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:
Mike Cao, Masters (M.Res.) student, email:
David Gems (PI), Professor of Biogerontology, email:
Kuei Ching Hsiung, Postdoc, email:
Carina Kern, Postdoc, email:
Cheryl Li, Summer student, email:
Dominik Maczik, M.Sci. laboratory project student, email:
Marie Maeland, Summer student, email:
Chiminh Nguyen, Summer student, email:
Lucy Wang, Masters (M.Sc.) student, email:
Filip Wilk, Summer student, email:
Aihan Zhang, Graduate student, email:
Bruce Zhang, Summer student, email:
Yuan Zhao, Postdoc, email:

Spring 2021: New study in Aging Cell describing effects of lifespan control pathways on different causes of death in C. elegans. New study in eLife on how loss of parasite "old friends" may promote late-life inflammation-related disease. New study in Phil. Trans. R. Soc. describing adaptive death in Pacific salmon. For details see publications.

Hear Bruce Zhang talk about the new 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 20th June 2021

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
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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