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, Research technician, email:
Yimu Fan, M.Sc. project student, email:
Evgeniy Galimov, Postdoc, email:
David Gems (PI), Professor of Biogerontology, email:
Vu Ha, M.Sci. project student, email:
Carina Kern, Graduate student, email:
Eliana Martin, B.Sc. research student, email:
Emily Murphy, B.Sc. research student, email:
Mila Penzel, B.Sc. laboratory project student, email:
Kuei Ching Hsiung, Postdoc, email:
Aihan Zhang, Graduate student, email:
Yuan Zhao, Postdoc, email:
Undergraduate assistants, Thea Berchtold, Bethany Evans, Victor Konstantellos, Elena Kuzmenkova, Dominik Maczik, Ioan Marcu, Luis Montemayor, Eva Morisot, Abigail Smith, Nyi Thant, Lyn Yong, Bruce Zhang

December 2019: New publication in Nature Communications on background mutation effects on life-limiting pathology in C. elegans. For details see: publication list

Positions available Postdoc position available; for enquiries email

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 16th March 2020

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 | Ph.D. opportunities in Gems lab | IHA main page | Genetics, Evolution and Environment | UCL home page

C. elegans Links
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More links
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