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Cynthia Kenyon

Cynthia Jane Kenyon (c. 1955- ) is an American molecular biologist known for her genetic dissection of aging in the tiny worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, or C. elegans for short.

Cynthis Kenyon graduated valedictorian in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her PhD in 1981 from MIT where, in Graham Walker's laboratory, she was the first to look for genes on the basis of their activity profiles, discovering that DNA-damaging agents activate a battery of DNA repair genes in E. coli. She then did postdoctoral studies with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, studying the development of C. elegans.

Since 1986 she has been at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she was the Herbert Boyer Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and is now an American Cancer Society Professor.

Her early work led to the discovery that Hox genes, which were known to pattern the body segments of the fruit fly Drosophila, also pattern the body of C. elegans. These findings demonstrated that Hox genes were not simply involved in segmentation, as thought, but instead were part of a much more ancient and fundamental metazoan patterning system.

In 1993, Dr. Kenyon's discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of C. elegans sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Dr. Kenyon's findings have led to the discovery that an evolutionarily-conserved hormone signaling system influences aging in other organisms, including mammals.

Kenyon has received many honors, including the King Faisal Prize for Medicine, the American Association of Medical Colleges Award for Distinguished Research, the Ilse & Helmut Wachter Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and La Fondation IPSEN Prize, for her findings. She is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is now the director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at UCSF.

Personal diet

Kenyon's research prompted her to make personal dietary changes. She stopped eating high glycemic index carbohydrates when she discovered that putting sugar on the worms' food shortened their lifespans.[1]

Kenyon follows a low glycemic index diet similar to the Atkins diet[1] and the South Beach Diet[2].

No desserts. No sweets. No potatoes. No rice. No bread. No pasta. When I say ‘no,’ I mean ‘no, or not much,’ she notes. Instead, eat green vegetables. Eat the fruits that aren't the sweet fruits, like melon. Bananas? Bananas are a little sweet. Meat? Meat, yes, of course. Avocados. All vegetables. Nuts. Fish. Chicken. That's what I eat. Cheese. Eggs. And one glass of red wine a day.[3]

I have a fabulous blood profile. My triglyceride level is only 30, and anything below 200 is good.[3]

You have to eat something, and you just have to make your best judgement. And that's my best judgement. Plus, I feel better. Plus, I'm thin—I weigh what I weighed when I was in college. I feel great —you feel like you're a kid again. It's amazing.[3]

In the past, Kenyon had also briefly experimented with a calorie restriction diet for two days, but couldn't stand the constant hunger.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Kingsland, J.: "I Want to Live Forever", New Scientist, Issue 2417, October 18, 2003.
  2. ^ Platoni, K: "Live, Fast, Die Old", East Bay Express, January 18, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c O'Neill B: "In Methuselah's Mould", PLoS Biology Vol. 2, No. 1, e12 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020012
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cynthia_Kenyon". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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