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Durham University

Department of Physics


The Christmas Lecture 2019: The worm who lived forever?

17th December 2019, 11:00, James Duff Lecture Theatre (PH8), Dr Chris Saunter

Ageing is one of the defining aspects of humanity as a species and as individuals.

Despite the role of ageing in our lives, there is no detailed understanding of how the many different and complicated processes involved work together to age us. This will change one day with the last 20 years seeing continuous growth in scientific research aimed at understanding and then slowing ageing.

We are building a “Healthspan Machine” in Durham. This studies the effects of compounds designed to increase lifespan and healthspan on the nematode worm C. elegans, where healthspan is the period of an animal’s life for which it remains healthy. This machine uses hundreds of Raspberry Pi computers and cameras to track the motion of tens of thousands of worms during their few weeks of life, providing researchers with high quality data measuring the effects of their work.

This talk will look at the scientific and ethical context of lifespan and healthspan extension, the role of C. elegans and our healthspan machine in studying ageing, and how the explosive growth in computer power has contributed to building a healthspan machine.

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