122 episodes

The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.



STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word. 

STEM-Talk Dawn Kernagis and Ken Ford

    • Health & Fitness
    • 4.7 • 560 Ratings

The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.



STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word. 

    Episode 122: James Kirkland on targeting senescent cells to reverse age-related diseases

    Episode 122: James Kirkland on targeting senescent cells to reverse age-related diseases

    In today’s episode, we talk about zombie cells, a term used to describe senescent cells because of their refusal to die. Our guest on this topic is Dr. James Kirkland, a geriatrics specialist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who is known for his research into the role that senescence and senescent cells have on age-related dysfunction and chronic disease.



    As senescent cells build up in the body, they promote cellular aging and a host of chronic conditions related to aging, such as dementia, cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes and arthritis. In today’s interview, we focus on Jim’s 2015 study where he and his colleagues at Mayo were the first to report on the potential of senolytic drugs to selectively kill zombie senescent cells. Jim’s paper in Aging Cell has been hailed as a major breakthrough in aging research.



    Jim is the director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center of Aging at Mayo and the president of the American Federation for Aging Research. The goal of James’ lab and research is to develop methods to remove senescent cells to delay, prevent, alleviate or partially reverse age-related chronic diseases.  Jim and his colleagues believe that doing this will help extend people’s health span, and, more important, prolong the period of life where people can live free of disabilities caused by chronic disease.



    Show notes:



    00:03:20 Jim starts the interview talking about growing up in Canada.



    00:03:31 Dawn asks him when he became interested in science.



    00:04:05 Ken mentions that he understands that Jim had an interest in becoming a physician at a very early age, and given Jim’s previous comments, asks if it was Jim’s childhood observations of his grandparents’ aging that drove his interest in geriatrics.



    00:04:39 Dawn asks how Jim ended up at the University of Toronto.



    00:04:51 Dawn mentions that Jim received his medical degree in 1977 and completed his residency at Toronto General Hospital. Dawn goes on to ask why, after this, did Jim decide to go overseas to study at the University of Manchester.



    00:05:37 Dawn mentions that after Jim’s experience in Manchester, he moved back across the Atlantic to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he mainly studied adipose tissue.



    00:06:11 Dawn asks what role Jim’s research at NIH played in his Ph.D., which he earned from the University of Toronto in 1990.



    00:07:19 Dawn mentions that in 2007 Jim became the director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic and asks how Jim ended up at that position.



    00:07:54 Dawn asks Jim to clarify the difference between lifespan and healthspan.



    00:09:26 Ken mentions that Jim’s research throughout his career has focused on cellular aging and senescent cells. Ken asks what initially triggered Jim’s interest in senescence.



    00:11:42 Dawn mentions Jim’s 2015 paper in Aging Cell, where Jim and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic were the first to report on the potential of senolytic drugs, which selectively kill senescent cells. Dawn goes on to ask Jim about his research leading up to this breakthrough paper.



    00:14:47 Dawn asks Jim to talk about two senolytic compounds that he and his colleagues identified called dasatinid and quercetin, and what the significance of their discovery is.



    00:17:20 Ken mentions the senolytic agent called fisetin, which is another agent showing benefit in rodent studies and is now being used in human clinical trials. Ken mentions that some authors have described fisetin as having roughly twice the senolytic potency as quercetin. Ken asks Jim to explain where fisetin fits into the senolytic landscape.



    00:19:18 Dawn mentions that Jim began his aforementioned 2015 paper...

    • 55 min
    Episode 121: Pascal Lee on the Mars mission and our search for alien life in the galaxy

    Episode 121: Pascal Lee on the Mars mission and our search for alien life in the galaxy

    It has been nearly a month since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars. So far, the rover hasn’t detected any signs of past life on the planet. But scientists have determined that several of the rocks on Mars are chemically similar to volcanic rocks on Earth. This, of course, has caused quite a bit of buzz. So, the double-secret-selection committee decided it was a perfect time to invite the chairman of the Mars Institute onto the show to get his take on the Perseverance and the Mars Mission so far.



