New research project concentrates on how to age healthily

Leading scientists from around the world with gather next week to embark on a major new research project that aims to uncover the long standing genetic mystery that is healthy ageing. This project, co-ordinated by the Karolinska Institutet, will be studying subjects who have reached the grand old age of 105+.

Long life and ageing healthily is often thought to be the result of the their being an absence in individuals of metabolic disease. Now, however, Europe has seen a huge rise is metabolic diseases due to changes in lifestyle and increased life expectancy.

Studies in animal models to link genetic variations to age-related diseases have failed to clarify the exact function of these gene variants to disease development. Moreover, results from animal models have not been transferable to humans.

The EU-funded research project HUMAN attempts to tackle this fundamental issue by generating ‘humanised’ mouse models with livers and pancreatic beta cells originating from human donors using stem cell technology, making it possible to study the gene functions in human-derived organs. The human cells to be used originate either from patients affected by severe metabolic diseases or from individuals that enjoyed a complete lack of disease and exceptional longevity; 105 years or more.

– By studying these two very different groups, we have a fantastic opportunity to gain further insight into the interplay between genetics and physiology of metabolic diseases and longevity. The results gained might provide tools for individuals to better control their own health and ageing through diet and lifestyle, says project coordinator Associate Professor Knut R. Steffensen.

Next week, the consortium of HUMAN will meet in Stockholm, Sweden for their start-up meeting. The project HUMAN (Health and the Understanding of Metabolism, Aging and Nutrition), will receive 105 million SEK from the European Commission of which 35 million is granted to Karolinska Institutet. The consortium comprises 17 partners from Sweden, France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland and is coordinated by Associate Professor Knut R. Steffensen, Department of Laboratory Medicine of Karolinska Instiutet, Sweden.

Karolinska Institutet is one of the world’s leading medical universities. It accounts for over 40 per cent of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden and offers the country’s broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. Since 1901 the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has selected the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine.