Universität zu Köln
Cluster of Excellence: Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases


Increasing life expectancy is concomitant with increased risk of aging-associated diseases, e.g. obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases pose enormous challenges both for individuals and societies in terms of life quality and economic burden, thereby necessitating an urgent need for aging societies to address these health concerns. To date, research efforts have concentrated on investigating the pathophysiology of singular diseases. However, the remarkable recent discovery that mutations in single genes can extend healthy lifespan implies that they can also reduce the impact of a broad spectrum of aging-related damage and pathology. Thus, this discovery has profound implications for aging research and could revolutionize approaches for prevention and treatment of aging-associated diseases. To be able to effectively treat diseases, there must first be a thorough understanding of the mechanisms underlying them.

To this end, the Cologne Excellence Cluster on Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-associated Diseases (CECAD) will be the unifying driving force bringing together researchers and clinicians at the University of Cologne with researchers at the new Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in a unique research venture to advance understanding in this field.

The mission of CECAD will be to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying lifespan regulation and aging-associated diseases to set the ground to achieve its long-term objective of developing novel therapeutic interventions. CECAD will have 4 core research areas:
        (A) cellular stress signaling and dysfunction during aging,
        (B) senescence of membranes and age-related impairment of pathogen defense,
        (C) inflammation in aging-associated diseases, and
        (D) metabolic pathways in aging-associated diseases.

These research areas will be supported by 3 platforms ensuring (1) access to state-of-the-art technology and model organisms, (2) coordination of education and training activities, gender equality programs, and public outreach, and (3) translation of basic to clinical research. CECAD also intends to integrate 3 new chairs and 3 new independent junior research groups into its ranks to complement and extend the expertise of groups currently established at the University of Cologne and the future Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging. Such measures will make CECAD the first ever research center in Europe to dedicate itself solely to discovering the underlying mechanisms of aging along with those triggering aging-associated diseases. It is therefore envisioned that this cluster will develop to be an internationally recognized leader at the forefront of aging research paving the way for the development of preventive and novel therapeutic interventions.