New Ageing Cluster brings together national expertise to put ageing under the microscope

New Ageing Cluster brings together national expertise to put ageing under the microscope

New Ageing Cluster brings together national expertise to put ageing under the microscope

Key points:

  • The creation of a new Ageing Cluster as part of the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network will boost research into ageing and understanding the biology of age-related diseases in order to protect and improve health in later years, shifting our approach from treatment to prevention.
  • With over £20 million of funding from the Medical Research Council (part of UKRI) invested over the next five years the Cluster will work across model species and human ageing datasets to develop better models of ageing.
  • The new tools and knowledge generated by the Cluster will accelerate further scientific discovery to understand the biological mechanisms of ageing and be valuable for preclinical testing of potential therapeutics and healthcare interventions for a variety of age-related illnesses such as dementia.
  • The Cluster is co-led by Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge with participation in the Cluster by Dr Michelle Linterman, an immunologist at the Institute.

UKRI has announced new investment into the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network, creating a new collaborative research cluster focused on ageing. With a commitment of over £20 million in funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC, part of UKRI) invested over the next five years the Cluster will combine expertise to produce a high-resolution map of age-related changes at a physiological, cellular and molecular level, using mice as the main model organism.

The Ageing Cluster will be led by researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Cambridge and includes Dr Michelle Linterman, a senior group leader in the Institute’s Immunology research programme and an expert on the effect of age on the vaccination response.

Speaking about the new funding, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, UKRI CEO said: “UKRI’s support for this work builds on our core research and innovation investments, working with partners across disciplines and sectors to progress approaches to promote healthy ageing.

“The ageing cluster is an ambitious, innovative UK-wide collaboration which will uncover new mechanisms in human ageing through highly focused mouse studies, leading to new treatments that aid healthy ageing and wellbeing.

“The programme is part of UKRI's Securing Better Health, Ageing and Wellbeing strategic theme, leveraging investment from across UKRI to target priority challenges.”

The Cluster members are:

  • Laura Greaves (co lead), Biosciences Institute, Newcastle University
  • Walid Khaled (co-lead, Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge
  • Anne Ferguson-Smith, University of Cambridge
  • Michelle Linterman, Babraham Institute
  • Masashi Narita, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge
  • Dervis Salih, UK Dementia Research Institute at UCL, Institute of Neurology
  • Nicholas Schaum, Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge
  • Karen Suetterlin, NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre, Newcastle University

Mice: a robust model for ageing studies

In a mouse, which typically has a lifespan of two years, three months is considered as adulthood, whereas 18 months onwards is considered as aged. Due to the Institute’s focus on understanding healthy ageing, the Institute maintains a colony of aged mice to learn more about healthy ageing and how to improve healthspan – the number of years an individual lives without the burden of disease.

Although focusing on the development of useful mice models, the Cluster’s work will encompass wider model organisms such as fruit flies (Drosophila) and nematode worms (C. elegans) and also integrate human ageing datasets. This side-by-side comparison will highlight areas of similarities and differences between ageing in mice and humans and support the translatability of findings in mice to application in humans.

Dr Michelle Linterman said: “We know that a barrier for understanding ageing is linking and integrating knowledge of age-dependent changes across multiple systems in the body. Gathering together the expertise in the Cluster, and benefiting from the wider Network, will allow us to tackle this by looking at ageing in a holistic way to gain knowledge that will improve health across the lifespan.”

The work of Michelle and her team focuses on how different cell types collaborate in the germinal centre to generate a robust antibody response following vaccination and infection across the lifespan. Their work combines research in mice with human studies to deliver mechanistic insight into the germinal centre response that is of direct relevance to human health.

As part of the contribution to the Ageing Cluster, the team will utilise the Institute’s AAALAC-accredited animal facility for mouse breeding and analysis of ageing interventions, leveraging the facility’s twelve years of expertise in caring for ageing mice.  The Institute’s Flow Cytometry facility and Imaging facility will support this work by providing state-of-the-art analysis techniques to maximise the amount of information gained from each animal.

Supporting research to achieve better health

The new mouse models and tools created by the Cluster will be made available to the UK’s scientific community to support wider progress on understanding the ageing process and to provide a resource for preclinical testing and further discovery, ultimately delivering interventions that keep us healthier for longer.

Professor Patrick Chinnery, Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council (MRC), said: “The UKRI Mouse Genetics Network Ageing Cluster will transform our approach to understanding ageing and how to promote a healthy lifespan. This is only possible through a cross-disciplinary collaboration across the UK.”

An expanding platform of specialisms

The new Cluster means that National Mouse Genetics Network now oversees eight challenge-led research clusters: Ageing, Congenital Diseases, Mitochondria, Haematology, Cancer, Microbiome, MURIDAE (Modalities for Understanding, Recording and Integrating Data Across Early life), and Degron Tagging (enabling precision control of protein dosage). The Clusters each operate across approaches, combining mouse genetics with complementary research in human, cell, tissue and in silico systems.


Notes to Editors

Press contact
Dr Louisa Wood, Head of Communications,

Animal research statement
As a publicly funded research institute, the Babraham Institute is committed to engagement and transparency in all aspects of its research. Research using mice is an unavoidable part of our work although we only perform research in mice when absolutely necessary, utilising cell and tissue culture, organoids, human samples and computer modelling to progress research as much as possible without the need for animals. Our focus on improving human health and wellbeing means that we need to understand complex molecular and cellular interactions that shape epigenetic gene regulation, cell fate, metabolism, cell signalling and growth, and immune system function.

Please follow the link for further details of our animal research and our animal welfare practices.

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