Investigating the secrets behind aging
When a cell divides into two it needs to first make an exact copy of all its DNA (DNA codes for all the things a cell needs to make and do to function properly), and then divide that DNA evenly into two daughter cells. Sometimes this goes wrong and daughter cells get a little more, or a little less, of each piece of DNA. This is bad for 3 reasons: first, the cell might die. Second the cell might not die but get stressed and cause all kinds of problems (including aging!), and third, the cell might not die or be stressed and instead grow very well! This leads to cancer. Which is also bad.
It is probably one of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases that we know: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). While newly diagnosed patients enter ‘the path of uncertainty’, one thing is absolutely clear from the beginning: they will die within 3-5 years. The most terrible thing? At the moment there is literally nothing we can do about it.
Trying to understand the processes that underlie ALS is key in developing medicine. Thinking out-of-the-box may help us to find novel ways to treat this devastating disease. Nevertheless, it might still sound a bit weird that new knowledge could be found somewhere in a pile of compost. The place where wacky worms are living their no-nonsense lives. Worms which are actually very similar to human beings. When I say that modelling ALS in tiny nematodes could direct us towards the cure for ALS, do you believe me?