Cynthia Kenyon is an American Cancer Society research professor and Director, of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at UC San Francisco. In 1993, Cynthia Kenyon’s discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of a tiny roundworm sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Aging had long been assumed to be a passive consequence of molecular wear and tear. Instead, Kenyon’s discoveries have led to the identification of an evolutionarily conserved regulatory mechanism for aging that affects mammals and, it seems, humans as well. When old age is delayed by changing these genes in animals, age-related diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, are delayed as well. This linkage suggests that one day we may be able to combat many different diseases all at once by targeting their greatest risk factor, aging.
Cynthia Kenyon graduated valedictorian in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her PhD from MIT in 1981, and then did postdoctoral studies with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, studying the development of the roundworm C. elegans. Since 1986 she has been at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was the Herbert Boyer Distinguished Professor and is now an American Cancer Society Professor. Dr. Kenyon has received many awards for her findings. She is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine and she is a past president of the Genetics Society of America.