Michael RERA will join us in the next few months. With his team, he will work on the project: “An integrated approach to studying ageing: molecular mechanisms, network theory and applications to society”.
Since he was recruited by CNRS in 2013 Michael has been developing a novel framework for studying ageing, based on a phenotype he first discovered and described in 2011, the Smurf phenotype. Named after the cartoon characters, individuals with the smurf phenotype actually turn blue - towards the end of their life, their intestines become dramatically more permeable to a blue dye they are fed with, making them visibly blue on the outside. This occurs in fruit flies that are Michael’s main study system, but also in other animals including zebrafish and nematodes. It allows the study of ageing not as a continuous and progressive phenomenon but as a process made of two consecutive phases separated by a sharp transition. This change in the way of seeing ageing, means Michael’s team can both address entirely novel questions and revisit old questions with a fresh angle.
With his research team UTELife (Understanding The End-of-Life) and thanks to numerous collaborations including mathematicians (Sylvie Méléard - CMAP, Grégory Nuel, LPSM), epidemiologist (Nicolas Todd), philosopher (Marie Gaille - SHERE) and more, Michael will work to better understand the very mechanisms causing ageing, tackle long-existing questions regarding the evolutionary basis of ageing and address important ones ahead of us regarding the ethics of predicting impending natural death.His team includes Dr Céline Cansell, a post-doctoral fellow with a strong expertise in mammalian central regulation of energy metabolism and Flaminia Zane, a second year PhD student studying the Smurf-specific gene expression signature.
He will also be collaborating closely with other CRI Fellows and their teams. Specifically, with Radoslaw Ejsmont’s team for developing novel early markers of ageing, Marc Santolini’s to decipher the gene network changes occurring at the Smurf transition, Remy Kuster’s for ethology of the end-of-life and Bastian Greshake’s for addressing crowd ethics of predicting impending death from natural causes.
Michael’s interest in ageing started in 2005 as Master 2 student in Hervé Tricoire’s team with the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. Prior to then, his educational background included biology, physics and mathematics at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the Magistère Européen de Génétique at Université Paris Diderot. We expect that Michael will formally join CRI by the summer 2020.
Drosophila melanogaster - ©Aurore Colibert and Michael Rera