Kia ora koutou, my name is Abraham Mains. My mother is Victoria Taylor of Taupō and my father is Ariki Mains. Dad’s mother (my tāua) is Ann Aitken and her mother was Hine Ellison. My great-great grandparents were Te Iwi and Horiwia and my third-great grandparents were Raniera Ellison and Nani Weller, and Timoti Karetai, and Hariata Robertson.

I was home-schooled by my mother in my early years. I later attended Dilworth College in Auckland where I became dux before attending Victoria University.
In 2013, I gained a first-class honours degree at Victoria University majoring in human genetics and was then selected for a Rutherford Scholarship to start a PhD at Cambridge University in 2014.

While completing my honours, I had become fascinated with the field of ageing. Why can a house dog, who shares the same lifestyle and much of its biology with humans, live for only 10-15 years and yet a human can live for over 100?

Following on from this question, my PhD project looks at the fundamental biology of ageing, using the laboratory model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans, a free-living soil nematode with a normal lifespan of two to three weeks.

Following treatments such as dietary restriction, the reduction of calories without malnutrition, an animal’s life and health-span can be increased by up to 50% but how this effect is regulated on a molecular scale is still unclear.

I am looking at how this treatment changes the epigenome. Epigenetics describes the way genes are regulated without changing their actual code, much like punctuation changes the way a sentence is read without changing the letters. Because ageing is almost universal and seems tightly linked with metabolism and reproduction, discoveries made in seemingly unrelated organisms such as the nematode, often translate well into more complex mammalian systems, but are much quicker to perform.

In my time here at Cambridge University, I am learning from some of the brightest in this field and hope to bring some of this expertise back to New Zealand when I return. Nā Abraham Mains.

From left, Summer Mains (sister), Abraham Mains, Victoria Taylor (mother) and Gary Taylor (grandfather).

From left, Summer Mains (sister), Abraham Mains, Victoria Taylor (mother) and Gary Taylor (grandfather).