INSPIRED BY EXCELLENCE & INNOVATION

Over the past 25 years, as an educator and scientist, my goal has been to inspire my students, family, friends and my community to live healthy lives. I truly believe that scientific work should not stop in the lab and only appear in scientific publications. As a scientist and a professor in the largest public university system in the world, University of California, I feel responsible to share the facts and to separate them from the hype.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS

An Evidence-Based Guide To A Safe Medicine Cabinet

By Dr. Mahtab Jafari

After decades of research on herbal remedies, pharmaceuticals, and the bizarre industry of dietary supplements, I developed this book as a guide to teach the public how to choose and take the supplements that they truly need and avoid those that could cause them harm. In a largely unregulated industry, dietary supplements exist in a virtual minefield of misinformation and potentially dangerous health trends. This book will provide you with all the facts and information you need to make informed decisions about the supplements you take. And hopefully will help you make healthier choices along the way.

AVAILABLE NOW

JAFARI – The Scientist

“Over the years, I have shifted the focus of my research from studying diseases of aging to slowing the aging process itself. But it’s not just about improving lifespan, it’s also about extending healthspan—the duration of life that is free of debilitating chronic diseases.”

At the University of California, Irvine the focus of my research has always been to improve human health.

I received my doctorate in Pharmacy, Pharm.D., from UCSF in 1994 and subsequently completed a residency in pharmacy practice at UCSF. I am currently Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UCI.

The focus of my current research program is on slowing the aging process through a science that I introduced as Healthspan Pharmacology. Using human cultured cells, fruit flies, and mice I study the impact of botanical extracts and dietary supplements on aging. My ultimate goal is to slow the aging process and add healthy years to human life. I developed this research program through an evolutionary process that took me almost 25 years.

My research career has evolved in 3 phases of development that have provided the foundation to effectively pursue this overarching research goal:

  • Phase 1. 1994-2001: Academic Clinical Research at UCSF School of Pharmacy, Western University College of Pharmacy, and UCI School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology
  • Phase 2. 2001-2005: Translational and Clinical Pharmaceutical Industry Research) at Abbott Laboratories
  • Phase 3. 2005-present: Academic Basic Science Research and Educational Research at UCI
Continue reading about Jafari – The Scientist
Link to Mahtab Jafari CV

THE LAB

“The ultimate goal of our work is to add healthy years to human life and to accomplish this we have turned for help to a much smaller species—the common fruit fly. While tiny, Drosophila melanogaster share a significant number of genes with humans, some which have been invaluable in learning about the processes of human aging. And as we have studied diseases in this model organism, we have also learned more about ourselves.”

AGING & HEALTHSPAN

Aging is a complex and multi-factorial process that is reflected in all the changes that occur during our lifespan.

Aging can be characterized as a decline or loss of adaptation, progressive accumulation of cellular damage and a degradation of repair and maintenance mechanisms. These lead to a gradual deterioration of physiological functions that will result in diseases of aging such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular diseases.

Over recent decades, improvements in medical diagnostics and procedures, as well as improvements in hygiene, have resulted in a steady increase in human lifespan, but this increase has unfortunately been accompanied by ever-growing occurrences of diseases of aging. Research has now begun to focus on extending healthspan—the period of life where individuals are in good health, free of chronic disease. And this new focus on healthspan is important because it not only lets us address the processes of aging, but also how we can help people live longer, healthier lives. This involves studying the mechanisms of aging, defining the most important risk factors for the development of chronic diseases of aging, and identifying safe interventions to ameliorate the aging process.

Aging is a complex and multi-factorial process and it can be slowed and ameliorated through multi-factorial interventions that would include safe pharmacological interventions (i.e., natural products, botanical extracts and dietary supplements) and non-pharmacological interventions (i.e., exercise, nutrition, stress management).

AREAS OF RESEARCH

Healthspan Pharmacology

A LONG HEALTHY LIFESPAN

Healthspan Pharmacology

Healthspan is a holistic measure of an organism’s life, encompassing not only lifespan but also other factors that more clearly define its state of health. In other words, it is the span of time that an organism stays healthy, not just alive. Since humans live too long for practical research purposes, we use animal model systems to study lifespan and healthspan. For instance, we evaluate physiological functions such as locomotor activity, cognitive ability, and reproductive fitness in fruit flies to evaluate the impact of various interventions on healthspan. We can then extrapolate our findings to human studies. The main goal of Healthspan Pharmacology is to discover natural and safe interventions that lengthen an organism’s lifespan without decreasing its quality of life.

Dietary Supplements & Botanical Research

HOPING TO BRIDGE THE GAP

Dietary Supplements & Botanical Extracts

Since 2005, we have been assaying pharmaceuticals and natural products for their anti-aging capabilities. We have identified 5 plant extracts and natural products that extended lifespan and improved healthspan: Rhodiola rosea, Rosa damascenca, curcumin, cinnamon, and Angelica keiskei. And we hope to continue finding more. To better understand these plants, we have also evaluated the anti-aging mechanisms at play in these examples. These findings have laid the groundwork for ongoing studies in mice and ultimately for human clinical trials. We are hoping that these studies will close the large gaps in human knowledge about the mechanisms through which these natural products modulate aging.

