Research on the nature of ageing and longevity

Making fundamental discoveries

Research at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing is dedicated to deciphering the mystery of growing old: Why do organisms age at all? How can we influence our ageing and lifespan? And how can we ensure that with increasing age, our bodies remain vital and healthy?

As one of more than 80 independent non-profit research institutions under the umbrella of the Max Planck Society, the overall goal of our institute is thus to understand the natural ageing process and to discover how to intervene in it to ameliorate age-related diseases.

Paving the way towards increasing health during ageing

We strive to uncover the underlying molecular, physiological and evolutionary mechanisms by using laboratory model organisms such as fish, mice, flies and worms. Since our long-term goal is to pave the way towards increasing health during ageing in humans, a key line of research is to investigate interventions that can ameliorate the ageing process.

In this respect, a ground-breaking discovery of recent years is that mutations in single genes in the simple, single-celled yeast, in multi-cellular animals such as worms and flies as well as in mice, can extend lifespan and produce a broad-spectrum improvement in health during ageing. The mechanisms involved seem to be similar in these very different organisms, and the same kinds of genes are turning out to be associated with survival to later ages in humans.

Cells, visualized by fluorescent dyes
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing study the ageing process in model organisms, for example the fruit fly Drosophila

Meeting global challenges
at the forefront of basic biomedical science

Hence, there is an unprecedented opportunity to use simpler organisms to make discoveries of relevance to the amelioration of human ageing. At the forefront of basic biomedical science and in close cooperation with our scientific partner organisations, we contribute to meeting the challenges of global changes associated with the health challenges of increasing human lifespan.

In particular, our research focuses on the roles of

  • signaling through insulin/insulin-like growth factor and steroidal hormones,
  • cellular components involved in growth control and nutrient sensing,
  • factors regulating metabolism and function of mitochondria  and
  • mechanisms of neurodegeneration and other ageing-related diseases.