Research Cores

The Center has created a strong environment in which to conduct research on aging through the provision of state-of-the-art research resources. The Center’s Research Cores provide care for mouse colonies (Animal Core), phenotyping of these animals (Health Span Core), and tracking and analysis of the resulting data (Statistical Core). The Center is also evaluating, integrating and disseminating data relating to the genetics of aging from mouse, human and other organisms (Translational Core). Together these Cores foster shared use and collaborative research, and are utilized by researchers within and outside of the Center.

Animal Core

The Animal Core facilitates the care of mouse models for research on biological aging

Core Leader: Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell

Mouse strains

The Core maintains sets of mice for median and maximum lifespan and health span studies.

In the first phase of the Center, the Core aged and obtained lifespan data for 3038 mice across 32 inbred strains. In addition, the Core also euthanized mice at 6, 12 and 20 months for the cross sectional study of the 32 strains (90 mice/strain), and supported the development of new aging models. The 32 inbred strains are listed in the following table:

In the current phase of the Center, the Core is focusing on increasing the genetic diversity of mouse resources available for aging research.

Lifespan and health span studies

Animals within the Core are divided into two groups:

  • Longitudinal group – provides life span data for each strain. In addition, selected non-invasive phenotypes, including immune aging, renal function, neuron/muscle function, etc., are also measured in this group by the Health Span Core.
  • Cross-sectional group – ensures data on all ages (young, middle-aged, and old) are available to researchers at the same time. Selected invasive phenotypes are measured by the Health Span Core in young, middle and old aged mice to investigate changes with age from the DNA to the organ level.

Health Span Core

The Health Span Core performs an unprecedented, comprehensive survey of lifespan and health span in the mouse

Core leader: Elissa Chesler

High-throughput phenotyping

Using the high-throughput phenotyping capabilities of the Core, cohorts of mice are characterized for traits of interest to aging researchers that are expected to be informative about health span including behavior, body composition, hematology, metabolism, and immune, neuromuscular and cardiovascular function. Aging phenotypes are being defined accurately in each strain, by testing several individuals of each age. Data are made available through the Mouse Phenome Database.

Tissues and DNA/RNA samples

The Health Span Core provides tissues and/or DNA/RNA samples for all the major organs and systems of the mouse strains in the Animal Core, including spleen, kidney, bone, blood, heart and liver, to internal and external researchers.

Pathology

Many tissues are now being evaluated at The Jackson Laboratory for pathology, and images are publicly available through the PathbaseMouse Tumor Biology Database and Mouse Phenome Database. Diagnoses, severity scores and disease frequencies will also be posted in the near future.

Translational Core

The Translational Core evaluates, integrates and disseminates data relating to the genetics of aging from mouse, human and other organisms.

Core leader: Ron Korstanje
Co-Core leader: Joanne Murabito

Evaluation and integration

The Translational Core summarizes, evaluates, enhances, and integrates the data and insights being generated in aging mouse research at the Center, human genome-wide association studies and candidate gene studies using animal models of aging. The Core also creates opportunities for geneticists using mouse, human and other organisms to collaborate and for Center resources to be used by a much wider audience, including the human genetics community.

Dissemination

The Core disseminates this information to the scientific community in a readily accessible form to promote aging research. With these integrated resources, researchers can accelerate their work to identify genes that affect aging, emphasizing longevity genes common to human, mouse and other animals. The Core is both an institutional and a national resource, rapidly sharing Center expertise in genetics with the entire research community interested in genetics of aging.

Statistical Core

The Statistical Core enables the tracking, statistical analysis and dissemination of aging data.

Core leader: Gary Churchill

Statistical consulting

The Core provides dedicated support to investigators in study design, data analysis, custom programming and applications support. As researchers investigate the complex traits associated with aging, the Core helps them overcome the analytic challenges associated with interacting loci and in the analysis of multiple measurements required for complex phenotypes.

Information management

Robust information management systems are critical for distributed data-intensive projects such as the Center’s aging and phenotyping efforts. The Core provides a Laboratory Information Management System (JAXTrack) to manage workflow, animal and sample tracking, and data generated by the Center.

Data dissemination

Data from aging research generated within and beyond the Center is disseminated by the Core to the wider scientific community via the Mouse Phenome Database, a centralized public resource database that also builds and offers tools for correlation analysis.

Development Core

The Development Core provides support for investigators who wish to change career direction toward aging research.

Core leader: Gary Churchill

Pilot projects

Pilot funding is the primary means of encouraging established and young faculty to pursue ideas in aging science. Once a year a request for proposals is announced and projects are reviewed by the External Advisory Board. The Center’s pilot project scheme has significantly expanded The Jackson Laboratory’s aging research program and has resulted in peer-reviewed publications, several new aging mouse models, as well as applications for external funding.

Recruitment and retention

The Center and its resources are important factors in recruiting and retaining talented faculty in a variety of disciplines who are also interested in aging research. Lack of aging resources or expertise can prevent researchers from engaging in aging science. The Center’s resources enable faculty to pursue cost-effective aging studies.

Mentoring

Senior Center members mentor young faculty, postdoctoral associates and students. The Center’s leadership also supports new aging researchers and established researchers who wish to change fields.

Administrative Core

The Administrative Core provides the management of the overall Center, as well as support for the External and Internal Advisory Boards.

Core leader: Gary Churchill

Management

The Center Director is responsible for managing the Center, addressing issues of fiscal management and compliance with institutional, HHS, NIH and NIA policies.

External Advisory Board

The Center has established an External Advisory Board, an advisory panel of experts from outside the institution. This panel convenes annually at The Jackson Laboratory and evaluates the progress of the Center.

Internal Advisory Board

Scientific and organizational guidance is also provided by the Internal Advisory Board. The Board meets annually with the Center Director and the Center leadership team to discuss the Center’s scientific direction. Monthly meetings with the Center Director and the Center leadership team provide a forum for reviewing the Center’s science and operations.