Developing an Ageing Cluster for the National Mouse Genetics Network

In early February we organised an online workshop to discuss the addition of an Ageing Cluster to our current portfolio of funded projects.

This new cluster will be established through additional funding from the MRC Health Ageing and Wellbeing Programme Board.

The background to the creation of such cluster is the fact that securing better health, ageing and wellbeing is one of 5 strategic themes announced within the UKRI strategy 2022-2027: transforming tomorrow together. This also fits the general principle of the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network that, as funding opportunities arise, we plan to add in clusters to that tackle current challenges / key diseases. Ageing specifically provides a number of synergies across our existing clusters like Mitochondria or Cancer.

The narrative around ageing has moved to a more holistic approach targeted at

  • Deepening our understanding of the ageing process to promote health in later life by accelerating the identification and validation of key biological pathways associated with ageing, potential targets, biomarkers and intervention strategies, including pharmaceuticals that slow biological ageing and reduce the risk of multiple age-related diseases.
  • Motivating healthier lifestyles across the life course, by improving our understanding of the range of factors that impact on healthy ageing such as lifestyles, childhood and education, working life, and the environment, ensuring that this knowledge is used to develop and implement effective public health policies.
  • Reducing the significant variation in healthy life expectancy between socio-economic groups by strengthening the evidence base on health inequalities to develop more targeted interventions.

To discuss these key elements and the possibilities around the creation of this new cluster 54 delegates joined the workshop from institutions spread around the whole of the UK. After presentations from the Network and MRC, breakout groups were formed that started discussing possible themes and focuses for the Ageing cluster.

Very interesting and challenging debates around the biological definition of ageing and the possibility to focus on specific organ systems or take a whole-body approach to the study of the biological pathways involved in the ageing process made the workshop a stimulating event, with great promise for the establishment of the cluster.

The clear interest expressed by the UK scientific community, demonstrated by the high attendance and the engagement during the discussion makes the next few months something we are all looking forward to. Watch this space!

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