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Biology of vitality and ageing



Semester I: September 16, 2019 - November 8, 2019.

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 defence 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.

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 and independence. 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. Based on the central concept described above, this course focuses around seven major themes, namely “The life course”, “Molecular damage control”, “Neuro-endocrine systems” ,“Environmental cues”, “Model organisms: methods and tools”, “Enhancing vitality”, and “Human studies: methods and tools”.

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 and enhance vitality.

  • can explain ageing and age-related diseases from a demographic, life course and gender 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.

Mode of instruction

Interactive lectures, working groups and activities like orientation visits, 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.

Course Load

The total course load is: 10 ECTS x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Interactive lectures, working groups and activities: 100 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 80 hours

  • Preparation lectures, working groups and activities: 40 hours

  • Writing assignments: 60 hours

Assessment method

  • Written exam

  • Written scientific essay

  • Completion of compulsory assignments described in the assessment plan


The final grade is based on the written exam (60%) and the written scientific essay (40%).
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.

Participation and attendance

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


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.

Exam review

How and when a review of the written paper or exam will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest.
More information will be published on blackboard.

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

The educational lines taught in Vitality and Ageing are integrated in this course. It is mandatory to complete the components belonging to Communication in Science, Academic Development, and Research and Evidence. Elective students will be awarded 12 EC in total for this course.

Reading list

Will be published on blackboard.