Meet

Dr. Mahtab Jafari

Adding healthy years to human lives through research, education and inspiration.

Home 2018-08-27T14:35:00+00:00

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 facts and to separate them from hypes.

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

JAFARI – The Scientist

“I shifted the focus of my research from the diseases of aging to slowing the aging process itself and towards improving Healthspan, which is defined as the duration of life that is free of debilitating chronic diseases.”

Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of California, Irvine

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 I am very optimistic that we can achieve this goal with a cocktail. This cocktail will include pharmacological interventions such as botanical extracts, individualized nutrition and exercise plans, and modalities to promote healthy minds.”

WHAT IS AGING?

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. Therefore, understanding 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 are more important today than ever.

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 an organism stays healthy, not just alive. Since humans live too long, 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.

Success Stories with Plant Extracts

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. We have also evaluated the anti-aging mechanism of these plants. I am very proud and excited by these findings, which 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. Our research hopes to bridge that gap and elucidate how botanical extracts and dietary supplements affect the human body at a molecular level.

Drosophila melanogaster

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 quick assaying of anti-aging interventions. 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.

Rhodiola rosea

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. In a recent publication titled, “Life101 Enhances Healthy Lifestyle Choices in Pre-Health Undergraduate Students”, I reported that that Life101 had a significant positive impact on the lifestyle of our undergraduate students. I strongly believe that offering Life101 to undergraduate students can serve to improve their mental and physical health.

The main outcomes from this study were:

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

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

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

Although, this collective positive impact may suggest that offering Life101 to undergraduate students can serve to improve students’ mental and physical health, a prospective study is needed to confirm these findings.

LINK TO OC REGISTER ARTICLE ON LIFE101
LINK TO Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice

UPCOMING BOOK

Coming Winter 2019

Dietary Supplements Examined

First Do No Harm

By Dr. Mahtab Jafari

In this book, Dr. Mahtab Jafari examines the Dietary Supplement industry and its regulation (or lack thereof), the marketing practices, the gap in science, and the safety issues associated with the supplements. She also makes recommendations on how to select the right dietary supplement(s) and how to monitor them to assure safety.

MEDIA

Reach For The Moon and Land On It

Link to the latest articles about Mahtab Jafari

Thank you for your interest in my work.

Feel free to contact me by filling out the form below. Choose the area of your interest and I will be happy to get back to you.

Sign up to receive Research & Blog Updates

Recent Blog Posts

Recent Publications