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Global ageing research consortium set to address how to identify the challenge of healthy ageing


Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences

The University of Bradford’s Centre for Skin Sciences will lead part of a global network to explore how humans age with the aim to develop new interventions to support healthy ageing. 

The Ageing Research Networks Global Partnering Awards UK is funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) securing better health, ageing and wellbeing strategic theme, which seeks to improve population health, tackle the health inequalities affecting people and communities and advance interventions that keep us healthier for longer. 

Investment from UKRI supports a global research consortium that aims to identify how ethnicity, lifestyle, culture, economics and environment impact healthy ageing. It will also start to address issues around ageing across the globe to improve healthy lifespan for all. 

It will bring together seven UK Ageing Networks (UKAN) funded jointly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) together with 12 institutions across Singapore and Australia, which will be led by Bradford.  

Professor Julie Thornton, Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences, University of Bradford, and Director of the SMiHA (Skin Microbiome in Healthy Ageing) Network said: “This award will allow seven of the UKAN networks to integrate research themes with partners in Singapore and Australia and will be led by Bradford. Proposed events will allow networks to identify areas of collaboration between individual networks and global partners, as well as facilitate integration of knowledge and understanding of ageing mechanisms across all seven network themes.” 

Currently, ageing research focuses on many different individual aspects. The aim is to create international activities to develop existing collaborations and build new partnerships, which will significantly increase cross-disciplinary knowledge in key ageing research areas including skin microbiome, immune ageing, nutrient sensing, extracellular matrix biology, muscle ageing, cell metabolism and senescence (biological ageing).  

Professor Thornton added: “The UK ageing networks have identified large gaps in our understanding of human ageing on a global level. This UK-Singapore-Australia partnership will facilitate the integration of multiple UK ageing networks into the research agenda of our international partners to identify specific areas where there is the greatest need for cooperation and exchange of skills to develop a more cross disciplinary approach to healthy ageing research globally.” 

The seven BBSRC-MRC-funded UK Ageing Networks are:  

  • SMiHA, the Skin Microbiome in Healthy Ageing Network 
  • BLAST, Building Links in Ageing Science 
  • CARINA, Catalyst-reducing immuNe ageing
  • ECMage, Extra-cellular Matrix ageing
  • CELLO, CELLular Metabolism Over a Life course
  • AGENTS, AGEing and Nutrient Sensing
  • MyAge - Muscle resistance across the lifecourse

Director of the ECMage Network, Dr Elizabeth Laird, Department of Musculoskeletal and Ageing Science, Institute of Life Courses and Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool added “Effective strategies to promote healthy ageing depend on understanding and harnessing the biological factors driving ageing. We aim to accelerate progress with global collaborative ventures between world-leading scientists spanning several disciplines.” 

Director of the AGENTS Network, Professor Gary Frost, Head of the Section for Nutrition Research at Imperial College London stated “Developing a global community in nutrition sensing research will be game changing for the field.  A healthy lifespan is related to the profile of food we consume.  Yet we have little understanding of how food is sensed over the life span and how this relates to fundamental drivers of ageing.” 

Director of the CELLO Network, Professor Sian Henson, Department of Translation Medicine and Therapeutics at Queen Mary University London said, “The aim of CELLO is to address the biological cause for healthy ageing inequality in the UK, by partnering with other countries we will be able to grow our understanding of healthy ageing in order to unravel some of the root causes and find ways we can tackle these in the future.” 

The future of healthy ageing 

Guaranteeing future capacity in global ageing research is a principal objective, with the vision of establishing, extending, and maintaining these cross- and multi-disciplinary collaborations well beyond the lifetime of this award. There will be a focus on reciprocal exchange and training for early career network members and global partners to facilitate development of research skills relevant to each network’s theme and develop a global perspective on ageing research.