Kin Sing Lee and Graduate Student Morteza Sarparast Awarded Pearl J. Aldrich Endowments

September 16, 2021

IIT-affiliated faculty member, Kin Sing Lee, as well as his graduate student, Morteza Sarparast, were both recently selected for 2022 MSU Pearl J. Aldrich Endowment awards.

The Pearl J. Aldrich Endowment in Gerontology was created through an estate gift by Pearl Jackson Aldrich, Ph.D., who passed away in 1997. Dr. Aldrich was a long-standing faculty member who devoted nearly 36 years to MSU’s Department of Family Ecology before retiring as a Professor and Associate Dean for research in 1978. These one-year awards are competitive and are intended to support Michigan State University graduate students and faculty who are committed to or strongly considering a career in a discipline that relates to aging. Awards may be used to support new research initiatives or ongoing projects that have a clearly identifiable focus that relates to gerontology or geriatric medicine.

Morteza Sarparast was selected for his proposal, “Recusing Effects of the Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Inhibitor AUDA on Neurodegeneration Induced by Aβ and/or Tau in Caenorhabditis elegans.”

Lee will use his award to investigate how omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids modulate age-associated neurodegeneration. Specifically, Lee will investigate how endogenous omega-6 dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid induces ferroptosis in neurons. Ferroptosis is a novel non-apoptotic programmed cell death pathway that is iron dependent and is characterized as an increase of membrane lipid per oxidation. Due to the challenges of investigating ferroptosis and aging in mammalian models, in this proof of concept study, Lee and his laboratory will use Caenorhabditis elegans as their model organism to investigate the specific mechanism of aging and neurodegeneration induced by dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid. Because Caenorhabditis elegans is genetically homologous to humans, it has a short life span for aging studies and vast imaging and genetic tools available for mechanistic studies. Lee’s results from this project will help identify novel targets and mechanisms to maintain neuronal health, particularly for the elderly population. In addition, the tools that they develop from this project will build a strong foundation for future mechanistic studies.