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Biology of vitality and ageing


Admission requirements

Bachelor degree and admission to Master Vitality & Ageing.


Ageing can be described as “a progressive, generalized impairment of function, resulting in an increasing vulnerability to environmental challenge and a growing risk of disease and death”. Although the pathologies that accompany ageing are diverse and the rate at which it occurs differs widely between species, the universality of the ageing process suggests that common biological mechanisms may be at play.
Many of the prevailing proximate theories of ageing centre on the hypothesis that the rate of ageing is determined by an intricate balance between damage accumulation and defense and repair mechanisms. From this hypothesis, it follows that analysis of the mechanisms by which this balance is regulated may reveal the regulatory axes of the ageing process and allow the development of anti-ageing therapeutics, and eventually whole businesses.
This course will focus on the biological aspects of vitality and healthy ageing. Attention will be paid to repair mechanisms, nutrition, longevity and maintenance of bodily and mental functions. The aim of this course is to develop understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie ageing and age-related diseases so as to stimulate scientific thinking towards potential interventions aimed at enhancing vitality and prolong health span. Based on the central concept on the biological mechanisms of ageing, this course focuses around seven major themes, namely “Demography and the life course”, “Molecular damage control”, “Neuro-endocrine systems”, “Environmental cues”, “Model organisms: methods and tools”, “Interventions to enhance vitality”, and “Entrepreneurship in ageing research”.

Course objectives

The student:

  • describes the biological mechanisms that underlie ageing and age-related diseases

  • demonstrates how molecular mechanisms, the immune system, and metabolic adaptations play a role in the balance between damage accumulation and repair mechanisms in the ageing process.

  • reports how neuro-endocrine mechanisms that evolved to facilitate adaptation of the organism to its changing environment are related to the ageing process.

  • argue whether biological mechanisms relate to the potential for preventive and therapeutic interventions to modulate lifespan, health span and enhance vitality.

  • can explain ageing and age-related diseases from a demographic and life course perspective

  • Can apply available knowledge to understand the challenges and opportunities of doing research with (i) model organisms and (ii) human subjects in the study of vitality and ageing

  • is able to (i) provide a literature overview of the current knowledge for a topic related to biological mechanisms of ageing and vitality, to (ii) identify a relevant area that requires further research, and to (iii) formulate a novel research question for further research.

  • Is able to translate a biological concept into a potential successful business model.


All course and group schedules are published on MyTimeTable.

Mode of instruction

Interactive lectures, expert (keynote) lectures, working groups and activities like, practicals and self-study assignments.

The educational lines Communication in Science, Research and Evidence and Academic Development accommodate the programme and/or the assignments of this course.

Assessment method

  • Written exam

  • Written scientific essay

  • Week assignments

  • Completion of compulsory assignments described in the assessment plan

  • The final grade is based on the written exam (40%), the written scientific essay (30%) and the week assignments (30%).

  • Credits will only be given if all compulsory assessments are completed.

  • The written scientific essay will also be assessed separately by Communication in Science and Research and Evidence.

  • Students are expected to be actively engaged in discussion of the content and in the activities scheduled in the course program

  • Attendance of the Cologne Study trip

If the written exam is not passed, the student will get the opportunity to retake the exam.
If another assessment or mandatory part of the course is not passed or completed, the student will get a retake or revision or has to fulfil an alternative assignment.

Reading list

Papers will be published on Brightspace. Students are engaged to search for literature by themselves to perform the assignments.


All students will be automatically enrolled for workgroups and exams.


Dr. Raymond Noordam,
Dr. Diana van Heemst,


Elective students
Please contact the study advisor if you want to apply for this elective. Additional information can also be requested from the study advisor. You can contact the study advisor via

Study trip
For the study trip to Cologne, we request students to pay 100 Euro for travel, hotel and meal expenses.