8C - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004
World's oldest mouse helps
to unlock secrets of aging
COURTESY OF RICHARD MILLER, Medical School
Yoda (left) sniffs his cage mate Princess Lela.
April 15, 2004
By Chloe Foster
Daily Staff Writer
Tucked away in a laboratory in the University's med-
ical center, there lives a tiny creature whose sole exis-
tence has caused celebration and anticipation within
the scientific community. This tiny creature is a dwarf
mouse, and his name is Yoda.
Though not on a calorie-restricted diet like other
elderly mice, Yoda is the world's oldest known living
mouse, turning four last Saturday - approximately
136 in mouse years.
About one-third the weight of a normal mouse and
aging much more slowly, dwarf mice are ideal for
aging research, because, like small dogs, they tend to
live longer than their larger counterparts.
Richard Miller, associate director of Research for
the University's Geriatrics Center, said his goal is to
develop a comparison between the genes and hormone
levels of slow-aging mice, like Yoda, and those of
other mammals. The key is to understand which chem-
icals change in the body as aging occurs and eventual-
ly to delay the effects of aging.
Despite Unit for Lab Animal Medicine office assis-
tant Liz Sherbert's claim that "he has big, bushy eye-
brows and walks with a cane," Yoda has not suffered
the traditional adverse effects of aging. His fur is a bit
tattered, but he is for the most part free of disease and
other age-induced ailments like arthritis, cataracts and
Dwarves' considerable lifespans allow researchers to
map out the aging process carefully and understand
what chemicals change in the body as the animals age.
Miller has been working on breeding mice that age
more slowly than mice typically used in aging
research, and Yoda is part of this stock.
Dwarf mice are small because their genetic code
contains a dwarfing mutation that inhibits secretion of
the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for growth
in mice, humans and other mammals.
Yoda is an example of how the dwarfing mutation
has slowed down aging and kept him relatively healthy
for his age, Miller said.
"Yoda's case is pretty rare," said Howard Rush,
director of ULAM. "We don't normally see mice live
Miller's research also focuses on the consequences
of aging on immunity.
An experiment like Yoda provides insight into what
chemicals in the body are responsible for aging.
"Yoda gives us evidence that hormone therapy may
influence aging," Miller said. Researchers like Miller
speculate that hormone shots may influence aging, and
research like that done on Yoda could verify this
Yoda's cage mate, named Princess Leia in keeping
with the Star Wars theme, is responsible for keeping
him from freezing at night. Because dwarves have a
low level of the thyroid hormone, their bodies cannot
maintain constant temperatures, Miller said. Yoda and
Princess Leia currently live happily together in the lab.
How much longer Yoda will live is unknown
because, at this point, there is no way to predict his
lifespan, he added.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Miller said.
Na JPrLMaen Space Science Systems
Martian dust storms, like those photographed In the above time-lapse series by the Mars Global Surveyor In 1999, can affect
the landing of rovers like the Mars Spirit. University Prof. Nilton Renno has served as a dust-devil expert for the Spirit mission.
Unversityfacult and suents
turn their eyes to war ld Mars
January 12, 2004
By Naila Moreira
When NASA's Mars Spirit rover
touched down safely last week on the
red soil of Mars, University Prof. Nilton
Renno could take a bit of the credit.
Renno, a professor of atmospheric,
oceanic and space sciences, studies dust
storms, a common and often violent
weather phenomenon on Mars. As a
member of NASA's Entry, Descent and
Landing Science Advisory Board for the
Mars Exploration Rover, Renno used his
expertise to help design an effective
landing strategy for the Spirit.
"As the dust content of the atmos-
phere changes, the density of the atmos-
phere changes, and that affects a lot the
landing of the spacecraft," Renno said.
Because of the colossal challenges
rovers face in a trip to the Martian sur-
face, Renno said, NASA must accept a
failure rate of 15 to 20 percent.
"They refer to EDL as the 'six min-
utes of terror,'" Renno said. "The space-
craft goes from 12,000 kilometers to 12
kilometers per hour.... We have to lose
three zeroes in six minutes."
The rover then leaves the main space-
craft, approaching the surface on a para-
chute that releases the rover 50 feet
above the ground. Once free, the rover
faces further perils as it bounces as high
as a five-story building before gradually
settling on the Martian surface.
"They just let it go," Renno said.
"Boing,"he added, laughing.
Since its arrival, the Mars Spirit rover
has taken panoramic color photos of the
Martian surface and begun to conduct
visual analysis of surrounding rocks.
The rover will not begin moving around
the landing site before Thursday, the
NASA scientists announced yesterday.
Renno isn't the only University fac-
ulty member watching events on
Mars. Sushil Atreya, director of the
University Planetary Science Labora-
tory, is a scientific adviser for the
European satellite Mars Express. The
Express, associated with the Euro-
pean Space Agency's missing Mars
rover, Beagle 2, arrived in orbit
around Mars on Dec. 25.
