Sneak preview of ERIBA MOOC round 3

25 April 2016

On May 2 the ERIBA Massive Open Online Course “Why do we age? The Molecular Mechanisms of Ageing” starts for a third round. The course is free, fun and will provide you with many insights on the why and how of ageing research. Not convinced? This sneak preview will most certainly win you over!

Ageing became a very popular topic to study in the last decades. Why is that? The answer to that is in a sense very simple. There is a steep increase in lifespan in humans since the beginning of the 20th century. We have made dramatic progress in life expectancy and what is more important – there are no indications that we have reached the limits, yet. Moreover, never before in human history have so many elderly populated our planet. Around a hundred years ago, the main contribution to an increase in lifespan was a much better survival at young ages. This was mainly achieved by better combat with infection diseases, the discovery of antibiotics, better pregnancy care, and improvement in overall hygiene. In the last decades, though, an increase in lifespan is mainly due to better survival of the elderly.

We don’t only want to live longer, but also live healthier. Biological ageing is a major risk factor for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and many, many more. In order to achieve healthy ageing for society as a whole, we need to better understand the fundamental mechanisms which lead to ageing. This is where research comes in.

In 1983, Michael Klass discovered in a genetic experiment the first long-lived strand of the roundworm, C. elegance. All mutants carried mutations in a single genetic locus. A decade later, this locus was named age-1 by Thomas Johnson. Thomas characterised this locus and demonstrated that the increased lifespan of these roundworms was due to the mutations in this gene. It was a hallmark discovery, which opened up a new era in ageing research. It was the first proof that it was possible to genetically manipulate lifespan, at least in some model organisms.

All of this indicates strongly that studying ageing is a matter of growing importance nowadays. Questions related to this research are: What is the biological process what we call ageing? What does it mean to age? How do we measure ageing? What are the consequences of ageing? The answers to these questions and more can be found on Register now!

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