Universiteit Leiden

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€8.5m for research into healthy ageing and vitality

A large multidisciplinary team of experts on ageing has secured over €8.5m for a major study of which factors and solutions promote healthy ageing and increase vitality. The LUMC and the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR) are two of the centres involved in this national research project.

Nine research institutes and eight private parties are taking part in the study, which will begin in September. The team wants to be able to identify, slow down and reverse functional deterioration in the elderly to give them more years of good health. The research will be led by Eline Slagboom, Professor of Molecular Epidemiology at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and chair of the Dutch Society for Research on Ageing (DuSRA). ‘The life expectancy of the Dutch population is increasing, but this does mean that the number of people with one or more age-related diseases is increasing. That is why we are creating a platform for lasting collaboration on healthy ageing. This is the largest public-private partnership ever in the field of healthy ageing.’ 

Tackling several age-related diseases at a time

What is unique about this partnership is that the researchers want to tackle not just one age-related disease but several at a time. The team will use new biomarkers to determine which elderly people are at greatest risk of more rapid ageing and vulnerability to medical treatment. They will also research how lifestyle changes can influence the combined health of the metabolism, the immune system, the gut flora and the muscular system.

Another research theme is ageing at the cellular level. Here the researchers will look in particular at senescent (‘rusty’) cells and how to identify and deal with these. By intervening at an early stage in these in part familiar mechanisms, the researchers hope to slow down or even reverse diseases such as heart failure, dementia and cancer.

Thomas Hankemeier, Professor of Analytical Biosciences at LACDR, will use high-throughput metabolomics to look for biomarkers in blood samples from elderly participants. With the aid of organs-on-chips, his group will research the effect of these biomarkers and whether the knowledge generated can help improve treatments.

Largest healthy ageing partnership

Three projects have been brought together under the name of DuSRA-VOILA: VOILA (Vitality Oriented Innovations for the Lifecourse of the Ageing Society), SMARTage (Senescence Models, Aging Research and Therapeutics, led by Cleara Biotech) and Neuromet (Neuroinflammation and metabolomics). VOILA is a collaboration between the medical centres in Leiden (LUMC), Utrecht (UMC Utrecht), Groningen (ERIBA-UMCG), Rotterdam (Erasmus MC) and Maastricht (MUMC), Wageningen University & Research, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR), Delft University of Technology and the private parties Cleara Biotech, Sciex, Interscience/Sample Q, FrieslandCampina, &niped, Diabetes Fonds, Zorg & Zekerheid and the Leyden Academy. The partnership has received €6m from ZonMw and Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health. The rest of the funding comes from private parties.

Read more about VOILA and DuSRA.

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