Biology B.S., University of Utah 2014.
Stephan Baehr throughout life has most enjoyed stories of remarkable endurance, the ability to persist in the face of adversity. In a way, the strongest, inescapable obstacle to persistence is found in the context of this riddle, as detailed by J.R.R. Tolkein:
?This thing all things it devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down?
The answer to the riddle is, ?Time.? And yet, over time spanning billions of years, life has managed to persist. It is not unchanged, though some structures appear to remain recognizable over billions of years. Across the tree of life, the lifespan of a single individual ranges from hours to millennia, with some exceptionally long lived species being Bristlecone pine (5000+ yr), Hydra (1500+ yr), Bowhead whales (211+ yr) and so on. On the other hand, humans have a lifespan of around 100-125 years at maximum. What genomic factors determine this apparent ceiling, what might raise it further? What are the molecular currencies responsible for biological aging? To what extent might aging be a cellular state that can be rewritten, and to what extent is it irreversible?
To begin to answer these questions, Baehr first joined the DeAngelis lab at the University of Utah to work on Age-related Macular Degeneration, a human disease of old age, working with transcriptome datasets and immunohistochemistry. Baehr has now joined the Lynch lab to measure rates of change in various molecules in living cells, such as DNA and RNA mutation rates.