Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

All humans age – just like almost all other living organisms. One reason is that the genetic material, the DNA, is increasingly damaged over time in every cell. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing study how cells age during their lifetime and examine which genes and environmental factors are involved in the process.

The scientists employ molecular-biological and genetic techniques to explain the fundamental processes on the basis of model organisms, such as mice, fruit flies and threadworms. These animals are particularly suitable as their genomes are well understood and they have a relatively short life expectancy. It is known, for instance, that the life expectancy of a threadworm is influenced by around 100 genes and that insulin signal transduction is involved in the ageing of its cells. Researchers are certain that similar processes also influence ageing and life span in human beings. In the long-term, basic research is expected to contribute to people being able to enjoy longer and healthier lives.


Joseph-Stelzmann-Str. 9b
50931 Köln
Phone: +49 221 37970-0
Fax: +49 221 37970-800

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS on Ageing

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Molecular Genetics of Ageing more
Department Biological Mechanisms of Ageing more
Crowding in the skin
Stem cells sense neighbourhood density to make decisions on their behaviour more
Nucleolus is a life expectancy predictor
Scientists discover that nucleolar size correlates with health and lifespan in organisms as diverse as roundworms, flies and humans more
More functional DNA in mitochondria cures male infertility
Higher number of mitochondrial DNA-molecules can compensate for negative effects of mutations more
Gut bacteria affect ageing
The life expectancy of older fish is extended if their gut is colonized with the microorganisms of younger fish. more
In mice, dietary restrictions can lead to changes in lipid metabolism, thus increasing the animals' lifespans more
Genome-based diets maximise growth, fecundity, and lifespan
A new developed diet for fruit flies increases growth and fecundity without shortening life-span more
DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet
Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots” more
Diabetes: new hope for better wound healing
Sluggish insulin metabolism results in slow and incomplete healing of injuries more
A network for longevity

A network for longevity

April 05, 2016
Transcription factors influence lifespan of roundworms more
A model for ageing

A model for ageing

August 06, 2015
Life is short, especially for the killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri: It lives for only a few months and then its time is up. During that short lifespan it passes through every phase of life from larva to venerable old fish. more
Cancer drug prolongs life in flies
Trametinib inhibits the same signal pathway in flies and humans and could thus conceivably also extend life expectancy in humans more
<p>Toxic proteins damage nerve cells</p>
Researchers uncover new causes for ALS and a specific form of dementia more
Life-style determines gut microbes
An international team of researchers has for the first time deciphered the intestinal bacteria of present-day hunter-gatherers more
Well-rested flies

Well-rested flies

April 01, 2014
Therapeutic agent reduces age-related sleep problems in fruit flies more
Life is short, especially for the turquoise killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri: it lives for only a few months and then its time is up. During that short life span it passes through every phase of life, from larva to venerable old fish. Its brief life expectancy – unusual for a vertebrate – has long fascinated Dario Valenzano of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne. In just ten years, he has turned it into a model organism for research on aging.
Postdoctoral Position in Biology of Ageing
Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne March 29, 2018
Ageing is not a random process. Biological ageing processes are instead regulated by metabolic and genetic mechanisms. Single gene mutations can markedly extend the life span of various organisms. The biology of ageing can be investigated in simple yeast cells, flies, round worms, and also in mice. Gene mutations that extend life span also protect against age-associated diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. A deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms of longevity can open new avenues for therapies or prevention of these highly relevant diseases. more

Studying adult stem cell regulation using skin as a model

2016 Wickström, Sara A.
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics
How complex but stereotyped tissues are formed, maintained and regenerated through local growth, differentiation and remodeling is a fundamental open question in biology. To answer this question we need to understand how single cell behaviors are coordinated on the population level and how population-level dynamics are coupled to tissue architecture. Uncovering these regulatory principles will further facilitate development of stem cell therapies and effective treatments to slow down ageing and prevent age-related diseases such as cancer. more

A naturally occurring metabolite prolongs life

2015 Denzel, Martin S.; Winnen, Brit; Antebi, Adam
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Genetics Structural Biology

During ageing, human proteins tend to aggregate. At a certain point, protein aggregation becomes toxic, which can cause damage to occur also in neurons and may result in neurodegenerative diseases. By studying model organisms like the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, it is possible to uncover the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. Scientists recently found that a naturally occurring molecule enhances defence mechanisms against neurodegenerative diseases. Feeding this particular metabolite to C. elegans improves clearance of toxic protein aggregates in the body and extends life span. 


