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ERIBA – European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing

Peter Lansdorp introduces the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA) at the University of Groningen.
Hello. My name is Peter Lansdorp. And I’m the scientific director of the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, or ERIBA for short, here at the University Medical Centre in Groningen, the Netherlands. I’m glad that you signed up for our course on the biology of ageing. And I very much hope that we can satisfy at least part of your thirst for knowledge about why we age and what we know and don’t know about ageing at the cellular and molecular level. Before we start with science, I would like to give you some background about ERIBA.
In later lectures, I will tell you more about the specific research question that my laboratory is interested in and how we go about to address these questions. Let me start by telling you a little bit about ERIBA. ERIBA is a new research institute, which officially opened its door in November 2013. It’s located on the campus of the University Medical Centre Groningen, or UMCG for short. The UMCG is a large academic hospital with 12,000 employees located very close to the centre of the city of Groningen. Groningen is a very small university city in the northern part of the Netherlands. Groningen is a lively city famous for its bicycles, which are everywhere since cars are not allowed in the city centre.
The University of Groningen celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2014. And it’s one of the top hundred universities in the world. The strategic focus of the University of Groningen is in three areas - sustainable living, energy, and healthy ageing. ERIBA fits under the healthy ageing umbrella. And the mission of ERIBA is to better understand what causes ageing from a cellular and molecular point of view. So our studies are focused on understanding the mechanisms that result in loss of cells with age and the decline in the function of old cells and tissues. You will be introduced to the work that’s going on in ERIBA directly from the various group leaders that are present at the moment.
Some final general remarks before we start. At ERIBA we are primarily interested in what causes ageing at the cellular level. Many studies have documented diminished control of gene expression and protein activity in old cells compared to young cells. The resulting loss of cells and tissue function is understood to be the most important component of normal ageing. But what causes these changes? And how are the various mechanisms that have been described related?
Key factors are likely to differ between cells that do not divide much after childhood, cells such as most cells in the heart or the brain, and cells that continue to divide over a lifetime, such as stem cells of renewing tissues in the gut and the bone marrow and the skin, for example. So in considering questions about ageing, we have to keep differences between cells, as well as genetic and environmental differences, into account. In ERIBA, we address questions about ageing using collaborative and technology-oriented approaches. For our studies, we typically use model organisms that can be genetically manipulated to get at questions about cause and effect. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments allow us to study mechanisms.
We are guided by the principal that most important biological processes are conserved between species. But we also realise that this is not always the case and that some species have found unique solutions to common problems or had to solve problems that are not general. The similarities as well as the differences in the way humans and other species age are fascinating. So I’m sure our field will remain attractive for bright minds for decades to come. I wish you the best of luck with taking our course. And I hope that you, at the end, will feel that you’ve learned something that you can take with you wherever your next step in life will take you. Thank you.

A better understanding of the cellular processes that cause ageing is important from a scientific as well as a “healthy ageing” perspective. This is the research area of the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA).

Research on the biology of ageing has been carried out for decades by numerous scientists all over the world. Yet our knowledge of the cellular processes that have been implicated is still far from complete. As a new institute, ERIBA aims to play a major role in the acquisition of new knowledge as well as in the integration of existing knowledge in all areas related to the biology of ageing.

In 2007 the first plans were made at the University Medical Centre in Groningen (UMCG) for a new research Institute that could support, via fundamental research, the strategic choice for ‘Healthy Ageing’. Collaboration was sought with the University of Groningen and other local, national and European partners. In 2009 this resulted in a concrete business plan. In 2010 the construction plans were drawn up and ERIBA was born in 2013. We started life in a modern building fully equipped to suit our vision that multidisciplinary work is a key ingredient to achieve breakthroughs in bio-medical research.

With lead scientists coming to ERIBA from all over the world, our aim for the next few years is to generate new insights into the biology of ageing right here in Groningen. Knowledge that should benefit people throughout the world!

If you want to known more about research at the institute please visit ERIBA website.

Peter Lansdorp

Scientific director of ERIBA from 2011 to 2016.

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Why Do We Age? The Molecular Mechanisms of Ageing

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