Race Against the Ageing Clock
People have always been searching for the ‘elixir of life’; the plot for hundreds of movies and novels, from Indiana Jones to Harry Potter, interest in how we age and finding ‘eternal youth’ spans every age, every culture. One major achievement of the modern era is the extension of lifespan, through improvements in medicine, nutrition and sanitation. Life expectancy at birth in the UK has risen by ~30 years; we now live well into our 80s. However, gains in lifespan do not match gains in health-span. Increased age brings progressive decline, increasing risk and incidence of diseases, including dementia and cancer. Ageing is a societal challenge: too many people spend their later existence with poor quality of life and high healthcare costs.
So, is ageing caused by accumulation of wear and tear affecting organs differently, or is there a single, underlying process? This question defines whether we should research different treatments for each age-linked disease or strive for an ultimate, universal cure. Recent research has uncovered conserved markers of ageing across different cells in our body, defined as ‘the ageing clock’, suggesting a single ageing process. Research in mammals has shown that you can ‘read’ the clock by looking at a set of epigenetic changes. Being able to read this clock allows testing of diet, lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions on the rate of ageing, both in the laboratory and by utilizing vast datasets from public health studies. The ability to measure the clock and understand the ageing process may allow us to change ageing rate or even ‘reset’ the clock, which has been demonstrated in experiments which create pluripotent stem cells from adult cells.
Come and find out more and get hands on with this research with scientists from the Babraham Institute. With them, you can investigate the ageing processes – take a look at ageing worms and find out how researchers can turn-back the clock with stem cells!
Registration not required!
Esther van Vliet
The Guildhall, Cambridge