Anti-ageing research
Increasing healthspan by targeting biological ageing as an underlying cause of disease

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This profile is tailored towards students studying biological sciences, however we expect there to be valuable open research questions that could be pursued by students in other disciplines.

Why is this a pressing problem?

The biological ageing process is the most important causal risk factor for frailty and disease. Nearly 50% of deaths worldwide occur at the age of 70 or older. As life expectancy increases over the coming decades, this number will significantly increase and most people will spend a longer time in poor health.

Research targeting major age-related diseases is flourishing, however relatively few scientists study ageing itself. To increase human healthspan effectively, it is useful to shift the focus from the individual diseases that are symptoms of ageing – such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s – and focus on the underlying cause. This could not only prevent the onset of fatal age-related diseases but also drastically improve the overall quality of life for the elderly.

Ageing is characterised by the functional decline of an organism over time, leading to an exponential increase in mortality. However, although various biological changes have been shown to be correlated with ageing, such as increasing DNA damage and cellular senescence, methylation changes, stem cell dysfunction and increased inflammation, it is still unknown exactly how these processes interact or how much they contribute to ageing overall.

Despite how much is still left to discover, studies have shown it is possible to increase an organism’s healthy lifespan by tackling the ageing process itself. For example, treatment with the drug rapamycin can increase the lifespan of mice by up to 60% and a drug that targets senescent cells can increase fitness, kidney function and hair density in old mice. Preliminary trials seem to support the translatability of both these and other discoveries to humans.

Watch the video below for a short introduction to the value of targeting ageing directly.

Explore existing research

Find a thesis topic

If you’re interested in working on this research direction, below are some ideas on what would be valuable to explore further. If you want help refining your research ideas, apply for our coaching!

This report from the Foresight Institute lists many open questions in the field as well as researchers already working on them. You could also explore the research papers linked in this profile to find areas that interest you. See this advice from Michael Rae on choosing a research question and program.

If you can’t work directly on longevity research right away, try to build skills and knowledge to apply later. Cell reprogramming, senescence research, neurodegeneration and protein aggregation, DNA repair and damage systems, autophagy, epigenetics, protein damage, inflammation, the microbiome and mitochondria are some of the areas that are particularly relevant to anti-aging research but also have many other applications.

Further resources

Some introductory videos include:

Apply for our coaching and we can connect you with researchers already working in this space, who can help you refine your research ideas. You can also apply to join our community if you’re interested in meeting other students working on this research direction.

Apply for our database of potential supervisors if you’re looking for formal supervision and take a look at our advice on finding a great supervisor for further ideas.

Aging Biotech maintains a list of ageing conferences here which may be helpful for making connections.

Here is a list of researchers and companies involved in longevity research.

Here are some selected research institutes and laboratories working on anti-ageing research:

See here for a list of companies working on anti-ageing technologies.

Our funding database can help you find potential sources of funding if you’re a PhD student interested in this research direction. See the list of research labs above for programmes you could apply to.

  • Sign up for our newsletter to hear about opportunities such as funding, internships and research roles.
  • The FightAging! newsletter includes a weekly summary of the major research papers published in the field, as well as events and resources.

If you’re interested in working on improving human health, you could also explore our profile on reducing physical pain.


This profile was last updated 11/11/2022. Thanks to Veerle de Goederen and William Bradshaw for originally creating this profile. Thanks to Jose Luis Ricon, Michael Rae, Cyril Lagger, Anais Equey, Patrick Wilson and Josue Ballesteros for helpful feedback. All mistakes remain our own. Learn more about how we create our profiles.

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