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Don't miss BBC lectures on ageing, 28-30 December

Published on 23 December 2013 04:30 PM

The topic of this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, shown on BBC4 28-30 December, will be 'How we age'

Started by Michael Faraday in 1825, and now broadcast on national television every December, the Christmas Lectures are the UK's flagship science series.


Forming part of the British Christmas tradition for generations, the lectures have a different theme each year and are given by an expert in their field.

This year's expert, Dr Alison Woollard, is a developmental biologist from the University of Oxford. Her three ‘Life Fantastic' lectures will explore the frontiers of developmental biology.

Alison will answer some of the most profound questions about life itself:

  • uncovering the remarkable journey from a single cell to a trillion-cell organism;
  • revealing deep connections to our ancient fishy ancestors;
  • and looking at how we age and whether we can change this process.

Do we really want to live forever?

The lectures will also explore the serious ethical questions that stem from these discoveries. Should we tinker with evolution? Do we want to live forever? And should we be manipulating our own genes?

The 3 lectures will be broadcast at 8pm on BBC 4 as follows:

  • Saturday 28 December: Lecture 1 - Where do I come from?
  • Sunday 29 December: Lecture 2 - Am I a mutant?
  • Monday 30 December: Lecture 3 -  Could I live forever?

Alison will explain why every living thing eventually dies and what controls the ageing process. She will explore whether we could we ever halt this process and whether we can use this knowledge to improve or even extend life.

Visit the website of the Royal Institution to find out more about the Christmas lectures

Age UK supports research into ageing

Alison's colleagues Dr Lynne Cox, Karolina Chocian and Age UK-funded PhD student Hayley Lees are also in the limelight for their research on ageing. They feature in two short Royal Institution films inspired by the 'Life Fantastic' lectures.

In their film, Karolina and Hayley talk about how scientists hope to reveal the secrets of a long and healthy life by studying genes related to longevity with the help of a tiny species of worm.

Lynne Cox talks about shoelace-like caps at the end of chromosomes, called telomeres, that help cells tell how old they are. She explains how a region of chromosome 5 helps the body regulate the length of these telomeres and how studying this process is helping to understand ageing.

Visit and, from the date menu, select Wed 04 to watch Karolina and Hayley and Thu 05 to see Lynn's film.

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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