ISU professor studies how animals age


Katlyn Kahler

Alex Cory

Hua Bai, assistant professor of genetics, development and cell biology, has developed a genetic model system with the goal of finding out more about the process of animal aging, and plans on studying the process in his new lab.

Bai, who just became a professor at Iowa State in January, was searching for a faculty job at a major university. Bai said he was impressed with the genetics and developmental biology department, which matched well with his research career.

Bai previously used fruit flies to study aging and age-related diseases such as cardiac disease, heart disease and muscle disease.

“The main focus in the lab is to understand how muscle function declines with age,” Bai said.

Bai said muscles get weaker with age. His research looks at what genomes are doing with the muscle process and what is regulating the muscle decline process.

“We actually combine genomics and genetics together to identify the new longevity genes,” Bai said.

Bai’s research uses next-generation sequencing to explore the gene expression that’s changed during the muscle-aging process.

“Our whole society is getting older and older,” Bai said, adding that aging is a big social issue because of the health care and economics circumstances when the population shifts to include more elderly people.

“I hope our research can be used to reduce those medical investments if we can develop a strategy to preserve the health of elderly people,” Bai said.

Bai’s animal research looks at fruit flies with high-tech equipment. Fruit flies are ideal to study for genetic mutations because they have a large sample and short life spans.

Bai hopes to start the molecular and biochemistry experiments soon and attract some graduate students to his lab.

“I don’t know what fruit flies have to do with how humans age, but as a research university, I’m sure they know what they’re doing,” said Alex Koenen, junior in event management .

Bai said he really likes the community of Ames, and he and his family feel welcome.

“I’m really happy I got an offer from Iowa State,” Bai said. “It’s definitely exciting.”