Systems Biology of Aging and the Circadian Clock

Dr. Pål Westermark

Many scientific results obtained during the last two decades point to a tight connection between our daily rhythm - the so-called circadian rhythm - and processes that contribute to organismal and cellular aging. Our lab focuses on the study of the role of cellular circadian rhythms in cellular aging. We investigate both how the cellular circadian rhythm changes with aging, and how changes in the circadian rhythm themselves contribute to the aging process.

The circadian rhythm provides an orchestration of processes that should not occur at the same time in the cell. Some processes are switched off at night and turned on during the day; others are shut of during the day and active during the night. One hypothesis is that the deterioration of such orchestration is an important and often overlooked component of cellular aging.

We combine single-cell imaging and biophysical modeling to study how the circadian rhythm changes over age in different tissues in young and old mice. To study how processes in the cell are orchestrated, and how that orchestration might change as an animal age, we combine microarrays with theoretical and bioinformatic methods such as pathway analysis and control analysis. We are committed to using, developing, and discovering theoretical models and frameworks of highest clarity and rigor, and to combine those with state-of-the-art experimental techniques in one of Europe's foremost circadian rhythms labs, in order to advance our knowledge of aging and circadian rhythms.


The group currently consists of Dr. Pål Westermark, Paul F. Thaben, Sarah Lück, Dr. Michael Faber, Felix Wesener.


Our web service RAIN allows detection of rhythms in biological time series, using an innovative algorithm developed by our group. The accompanying paper is available in Journal of Biological Rhythms.

Recent Publications

Thaben, P.F., and Westermark, P.O. (2016). Differential rhythmicity: detecting altered rhythmicity in biological data. Bioinformatics btw309. PubMed

Lück, S., and Westermark, P.O. (2016). Circadian mRNA expression: insights from modeling and transcriptomics Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 73, 497–521. PubMed

Lück, S., Thurley, K., Thaben, P.F., and Westermark, P.O. (2014). Rhythmic Degradation Explains and Unifies Circadian Transcriptome and Proteome Data. Cell Reports 9, 741–751. PubMed

Thaben, P.F., and Westermark, P.O. (2014). Detecting Rhythms in Time Series with RAIN. Journal of Biological Rhythms 29, 391–400. PubMed

Westermark, P.O., and Herzel, H. (2013). Mechanism for 12 Hr Rhythm Generation by the Circadian Clock. Cell Reports 3, 1228–1238. PubMed


BMBF GerontoSys2 Project CIRCAGE, FKZ. 0315899


Dr. Pål O. Westermark

+49 30 20938970