Science & Medicine Pioneer
Biology, University of Rochester
Vera Gorbunova is the Doris Johns Cherry Professor of Biology, co-director of the Rochester Aging Research Center, and co-director of the Gorbunova and Seluanov Laboratory at the University of Rochester.
Gorbunova’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of longevity and cancer resistance of exceptionally long-lived mammals, in particular the naked mole rat. Her lab’s goals include developing strategies that extend lifespan and healthspan as well as interventions to prevent and treat age-related illnesses.
Gorbunova pioneered a comparative biology approach to study aging and identified rules that control the evolution of tumor suppressor mechanisms depending on the species' lifespan and body mass.
Gorbunova and her research partner, Andrei Seluanov, Ph.D., have long researched cancer and its relation to aging and DNA repair. They have identified several mechanisms that contribute to longevity and cancer resistance in naked mole rats, including the chemical high molecular weight hyaluronan as the key mediator of cancer-resistance in the naked mole rat.
“I think there is a very good potential here. Because if we find a way…to increase levels of hyaluronan in human bodies, we may be able to stop tumors from growing, said Gorbunova in an interview with WIRED on the discovery. “So here we find something that we can take directly from naked mole rats and use it for humans, so that’s very exciting,” she added.
Gorbunova is recipient of the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2009), the American Federation for Aging Research Breakthroughs in Gerontology Award (2009), the Longevity Research Award from ADPS/Alianz, France (2013), and the Prince Hitachi Prize in Comparative Oncology (2014). She also sits on the editorial boards of several scientific journals including Frontiers in Genetics: Genetics of Aging, Pathobiology of Aging and Age-Related Diseases, and Aging Cell.