Immortal Yeast

“Can we make an immortal yeast?” The Longevity Fund founder Laura Deming wanted to know.

The humble budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is a treasure trove of aging science. Its simple structure, easy observability, short lifespan and similarities to human genetics and aging mechanisms have made it one of the go-to screening platforms for genetic targets. If all the available knowledge was applied in a comprehensive fashion, how long could we extend the yeast lifespan? Forever?

To answer this provocative question, The Astera Fund is supporting new work in Maitreya Dunham’s lab at The University of Washington. The lab will systematically evolve yeast, selecting directly for those that live longest. By tracking genetic change over this process, the Immortal Yeast project will identify the genes involved in yeast aging. By employing various gene knockouts, they will attempt to perform a scientific first: transform an aging organism into an immortal one.

Astera is also funding Elcin Unal and Gloria Brar’s labs at UC Berkeley to understand mechanistically how certain yeast cells self-regulate to remove biomolecular damage during sporulation and other processes.