New UK research cluster to study aging in model organisms

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced funding for a new aging-focused research cluster, with the aim of driving greater understanding of age-related diseases and developing new treatments. Part of the Medical Research Council’s National Mouse Genetics Network, the newly established aging cluster aims to refine existing models of aging by leveraging insights gained from various model organisms to create new mouse models of aging.

The use of mice as the primary model organism is thought to offer a robust platform for aging studies. Mice, with an average lifespan of two years, provide a unique perspective on the aging process, reaching adulthood in three months and considered aged from 18 months onwards.

In addition to mice, the aging cluster’s approach will encompass other model organisms, such as fruit flies and nematode worms, and will also integrate human aging datasets. This comprehensive analysis aims to identify both similarities and differences in aging between mice and humans, enhancing the translatability of research findings to potential applications in human health.

The new aging cluster, led by scientists from Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge, will focus on generating tools and knowledge essential for understanding the biological mechanisms of aging. By combining data from model species and human aging datasets, researchers aim to develop high-resolution maps of age-related changes at physiological, cellular, and molecular levels.

“This cluster offers researchers the opportunity to develop new animal models so that we may better understand ageing,” said Professor David Burn, pro vice chancellor of Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences. “This, in turn, will allow us to translate this research into extending healthy lifespan in humans in the future.”

The new funding, part of UKRI’s “Securing Better Health, Aging, and Wellbeing” strategic theme, brings the organization’s total investment in the National Mouse Genetics Network to £25 million. In addition to aging, the network oversees several research clusters, studying areas such as congenital diseases, mitochondria, haematology, cancer, and the microbiome.

Professor Patrick Chinnery, executive chair of MRC, said that the new cluster “will transform our approach to understanding aging and how to promote a healthy lifespan.”

Photograph: Kirill Kurashov/Shutterstock