Division of Biology and Medicine
Center on the Biology of Aging

Stephen Helfand, MD

Associate Director for Research, Professor of Biology, Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Research Interests Genetic control of longevity, calorie restriction, sirtuins, insulin/IGF signaling


Genetic control of longevity, calorie restriction, Sir2, resveratrol, Drosophila model system

Stephen Helfand is recognized for his research on the molecular mechanisms underlying the process of aging, as well as the metabolic changes that occur with and contribute to the deleterious aspects of aging. His group began studying the molecular genetics of aging using Drosophila in 1992. Their initial work was directed at understanding the relationship between gene regulation and aging, and led to the discovery of one of the first longevity genes, Indy. Studying Indy led to an interest in mitochondrial physiology and metabolism, and in the mechanisms underlying life span extension by dietary restriction. In these studies they discovered the life span-extending effects of the histone deacetylases Rpd3 and Sir2, and of resveratrol, a small molecule activator of Sir2. More recently, his lab has explored the role of chromatin remodeling on gene expression during aging. This research led to their discovery of the relationship between the activity of retrotransposable elements and the deleterious phenotypes of aging. His research has consistently used the tools of Drosphila molecular genetics, high-throughput genome-wide approaches and bioinformatics.