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Alumni Support research and education

How does ageing work?

Ellen Nollen

Ellen Nollen (Biology of Ageing, UMCG) studies the biological causes of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's. Her research project is unique in the world and aims to unravel the processes involved with protein aggregation in the brain, distinctive of these diseases. She is interested in knowing how age influences these processes.

From mice to human beings

Ellen Nollen
Ellen Nollen

“Why is it that, as you get older, the chance of getting certain forms of dementia increases? That is the question we are trying to answer. Patients who suffer from dementia have a distinctive aggregation of proteins in their brains. What is the link between these aggregations and the disease? To study this connection, we do not examine human brains, but a tiny model organism called the worm C. Elegans. An animal with the length of 1 mm, that evolved very early on in evolution. In these worms we try to make a copy of these aggregations. Then we try to discover what processes play a part in the aggregations, how ageing works and how we can intervene. Although our research is fundamental, I find it important that we search for concrete applications and make the transition from worms to human beings.

It would be nice to have more freedom to set up projects that are a bit more risky: in this way results can be either wonderful or there might be no result at all. To take on such experiments we would need extra funding along with regular subsidy. Thanks to the support of the Alumni Chapter Gooische Groningers we already got the chance to make the research more applicable to human beings. Because of the involvement of the members of the Chapter, I feel extra responsible to use the funding judiciously. Their involvement is a wonderful incentive.”


Would you like to contribute to the research of Nollen, please contact the Ubbo Emmius Fund (

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Last modified:03 September 2021 11.40 a.m.
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