    Actually, this is Dr. Pascal Lee’s second appearance on STEM-Talk. Pascal is a planetary scientist and director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center who was our guest in 2016 on episode 17.  Back then we talked to Pascal about his annual visits to the High Arctic’s Devon Island, which is the Earth’s largest uninhabited land that has geological characteristics similar to what scientists believe we will find on Mars.



    Today we catch up with Pascal and his Haughton-Mars Project. We also talk to him about Perseverance and a host of other Mars-related topics.



    We ask Pascal if he thinks we’ll find signs of life on Mars, or if he believes we will ever find signs of alien life in our galaxy. We also get Pascal’s thoughts about future manned missions to Mars and whether humans will ever colonize the Red Planet. And after listening to today’s interview, be sure to check out Pascal’s artwork and his recent paintings of Mars.



    Show notes:



    00:03:15 Dawn opens the interview welcoming Pascal back to STEM-Talk, mentioning that the last time he was on the podcast he was about to spend his 20th consecutive summer on Devon Island, the Earth’s largest uninhabited land with geological characteristics similar to what Pascal believes we will find on Mars. Dawn goes on to mention that due to COVID-19, last year’s trip to Devon Island was canceled and asks him about his disappointment.



    00:05:11 Ken asks if Pascal is confident that he’ll return to Devon Island this coming summer.



    00:05:36 Dawn mentions that it takes several stops and trips to reach Devon Island. She asks who makes those travel arrangements and how the journey plays out.



    00:08:25 Ken asks about Pascal’s polar bear guard dog, Apollo, inquiring as the protocol when Apollo alerts the team about a nearby polar bear.



    00:10:48 Dawn mentions the Webby Award-winning documentary filmed by a team at Google who came to visit Pascal on Devon Island in 2018 called “Mars on Earth: A Visit to Devon Island”. Dawn asks Pascal what he thought of the documentary.



    00:12:20 Ken asks Pascal to elaborate on the space suit that he was planning to test on Devon Island last summer but couldn’t because the trip was canceled.



    00:16:39 Dawn asks about the glove Pascal wants to test that may enable single-handed drone operation.



    00:20:11 Dawn mentions that the atmosphere of Mars is around 60 times less dense than the Earth’s. She asks Pascal about the challenges of flying a drone on Mars.



    00:22:15 Dawn asks Pascal to elaborate on his recommendation that scientists study the Inuit culture and history in relation to long-duration space travel.



    00:26:01 Ken mentions NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February and relates that Steve Jurczyk, the NASA acting administrator, described Perseverance’s landing on Mars as a pivotal moment for the United States and space exploration. Given that NASA has landed rovers on Mars before, Ken asks Pascal what makes this particular landing especially significant.



    00:28:10 Dawn mentions that NASA recently released recordings of the Perseverance rover d...

    • 1 hr 28 min
    Episode 120: Gordon Lithgow on alpha-ketoglutarate’s potential to affect healthspan and lifespan

    Episode 120: Gordon Lithgow on alpha-ketoglutarate’s potential to affect healthspan and lifespan

    Ever since Cell Metabolism published a study that found the naturally occurring metabolite alpha-ketoglutarate reduces inflammatory signaling as well as chronic inflammation, listeners have been asking Ken and Dawn for their take on the paper. Today, we have the author of the paper, Dr. Gordon Lithgow, as our guest on STEM-Talk. We talk with Gordon in-depth about his study and the potential of alpha-ketoglutarate to have positive effects on lifespan and healthspan.



    Gordon is a professor and vice president of Academic Affairs at the Buck Institute in Novato, California, where his research focuses on uncovering genes and small molecules that prolong lifespan through enhanced molecular stability. Today we cover Gordon’s research into alpha-ketoglutarate in the second part of a two-part interview. In part one, episode 119, we asked Gordon about his fascination with C elegans, a microscopic worm that Gordon and other geneticists study and often use for their research. He particularly covered two of his studies involving C elgans: one that looked at the role that protein homeostasis plays in aging;  and another study that found vitamin D3 improves protein homeostasis and slows aging.



    A native of Scotland, Gordon researched the biology of aging at the University of Manchester in England before moving to the Buck Institute in 2000. Gordon is married to Dr. Julie Andersen, who was our guest on episodes 117 and 118 and who also is a researcher at the Buck Institute.



