Prof David Gems


Personal Profile

Name: David Gems Email:
Title: Prof Tel: 020 7679 4381
Department: Genetics, Evolution & Environment Fax: 020 7679 7096
Position: Professor of Biogerontology Address: Institute of Healthy Ageing, Darwin Building, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT
Research Domain: Ageing, Basic Life Sciences, Neuroscience, Populations & Lifelong Health Web Page: Personal Web Page


Research Description

Understanding the biology of longevity and ageing using a nematode model While developmental genetics has been an area of intensive study for many years, investigation of the role of genes in determining longevity and ageing only recently began. An ideal model organism in which to study ageing is the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This species has well-developed genetics, its 97,000,000 base pair genome is fully sequenced, and its life span is a mere 2-3 weeks. Most importantly, numerous mutations have been identified in C. elegans which alter the rate of ageing, with some mutants living more than ten times as long as wild-type worms. It is hoped that by understanding ageing in a simple animal like C. elegans we will be able to unravel the mystery of human ageing, which increases risk of a wide range of diseases, from cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, to Alzheimer's disease and cancer. A major focus of current work in this laboratory is understanding the genes and biochemical processes by which reduced insulin/IGF-1 signalling and dietary restriction increase lifespan. Other interests include sex differences in the biology of ageing, evolutionary conservation of mechanisms of ageing, and bioethical implications of ageing research. Our work is funded by the BBSRC, the European Union and the Wellcome Trust.

Research Activities

Cell signalling

Genetics of ageing and age-related disease in Caenorhabditis elegans

Mechanisms regulating lymphocyte differentiation i

Regulation and targeting of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) pathway

The central nervous system regulation of energy homeostasis

Education Description

UCL Collaborators

Prof Barbara Pedley; Prof Dame Linda Partridge; Prof John Greenwood; Prof Paola Pedarzani; Prof Tony Segal; Prof Mala Maini; Prof Ivan Gout; Prof Nigel Klein; Dr Daniel Pearce; Prof Arne Akbar; Prof Patrick Maxwell; Prof Michael Duchen; Prof Margaret Ashcroft; Prof Steve Wilson; Prof Chris Boshoff; Prof Stephen Caddick; Dr Babis Rallis; Dr Lazaros Foukas; Dr Rachel Batterham; Prof Paul Driscoll

External Collaborators



    • Coburn C, Allman E, Mahanti P, Benedetto A, Cabreiro F, Pincus Z, Matthijssens F, Araiz C, Mandel A, Vlachos M, Edwards SA, Fischer G, Davidson A, Pryor RE, Stevens A, Slack FJ, Tavernarakis N, Braeckman BP, Schroeder FC, Nehrke K, Gems D (2013). Anthranilate fluorescence marks a calcium-propagated necrotic wave that promotes organismal death in C. elegans.. PLoS Biol, 11(7), e1001613 - . doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001613
    • Coburn C, Gems D (2013). The mysterious case of the C. elegans gut granule: death fluorescence, anthranilic acid and the kynurenine pathway.. Front Genet, 4, 151 - . doi:10.3389/fgene.2013.00151


    • Valentini S, Cabreiro F, Ackerman D, Alam MM, Kunze MB, Kay CW, Gems D (2012). Manipulation of in vivo iron levels can alter resistance to oxidative stress without affecting ageing in the nematode C. elegans.. Mech Ageing Dev, 133(5), 282 - 290. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2012.03.003
    • Gems D, de la Guardia Y (2012). Beyond reactive oxygen species: Alternative perspectives on ageing in C. elegans. Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, Sep 24. [Epub ahead of print], - .
    • Ackerman D, Gems D (2012). Insulin/IGF-1 and hypoxia signaling act in concert to regulate iron homeostasis in C. elegans. PLoS Genetics, 8(3), - . doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002498
    • Valentini S, Cabreiro F, Ackerman D, Alam M, Kay C, Gems D (2012). Iron catalyzed generation of reactive oxygen species does not contribute to C. elegans aging. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 133, 282 - 290.


