You are here

NORC News

Gibbs wins travel award to attend American Aging Association’s Annual Conference

May 2, 2016

Katie Gibbs, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) and Department of Nutrition Sciences, is the recipient of a travel award to attend the American Aging Association 45th Annual Conference, to be held June 3-5, 2016, in Seattle. The Association is dedicated to promoting studies that increase lifespans by slowing the aging process; informing the public-at-large of progress in aging-related research and sharing practical measures for living more healthfully; and providing healthcare professionals with knowledge on how and why human’s age. Dr. Gibbs’s selection was based on the abstract “Can a Behavioral Response to a Novel Environment Predict Mortality in Male C57BL/6 Mice?”

In the study, Dr. Gibbs and colleagues examined the physiological chain of events accompanying behavioral responses to stressful situations in male C57BL/6 mice as a means of predicting probability of early mortality and variation in lifespan; additionally, they sought to ascertain if an intervention that increased lifespan modified behavioral response. At age 12 weeks, 120 mice were randomized to individual housing at either 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Mice kept at 27 degrees Celsius (near thermoneutrality) were allowed to eat freely, while mice at 22 degrees Celsius were fed the same amount of food as the mice kept at 27 degrees Celsius consumed, approximately 30 percent less than desired by the cooler mice. Behavioral inhibition, or neophobia—defined within each group as the time taken before exiting the “safe zone” being equal to or greater than the median time taken for all mice within the group, with neophilia defined as a latency period less than the median—was assessed at 78 and 102 weeks during a 5-minute trial. The researchers hypothesize that mice exhibiting neophobia will live shorter lives than mice exhibiting neophilia.

Dr. Gibbs notes, “Log-rank survival analysis indicated that mice housed at 22 degrees Celsius lived longer than mice housed at 27 degrees Celsius. Cox Proportional Hazard test indicated no significant difference between housing temperature in latency period. Neophobia/neophilia was conserved across ages tested. While not statistically significant, neophobic mice housed at 27 degrees Celsius showed a 36 percent greater likelihood of early mortality than neophilic mice. In contrast, neophobic mice housed at 22 degrees Celsius were 50 percent less likely to die (median lifespan yet undefined) than neophilic individuals. This study is ongoing with total mortality at 70 percent versus 97 percent for mice housed at 22 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius, respectively. Despite equivalent energy intake, mice housed at 27 degrees Celsius exhibited shorter lifespans.”

The researchers concluded that it is unclear whether it is possible to predict early mortality based on behavioral phenotype and that behavioral inhibition only partially accounts for individual variation observed in lifespan.

UAB co-investigators are Maria S. Johnson, PhD, research associate in the Department of Nutrition Sciences; Daniel L. Smith, Jr., PhD, assistant professor in the NORC and Department of Nutrition Sciences; Amit Patki, MS, statistician in the Department of Biostatistics; David B. Allison, PhD, distinguished professor and director of the NORC and Office of Energetics; and Tim R. Nagy, PhD, professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences.

Dr. Gibbs’s research interests include investigating physiological responses to nutrition and the environment using different animal models. She is currently evaluating the effectiveness of healthspan measures in a murine model for predicting lifespan. Additionally, Dr. Gibbs studies how environmental stressors and perceived stress from novel environments affect behavior, energetics, body composition, aging, and potentially lifespan using a murine model.