• University of Groningen logo
  • University Medical Center Groningen

Why Do We Age? The Molecular Mechanisms of Ageing

Why do we age? Is there a limit to human lifespan? Can we prolong our lives? Find out with this free online course.

33,174 enrolled on this course

Ageing through time

Why Do We Age? The Molecular Mechanisms of Ageing

33,174 enrolled on this course

  • 6 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover the science behind the ageing process

The “why” and “how” of ageing has puzzled mankind ever since it questioned its place in the universe.

However, it was only after infectious diseases became more controlled and reliable food supplies became generally available, that the rapid increase of the average lifespan made science turn its attention to study longevity and ageing.

To fulfil the desire to live longer and age healthier, it is essential that we better understand the intricate molecular processes that evolve in our body when we age.

Study the concepts and theories of ageing

In this free online course, you will study the current concepts and theories of ageing. You will learn about the molecular and cellular processes in ageing. You will explore the cell systems, animal models and advanced experimental methods that we use to study ageing.

After introducing the main theories and mechanisms of ageing in the first week, we will proceed with a series of in-depth lectures from distinguished researchers working at the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing at the University of Groningen. They will present you with a selection of their current research and will explain the fundamental questions they try to answer and the experimental approaches they use for their studies.

You will learn that ageing starts at the cell level and you will study several phenomena which take place in cells, such as genomic instability, telomere shortening and epigenetic changes.

By completing this course you will gain insight into the fundamental biology of ageing in various simple and complex organisms, including humans.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Ageing would be something, or the main thing I would always try to pursue. It’s something that I can make many interesting projects out of. It also has a deep social concern and importance, so in that sense I think it will be a good investment. We should try to improve the quality of life at a later age, and if possible, of course, extending it. But I think the first aim should be to improve the quality of life. Why do we age? This enigma has puzzled mankind ever since it questioned its place in the universe. We’re all familiar with ageing, yet much of its underlying biological processes remain a rich area for exploration.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds My name is Marianna Bevova, and I’m a lead researcher at the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing at the University of Groningen. As a [INAUDIBLE] educator, I’d like to invite you to follow our free online course, The Molecular Mechanism of Ageing. This course will help you to understand the molecular changes that occur inside the human body during ageing. Ageing, though, is not unique to humans. That’s why we can make use of model systems to investigate those intricate mechanisms that drive ageing. Distinguished investigators from our institute will explain to you the experimental methods and model systems that are used to study ageing, and we’ll introduce you to the latest theories and concepts of ageing research.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds During this intensive course you will watch lectures and interviews. You will study literature and participate in discussions. You will track your knowledge through tests, assignments, and quizzes. Please join us in this six week course through the fascinating world of the molecular mechanism of ageing. And who knows? It may even inspire you to join us with the research on ageing.


  • Week 1

    Cellular ageing

    • Welcome

      Introduction steps that explain the course setup and the FutureLearn platform.

    • Why do we study ageing? What is ageing?

      Why did research on ageing became so popular in the last decades? How do we define ageing and what are the main stages of human development? You will learn the answers on these and other questions in the following lecture.

    • Eukaryotic cell structure

      You will learn the main constituents of the eukaryotic cells and their role in cell functioning.

    • Introduction to mechanisms associated with cellular ageing

      In this activity we will introduce the molecular mechanisms which are currently believed to be associated with ageing

    • Glossary on Week 1

      This is the list of terms you have encountered in Week 1

    • Conclusion to Week 1

      Conclusion to Week 1

  • Week 2

    Chromosomes and ageing

    • Introduction to Week 2

      This week you will learn that baker’s yeast is a good model to study replicative ageing and telomere biology. After that you will also learn about aneuploidy. What is this and how it is related to ageing?

    • Using model organisms in ageing research

      This article addresses the need of using model systems and organisms in ageing research.

    • Mechanism of ageing in yeast - Replicative ageing

      Replicative ageing in yeast

    • Mechanism of ageing in yeast - Telomeres

      Michael Chang will tell you about his research on telomeres, using yeast as a model organism

    • Aneuploidy, cancer, and ageing

      In this activity you will learn about cell division and aneuploidy

    • Glossary on Week 1-2

      A list of terms you have encountered in Week 2, and in the previous week

    • Conclusion to Week 2

      Wrapping up Week 2 on telomere biology and replicative ageing studies in yeasts and aneuploidy and its link to ageing

  • Week 3

    Genomic instability and epigenetics

    • Introduction to Week 3

      What other changes occur in the DNA of cells in time? What is epigenetics and how is it linked to ageing?