Drug Discovery and Drosophila

MEET THE FRUIT FLY

Drosophila melanogaster

The fruit fly is a well-established model system to study aging, and for good reasons. Its relatively short lifespan allows for quick assaying of anti-aging interventions, meaning that we can study generations of fruit flies in the span of weeks rather than decades. More importantly, fruit flies share about 75% of disease genes with humans, and about 50% of their protein sequences have mammalian homologues. Fruit fly models of human disease allow us to perform whole-organism studies and investigate many different aspects of physiology. These experiments serve as the necessary stepping stone to larger mammalian or clinical studies. As our research has grown to encompass the screening of many drug products, we have begun to collaborate with machine-learning AI experts to expand the scope of our research.

Rhodiola rosea

AN ADAPTOGENIC EXTRACT

Rhodiola rosea

The Golden Root or Rhodiola rosea has been traditionally used for its adaptogenic ability to relieve stress and fatigue and improve mental and physical health. In 2007, we were the first lab to report and publish that Rhodiola rosea increased mean lifespan of fruit flies by 25% while improving their healthspan. After our publication, other labs reported lifespan extension properties in worm and yeast models suggesting that the lifespan extension with this plant is conserved among model species. However, its molecular mechanism of action remains unclear. We continue to perform studies using Rhodiola rosea in hopes of uncovering specifically how it delays the rate of aging, and how it can be used to remedy various age-related diseases.

LINK TO Jafari Laboratory at UCI
Link to Jafari’s publications

LIFE101

Stress levels in college students are increasing at an alarmingly fast pace.

To combat this rising tide, universities need effective tools to promote student’s well-being and help them to recognize and manage their stress. One approach is to teach students basic lifestyle skills to cope with stress and achieve wellness. This is important as it not only increases students’ retention within a chosen field of study, but assists them to achieve personal and academic success.

To inspire our undergraduate students to adopt healthy lifestyle choices, I developed a once-weekly course titled “Life101” with topics that focused on students’ wellness such as stress management, nutrition, exercise, emotional intelligence, and financial management. I teach the course through a combination of lectures, multimedia videos, and discussions. Starting in Winter 2021 Life101 also began to be offered to students across all 10 UC campuses. And in Summer 2021 the course also became available through the Coursera online education platform.

Prior to starting the course and after having finished the course, students were asked to participate in pre- and post-course surveys to assess their knowledge, perceptions, and behaviors related to wellness, stress, and overall health. Below are some of the key findings from these surveys:

  • Both in-class and online courses resulted in positive lifestyle changes in our students.

  • Students experienced a 50.3% increase in their success in replacing bad habits with good habits.

  • Online students showed greater mastery of course topics compared to their in-class peers.

  • Students experienced a 28.3% decrease in their feelings of stress.

  • Long-term benefits from the course were reported after a one-year follow-up.

  • Students experienced an 18.0% increase in their feelings of being happy about where they are in life.

 

LINK TO OC REGISTER ARTICLE ON LIFE101 DURING THE PANDEMIC
LINK TO Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice
LIFE101 IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON COURSERA

MAHTAB – The Mentor

I fell in love with teaching in elementary school when my science teacher asked me to tutor my classmates. But the real epiphany happened in my undergraduate years when I worked as a tutor.

I feel privileged to have a career that allows me to interact with young minds, to learn from them, and to be inspired by them.

I grew up in a family with supportive parents and grandparents who taught me at a very young age the value of education, service, giving back to the community, and the importance of equality of the sexes. They also raised me to be independent, outspoken, and to strive to have a purposeful life. I was born in Iran and lived there until I was about 15 years old. As a young woman, I witnessed a revolution and the cruelties of war, and developed a strong sense of social justice and helping people in need. One day, my parents told me to pack one suitcase.

We immigrated to France where I completed high school while learning French. In a TEDx talk titled “what if” I have shared a glimpse of how it felt to start high school in France without speaking the language. Adopting a joie de vivre mentality was easy because I fell in love with the French culture, food and style of living.

I graduated from Lycee Masena and registered at the College of Pharmacy at the Chatney University in Paris…

Continue reading about Mahtab – The Mentor

THE CENTER FOR HEALTHSPAN SCIENCES

A New Center to Promote Longer, Healthier Lives

Housed in the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences within the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, I developed the new UCI Center for Healthspan Sciences in the hopes of helping our community add healthy years to their lives and improving overall Healthspan through science and education. This Center offers a new model of healthy aging that accentuates the value of personalized wellness plans. And in addition to educating students and the general public, this Center promotes interdisciplinary research that has the potential to revolutionize the health sciences.

VISIT THE CENTER’S WEBSITE

LIFE101: MENTAL & PHYSICAL SELF-CARE

Course Now Available on Coursera

Developed as a course intended to combat the ongoing epidemic of stress, Life101 is intended to teach students healthy habits, the importance of self-care, and how to manage stress both on and off campus. Taught through a combination of lectures, multimedia videos, and discussions, students learn basic lifestyle skills to cope with stress and achieve wellness. Now, you can take the course for FREE through the Coursera online learning platform.

SIGN UP FOR FREE ON COURSERA

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