    • Gems D (2011). The problem of aging: To treat, or not to treat?. American Scientist, 99, 278 - 280.
    • Cocheme HM, Quin C, McQuaker SJ, Cabreiro F, Logan A, Prime TA, Abakumova I, Patel JV, Fearnley IM, James AM, Porteous CM, Smith RAJ, Saeed S, Carre J, Singer M, Gems D, Partridge L, Hartley RC, Murphy MP (2011). In vivo measurement of mitochondrial H2O2 using a ratiometric mass spectrometry probe shows an increase with aging that does not determine lifespan. Cell Metabolism, 13, 340 - 350.
    • Burnett C, Valentini S, Cabreiro F, Goss M, Somogyvari M, Piper MD, Hoddinott M, Sutphin GL, Leko V, McElwee JJ, Vazquez-Manrique RP, Orfila AM, Ackerman D, Au C, Vinti G, Riesen M, Howard K, Neri C, Bedalov A, Kaeberlein M, Soti C, Partridge L, Gems D (2011). Absence of effects of Sir2 over-expression on lifespan in C. elegans and Drosophila. Nature, 477, 482 - 485.
    • Cabreiro F, Ackerman D, Doonan R, Araiz C, Back P, Papp D, Braeckman BP, Gems D (2011). Increased life span from overexpression of superoxide dismutase in Caenorhabditis elegans is not caused by decreased oxidative damage.. Free Radic Biol Med, 51(8), 1575 - 1582. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.07.020
    • Gems D (2011). Tragedy and delight: The ethics of decelerated ageing. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci., 366, 108 - 112.


    • Schuster E, McElwee JJ, Tullett JM, Doonan R, Matthijssens F, Reece-Hoyes JS, Vanfleteren JR, Thornton JM, Gems D (2010). DamID in C. elegans reveals longevity-associated targets of DAF-16/FoxO. Molecular Systems Biology, 6, 399 - .
    • Gems D (2010). Treating aging: Progress towards dietary restriction mimetics. F1000 Biology Reports, 2, 76 - .
    • Gems D (2010). Wenn Mao noch lebte - Vom Segen und Unsinn de Alterns. In Hülswitt T (Ed.), Werden wir ewig leben? (pp. 81 - 99). : Suhrkamp.


    • Gems D (2009). Ist mehr Leben stets besser? Die moderne Alternsbiologie under der Sinn des Lebens. In Schone-Seifert B, Talbot D (Ed.), Enhancement: Die ethische Debatte (pp. 365 - 385). : Mentis Verlag.
    • Toivonen JM, Gems D, Partridge L (2009). Longevity of Indy mutant Drosophila not attributable to Indy mutation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(21), E53 - .
    • Thompson FJ, Barker GLA, Nolan T, Gems DV, M E (2009). Transcript profiles of long- and short-lived adults implicate protein synthesis as a determinant of evolved differences in ageing in the nematode Strongyloides ratti.. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 130(3), 167 - 172. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2008.11.001
    • Gems D (2009). Aging and oxidants in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. SEB Experimental Biology Series, 62, 31 - 56.
    • Selman C, Tullet JMA, Wieser D, Irvine E, Lingard SJ, Choudhury AI, Claret M, Al-Qassab H, Carmignac D, Ramadani F, Woods A, Robinson ICA, Schuster E, Batterham RL, Kozma SC, Thomas G, Carling D, Okkenhaug K, Thornton JM, Partridge L, Gems D, Withers DJ (2009). Ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 signaling regulates mammalian lifespan. Science, 326(5949), 140 - 144. doi:10.1126/science.1177221
    • Gems D (2009). Eine Revolution de Alterns: die neue Biogerontologie und ihre Implikationen. In Knell S, Weber M (Ed.), Länger leben? Philosophische und biowissenschaftliche Perspektiven (pp. 25 - 45). : Suhrkamp.
    • Gems D, Doonan R (2009). Antioxidant defense and aging in C. elegans: Is the oxidative damage theory of aging wrong?. Cell Cycle, 8(11), 1 - 7.


