New £3m centre to tackle age related illness

07 Nov 2012 00:01:00.000

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The Midlands is to be put at the heart of research into age related ill health to ensure old age can be enjoyed and not endured.

The new £3m MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research is a partnership between The University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham which will bring together exceptional scientists, clinicians and industrial partners — as well as the local community — to address one of the 21st century’s most pressing health concerns.

The £3m research centre will study what goes wrong with our bones, joints, ligaments and muscles as we age; the neural and psychological changes that occur; and how diet, exercise and other interventions could help prevent frailty as we age. The centre will be officially opened on Wednesday November 7 2012 by the celebrated animal behaviour expert and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins.

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The new centre will be one of only two new national centres funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Arthritis Research UK. Professor Paul Greenhaff, from The University of Nottingham’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Deputy Director of the new centre, said: “This is a very exciting time to be involved in ageing research because we are developing the capabilities to study the mechanisms responsible for the loss of musculoskeletal mass and function that occurs in older people.  Importantly, we hope to develop insight into how ill health may accelerate musculoskeletal ageing processes, whilst identifying exercise, nutritional and pharmacological intervention that may combat these negative events.”

By 2050 40 per cent of population will be over 60

Tackling age related disease is a key health priority. The decline in bones, joints, ligaments and muscles are major contributors to declining physical function and poorer quality of life in older people. The number of people in the UK over 60 is rising rapidly and by 2050 will include 40 per cent of the population. Poor musculoskeletal health has a significant impact upon quality of life as well as work productivity. The estimated annual cost to the NHS of musculoskeletal decline is £5.7 billion.

Professor Janet Lord, the University of Birmingham’s Director of the Centre, said: “Ageing is a complex process that results in the reduced functioning of most of the body’s organ systems, with the musculoskeletal system (muscle, bone, tendon and cartilage) significantly affected. The new centre is focused on reducing this burden, on understanding the processes that affect the body and in developing treatments to ensure old age is enjoyed and not endured.”

The centre is studying why musculoskeletal tissue metabolism, function and mass decline with age and will explore the risk factors and biological events involved in these processes, as well as examining cognitive changes. Researchers also want to find out how pharmacological, diet and exercise interventions may offset this deterioration, and take these studies into care homes and other community settings to deliver tangible benefit for older adults locally, nationally and internationally.

Professor Alan Silman, Medical Director of Arthritis Research UK said:“People want to remain fully active and physically independent for longer as they age. We need to develop advice on diet, exercise and general health measures that can minimise the risk of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, as well as the muscle weakness and increasing physical frailty and increased risk of falling that occurs with age. The work of the new centre directed towards these goals will make a practical difference to the lives of millions of people as they get older.”

Nottingham and Derby research

Current projects include work led by Professor Paul Greenhaff at The University of Nottingham’s School of Biomedical Sciences in Nottingham and the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby. Researchers are studying how being physically inactive, for example during bedrest after an operation, has a negative effect upon muscle and importantly how this can be overcome with specific exercises and dietary supplements. This is complemented by work at Birmingham studying how everyday exercises can help to prevent loss of muscle and bone that occurs with age.

Official opening

Professor Dawkin will deliver the Centre’s inaugural lecture on the biology of ageing at the official opening which takes place at 5pm on Wednesday November 7 2012 in the Leonard Deacon Lecture Theatre at the University of Birmingham’s Medical School.

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The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is also the most popular university in the UK by 2012 application numbers, and ‘the world’s greenest university’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2011, for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

The University of Birmingham is a truly vibrant, global community and an internationally-renowned institution. Ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries. The University is home to nearly 30,000 students. With more than 7,500 postgraduate students from across the world, Birmingham is one of the most popular universities for postgraduate study in the UK. The University plays an integral role in the economic, social and cultural growth of local and regional communities; working closely with businesses and organisations, employing approximately 6,000 staff and providing 10,000 graduates annually.

For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. It is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.

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More informationis available from Professor Paul Greenhaff, at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 823 0133,; or Ben Hill, PR Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)121 4145134, mobile +44 (0)7789 921 163,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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