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Dr Simone Immler


Reproduction and fertility, germline mutations, mechanisms of ageing

Increased longevity and healthy ageing are a long-standing dream of humanity but they come at a cost. Trade-offs between growth, somatic maintenance and reproduction are thought to be at the heart of organismal ageing, yet the very nature of potential trade-offs and underlying mechanisms remain elusive. In fact, findings of increased lifespan without a reduction in fecundity seem to defeat the idea of a trade-off altogether. We recently suggested that the trade-offs are likely to be more hidden and involve the mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of the soma and the germ line and the putative costs involved. Under this scenario, an increase in longevity may reduce germline repair and maintenance.

We showed that experimental germline ablation results in improved somatic regeneration in male zebrafish, supporting the “costly germ line hypothesis”. These exciting novel findings point to a fascinating possibility of a germline-mediated trade-off between somatic growth and maintenance versus germline maintenance. The interaction between the germ line and the soma ultimately affects lifespan but we currently do not understand the mechanisms underlying germline-soma signalling. Elucidating the regulating mechanisms of the trade-off between germline and soma maintenance driving ageing is the current focus of our research.