Epigenetic Regulation of Mammalian Ageing

Ageing is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The term "epigenetics" was first coined by Conrad Waddington in the 1940s to describe interactions of genes with their environment during development. Contemporary reports imply that epigenetics play a key role in the normal ageing process as well as the pathogenesis of a number of age-related disorders. 

The research of the Xu group will be focused on dissecting how epigenetic control mechanisms and epigenetic marks including DNA methylation and histone modifications underlie ageing-related functional decline in vital organs, e.g. the brain, by combining cutting-edge technologies such as next generation sequencing and neuronal cognition measurements. Age-intervention strategies like dietary restriction and Rapamycin administration will be used to facilitate the research projects.

Our recent studies showed that epigenetic impairments including both DNA methylation and histone modifications may be a crucial and reversible ageing mechanism in the mouse and human brain. A long-term aim for the Xu group is to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms and finally to protect against the process of brain ageing and to delay the onset of age-related neurodegenerative disorders.

Our research focuses on the following questions:

  • Cell-type specific epigenetic mechanism of ageing study

  • Biological significance of age-related epigenetic mark alterations

Selected publications