    • Lenaerts I, Walker GA, Van Hoorebeke L, Gems D, Vanfleteren JR (2008). Dietary restriction of Caenorhabditis elegans by axenic culture reflects nutritional requirement for constituents provided by metabolically active microbes. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological and Medical Sciences, 63(3), 242 - 252.
    • Gems D, Partridge L (2008). Stress-response hormesis and aging: "that which does not kill us makes us stronger". Cell Metabolism, 7(3), 200 - 203.
    • Gems DD, R (2008). Oxidative stress and aging in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In Miwa S, Beckman FM, F (Ed.), Oxidative Stress in Aging (pp. 81 - 110). : Humana Press.
    • Selman C, Lingard S, Gems D, Partridge L, Withers DJ (2008). Comment on "Brain IRS2 signaling coordinates life span and nutrient homeostasis". Science, 320(5879), 1012 - .
    • Doonan R, McElwee JJ, Matthijssens F, Walker GA, Houthoofd K, Back P, Matscheski A, Vanfleteren JR, Gems D (2008). Against the oxidative damage theory of aging: Superoxide dismutases protect against oxidative stress but have little or no effect on lifespan in C. elegans.. Genes and Development, 22(23), 3236 - 3241. doi:10.1101/gad.504808
    • Patel DS, Garza-Garcia A, Nanji M, McElwee JJ, Ackerman D, Driscoll PC, Gems D (2008). Clustering of genetically defined allele classes in the Caenorhabditis elegans DAF-2 insulin/IGF-1 receptor.. Genetics, 178(2), 931 - 946. doi:10.1534/genetics.107.070813
    • Selman C, Lingard S, Choudhury AI, Batterham RL, Claret M, Clements M, Ramadani F, Okkenhaug K, Schuster E, Blanc E, Piper MD, Al-Qassab H, Speakman JR, Carmignac D, Robinson IC, Thornton JM, Gems D, Partridge L, Withers DJ (2008). Evidence for lifespan extension and delayed age-related biomarkers in insulin receptor substrate 1 null mice. The FASEB Journal, 22(3), 807 - 818.


    • Gems D (2007). Long-lived dwarf mice: are bile acids a longevity signal?. Aging Cell, 6(4), 453 - 470.
    • Bass TMW, D Houthoofd KG, D Partridge L (2007). Effects of resveratrol on lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 128(10), 546 - 552.
    • Toivonen JMW, G A Martinez-Diaz PB, I Driege YJ, H T Gems DP, L (2007). No influence of Indy on lifespan in Drosophila after correction for genetic and cytoplasmic background effects. PLoS Genetics, 3(6), e95 - .
    • McElwee JJ, Schuster E, Blanc E, Piper MD, Thomas JH, Patel DS, Selman C, Withers DJ, Thornton JM, Partridge L, Gems DH (2007). Evolutionarily conservation of regulated longevity assurance mechanisms. Genome Biology, 8(7), R132 - . doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-7-r132
    • McCulloch DG, D (2007). Sex-specific effects of the DAF-12 steroid receptor on aging in Caenorhabditis elegans. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1119, 253 - 259.
    • Houthoofd KG, D Johnson TEV, J R (2007). ietary restriction in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Interdisciplinary Topics in Gerontology, 35, 98 - 114.
    • Partridge LG, D (2007). Benchmarks for ageing studies. Nature, 450(7167), 165 - 167.
    • Garza-Garcia A, Patel DS, Gems D, Driscoll PC (2007). RILM: a web-based resource to aid comparative and functional analysis of the insulin and IGF-1 receptor family.. Human Mutation, 28(7), 660 - 668. doi:10.1002/humu.20491


    • Weinkove DH, J R Gems DD, N (2006). Long-term starvation and ageing induce AGE-1/PI 3-kinase-dependent translocation of DAF-16/FOXO to the cytoplasm. BMC Biology, 3(4), 1 - .
    • McElwee JJS, E Blanc ET, J Gems D (2006). Diapause-associated metabolic traits reiterated in long-lived daf-2 mutants in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 127(5), 458 - 472.
    • Gardner MP, Gems D, Viney ME (2006). Extraordinary plasticity in aging in Strongyloides ratti implies a gene-regulatory mechanism of lifespan evolution. Aging Cell, 5(4), 315 - 323.
    • Vellai T, McCulloch D, Gems D, Kovacs AL (2006). Effects of Sex and Insulin/Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Signaling on Performance in an Associative Learning Paradigm in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics, 174(1), 309 - 316.
    • Partridge LG, D (2006). Beyond the evolutionary theory of ageing, from functional genomics to evo-gero.. TREE, 21, 334 - 340.
    • Selman C, Kerrison ND, Cooray A, Piper MD, Lingard SJ, Barton RH, Schuster EF, Blanc E, Gems D, Nicholson JK, Thornton JM, Partridge L, Withers DJ (2006). Coordinated multitissue transcriptional and plasma metabonomic profiles following acute caloric restriction in mice. Physiol Genomics, 27(3), 187 - 200.


