Life history regulation in the Westendorp Group

Our primary goal is to understand human aging, to interfere in the bio-molecular process, and to prevent the occurrence of degenerative diseases. We hope to enable people to live healthier for longer.

Life history regulation in the Westendorp Group

Research focus

Denmark has the advantage of having abundant data on the entire population as well as pathological specimens that go back to the beginning of the 20th century. Combining these exceptional sources will help identify different patterns of aging among individuals. Such a national approach overcomes typical pitfalls of surveys and cohort studies, which are often held back by low participation rates particularly among the very healthy and severely diseased.

“We use personal data to perform careful scientific explorations for the good of everyone,” says Professor and Group Leader Rudi Westendorp.

The techniques for handling and analysing large quantities of data have become mature using novel computational approaches. The use of personal data for research is only sustainable when it balances the rights and interests of the individual with that of society as a whole. Scientific explorations of personal data should be carried out in such a way that the intrusion of people’s privacy is minimal and appropriate.

Main findings

We discovered a Danish longevity birth hotspot centered on a group of rural islands, with a 1.37 times increased chance of becoming a centenarian for the cohort born 1906-1915. The hotspot has lower post-70 year mortality for both men and women, although markedly more so for women. Mortality is lower for all those born in the hotspot, whether or not they are still living there by age 70. The difference in mortality is still observable and not substantially weakened for women born in the hotspot 1916-25 and 1926-35. We find two regions with significantly increased probabilities of reaching age 100 for those resident there at age 70, both with centenarian rates similar to those of the birth hotspot (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30317223).