The Valenzano Laboratory has moved to the Leibniz Institute on Aging.
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Max Planck Research Group Valenzano

Evolutionary and Experimental Biology of Ageing

The Valenzano Lab investigates the evolutionary genetic basis of vertebrate lifespan and ageing. Our main model system is the African turquoise killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri), which is the shortest lived vertebrate species bred in captivity. Ageing progresses very rapidly in this fish, and is characterized by cancer, pigment loss, and age-dependent deterioration in motor and learning skills. To identify the genomic regions associated with survival and ageing, and to study their evolution, we use a combination of approaches, including linkage mapping, transgenesis, population genetics on wild killifish populations, and computer simulations.

Our research focuses on the following questions:

  1. What are the genomic regions that regulate ageing and survival in vertebrates? Are these regulatory or coding sequences?
  2. How did these genomic regions evolve? Are they under selection in the wild? Do they play similar roles in other species?
  3. What is the role of the adaptive immune system during vertebrate ageing?
  4. How does the gut microbiome change during ageing? Can we modulate ageing and survival by manipulating the gut microbiome?

Our lab also uses the turquoise killifish as a short-lived vertebrate model for rapid identification and testing of undiscovered genes, gene pathways, and environmental manipulations that critically affect vertebrate ageing and longevity.

Third-party funding

  • 2018-2021 | CRC/SFB 1310 Predictability in Evolution
    “Predictability in Evolution”: Funded four-year grant on “Co-evolution of gut microbiota and immune cells during ageing in killifish”

  • 2018-2021 | EMBO Young Investigator  YIP

  • 2019-2020 | NRW 80+
    research grant to study the microbiome-immune axis in an elderly human patient cohort.

  • 2019-2020 | CECAD seed funding
    “Microbiome dynamics in a longitudinal mouse cohort: predicting individual mouse lifespan from stool microbiome composition and metabolic profile”.

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