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Changing course in ageing research: The Healthy Ageing Phenotype
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Professor Mike Catt
Franco OH, Karnik K, Osborne G, Ordovas JM, Catt M, van der Ouderaa F
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Ageing is often associated with the aged and the diseased, nevertheless ageing is a process that starts in-uterus and is characterised by a progressive functional loss but not necessarily by the presence of disease and poor quality of life. How to meander through life without crossing the confines of major chronic disease and cognitive and physical impairment remains one of the most relevant challenges for science and humankind. Delimiting that 'immaculate' trajectory - that we dub as the 'Healthy Ageing Phenotype' - and exploring solutions to help the population to stay or return to this trajectory should constitute the core focus of scientific research. Nevertheless, current efforts on ageing research are mainly focused on developing animal models to disentangle the human ageing process, and on age-related disorders often providing merely palliative solutions. Therefore, to identify alternative perspectives in ageing research, Unilever and the Medical Research Council (MRC) UK convened a Spark workshop entitled 'The Healthy Ageing Phenotype'. In this meeting, international specialists from complementary areas related to ageing research, gathered to find clear attributes and definitions of the 'Healthy Ageing Phenotype', to identify potential mechanisms and interventions to improve healthy life expectancy of the population; and to highlight areas within ageing research that should be prioritised in the future. General agreement was reached in recognising ageing research as a disaggregated field with little communication between basic, epidemiological and clinical areas of research and limited translation to society. A more holistic, multi-disciplinary approach emanating from a better understanding of healthy ageing trajectories and centred along human biological resilience, its maintenance and the reversibility, from early deviations into pathological trajectories, is urgently required. Future research should concentrate on understanding the mechanisms that permit individuals to maintain optimal health when facing pathological hazards and on developing and assessing potential interventions that could aid to re-establish resilience when lost or guarantee its integrity if present. Furthermore it is fundamental that scientific findings are translated incessantly into clear messages delivered to governmental institutions, the industry and society in general.
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