    • Brakefield PM, Gems D, Cowen T, Christensen K, Grubeck-Loebenstein B, Keller L, Oeppen J, Rodriguez-Pena A, Stazi MA, Tatar M, Westendorp RG (2005). What are the effects of maternal and pre-adult environments on ageing in humans, and are there lessons from animal models?. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 126(3), 431 - 438.
    • Partridge L, Gems D, Withers DJ (2005). Sex and death: What's the connection?. Cell, 120, 461 - 472.
    • Walker GH, K Vanfleteren JRG, D (2005). Dietary restriction in C. elegans: from rate-of-living effects to nutrient sensing pathways. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 126(9), 929 - 937.
    • Gems DM, J J (2005). Broad spectrum detoxification: the major longevity assurance process regulated by insulin/IGF-1 signaling?. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 126(3), 381 - 387.
    • Nanji M, Hopper NA, Gems D (2005). LET-60 RAS modulates effects of insulin/IGF-1 signaling on development and aging in Caenorhabditis elegans. Aging Cell, 4(5), 235 - 245. doi:10.1111/j.1474-9726.2005.00166.x


    • Gardner MPG, D Viney ME (2004). Aging in a very short-lived nematode. Experimental Gerontology, 39(9), 1267 - 1276.
    • Hulbert AJ, Clancy DJ, Mair W, Braeckman BP, Gems D, Partridge L (2004). Metabolic rate is not reduced by dietary-restriction or by lowered insulin/IGF-1 signalling and is not correlated with individual lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster. Experimental Gerontology, 39(8), 1137 - 1143.
    • Keaney M, Matthijssens F, Sharpe M, Vanfleteren J, Gems DH (2004). Superoxide dismutase mimetics elevate superoxide dismutase activity in vivo but do not retard aging in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 37(2), 239 - 250. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2004.04.005
    • McElwee JJ, Schuster E, Blanc E, Thomas JH, Gems DH (2004). Shared transcriptional signature in C. elegans dauer larvae and long-lived daf-2 mutant adults implicates detoxification system in longevity assurance. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 279, 44533 - 44543. doi:10.1074/jbc.M406207200


    • Gems D, McElwee JJ (2003). Microarraying mortality. Nature, 424, 259 - 260.
    • Keaney M, Gems D (2003). No increase in life span in Caenorhabditis elegans upon treatment with the superoxide dismutase mimetic EUK-8. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 34, 277 - 282.
    • Gems D (2003). Is more life always better? The new biology of aging and the meaning of life. Hastings Center Report, 33, 31 - 39.
    • McCulloch D, Gems D (2003). Evolution of male longevity bias in nematodes. Aging Cell, 2, 165 - 173.
    • McCulloch D, Gems D (2003). Body size, insulin/IGF signaling and aging in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Experimental Gerontology, 38, 129 - 136.
    • Gems D (2003). Geneticist. In Turney EJ (Ed.), Science, Not Art (pp. 114 - 127). : Gulbenkian Foundation.


    • Gems D, Pletcher S, Partridge L (2002). Interpreting interactions between treatments that slow ageing. Aging Cell, 1, 1 - 9.
    • Partridge L, Gems D (2002). The evolution of longevity. Current Biology, 12, 0 - 0.
    • Partridge L, Gems D (2002). Mechanisms of aging: public or private?. Nature Reviews Genetics, 3, 165 - 175.
    • Gems D (2002). Aging. In Lee DL (Ed.), The biology of nematodes (pp. - ). : Harwood Accademic Press.
    • Clancy DJ, Gems D, Hafen E, Leevers SJ, Partridge L (2002). Dietary restriction in long lived dwarf flies. Science, 296, 319 - 319. doi:10.1126/science.1069366
    • Partridge L, Gems D (2002). A lethal side effect. Nature, 418, 921 - 921.


