The Laboratory for Aging and Infertility Research (LAIR), a multi-disciplinary collaborative research space located in the Mugar Life Sciences Building at Northeastern University, was co-founded by Dr. Jonathan Tilly (University Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biology) and Dr. Dori Woods (Assistant Professor of Biology) in 2014. Under the Co-Directorship of Drs. Tilly and Woods, the LAIR brings together principal investigators with synergistic and complementary research interests and expertise in any aspect of the biology of aging (see below). Our collective research efforts strive to better understand the aging process using a variety of model systems and technologies, with the ultimate goal of translating this knowledge into new therapeutic interventions that promote healthier aging in people ('health span'). The LAIR also serves as a unique training site for undergraduate and graduate student research across disciplines, facilitating the exchange of information and the building of skill-sets that empower our trainees to become more familiar with the scientific process, more confident in public presentation of their work, and better prepared for successful careers in academia, industry, healthcare and medicine. The LAIR houses state-of-the-art equipment and technologies that span all areas of cell and molecular biology, cell sorting, cell culture, imaging, and tissue engineering.
Jonathan L. Tilly, Ph.D.
University Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biology
After assembling a detailed molecular blueprint of how apoptosis (programmed cell death) is controlled in mammalian germ cells and the consequences of germ cell death to ovarian lifespan and female fertility, we changed the primary focus of our work from one of cell death to cell renewal based on our studies that initially challenged, and eventually overturned, one of the most basic doctrines in our field: the existence of female germline or oogonial stem cells in the ovaries of mammals that support new oocyte production during adulthood. Our current efforts are focussed on leveraging the regenerative power of these cells to sustain or restore ovarian function that is compromised or lost due to aging or insults. Another main thrust of our work, in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Dori Woods, is to map the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the aging-associated deterioration of egg and embryo quality, and to devise mitochondrial-based strategies for improving pregnancy success in human assisted reproduction.
Dori C. Woods, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Biology
Our research centers on the role of mitochondrial function and dysfunction in normal and disease states, including the decline in cellular function with age. Mitochondria are heterogenous between tissue types, but also within tissues and individual cells. Why mitochondrial subpopulations exist, and importantly, how mitochondria as individual entities or subpopulations are governed and can impact cell function and fate-specification is not known. Our research aims to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that govern mitochondrial functions and fate, with an emphasis on aging and reproductive function. An additional line of work in my lab is focussed on the use of pluripotent and adult (unipotent) stem cell populations to generate both germline and somatic ovarian cell lineages, with the goal of generating ex-vivo engineered cell and organ systems for steroid hormone production, gametogenesis, and ovarian follicle formation.
Konstantin Khrapko, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Mitochondria are cellular organelles responsible for ATP production as well as the control of many other cellular processes, from ion homeostasis to apoptosis. Mitochondria are the only organelle that carries its own genome, (mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA). Progressive accumulation of mutations in mtDNA is believed to be involved in both aging and disease (e.g., cancer development). My lab seeks to better characterize how mutations in mtDNA arise, as well as their impact on cellular physiology. We also use mtDNA mutations to trace mtDNA lineages and to study human evolution.
Justin Crane, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Cellular energy status is a critical checkpoint for the health and maintenance of tissues. My lab studies age-associated muscle wasting (sarcopenia) as well as mitotic cell aging in the context of energy metabolism using transgenic and knockout mice. The overall goal of our work is to develop new therapies that mitigate chronological aging, thereby promoting sustained tissue function in our aging population.