April 13, 2024

New mouse genetic funding to combat human aging, dementia and disease – UKRI

Age-related diseases such as dementia are some of the most challenging disease areas we face. The UK’s new investment in Research and Innovation (UKRI), confirmed today, will boost national commitments to better understand the causes of these diseases and propose new treatments, through research in model organisms such as mice.

The investment forms part of the strategic theme of Ensuring better health, aging and wellbeing, one of the five core themes of UKRI’s current five-year strategy.

Medical Research Council (MRC) National Mouse Genetics Network

The MRC (part of UKRI) has committed more than £20 million over five years to investigate key disease areas using the mouse as the main model organism. It leverages world-leading expertise across many disciplines and drives better discoveries and results through closer joint working.

Led by scientists from the University of Newcastle and the University of Cambridge, the new Aging Cluster will improve existing models of aging, drawing on knowledge gathered from various model systems such as the fruit fly and the worm. In turn, this will generate new mouse models, complementing existing global and national programs to enhance the UK’s position as a leading center of excellence.

The new tools generated as a result of this funding will be available to the scientific community to improve our understanding of the aging process and provide a resource for preclinical testing and interventions.

Ensure better health, aging and well-being

Through this strategic theme, UKRI aims to improve population health, combat health inequalities that affect people and communities, and promote interventions that keep us healthier for longer.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO of UKRI, said:

UKRI’s support for this work builds on our core investments in research and innovation, working with partners across disciplines and sectors to develop approaches that promote healthy ageing. The Aging Cluster is an ambitious and innovative UK-wide collaboration that will discover new mechanisms in human aging through highly focused studies in mice, leading to new treatments that support healthy aging and wellbeing.

‘The program forms part of UKRI’s Ensuring Better Health, Aging and Wellbeing strategic theme, leveraging investment from across UKRI to tackle priority challenges.

Professor Patrick Chinnery, Executive Chairman of the MRC, said:

The UKRI Mouse Genetics Network Aging Cluster will transform our approach to understanding aging and how to promote healthy living. This is only possible through interdisciplinary collaboration across the UK.

Professor David Burn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Newcastle, said:

I am delighted that the University of Newcastle is an important part of the UKRI Mouse Genetics Network Aging Cluster. This cluster offers researchers the opportunity to develop new animal models so that we can better understand aging. This, in turn, will allow us to translate this research into extending the healthy lifespan of humans in the future.

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith CBE FRS FMedSci, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and International Partnerships) and Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics, University of Cambridge, said:

Collaboration is fundamental to our research activities at Cambridge. The new Aging Cluster is an excellent example of multiple institutions working together to add value and bring exciting new insights and insights to advance the critically important field of healthy aging. I am proud to be part of this important initiative that can provide new pathways to better health.

Professor Owen Sansom, director of the Cancer Research UK Scotland Institute and the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network, said:

We are pleased to add the Aging Cluster to the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network. The selected group is led by leaders in the field and we expect significant contributions over the next four years. With many age-related diseases being investigated within the Network, the new cluster is perfectly positioned to synergize with the other programs and maximize the collaborative work between clusters, which has been one of the Network’s many strengths since its inception.

Professor Walid Khaled, Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, co-leader of the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network Aging Cluster, said:

I’m delighted to be co-leading this project in Cambridge and look forward to working with the rest of the team across the UK. “Prevention is better than cure” and our project will generate a reference map that we will use in the future to evaluate interventions that can prevent age-related health decline.

Laura Greaves, Senior Lecturer at the Wellcome Center for Mitochondrial Research, Biosciences Institute, Newcastle University, said:

I am delighted to be co-leading the Aging Cluster at the University of Newcastle alongside our team of expert scientists. This ambitious project will reveal new mechanisms that drive aging and age-related diseases and accelerate our understanding of how we can promote healthy aging. Joining the MRC National Mouse Genetics Network presents an incredible opportunity to synergize our efforts with other researchers, to maximize the impact of our work and move toward a future with a healthier, more resilient elderly population.

Other information

Five strategic themes

The UKRI 2022 to 2027 strategy document sets out five themes which, by working across UKRI and leveraging new and existing investment and activity, aim to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle key national challenges and global. £75 million has been allocated to each theme over five years:

  • Building a green future
  • Building a safe and resilient world
  • Creating opportunities, improving results
  • Ensure better health, aging and well-being
  • Fighting infections

The MRC considers the use of animals necessary in many areas of biomedical research in order to better understand the living body and what goes wrong in disease. Animal research is essential for developing safe and effective ways to prevent or treat diseases.

All of our animal research is conducted in accordance with UK legislation and ethically approved by an independent review board. MRC researchers are expected to follow the highest standards of animal welfare. For more information, visit Research involving animals.

Top image: Credit: Neurobite, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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