Biomedische wetenschappen

Module 'Biological mechanisms of ageing and development' (Master)


Ageing can be described as “a progressive, generalized impairment of function, resulting in an increasing vulnerability to environmental challenge and a growing risk of disease and death”. Although the pathologies that accompany ageing are diverse and the rate at which it occurs differs widely between species, the universality of the ageing process suggests that common biological mechanisms may be at play. Many of the prevailing proximate theories of ageing centre on the hypothesis that the rate of ageing is determined by an intricate balance between damage accumulation and defence and repair mechanisms. From this hypothesis, it follows that analysis of the mechanisms by which this balance is regulated may reveal the regulatory axes of the ageing process and allow the development of anti-ageing therapeutics. Based on the central concept described above, this course focusses around five major themes, namely “Molecular damage control” (through self-study), “Neuro-endocrine systems”, “Environmental cues”, “Enhancing vitality” and “The life course”.

Course objectives

The student gets:

  • Insight in how repair and cellular defense mechanisms that evolved to protect the organism against genomic instability and cancer are related to the ageing process.
  • Insight in how neuro-endocrine mechanisms that evolved to facilitate adaptation of the organism to its changing environment are related to the ageing process
  • Insight in the potential for (therapeutic) interventions to modulate lifespan and enhance vitality.
  • •Insight in ageing and age-related diseases from a life course perspective.

The student will be able to exploit his/her knowledge on these themes of the biology of ageing by:

  • Writing and defending a condensed grant proposal on research in the field of ageing.
  • Scientifically evaluating three grant proposals written by peers.
  • Communicating and applying knowledge from lectures and literature in a working group session with minor and Master students – Vitality and Ageing.
  • Writing condensed abstract about a small research project in the field of ageing.

Coördinators: Dr.ir. D. van Heemst and dr. R. Noordam