SBP Cancer Center Open House Draws Huge Crowds

Written by 
Helen Hwang
SBP Cancer Center Open House

More than 150 visitors came to learn about the intricate workings and challenges of aging research at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) on June 8. It was an incredibly successful Cancer Center Open House, open to the general public. The theme was “Cancer and Aging” and featured four laboratories discussing the following topics:

  • Diet, Exercise and Aging – Peter D. Adams, Ph.D.
  • Cellular Aging – Malene Hansen, Ph.D.
  • The Aging Heart – Karen Ocorr, Ph.D.
  • The Microbiome and Aging – Scott Peterson, Ph.D.

Visitors perused posters, peered through microscopes and toured labs. One of the hands-on demonstration was to see firsthand what a damaged cell looks like, which in turn can lead to cells growing uncontrollably and developing into tumors.

In the Adams’ lab, guests were introduced to the concept of slowing down the aging process. Postdoc Aaron Havas, Ph.D., explained how diet and exercise can positively affect aging, which can hopefully reduce cancer risks.

C. elegan worms, or tiny, transparent roundworms, were used in Hansen’s lab to explain how autophagy, or cell recycling, can impact our aging process. Recent studies from Hansen’s lab show how mild heat stress and dietary restriction can increase your lifespan.

Ocorr exhibited the live beating heart of a fruit fly, which has virtually the same heart rate as a human heart surprisingly. Fruit flies give us insight into how heart disease develops. Her experiments are currently aboard the International Space Station to measure the effects of gravity on the heart, among other studies. See news coverage of Ocorr’s experiment in The New York Times.

The microbiome, which encompasses bacteria, viruses and fungi that mostly live in our gut, has a major impact on healthy aging, explained Peterson. He studies the “leaky gut,” which affects how bacterial toxins may enter the bloodstream through weak intestinal walls and affect other organs in our bodies.

Twice a year, the Institute opens its doors to the public to give them the opportunity to step into working laboratories and meet scientists to discuss their research.

Our next Cancer Center Open House is scheduled for Thursday, November 9. This event is open to the public. Check back on www.sbpdiscovery.org to register and a chance to visit SBP.