    Show notes:



    00:03:20 Dawn opens part two of our interview with Gordon by mentioning his most recent paper on alpha-ketoglutarate, which has generated a lot of buzz. This study suggests there is a metabolite that one can buy in a health food store that may have a positive effect on lifespan as well as healthspan. Dawn goes on to mention that alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG), is a naturally occurring metabolite. She notes that previous studies on it have shown that blood plasma levels of AKG can drop up to 10-fold as we age. Dawn asks Gordon to explain what AKG is and how it is involved in so many of our fundamental physiological processes.



    00:07:41 Ken mentions that in the study, Gordon fed the mice calcium AKG. Ken asks why Gordon chose calcium AKG as opposed to arginine AKG, which is a dietary supplement often used by athletes and bodybuilders to improve their performance and reduce muscle fatigue.



    00:09:22 Dawn mentions that when Gordon’s paper came out in Cell Metabolism, Gordon was quoted as saying, “The nightmare scenario has always been life extension with no reduction in disability.” Dawn goes on to state that this study showed that the middle-aged mice who were treated got healthier over time, and that even the mice that died early saw improvements in their health. Dawn asks Gordon to elaborate on this apparent extension in healthspan.



    00:12:41 Dawn asks Gordon about the significance of the finding in his study that calcium AKG reduced inflammatory signaling, as well as chronic inflammation, as it relates to degenerative aging.



    00:14:57 Ken asks if Gordon’s study has been replicated in any other strains of mice.



    00:18:54 Dawn mentions that Ponce De Leon Health, which is based in Florida, is marketing a formulation of calcium AKG under the brand name Rejuvant. She goes on to mention that Gordon and his colleagues at the Buck worked with Ponce De Leon Health to develop the product and that Gordon owns stock in the company. Dawn asks Gordon to give an overview of this partnership and address the concerns that some people may have about a potential conflict of interest.



    00:21:17 Ken asks Gordon to explain how the dose of calcium AKG used in the mouse study compares to t...

    • 48 min
    Episode 119: Gordon Lithgow talks about the biology of aging and prolonging lifespan

    Episode 119: Gordon Lithgow talks about the biology of aging and prolonging lifespan

    Episode 119: Gordon Lithgow talks about the biology of aging and prolonging lifespan



    Our guest today is Dr. Gordon Lithgow, a professor and vice president of Academic Affairs at the Buck Institute in Novato, California. Gordon’s research focuses on uncovering genes and small molecules that prolong lifespan through enhanced molecular stability.



    Because our conversation with Gordon was so extensive and fascinating, we have split his interview into two parts. In today’s part one of the interview, we talk to Gordon about his background and early studies as well as his fascination with C elegans, a microscopic worm that Gordon and other geneticists study and often use for their research. We particularly talk in depth about two of Gordon’s studies involving C elgans: one that looked at the role that protein homeostasis plays in aging;  and another study that found vitamin D3 improves protein homeostasis and slows aging.



    A native of Scotland, Gordon researched the biology of aging at the University of Manchester in England before moving to the Buck Institute in 2000. Gordon is married to Dr. Julie Andersen, who was our guest on episodes 117 and 118 and who also is a researcher at the Buck Institute.



    In part two of our interview with Gordon, we talk to him about a recent study of his that found the naturally occurring metabolite alpha-ketoglutarate reduces inflammatory signaling as well as chronic inflammation. The study has generated quite a bit of buzz because it suggests there’s a readily available metabolite that may have positive effects on lifespan and health span. As a result, Ken and Dawn have been getting numerous questions from listeners about alpha-ketoglutarate and Gordon’s recent study that ran in Cell Metabolism, which Gordon talks about in depth in part two.



    Show notes:



    00:03:59 Dawn opens the interview asking Gordon about growing up in a steelwork town outside of Glasgow, Scotland.



    00:04:22 Dawn asks Gordon what he was like as a kid.



    00:05:07 Dawn asks Gordon how a young boy who had aspirations of becoming a professional rugby or soccer player suddenly becomes passionate about birdwatching.



    00:07:07 Gordon talks about how he went to the University of Strathclyde after high school and how he was the first in his family to attend college.



    00:07:48 Dawn asks Gordon why he shifted his academic interests from microbiology to genetic engineering.



