Keith Blackwell M.D., Ph.D.

Interventions that slow aging hold great promise for preventing Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases, including complications associated with both diabetes types, and for maintaining function of insulin-producing beta cells.  The Blackwell lab studies how cells and tissues defend against environmental and metabolic stresses, and how these stress defenses influence aging.  Much of our work involves the nematode C. elegans as a model organism, and many of our projects are centered on the gene transcription regulator SKN-1/Nrf, which responds to oxidative stress and reactive toxins, and plays a central role in various mechanisms that extend healthy lifespan.  In humans, SKN-1/Nrf has been implicated in protection against diabetic complications.  Our recent work has shown that SKN-1/Nrf mediates surprisingly broad spectrum of protective functions besides oxidative stress defense, including maintenance of proteasome function, the extracellular matrix, homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum, and lipid metabolism. 

One important goal of the lab is to elucidate how signals and cooperating factors control SKN-1/Nrf so it can perform so many different functions.  Another is to understand the involvement of these protective processes in determining lifespan.  We have begun to unravel new mechanisms through which stress and metabolic signals regulate SKN-1/Nrf.   We have also determined that SKN-1/Nrf is critical in relationships between cellular growth signals, protein synthesis, and aging.  More recently, we have identified a novel mode of redox-based signaling that controls SKN-1 and many other cellular regulators.  We are applying the advantages of C. elegans to develop new ideas and models for how master regulators such as SKN-1/Nrf maintain metabolic balance and promote healthy aging, so that we can translate these findings to human and other mammalian models.


​Office Phone Number: 1-617-309-1981