    • DNA damage and repair

      We will continue to study which changes occur in the genome with time how various genetic defects accumulate.

    • Telomeres, stem cells, and ageing

      You will learn about telomeres in human cells.

    • Epigenetics and ageing

      Epigenetics and ageing

    • Mid-course test

      As we are halfway through the course, this test checks your understanding of the activities of the first three weeks.

    • Glossary on Week 1-3

      This is the list of terms you have encountered in Week 3, and in the previous weeks

    • Conclusion to Week 3

      Wrapping up Week 3 on genomic instability and epigenetics

  • Week 4

    Stem cells in ageing and rejuvenation

    • Introduction to Week 4

      This week you will be introduced to very special cells: the stem cells and you will learn about an exciting DNA sequencing technique and the application of this technique in ageing studies.

    • Single cell sequencing

      Sequencing technique

    • Haematopoietic stem cells

      Haematopoietic stem cells and ageing.

    • Regeneration and rejuvenation

      Flatworm as a model to study rejuvenation and regeneration

    • Glossary on Week 1-4

      List of terms you have encountered in Week 4, and in the previous weeks

    • Conclusion to Week 4

      Wrapping up Week 4 on stem cells and Strand-seq technique

  • Week 5

    Health and disease during ageing - molecular aspects

    • Introduction to Week 5

      What do we know about neurodegenerative disorders? Do you know how we can prolong the lifespan of several organisms without interfering with their genes?

    • Decline and disease

      Diseases associated with ageing - neurodegenerative disorders

    • Protein aggregation, toxicity, and neurodegeneration

      This activity is about aggregation of proteins, cellular protein toxicity, and a roundworm model for neurodegeneration.

    • Calorie restriction - health and lifespan

      Calorie restriction - health and lifespan

    • Glossary on Week 1-5

      A list of terms you have encountered in Week 5, and in the previous weeks

    • Conclusion to Week 5

      Wrapping up Week 5 on Neurodegenerative disorders and Calorie restriction

  • Week 6

    Genetics and evolution of ageing

    • Introduction to Week 6

      This week we will learn if genetics is playing a role in the ageing process. We will also consider ageing from an evolutionary perspective and talk about some of the theories of ageing.

    • Genetics of ageing

      Centenarians usually follow an 'average' lifestyle but still they survive so much longer. What role does genetics play in ageing and longevity?

    • Evolutionary theories of ageing

      You will learn about existing theories of ageing

    • Peer review assignment

      This is it. You can practice all you have learned describing and discussing one of the mechanisms associated with ageing.

    • Glossary on Week 1-6

      This is the list of terms you have encountered in Week 6, and in the previous weeks

    • Conclusion to Week 6 and general conclusion

      Wrapping up Week 6 and looking back at what you have learned in this course

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the main theories and mechanisms of ageing
  • Describe the processes that are happening in the ageing cells
  • Discuss the use of different model organisms to study human ageing

Who is the course for?

The course is aimed at anyone interested in understanding the biology of ageing. It requires basic knowledge of biology, though most of the terms are explained and you will receive further support via additional reading.

Who will you learn with?

I am a researcher at the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University of Groningen. I am interested in genetics of human diseases and ageing.

Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)

UMCG is building the future of health through its focus on complex patient care, research, education and training.

Ways to learn

Buy this course

Subscribe & save

Limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!

$129/one-off payment


For the first two months. Automatically renews


Fulfill your current learning needDevelop skills to further your careerSample the course materials
Access to this courseticktick

Access expires 18 Jan 2024

Access to 1,000+ coursescrosstickcross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Tests to check your learningticktickcross
Certificate when you're eligiblePrinted and digitalDigital onlycross
Continue & Upgrade

Cancel for free anytime

Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


For the first two months. Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$129/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 18 Jan 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

T&Cs apply.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLAgeing to talk about this course on social media.