The DP AGE_REG is hosted by the University of Innsbruck. AGE_REG provides an integrated training framework for excellent national and international students with a focus on ageing and regeneration research, which are studied in cellular and in vivo models. Faculty members of AGE_REG aim at providing their students with cutting-edge, competitive thesis projects, excellent working conditions, as well as tailored mentoring and a training program specifically designed for the interests and aspirations of AGE_REG students.

The conceptual framework of the DP AGE_REG is to comprehensively analyse ageing pathways across species at multiple levels in an interdisciplinary manner, with the ultimate aim to understand ageing and develop clinical regenerative strategies in the future. Cellular stress defence and repair/regeneration processes involve antioxidants counteracting reactive oxygen species, such as glutathione, in conjunction with antioxidant enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase). Such molecules influence multiple signalling pathways and transcriptional networks, which regulate DNA damage repair mechanisms, protein quality control systems, such as the 20S proteasomal pathway, autophagy, and various forms of programmed cell death. These damage repair systems help delay the accumulation of age-associated damage, thereby allowing an organism to maintain functional integrity and intact energy metabolism. Increased repair processes are also thought to contribute to the robust extension of lifespan by dietary restriction (DR).

Research in model organisms showed that ageing invariably depends upon a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Common denominators of ageing in metazoans are genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. During recent years ageing research has increasingly resulted in the discovery of gerontological genes in animal models. Interestingly, these genes are conserved across species and involved in basic signalling pathways that regulate energy balance, cellular plasticity, growth, homeostasis, and reproduction. In plants, senescence is induced by various environmental and developmental factors, for example autumnal senescence in the leaves of deciduous trees, and of the vegetative tissues in annual plants at the end of their life cycle. As in animals, mechanisms of cell and tissue ageing in plants include DNA damage and repair, telomere shortening, genome reprogramming and the removal of damaged cells by programmed cell death.

Although significant progress has been achieved during recent years, various basic questions remain open: Why do organisms age, how do they age and to what extent are ageing mechanisms conserved or lineage- or species-specific? Which repair processes are known to counteract these processes and may be exploited for regeneration? Are longevity genes identified in model organisms functional in a human physiological setting?

Excellent scientists working in the field of cell biology are welcome to join the DP AGE_REG in order to further explore these questions. Interested applicants are invited to apply for admission to the doctoral programme.

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