Silver Age : Fostering new perspectives
Fostering new perspectives – fundamental research in aging and critical disease
“Aging is a process of progressive generalized impairment of bodily and mental functions that eventually results in a growing risk of illness and death.” Thomas Kirkwood, President of the AXA Research Fund’s Scientific Board, Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Aging at Newcastle University (UK), thus describes the biological reality of aging. Behind such a definition hides a formidable challenge for scientists: to improve the understanding of this mechanism to better treat diseases related to old age, and thus create the conditions for better aging.
Deciphering the biological workings of healthy aging
What is the link between age and critical disease? Do genes or lifestyles have more of an impact on healthy aging? Will it ever be possible to repair brain cells to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? ... All these fields, which are at the heart of the complexity of life, are being explored in fundamental research.
In this context, two lines of research prove particularly promising: understanding the genetic causes of aging and those of brain development. The AXA Research Fund’s guide “Silver Age: Aging Better” presents several particularly promising research fields.
The secrets of longevity at the heart of the genome …
… thanks to the work of Dr. Peter Joshi, from the Usher Institute and the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom). His approach? To study the still largely unknown genomic and biological bases of longevity to better understand the genetic determination of aging. Dr Joshi’s team has identified twelve DNA regions (including five new ones) that have an impact on longevity and play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, tobacco-related cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Also thanks to the research of Dr. Maria Blasco, Director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), Head of Telomères and Telomerase Group and former member of the AXA Research Fund’s scientific board. Convinced that studying aging at the molecular level will enable the process to be delayed, she is particularly interested in telomeres, the nucleotide sequences located at the ends of chromosomes that have a high impact on health and longevity. Dr Blasco believes that a better understanding of their functioning will help develop therapeutic strategies against age-related diseases such as cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases.
Towards brain repair
Unlike other cells in the human body, neurons do not regenerate. With age, they lose connection plasticity, or are even destroyed by the phenomenon of “neurodegeneration”, which remains incurable. This mechanism is studied by Professor Pierre Vanderhaeghen, AXA Chair in Neuroscience and Longevity at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). Prof. Vanderhaeghen explores the development mechanisms of higher brain functions and how their alteration leads to human diseases. His objective: to develop innovative approaches to brain repair - for example, through his work on the possibility of replacing lost or dysfunctional cortical neurons.
Silver Age Aging Better
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