The world’s population is getting older and older, so more people will suffer from age-related conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease in the future. This is a problem for the individual and for society. Using a microscopic worm, researchers at Aalborg University are investigating why we age and how we can prevent and treat age-related illnesses. The worm is called C. elegans and is extremely small (less than 1 mm in length), with a lifespan of just 2–3 weeks. Nevertheless, it is a good model organism that can provide great insight into the human nervous system, with which it has some similarities.
- Right now, we are conducting research into the connections between age-related neurodegenerative illnesses and certain gut bacteria. So far, our research shows for example that by adding probiotic bacteria to the worm’s digestive system, we can significantly extend its lifespan, says Anders Olsen, associate professor at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience.
Despite the marked differences between C. elegans and humans, there are several areas where there are distinct similarities. These include the nervous system, the digestive system and the innate immune system. The short life of the worm also makes it possible to study the effect of genetic and environmental changes on the lifespan of organisms in a very short time. For example, the CRISPR genetic modification technology allows precise changes to be made to the worm’s genetic material, the effects of which can be seen in the experiments relatively quickly.
The project is being supported by the Lundbeck Foundation through LF Experiments.