New funding to tackle healthy ageing


Food portions

Researchers at 28 UK universities, including Imperial, have received funding to tackle healthy ageing.

Professor Gary Frost, from the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, will lead the new Ageing and Nutrition Sensing (AGENT) Network, which will bring together a multidisciplinary team to develop the area of nutrition sensing during ageing.

We expect the Network to strengthen high-quality multidisciplinary research in the area of ageing and nutrition sensing. Professor Gary Frost Head of the Section for Nutrition Research, Imperial College

AGENT will be one of 11 new networks, made up of researchers from 28 universities, aimed at transforming ageing research in the UK. The research will be funded with £2 million from the UKRI's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC)

Studies have shown that nutrition and the systems the body uses to sense the nutritional environment have an effect on metabolism and ageing, but in humans it is not yet fully understood why some people metabolically age at a faster rate than others.

The AGENT Network hopes to shed some light on this question by bringing together researchers in areas ranging from nutrition to cellular biology and human physiology to population health, to develop and consolidate the area of nutrition sensing during ageing. 

The network will include collaborators from Imperial College London, The University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Edinburgh and University of Bristol.

Speaking about AGENT, Professor Frost said: "Being awarded the BBSRC/MRC Ageing network funding is a really exciting opportunity to make a difference in a field Imperial and the Department have had an interest in for a long time. It is fantastic to be able to bring new and established collaborations together to focus on the role of nutrient-sensing in ageing. 

"We expect the AGENT network to strengthen high-quality multidisciplinary research in the area of ageing and nutrition sensing, stimulate high-quality grant applications in this area, and hopefully influence policy making."

He continued: "The award is the result of an equal partnership with Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Kent and Edinburgh, and all those involved look forward to tackling this massive research area, from the relationship between nutrients and appetite to muscle, cognitive and bone health."

Previous reviews of how to boost ageing research in the UK have found research efforts to be fragmented, focusing on single aspects of ageing. With the new funding, these networks aim to provide researchers with strong interdisciplinary platforms to integrate expertise and knowledge across disciplines to deliver a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of ageing and how to increase healthy lifespan and quality of life in old age.

The networks also aim to increase collaboration with stakeholders – including working with the public, industry, charities, policymakers and health practitioners – to translate findings into policy, public health and new therapies.

Professor Richard Faragher, Ageing Networks Macro Coordinator, said: “We are at the cusp of scientific developments that will transform health in later years. By being able to keep millions of older people healthy and out of hospital, we can hugely reduce costs and pressures on the NHS and GPs. Be in no doubt. A race is now on, and the countries and companies that can capitalise on the biology of ageing will dominate 21st century healthcare.”



Benjie Coleman

Benjie Coleman
Department of Surgery & Cancer

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