Aging is accompanied with several physiological changes such as less efficient nutrient bioavailability and the decline of lean body mass and muscle quality, which is associated with elevated levels of oxidative stress and increased risk for DNA damage. Therefore, Agnes Draxler from the Vienna Doctoral School of Phamarceutical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences (PhaNuSpo) at the University of Vienna, is investigating if dietary interventions combined with physical activity might reduce oxidative stress related DNA damage in people of advanced age.
Improve the health status
Her project about healthy aging is embedded in the so-called Nutri-Aging project funded by the EU. “This is an interdisciplinary project between working groups of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Centre for Sports Science in Vienna and various international collaborators”, she explains. The PhD candidate wants to figure out how dietary interventions and exercise can improve the health status of elderly people. “This is the reason why we are conducting human intervention studies. For example, study participants receive different amounts of nutrients, such as protein or high versus low dosages of vitamin D over a period of several months. We collect urine, blood and faecal samples to measure oxidative stress parameters and DNA damage which is the main focus of my research”, Agnes Draxler says.
DNA damage and ageing
Since populations are getting older worldwide, the maintenance of a good health status is very important. “For this reason, it is necessary to reduce the major risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases but particularly the age-related loss of skeletal muscles which is also called sarcopenia”, the young scientist explains. Studies indicate that nutritional deficiencies can cause DNA damage whereas physical exercise can induce protective effects against DNA damage. “However, accumulated DNA damage can contribute to a wide range of health issues and is associated with aging”, Draxler says.
"Not a lonely business"
“Doing a PhD is by far not a lonely business. During an ongoing study, me and my colleagues and many master's students are working in the lab. We have to get up very early in the morning to be ready when the first blood samples arrive”, the PhD candidate explains. Currently, she works on the draft of a new scientific paper. “This is why I spend most of my time on my laptop doing statistical analyses and interpreting the results from our studies”, Draxler explains the crucial part of her work. “Pursuing a PhD at the Doctoral School of Pharmaceutical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences can be very inspiring because there are plenty of opportunities for interdisciplinary work and for networking with the international community.” (hm/bf)
Vienna Doctoral Schools
The Vienna Doctoral Schools at the University of Vienna correspond to international standards and meet the highest quality in a wide range of research fields. About 5,000 doctoral candidates from 110 countries are studying at the University of Vienna. The 14 new Vienna Doctoral Schools of the University of Vienna prepare early stage researchers for their future careers in the best possible way. The Vienna Doctoral Schools place great emphasis on state-of-the-art methods and techniques, intensive supervision by top researchers and networking within the academic community. Workshops, seminars, research excursions, retreats and summer schools contribute to a lively and international peer culture.
Find out more about the Vienna Doctoral Schools