    00:09:05 Ken asks what led Gordon to attend the University of Glasgow for his doctorate after getting a degree in microbiology.



    00:10:04 Ken asks why Gordon went to Switzerland after receiving his doctorate.



    00:10:57 Ken asks what prompted Gordon to head to Boulder, Colorado, and why he became so interested in the biology of aging.



    00:12:57 Dawn mentions that while Gordon was working in Tom Johnson’s lab during his post-doc, Gordon made what Tom referred to as an amazing discovery. Gordon had found that a single heat shock to worms increased their lifespan by 15 percent. Dawn asks Gordon to talk about this discovery as well as his paper that ran in PNAS.



    00:15:46 Ken mentions that because of Gordon’s discovery, many people have developed an interest in sauna.



    00:16:57 Dawn mentions that a number of years after discovering that heat shocking increased the lifespan of worms, Gordon followed up on that study and demonstrated that giving the worms repeated mild hormetic heat treatments increased their lifespan even more. Dawn goes on to ask if, since this follow-up study, Gordon has a better understanding of hormesis mechanisms at the cellular and molecular level and how that might relate t...

    • 56 min
    Episode 118: Julie Andersen talks about urolithin-A’s potential to prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases

    Episode 118: Julie Andersen talks about urolithin-A’s potential to prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases

    Today we have part two of our conversation with Dr. Julie Andersen, a professor at the Buck Institute who is conducting fascinating research into the metabolite compound urolithin-A.



    Laboratory experiments have demonstrated urolithin-A’s ability to induce mitophagy, which is a selective recycling of mitochondria by autophagy, a process that cleans defective mitochondria and becomes less efficient during aging. Julie’s research has focused on the potential of urolithin-A to prevent and treat such diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.



    In part one of our interview with Julie, she talked about her interest in aging and age-related diseases as well as her early studies into developing new therapeutics for neurodegeneration.



    Julie has been with the Buck Institute since 2000 and has published more than 170 papers.



    Show notes:



    00:02:15 Dawn starts the second part of our interview asking Julie how the composition of bacteria in the gut affects brain function.



    00:07:08 Ken asks Julie to explain what urolithin-A is, where it comes from, and why her lab and others are so interested in it.



    00:10:49 Ken mentions that a study was recently published which showed that giving urolithin-A to older mice resulted in a 42 percent improvement in endurance while running compared to a control group of mice of the same age. Ken goes on to ask Julie what it is that makes urolithin-A so impactful.



    00:12:43 Dawn mentions that it is known that production of urolithin-A seems to be dependent on the presence of certain gut microbes. She goes on to ask Julie what types of gut microbes are most important in the conversion of ellagic acid.



    00:13:33 Ken asks if people vary in terms of how efficiently they convert ellagic acid into urolithin-A, and if so, how much variance is there.



    00:14:43 Julie explains what she has learned about how to better analyze the gut microbiome composition from her studies with mice.



    00:15:51 Ken asks if there is a test one can take to see if they are a urolithin-A producer.



    00:16:19 Ken mentions the June 2019 paper by Chris Rinsch’s team in Nature Metabolismwhich showed a striking up-regulation of mitochondrial gene expression, including some induction of mitophagy genes in the skeletal muscle of older adults after 4 weeks of oral urolithin-A supplementation. He goes on to say that given the well-documented mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease, which seems to be ubiquitous, he asks what Julie’s thoughts are on the use of urolithin-A supplementation in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s



    00:19:22 Dawn mentions that Julie wrote a paper titled “Senescence as an Amyloid Cascade: The Amyloid Senescence Hypothesis,” about the intersection of amyloid-beta oligomers and cellular senescence in Alzheimer’s disease, cautioning against completely rejecting the amyloid hypothesis. Dawn asks if the intersection of senescence with amyloid burden help to address the lack of correlation between amyloid burden and disease burden in both animal models and humans.



    00:26:22 Dawn asks about the compound “C1” that Julie’s lab has demonstrated boosts autophagy and, as a result, shows promise in treating Alzheimer’s.



    00:30:27 Dawn mentions Mitopure, which is a commercially available oral formulation of urolithin-A from a Swiss company called Am...