Atreya works with data from an
infrared instrument on the satellite that
can analyze the lower 60 km of the Mar-
"With our instrument ... we're look-
ing at the composition of the atmos-
phere, in terms of the gases, the
aerosols, etc.," Atreya said. He and
research fellow Ah-San Wong are
searching for clues to help confirm the-
ories that Mars once possessed a warm,
wet climate habitable to life.
Wong works with Atreya to model
how molecules are distributed in the
Martian atmosphere. Some of the mole-
cules the Express will try to measure on
Mars, such as sulfides and methane,
may be indicators of life, she said.
Although Wong has studied planets such
as Jupiter and its moon Titan, she prefers
Continued from Page 1C
has emerged from the agreement, lectur-
ers in levels one and two will generally
be classified as part-time workers who
teach specific courses - usually intro-
ductory courses - and they will be paid
per course. Level three and four lectur-
ers will be salaried and teach a broader
range of courses while also having
In the job security portion of the con-
tract, level one and three lecturers will
go through a probationary period of
one-term or one-year appointments.
After this period, a lecturer undergoes a
BBQ with a Bang - WELCOME!
Friday, September 3, 2004
12-2pm at Hillel
First Year Shabbat
Friday, September 3, 2004
7pm at Hillel
. Welcome Bagel Brunch
Sunday, September 5, 2004
11 am-12:15pm at Alice Lloyd and East Quad
Hillel Open House & Free BBQ
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
8pm at Hillel
Welcome Back Shabbat
Friday, September 10, 2004
7pm at Hillel
1429 Hill Street 734.769.0500 www.umhillel.org iU
incredible variety ofg Jewish life
on caPUS. Learn Opthe 5 eafiliate
groups, meet new pe a at
to study Mars, she said. "In Mars there's
more opportunities - and I can tell my
mom about it and she'll say, 'So, have
you found life yet?'"
Atreya said his team does not consid-
er itself in competition with the Mars
Spirit. "It's all great fun," he said. "I
know Steve Squyres (the principal sci-
entist for the Mars Spirit mission), and,
actually, he's on our team too"
To spur the enthusiasm of University
undergraduates about Mars, Renno and
Engineering Prof. Robert Dennis have
also designed an interdisciplinary
course, Engineering 450, which begins
this semester. The course examines how
robotic exploration could lead to human
exploration of Mars and is sponsored by
$100,000 of funding from NASA's Jet
The lectures are open to the entire
University community. For instance, Jeff
Simmonds, a team scientist for NASA's
2009 rover, named Mars Space Labora-
tory, spoke to students Thursday about
high tech cameras he expects will travel
to Mars in the future.
"We're using (Spirit) as a giant step-
ping stone in terms of technology (and)
capability," Simmonds said.
Simmonds's lecture sparked the inter-
est of students like Engineering senior
Ilya Wagner. "I was checking out the
NASA website ... and a lot of the stuff
he said makes sense now when I look at
the pictures," Wagner said.
Wagner is also involved with the
University Mars Rover Team, a stu-
dent group whose mission is to design
manned vehicles that could explore
"I feel like student input right now
really matters, because we're going to be
engineers ... maybe when the human
mission goes up,"'he said.
Atreya said that he thinks the public is
very excited about missions to explore
Mars. "Are we alone? Is there other life
besides us? These are questions that
concern everyone," he said. "Not that
we're going to be able to answer those
questions any time soon, but this is a
step in the right direction."
After the probationary period and a
successful review, level one and three
lecturers will be promoted to levels two
and four, respectively, and then have a
"presumption of renewal" when their
Under this clause, a lecturer will be
retained unless there is a lack of posi-
tions caused by curriculum changes,
enrollment shortages or budget con-
straints or if the lecturer fails to meet
standards. Level one and three lecturers
do not have this type of security.
In the old employment system, lectur-
ers did not have any guarantee of renew-
al, regardless of level.
This new system also "provides the
opportunity for promotion," Peterson
said. Level one lecturers can be promot-
ed to level two after three years and a
review, while level three lecturers can
advance to level four after four years
and a review. But because of the two-
track system, level two instructors gen-
erally cannot rise to level three or four.
While the University did not acqui-
esce to LEO's demand for equal mini-
mum salaries at all the campuses, LEO
did get minimum pay raises across the
board. For level one and two lecturers,
the minimum salary will be $31,000 in
Ann Arbor, $25,000 in Dearborn and
$23,000 in Flint. Level three and four
lecturers will receive a minimum
$34,000 in Ann Arbor, $30,000 in Dear-
born and $29,000 in Flint.
While many agreed with de la
Cerda's assertion that "these salaries are
as close as an insult as you can get,"
Halloran assures the amounts were
enough for the tentative agreement.
"The salaries are still pitiful, and it is
still very hard to swallow," Halloran said
but added that she recognizes the Uni-
versity is in the midst of a budget crisis
and large-scale changes will take time.
As for health benefits, the University
gave level one lecturers, who presently
do not have any benefits in the summer,
1429 Hill Street 734.769.0500 www.umhillel.org
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