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Molecular neuroscience and Ageing Research


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory processes are major hallmarks of neurodegenerative diseases and are intrinsically related to the ageing brain. In other words, in order to maintain homeostasis and brain function during the inevitable process of ageing, the basic mechanisms of neuroinflammation and the basic pathology of neurodegenerative diseases need better understanding. The research program ‘Molecular Neuroscience and Ageing Research’ (MOLAR) addresses research on brain ageing in addition to research on neurodegeneration and neuroregeneration. MOLAR addresses this requirement by conducting research on ageing and age-related neurodegenerative diseases.


MOLAR is the neuroscience program of the Healthy Ageing program of the UMCG. The mission of MOLAR is thus to unravel the mechanisms underlying the Ageing Brain, in both normal brain ageing and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, and to translate these basic concepts into clinical practice. Our contribution to society should be to improve prevention and/or treatment of age-related neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly. MOLAR’s ambition is to become a national and international leader in research and research training in the field of brain ageing and age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Programme Leaders   Principal Investigators   Description of the Programme  

The MOLAR research program focuses on the process of brain ageing and on exploring new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic neuroregenerative approaches to neurodegenerative diseases, namely in the form of dietary supplements, drug development and through the development of novel biotechnological tools, e.g. cell-based therapy.

The program develops also novel tools for ageing research, including iPS cell systems, specialized animal model systems, novel imaging techniques and PET ligands. The level of research within the program ranges from basic neuroscience to clinical research with the intention to apply newly acquired scientific knowledge in the clinic. This is achieved by the establishment of broad collaborations between the departments of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, Genetics, Pathology, Neurology, Neurosurgery and NMMI (Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging), and with the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA).

MOLAR supports three main lines of research performed by three groups:


  1. Neurodegenerative diseases
  2. Neuro-repair strategies
  3. Imaging of neurodegenerative diseases

MOLAR is firmly embedded in the Healthy Ageing consortium Ageing Brain of the UMCG and participates in a large PhD network on brain ageing research: the European Ageing Brain Network.

In addition, MOLAR coordinates the North Netherlands center for MS research and NoNe-Gon: a network of 13 memory clinics in the North of the Netherland.

Finally, the neuroimaging activities of MOLAR are performed in close collaboration with the Center for Medical Imaging North East Netherlands (CMI).

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

‘Healthy Ageing’ is a primary focus of research, patient care, education and training within the University of Groningen and the UMCG. MOLAR, as a program of Research Institute Brain and Cognition, is part of that strategy. The overarching goal of MOLAR is to improve early diagnosis, monitoring and timely treatment of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. This is done by identifying age-associated changes in the ageing brain and their possible confounding role in the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases and co-morbidities.

The program strives to achieve the following objectives:

  • To define genetic/transcriptome signatures of ageing of the healthy and diseased brain
  • To elucidate basic factors/confounders of brain ageing and neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. DNA damage mechanisms, protein aggregation, and neuroinflammation
  • To develop novel technology for diagnosis and monitoring of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. novel imaging techniques
  • To develop novel tools for regenerative strategies, e.g. anti-inflammatory compounds and cell-based therapy
  • To define targets for effective treatment

To achieve its goals, MOLAR maintains a strong research profile, leading to greater synergy and critical mass within and between its three research groups.

MOLAR strives to provide a high quality interactive research environment by:

  • Broadening its collaborations within the European Ageing Brain Network, which will lead to improvement and greater visibility of the scientific output in terms of publications (top 10% of its field of research), PhD theses and joint grant applications
  • Developing integrated educational platforms, including the organization of a yearly MOLAR science day for promoting interdepartmental interaction
  • Initiating and/or participating in national and International grant applications, e.g. DeltaPlan Dementia and Horizon 2020
  • Actively participating in national and international biomedical societies, such as the Dutch Glia Society, Dutch Society for Neuroscience, European Glia Society, European Huntington’s Disease Network, international C. elegans community
  • Actively promoting socially relevant MOLAR research to patients, patient organizations and the general public, by participating in public events of the interfaculty research institute BCN and also in events of the North Netherlands center for MS research and NoNe-GON
  • Promoting the valorization of MOLAR research by raising awareness among MOLAR PI’s about intellectual property regulations and the patent potential of their discoveries
Scientific and Societal output