Is the age-related decline in sleep quality reversible?

2015 Metaxakis, Athanasios; Tain, Luke Stephen; Grönke, Sebastian; Hendrich, Oliver; Hinze, Yvonne; Birras, Ulrike; Partridge, Linda
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Genetics Structural Biology

Sleep is essential for human health. But with increasing age, many people experience a decline in sleep quality, which in turn reduces their quality of life. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing have investigated the mechanisms by which ageing impairs sleep in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Their findings suggest that age-related sleep decline can be prevented and might even be reversible.


Maternal genes can contribute to the ageing of a child

2014 Ross, Jaime M.; Stewart, James B.; Hagström, Erik; Brené, Stefan; Mourier, Arnaud; Coppotelli, Giuseppe; Freyer, Christoph; Lagouge, Marie; Hoffer, Barry J.; Olson, Lars; Winnen, Brit; Larsson, Nils-Göran
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Structural Biology

There are many causes for ageing. Different types of damage to our cells determine the ageing process and influence the functionality of our organs. Of special significance are damages to the "power stations" of the cells, the mitochondria. Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lead to deterioration of the cellular energy production. Now, the researchers presenting this study have shown that the ageing process is attributable not only to the accumulation of mtDNA damage during a person's lifetime, but also to their maternally inherited mtDNA.


Anti-ageing hormone receptors

2014 Heestand, Bree N.; Shen, Yidong; Liu, Wei; Magner, Daniel B.; Storm, Nadia; Meharg, Caroline; Habermann, Bianca; Wollam, Joshua; Hoppe, Caroline; Li, Dongling; Latza, Christian; Rottiers, Veerle; Hutter, Harald; Winnen, Brit; Antebi, Adam
Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

A reduced caloric intake increases life expectancy in many species. But how diet prolongs the lives of model organisms such as fruit flies and roundworms has remained a mystery until recently. Scientists at the institute discovered that hormone receptors are one of the links between nutrition and life expectancy in roundworms. It may be possible that related receptors are also responsible for regulating life expectancy in human beings.


Shedding light on heredity processes of mitochondrial mutations

2013 Freyer, Christoph; Cree, Lynsey M.; Mourier, Arnaud; Stewart, James B.; Koolmeister, Camilla; Milenkovic, Dusanka; Wai, Timothy; Hagström, Erik; Chatzidaki, Emmanouella E.; Wiesner, Rudolph; Samuels, David C.; Larsson, Nils-Göran; Chinnery, Patrick F.
Cell Biology Genetics
Malfunctioning mitochondria can lead to metabolic disorders in the person affected, since mutations in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can cause muscle weakness, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiac disorders as well as diabetes, and are also linked to the ageing process. In the study presented here, researchers of the Department for Mitochondrial Biology show that intra-familiar differences in the degree of mutation of the mitochondrial genes are largely established before the mother herself is born. more

Reproduction and longevity - a close connection regulated by a molecular switch

2013 Shen, Yidong; Wollam, Joshua; Magner, Daniel; Karalay, Özlem; Antebi, Adam
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Genetics
All animals develop through successive life stages and have life spans that are determined by genes and environment, yet how the molecular circuitry underlying life stage structure relates to longevity is poorly understood. We show that the same molecular switch used for Caenorhabditis elegans developmental timing is co-opted to regulate adult longevity in response to signals from the reproductive system. These studies reveal that metazoan life span is coupled to the gonads through elements of a developmental clock. more

Insights into the nanoworld of mitochondria and the organisation of their genome

2012 Kukat, Christian; Wurm, Christian A.; Spåhr, Henrik; Falkenberg, Maria; Larsson, Nils-Göran; Jakobs, Stefan
Cell Biology
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a “currency of energy” which is needed in all tissues. Damaged mitochondria or complexes that are producing the energy are known to be involved in different diseases and ageing symptoms. The mitochondrial genome is packed with additional factors in organisational units, the nucleoids. The presented data provide fundamental insights into the structure of nucleoids which in future might help to find new ways of handling mitochondrially inherited diseases. more
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