    • Gems D (2001). Yeast longevity gene goes public. Nature, 410, 154 - 155.
    • Gems D, Partridge L (2001). Insulin/IGF signalling and ageing: seeing the bigger picture. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development, 11, 287 - 292.
    • Gems D (2001). Genes and ageing: beyond good and evil in the senescent cell. Trends in Biotechnology, 19(3), 83 - 84.
    • Clancy DJ, Gems D, Harshman LG, Oldham S, Stocker H, Hafen E, Leevers SJ, Partridge L (2001). Extension of life-span by loss of CHICO, a Drosophila insulin receptor substrate protein. Science, 202, 104 - 106. doi:10.1126/science.1057991


    • Gems D (2000). An integrated theory of ageing in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Journal of Anatomy, 197, 521 - 528.
    • Gems D, Riddle DL (2000). Defining wild-type life span in Caenorhabditis elegans. Journal of Gerontology, (55), - .
    • Gems D, Riddle DL (2000). Genetic, behavioural and environmental determinants of male longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics, 154, 1597 - 1610.
    • Gems D (2000). Ageing in free-living and parasitic nematodes. Biogerontology, 1, 289 - 307.


    • Gems D (1999). Enhancing human traits: ethical and social implications. Nature, 396, 222 - 223.
    • Gems D (1999). Nematode ageing: putting metabolic theories to the test. Current Biology, 9, - .
    • Gems D (1999). PIHKAL, TIHKAL. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 20, 477 - 479.
    • Gems D (1999). Politically correct eugenics. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 20, 199 - 211.


    • Gems D, Sutton AJ, Sundermeyer ML, Albert PS, King KV, Edgley ML, Larsen PL, Riddle DL (1998). Two pleiotropic classes of daf-2 mutation affect larval arrest, reproduction and longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics, 150, 129 - 155.


    • Gems D, Maizels RM (1996). An abundantly expressed mucin-like protein from Toxocara canis infective larvae: the precursor of the TES-120 surface coat glycoproteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93, 1665 - 1670.
    • Gems D, Riddle DL (1996). Longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans reduced by mating but not gamete production. Nature, 379, 723 - 725.
    • Aleksenko A, Gems D, Clutterbuck AJ (1996). Multiple copies of MATE elements support autonomous plasmid replication in Aspergillus nidulans. Molecular Microbiology, 20, 427 - 434.


    • Gems D, Ferguson CJ, Robertson BD, Nievos R, Page AP, Blaxter ML, Maizels RM (1995). An abundant, trans-spliced mRNA from Toxocara canis infective larvae encodes 26-kDa cuticular protein with homology to phosphatidylethanolamine binding proteins. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 270, 18517 - 18522.


    • Gems D, Aleksenko A, Belenky L, Robertson S, Vinetski Y, Clutterbuck AJ (1994). An 'instant gene bank' method for gene cloning by complementation. Molecular and General Genetics, 242, 467 - 471.
    • Gems D, Clutterbuck AJ (1994). Enhancers of medA conidiation mutants of Aspergillus nidulans. Genetics, 137, 79 - 85.


    • MAIZELS R, GEMS D, PAGE A (1993). Synthesis and secretion of TES antigens from Toxocara canis infective larvae.
    • Clutterbuck AJ, Gems D, Robertson S (1993). The ARp1 replicating plasmid. In (Ed.), BMS/FEMS Symposium on Aspergillus (pp. - ). : .
    • Clutterbuck AJ, Gems D, Robertson S (1993). Uses and analyses of the ARp1 Aspergillus replicating plasmid. In Baltz RH, Hegerman GD, Skatrud PL (Ed.), Industrial Microorganisms: Basic and Applied Molecular Genetics (pp. 27 - 30). : .
    • Gems D, Clutterbuck AJ (1993). Cotransformation with autonomously replicating helper plasmids facilitates gene cloning from an Aspergillus nidulans gene library. Current Genetics, 24, 520 - 524.
    • Maizels RM, Gems D, Page AP (1993). Synthesis and secretion of TES antigens from Toxocara canis infective larvae. In (Ed.), Toxocara and Toxocariasis: Clinical, Epidemiological and Molecular Perspectives (pp. 16.1 - 16.10). : .
    • Maizels RM, Blaxter ML, Cookson E, Gems D, Page AP (1993). Forms and functions of nematode surfaces. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, S17C, 94 - .


    • Gems D, Johnstone IL, Clutterbuck AJ (1991). An autonomously replicating plasmid transforms Aspergillus nidulans at high frequency. Gene, 98, 61 - 67.

    • Murphy MP, Holmgren A, Larsson NG, Halliwell B, Chang CJ, Kalyanaraman B, Rhee SG, Thornalley PJ, Partridge L, Gems D, Nyström T, Belousov V, Schumacker PT, Winterbourn CC (). Unravelling the biological roles of reactive oxygen species. Cell Metabolism, 13, 361 - 366.