Healthy Ageing Research
Studying the biology of ageing to help us live healthier lives
We’re all ageing, it’s a fact of life. And as we age we often experience many of the signs of ageing; aches, pains, illness, slower mental and physical responses. But do we have to? Is ageing really an essential part of getting older. Healthy ageing research at the Babraham Institute spans and unites our research themes. Our aim is to understand what changes in our body as we age and how that affects our lives. We hope that a deeper understanding of ageing biology could ultimately lead to lifestyle changes, policies and treatments that could help people to stay healthier as they age.
Scientific progress has driven incredible advances in recent centuries and life expectancies are higher than ever before. Yet improvement in healthy life span – the time when we’re still fit and active, often called health span – has been minimal. Almost 1 in 5 people in the UK are now over 65 years old and that proportion is rising. Partly as a result, many of us are now expected to work for longer into our old age and, in the current situation, by the time we do retire many of us will be too old to enjoy that time fully. By studying how cells in our body specialise, regulate their genes, communicate and defend themselves against illness, we hope to gain insights into why we age, why some of us age faster than others and how we can all take steps to stay healthy for longer.
The biology of ageing is generally not well understood, so we take a fundamental approach to understanding how our bodies change as we age. It’s not yet possible to directly intervene in the human ageing process. Instead, we mainly use a combination of cell culture, animal models, organoids, and computational models to examine and understand the basic principles of biological ageing.
There are many additional benefits to our work too. Many major illnesses including cancer, diabetes and heart disease become more common with age. Older people are also much more prone to contagious diseases such as flu. By understanding ageing, we can lay the foundations for ways to revitalise ageing systems in our bodies, which could greatly reduce the number of cases of diseases like these and many others.
Our Ageing Research
Ageing research is a highly collaborative focus of research at the Institute that includes all of our research groups. The many and varied effects of ageing represent a huge scientific challenge and each Programme at the Institute leads its own collaborative research focus.