Institute of Healthy Ageing
University College London
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C. elegans laboratory (David Gems)

Understanding the biology of longevity and ageing using a nematode model
Ageing (senescence) is the main cause of disease in the world today, yet the nature of the biological mechanisms that cause ageing remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in science. An ideal model organism in which to study ageing is the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This species has well-developed genetics, its ~100 million base pair genome is fully sequenced, and its life span is a mere 2-3 weeks. Importantly, numerous mutations have been identified in C. elegans which alter the rate of ageing, with some mutants living up to 10-times longer than wild-type worms. By understanding ageing in a simple animal like C. elegans we hope to begin to unravel the mystery of human ageing, and the wide range of diseases that it causes, from cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to osteoarthritis and cancer.

A focus of current work in this laboratory is understanding the biological mechanisms that cause pathologies of ageing, and how such pathologies lead to mortality; and how reduced insulin/IGF-1 signalling and dietary restriction suppress ageing and increase lifespan. Other interests include the mechanisms of organismal death, sex differences in the biology of ageing, the role of the microbiome in ageing, evolutionary conservation of mechanisms of ageing, and bioethical implications of ageing research. Funded for our research has been received from the BBSRC, the European Union and the Wellcome Trust.

Research Team

Hannah Chapman, Ph.D. student/research technician, email:
David Gems (PI), Professor of Biogerontology, email:
Zibo Gong, M.Sc. student, email:
Carina Kern, Postdoc, email:
Victoria Raunio, MSci laboratory research project student, email:
Hongyuan Wang, Postdoc, email:
Lucas Wang, MSci laboratory research project student, email:
Aihan Zhang, Ph.D. student, email:
Bruce Zhang, Ph.D. student, email:

Undergraduate assistants: Ekaterina Iijima, Anna Sun

Winter 2023/24: Jan 2024, new article in BMC Ecology and Evolution on analysis of colony-level fitness traits in C. elegans (relevant to theory of adaptive death). Recent article in Nature Communications on evidence of semelparous reproductive death in C. elegans. Recent article in GeroScience on improved delivery of anti-ageing drugs using liposomes. For details see publications.

Hear Bruce Zhang talk about the recent helminth infection and inflammageing theory in a Naked Scientists podcast

Institute of Healthy Ageing, and G.E.E., University College London, The Darwin Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT. Tel: +44 (0) 207 679 4381 E-mail:

Updated on 13th May 2024

SPIM image of a pharynx in a wild-type (N2) C. elegans on day 8 of adulthood (20˚C) where the terminal bulb is infected with RFP labelled E. coli. This will eventually lead to P death, the cause of death of ~40% of senescent wild-type C. elegans (Zhao et al. Nature Communications, 2017). Movie generated by H. Wang.

Gems Lab Publications | About David Gems | Postgraduate opportunities in Gems lab | IHA main page | Genetics, Evolution and Environment | UCL home page

C. elegans Links
What is C. elegans | Wormbase | C. elegans Genetics Center | Nematode Net

More links
NCBI | CEE | Who's Who in Gerontology | Enhancement Technologies | UCL Library | PubMed | Google

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