A particular focus is how we age and studying the underlying mechanisms controlling this process, for example how older people respond differently to infection compared to the young. To answer these questions we examine the regulation of gene expression, the control of cell function by signalling processes and the complex cellular interactions that produce an effective immune response. Read more about our research into the ageing process.
Three themes are central to our research remit: epigenetics – how the genome is regulated without change to the DNA sequence of genes, cell signalling – how cells respond to cues from their external environment; and immunology – how our immune systems are formed, how they function and how they are affected by age. Exciting research spanning these themes brings together unique and complimentary perspectives to deliver new insights.
Our research spans the whole life course and is as relevent to understanding the earliest moments of life as it is to delivering better health in later years. Our work uses a variety of experimental models and is supported by the cutting-edge capabilities of our scientific facilities.
One of the major achievements of the modern era is the extension of the human lifespan through improvements in medical care, nutrition, sanitation and access to clean water. Over the last century, life expectancy at birth in the UK has risen by almost 30 years so that both men and women can now expect to live well into their 80s. This is shifting population demographics; almost 1 in 5 of the UK’s total population is aged 65 or over and this is expected to rise to 1 in 4 by 2050.
These gains in lifespan have not been matched by gains in healthspan. Progressive physiological and physical decline are a part of normal ageing but increased age also increases the risk and incidence of numerous debilitating diseases and ailments including macular degeneration, dementia and cancer. Older people are also more susceptible to a variety of infections and exhibit reduced antibody responses to vaccinations due to the age-related decline in immune function.
Ageing is a societal grand challenge, scientific research offers the possibility to help more of us understand how to remain healthy, happy and active throughout life. If we are to understand and ameliorate these deficits in healthspan we need to understand the complex alterations in biological functions that lead to ageing.
Healthy Ageing Research
The Babraham Institute’s research is summarised in our Annual Research Report. Download the latest version to find out more of the science and the scientists of the Institute. The report provides overviews of each research group and facility in addition to feature articles showcasing highlights from each of the research programmes .
Much of our research involves collaborations with the University of Cambridge, with other research institutions in the Cambridge region and with universities and organisations worldwide, and all our PhD students are affiliated to Cambridge Colleges.
Where the knowledge generated from the Institute’s research has potential for application, our scientists work with clinicians or with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to translate the research for social and economic benefit. This process is managed by Babraham Institute Enterprise Ltd (BIE), the Institute’s wholly-owned trading subsidiary.
The Institute forms the cornerstone of the developing Babraham Research Campus, home to some 50 start-up and growing bioscience companies, which is managed by Babraham Bioscience Technologies.