Pincus Lab

Washington University School of Medicine

Department of Developmental Biology
and Department of Genetics

Research Projects

Many of the projects in the Pincus lab fall into the following three basic areas:

Discover Determinants of Individual Life and Health

Using special culture techniques, we grow populations of genetically identical C. elegans one by one, in isolated worm corrals. We then observe each animal over its entire life, and try to discover what factors determine above-average or below-average lifespan or health, and when.

The worm-corral apparatus

By using fluorescent reporters, we measure the expression or activity of multiple genes and pathways in individual animals, allowing us to not only understand what processes lead to good health and long life, but permitting us to statistically infer the regulatory networks that govern aging and lifespan.

These studies rely on quantitative microscopy and tools from statistics and image analysis to extract rich data from each individual animal’s unique life history.

A single animal in the apparatus (full size)

Understand the Physiology of Robustness and Frailty

We are interested in the how robust (long-lived, stress-resistant) versus frail (short-lived, stress-sensitive) physiological states come to be and in the precise nature of the gene-expression and biochemical differences between these states.

In addition, we explore how and whether frail individuals do better at certain other tasks (such as reproduction) than their more robust siblings. That is, is long life and good health a trade-off against another evolutionarily advantageous trait?

Analyze Trajectories of Aging

A more mathematically oriented set of projects in the Pincus lab seeks to analyze the trajectory and time dynamics of the aging process. These projects aim to quantitatively understand the relationship between individual life histories, health-span (the length of time before senescent decline), and lifespan.

Possible scenarios relating lifespan to health declines