet weekly for two hours, during which we will discuss primary research papers from the scientific literature. Students will be required to read two papers each week and come to class prepared to discuss them.


This course is graded pass/fail. Successful conclusion of the course requires the completion of two assignments and regular participation in the weekly meetings.


1 Introduction and course overview  
2 Introduction to calorie restriction  
3 Cellular senescence and telomerase  
4 Premature aging syndromes  
5 Lifespan extension in model organisms  
6 Sirtuins in lifespan extension  
7 Tor in model organisms Written Assignment due (for students choosing papers from Week #7)
8 Field trip to Boston Data Aging Club meeting at Harvard Medical School  
9 Oxidative stress theory of aging Written Assignment due (for students choosing papers from Week #9)
10 Oxidative stress and aging: Beneficial effects  
11 Reversing aging with drugs; activating sirtuins with resveratrol  
12 Student oral presentations  Student oral presentations
13 Reversing aging with drugs; inhibiting the TOR pathway with rapamycin  
Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2011
Learning Resource Types
assignment Written Assignments
assignment Presentation Assignments