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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) conducts research on brain ageing in addition to research on neurodegeneration and neuroregeneration.​


MOLAR is the neuroscience program of the Healthy Ageing program of the UMCG. The mission of MOLAR is to unravel the (molecular) mechanisms that underlie brain ageing, both under healthy and disease conditions. Novel insights and knowledge and emerging basic concepts concerning normal brain ageing and age-related neurodegenerative diseases will be translated into clinical practice. Our contribution to society should be to expand the knowledge about the ageing brain, improve prevention and/or treatment of age-related neurodegenerative diseases and to inform the lay public about research performed and progress made in these areas.

Description of the programme  

The MOLAR research program focuses on the process of brain ageing and the exploration of novel preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to treat CNS disease by increasing fundamental understanding of CNS disease etiologies, target identification, drug development, life style interventions 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, high resolution technologies for deep phenotyping of cells and systems in the context of disease development and progression, 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 Biomedical Sciences of Cells & Systems, Genetics, Pathology, Neurology, Neurosurgery, 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:

  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Neuro-repair strategies
  • Imaging of neurodegeneration and related processes

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 members participate in the MS Centrum Noord Nederland and NoNe-Gon: a network of 13 memory clinics in the North of the Netherland.

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 achieved 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, loss of protein homeostasis, 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.

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 2-monthly MOLAR science days for promoting interdepartmental interaction between staff members and PhD students to facilitate scientific exchange and sharing of technical expertise. Initiating and/or participating in national and International grant applications. Actively participating in national and international biomedical societies, such as the Dutch Glia Society, Dutch Society for Neuroscience, Dutch Society for MS Research, Alzheimer Nederland, 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 MS Centrum Noord Nederland 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

Programme leaders   Participating researchers  

W. Baron
K.P.H. Biber
H.W.G.M. Boddeke
P.P. de Deyn
R.A.J.O. Dierckx
J. Doorduin
W.F.A. den Dunnen
B.J.L. Eggen
P.H. Elsinga
L.A. 't Hart
H.H. Kampinga
H.P.H. Kremer
G. Luurtsema
E.A.A. Nollen
J.T.M.L. Paridaen
O.C.M. Sibon
J.M. Spikman
D.S. Verbeek
E.F.J. de Vries
A.T.M. Willemsen
S. Withoff
J. van de Naalt