    • 52 min
    Episode 117: Julie Andersen talks about her research into aging and neurodegenerative diseases

    Episode 117: Julie Andersen talks about her research into aging and neurodegenerative diseases

    Our guest today is Dr. Julie Andersen, who is best known for her research into aging and age-related diseases. A professor at the Buck Institute Buck Institute for Research on Aging, an independent biomedical research institute that researches ways to extend the healthy years of life, Julie and her colleagues at Buck have focused on understanding the underlying age-related processes driving neurodegenerative diseases in order to identify novel therapeutics.



    Because our conversation with Julie was so fascinating and long, we have divided it into two parts. In today’s part one of her interview, we talk to Julie about her youth and early career. We also talk to her about the potential of of rapamycin to protect brain cells and mitochondria in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease as well as her thoughts about the Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis. In part two, which will go live in a few weeks, we have an in-depth conversation with Julie about her research into the neuroprotective properties of urolithin A.



    In terms of Julie’s background, she received her Ph.D. from UCLA and did her post-doc in the department of neurology at Harvard. In 2000 Julie joined the Buck Institute.



    Show notes:



    [00:03:33] Dawn opens the interview asking if it is true that Julie was a quiet kid who normally sat in the back of the classroom.



    [00:03:52] Dawn mentions that Julie was born in Montana but that she grew up in northern Idaho. Dawn asks what it was that brought Julie’s family to Idaho.



    [00:04:29] Dawn asks Julie what interests she had growing up.



    [00:05:05] Ken remarks on the fact that one of Julie’s favorite books is a biography of Clementine, Winston Churchill’s wife, and asks where Julie’s interest in Clementine came from.



    [00:05:46] Dawn mentions that for Julie’s undergraduate degree, she went to Washington State University, where her father was a professor. Dawn asks if Julie knew from the start that she was going to focus her undergraduate studies on plant physiology.



    [00:07:03] Ken asks Julie took her to UCLA for her Ph.D.



    [00:08:16] Dawn asks Julie what led to travel across the country to Boston for her post-doc.



    [00:09:26] Julie explains why she eventually returned to California after her Ph.D.



    [00:11:32] Dawn asks Julie to tell the story of how meeting someone she described as “a fellow nerd” at an aging conference eventually led her to taking a position at the Buck Institute.



    [00:14:34] Ken remarks that Julie must like working at the Buck, given she has remained there for the last 20 years. Julie describes what is it about the Buck Institute that makes it such a special place.



    [00:17:51] Dawn mentions that for the past 20 years, Julie and her lab at Buck have looked at a lot of different aspects of neurodegeneration, with a heavier concentration on autophagy in the past five years. Dawn goes on to mention that Julie has especially been investigating a natural bioactive known as urolithin A. Before diving into all of this work specifically, Dawn asks Julie, what drew her to the study of neurodegeneration to begin with.



    [00:19:55] Ken asks what prompted Julie’s current focus on autophagy.



    [00:24:11] Dawn explains that degradation of damaged mitochondria via lysosomal autophagy is a key cellular pathway in the maintenance of mitochondrial homeostasis.  Disruption of this pathway contributes to the progressive cell loss that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. She goes on to mention that Julie published the results of a study in 2015that found rapamycin can protect brain cells and mitochondria in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Julie explains the significance of this study and talks about the importance of rapamycin in the research of...

    • 49 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
560 Ratings

560 Ratings

R manutd ,

Love this stimulus package

Love the stimulus package than Ken, Dawn and their guest deliver, only wish they could do this weekly, but that would detract from their amazing work.

Rob12! ,

Is it love? (Submitted by Robski123)

Our brains are teeming with neurons stored with life’s great perspicacity
Dawn and Ken’s musings add to the great store
Their guests are, without fail, intellects with immense sagacity.
And present information that is anything but a bore.
I tune in with considerable anticipation
And wait for the next nugget of gold
And can only describe my enjoyment as infatuation (with Dawn).
Stemtalk is truly a marvel to behold.

Shaw3253 ,

THE PASSION!

A genius does not know the capacity of his knowledge on a subject! He/She is too busy to solve the next? The role Dawn/Ken are playing in our era is to siphon the key points and preserve them for the generations to come!!! I am fascinated to see the passion both Dawn & Ken have towards this task they have undertaken!

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