Biology of Ageing - BI644

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 6 15 (7.5) DR J Tullet checkmark-circle


A synopsis of the curriculum
The module overviews the importance of studying ageing, the organisms and methods used to do so and considers how organisms age together with providing a detailed understanding of the processes and molecular mechanisms that govern ageing.

Importance and principles of ageing research
Why do organisms age and theories of ageing: e.g. Damage theory, telomeres, genetics and trade off theories.
How ageing and lifespan is measured
Overview of processes and pathways controlling ageing

Methods in ageing research
Model Organisms: Benefits and problems associated with studying ageing in model organisms. Including: Yeast, worms, flies, mice, primates.
Systems approaches to studying ageing: e.g. high throughput DNA/RNA sequencing, high throughput proteomics and, metabolomics. Pros and cons of these methods, what we have learned from them.

Signalling pathways that control ageing
Insulin signalling pathway and Target of Rapamycin (ToR) pathway
Organisation of pathways and the molecules involved, how they were discovered to be implicated in lifespan and ageing, ways of modelling and studying their molecular detail in animals e.g. genetic/ epistasis analysis
The processes downstream of these pathways that allow them to control lifespan/ageing e.g. stress resistance, autophagy, reduced translation, enhanced immunity etc…
Cross-talk between pathways.
Dietary restriction, lifespan and ageing
How dietary restriction works in different organisms, what signalling pathways and processes it affects.

Diseases of ageing
What these are e.g. Alzheimers, Huntington's
Overview of 'normal ageing’ associated processes e.g. muscle weakening.
How they can be studied in model organsims and the importance of ageing research for treating these disorders.

Ethics of ageing research
Pros and cons of studying ageing with a goal of extending human lifespan e.g. insurance, health system, social, psychological implications.

Workshop 1: Group discussion of key ageing research paper(s) (small groups).
Workshop 2: Data analysis session (whole class or 2-3 groups).
Workshop 3: Overview of the module in preparation for revision/exam (whole class).


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 26
Independent Study Hours: 124
Total Study Hours: 150


It is required that you have taken all the core modules within stage 1 and 2 of one of our Bioscience programmes in order to take this module.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Data analysis exercise (1,500 words) 40%
Examination, 2 hr, 60%

Indicative reading

• Austad, S.N. Why We Age (1997) (Wiley)
• Ricklefs, R.E., C.E. Aging: A Natural History (1995) (Scientific American Library) (W H Freeman & Co)

The rest of the suggested reading fill consist of review articles and primary research publications. The emphasis of this course will be to read and interpret the literature first hand.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
• Knowledge of the major processes underlying the ageing process.
• Acquisition of practical and data handling skills associated with analysing lifespan and age-related decline data sets.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
• Interpretation and retrieval of information
• Analysis and evaluation of data
• Written communication skills


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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