A) Research Group for Healthy Ageing -
unraveling the molecular basis of human longevity
What does it take to live healthily to an age of 100 and beyond? There is an element of luck involved, in the form of the genes we inherit from our parents. Adult life span is not only influenced by various environmental factors, but also to about 30% by allelic variation. Which genes and molecular mechanisms in particular help us become spry Methusalehs? This is the pivotal question addressed by the Research Group for Healthy Ageing. The foundation for current investigations is the extensive collection of DNA samples obtained from 3,000 German long-lived individuals (90 years and older) to which about 750 centenarians also contributed. Several on-going research projects revolve around the confirmed longevity gene forkhead box 3A (FOXO3A) and the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene with its ε4 ‘mortality’ allele. Our aim is to understand: 1) how variation in these two genes contributes to health and disease throughout our lives and especially at old age, and 2) why this variation has been maintained in the human gene pool. Another major goal is to discover and characterize additional molecular factors and processes that promote longevity by applying a variety of state-of-the-art technologies (e.g. genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics).
In connection with theses studies the book "100 Jahre Leben" has been published by Andreas Labes and Stefan Schreiber. Some of the photos of centenarians on these pages are taken from this book.
B) Ancient DNA Research Group -
gaining insights into the evolutionary history of health and disease
Ancient DNA (aDNA) research is an exciting, cutting-edge field that offers revolutionary insights into major developments that have shaped human evolutionary history including, but certainly not limited to, the origins of agriculture, population movement and the emergence of diseases that afflict(ed) human populations today or in the past. The application of state-of-the-art enrichment and sequencing methods to aDNA extracted from remains of (pre-)historic organisms offers the unique opportunity to obtain genomic information at a hitherto unprecedented depth, speed and reliability.
In 2008, the aDNA Laboratory was established by the Graduate School of Human Development in Landscapes and the Medical Faculty of Kiel University. In collaboration with archaeologists, we conduct human and animal population genetic studies to illuminate the transition from the stage of hunting and gathering to raising domestic animals and farming. Our current research also addresses questions in evolutionary medicine, in particular the interaction of humans with their environment (pathogens, diet) that sheds light on disease etiology and epidemiology in the present and past as well as the molecular evolution of infectious agents such as Mycobacterium leprae, Helicobacter pylori and viruses.