Faculty Profile

James F. Nelson, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Dr. Nelson's research aims to understand the genetic and physiological basis for aging, using nutritional and pharmacologic interventions that extend rodent lifespan as probes. Most recently, his laboratory discovered dramatic genetic variation in the lifespan response to dietary restriction, including a life-shortening effect in some genotypes. These findings provide a new way of identifying the genes and probing the mechanisms whereby dietary restriction and other interventions affect aging. For example, his group found that maintenance--not reduction--of adiposity was a strong correlate of lifespan extension, whereas reduction in adiposity was a risk factor for life shortening by dietary restriction. His research also focuses on the role of endocrine systems in aging, with a particular emphasis on the role of hyperadrenocorticism and insulin signaling in the life-extending effect of dietary restriction. In addition, the NIA-funded Interventions Testing Center in which he participates has discovered lifespan- and heathspan-extending effects of several compounds with potential clinical application, including rapamycin, an FDA-approved inhibitor of mTOR signaling.

Lab Team

  • Catherine Cheng
  • Victoria DeLeon
  • Vivian Diaz
  • Ariana Hall
  • Aaron Regalado
  • Cassandra Tolento
Education B.A., University of Southern California, 1971 M.S., University of Southern California, 1975 Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1981
Selected Publications

Strong R, Miller RA, Astle CM, Baur JA, de Cabo R, Fernandez E, Guo W, Javors M, Kirkland JL, Nelson JF, Sinclair DA, Teter B, Williams D, Zaveri N, Nadon NL, Harrison DE.  Evaluation of Resveratrol, Green Tea Extract, Curcumin, Oxaloacetic Acid, and Medium-Chain Triglyceride Oil on Life Span of Genetically Heterogeneous Mice.  J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci.  68:6-16, 2013.

Liao CY, Johnson TE, Nelson JF.  Genetic variation in responses to dietary restriction – An unbiased tool for hypothesis testing.  Exp Gerontol 48:1025-9, 2013.

Nelson JF, Strong R, Bokov A, Diaz V, Ward W, Probing the Relationship Between insulin Sensitivity and Longevity Using Genetically Modified Mice J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 67:1332-8, 2012 .