The new Microbiome expert Prof. Dr Dario R. Valenzano.

Investigate the influence of the interaction between host and microbiome on the ageing process

Prof. Dario R. Valenzano strengthens the Microbiome research in Jena
The new Microbiome expert Prof. Dr Dario R. Valenzano.
Image: Anne Günther (University of Jena)
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Published: 15 September 2021, 12:00 | By: Kerstin Wagner

At the Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) in Jena, in a joint appointment with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Faculty of Medicine), Prof. Dr Dario R. Valenzano has taken up a professorship and the leadership of the senior research group "Evolutionary Biology/Microbiome-Host Interactions in Aging". With the new research focus "Microbiota and Aging" at the FLI, the changing composition of the microbiome of an aging organism and its influence on the development of age-associated diseases is in focus, thus expanding and additionally strengthening aging research in Jena.

In March 2018, the “Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz” (GWK, Joint Science Conference) approved the establishment of a new research focus "Microbiota and Aging" at the Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI). The approved funding of two junior research groups will be strengthened by the FLI through the additional provision of a new senior research group. The latter will be installed as a W3 professorship in a joint appointment with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Faculty of Medicine). Dario R. Valenzano from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne has accepted the professorship in Jena and has initiated his senior research group "Evolutionary Biology/Microbiome-Host Interactions in Aging" at the FLI in July 2021.

With the new research focus, the changing composition of the microbiome of an aging organism is the center of interest. The aim is to clarify the contribution of an organism's microbiota (i.e., the microbiome) in the onset and prevention of age-associated diseases and dysfunctions.

"I am very excited to establish my group at FLI," reports Prof. Dario R. Valenzano. "Here we will be able to investigate the influence of crosstalk between the host and the microbiome - the totality of all its associated microorganisms - on the aging process. So I'm really looking forward to my future interactions with students as well with my new colleagues and other partners at the university."

Study the dynamics of host-microbiome interactions

To study the dynamics of host-microbiome interactions, the Valenzano group links ecology (host-microbiome interactions) with evolutionary genomics. "We are particularly interested in how microbial dynamics unfold throughout the host life cycle and how novel microbial strains evolve in the time scale of host life. Additionally, we study whether the host itself plays an active role in establishing and maintaining a healthy microbiome and how aging in the host leads to host-microbial disbalance."

"Prof. Valenzano's broad scientific expertise promises to stimulate sustainable research in the fields of immunobiology and genome evolution beyond aging-related microbiomics, together with our collaborative partners at the Jena research site", says FLI Scientific Director Prof. Alfred Nordheim.

The person

Dario Riccardo Valenzano, born in 1977 in Bari, Italy, studied neuroscience at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy. From 2006 to 2013, Dr. Valenzano worked in the research group of Dr. Anne Brunet (Department of Genetics) at Stanford University in Stanford, USA; first as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and then as a Research Associate.

From 2013, Dr. Valenzano led the research group "Evolutionary and Experimental Biology of Aging" at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany, and has been Principal Investigator in the Cluster of Excellence CECAD at the University of Cologne since 2016. Since July 2021, he is Professor at Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Faculty of Medicine) and group leader of the research group "Evolutionary Biology/Microbiome-Host Interactions in Aging" at the Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute in Jena.

His research team studies the genomic basis of short and long lifespan across various animal species and investigates the role of gut microbes during the aging process. His most important model system is the naturally short-lived turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri), which he studies both in the laboratory and in its natural habitat in the African savannah.

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