Dr. habil. Axel Kowald


Theoretical Biophysics, HU-Berlin

Invalidenstrasse 42
Biophysics Building
10115 Berlin, Germany

Phone: +49 30 2093 8386

Email me


Research Topics

Systems Biology and Kinetic Modelling:

Systems biology is a new emerging discipline that is basically a successor of mathematical modelling. The difference is that now the emphasis lies on the generation of large and quantitative models in contrast to the small and often qualitative models of the past. Obviously many numerical data are needed for this, such as data on enzyme kinetic parameters, enzyme and metabolite concentrations, affinity constants and degradation rates. For this a close cooperation between modeller and experimentalist is needed and intended. In 2005 I co-authored one of the first text books about System Biology which was published by Wiley. The book was quite successful and in 2009 we now published our second book about systems biology. For details please see the Publications link further down.

Evolutionary and mechanistic aspects of the biological aging process:

Most living organisms on this planet age (increased mortality with chronological time) and the big question is why has it evolved and how does it work ?
These questions are not trivial since common sense would argue the longer you live the better it is, because you can produce more offsprings. But in reality we see that things are different and all species have a specific lifespan ranging from a few weeks (i.e. insects) to over 100 years (humans, turtles, mussles). Over the decades many (!) explanations have been given to answer the "why" and "how" question. For instance:

Why ?

Removal of worn out individuals 
Reducing of overcrowding 
Accelerating generations times 
Mutation accumulation theory 
Late acting deleterious genes 
Antagonistic pleiotropy theory 
Disposable some theory

How ?

Somatic mutation theory 
Non-destructable waste products 
Error catastrophe 
Non-enzymatic glycosylation 
Telomere shortening 
Free (oxygen) radical theory 
Defective mitochondria

While there is now broad agreement that the declining force of natural selection is responsible for the evolution of the aging process (which drastically reduces the number of possible theories), there are over 300 different theories about the mechanisms of aging (the "how" question). One reason is that for a very long time it was not possible to test the ideas experimentally. However, there has been large progress in molecular genetics and biochemistry and since the mid eighties the techniques necessary to verify (or falsify) mechanistic aging theories are emerging (transgenic animals, knock outs, ES cells, etc).  To date, the most popular theories are the telomere shortening theory and a mixture between the free radical and defective mitochondria theories.



Axel Kowald



Last modified: Jan. 2010