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Integrated Understanding of Health

Research within this theme will span the areas: Ageing; Diet and Health; Pharmaceuticals and Regenerative Biology.

MIBTP will fund 5 studentships in these areas each year.

Ageing:

Work in this area asks: what cellular, metabolic and physiological changes occur during ageing and how can we mitigate against them? Researchers within this topic use a breadth of behavioural, physiological, molecular, biochemical and computational methods to address these questions.

Research considered directly relevant to Ageing includes:

Research on the molecular and cellular basis of ageing (in humans, animals and models systems e.g. yeast, not plants)

  • Cell senescence, replicative senescence; the mechanisms and regulation of apoptosis/programmed cell death; telomeres, telomere biology, maintenance and,regulation; telomerase (including structure)
  • Mechanisms and effects of oxidative stress, free radical damage, reactive oxygen species (ROS), DNA damage and repair associated with ageing; mitochondria function and activity directly relevant to ageing (oxidative stress, superoxide release etc.)o Werners and Progeria (accelerated models of ageing)
  • The genetic control of ageing, including understanding the primary mechanisms of ageing and the underlying genetic determinants of life span, longevity and reproduction potential; individual genetic and epigenetic variation

Biomarkers of ageing (also potential biomarkers of health across the lifecourse)

Cell, tissue and systems biology in ageing and health across the lifecourse:

  • Maintenance and regulation of homeostasis, homeostatic mechanisms in relation to maintaining health through life and understanding the processes leading to frailty

  • Effectiveness of the elderly immune system

  • Muscle-tendon-skeletal system including locomotion, balance, metabolism and effects of physical activity; also includes ageing muscle biology and dysfunction (hypertrophy and sarcopenia, but NOT sports science/injury); muscle satellite cells and regeneration; maintenance of bone health and age-related bone loss (NOT osteoporosis).

  • Reactive oxygen species as propagators of tissue ageing, effects of free radicals, mitochondria biology (see above)

Diet and health:

  • The effect of ageing on responses to dietary constituents, for example, altered nutritional need to maintain physiological function
  • Altered food choice with age
  • Impact of diet on maintaining health during ageing, e.g. influence of nutrients on the health (and potential protective effects) of intestinal/gut, cardio-vascular, neural, musculoskeletal and other physiological systems 
  • Dietary/calorie restriction effect on ageing/lifespano Anti-oxidants, exposure to free radicals

Relevant aspects neuroscience – age-related progressive decline in cognitive function and the cellular mechanisms associated with this, e.g.

  • Generic mechanisms of non-disease-associated neurodegeneration, (but NOT studies of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimers, dementia, Parkinsons*); neuronal damage and repair, neurogenesis; fundamental prion biology in relation to understanding normal ageing (but NOT including studies on TSE/BSE/Scrapie transmission and disease)
  • Preservation/maintenance of cognitive function with age
  • Age-related cognitive dysfunction and decline, long-term memory studies (NOT visual learning/behaviour unless looking at changes in learning ability with age)
  • Sleep (specific to ageing)

Amyloidosis (the accumulation of misfolded proteins deposits in a tissue/organ which occurs during the normal ageing process). Includes mechanisms and function of amyloid fibrils and plaque formation (NOT studies of specific clinical conditions/diseases and structure/biophysical studies)

Changes in angiogenesis during the normal ageing process – the growth of new blood vessels/vasculature associated with repair mechanisms of damaged tissue and wound healing, and in response to physical activity (NOT that associated for clinical conditions, diseases or tumour biology)

Stem cells and tissue engineering – only include studies that are relevant to ageing and involve tissue regeneration or transplantation e.g. bone, liver, wound healing (but NOT chronic wounds/ulceration), nerve regeneration.

Relevant developmental biology but only if it includes some life course studies, i.e. developmental origins of optimal health. May include in utero studies, the mechanisms and effects of developmental factors and early life exposures on health during ageing (e.g. maternal influences, fetal or nutritional programming, imprinted genes)

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Diet and Health:

Researchers in this topic address questions such as: how can we regulate food intake and obesity using humans and model organisms to understand the regulation of appetitive behaviour and satiety at cellular, molecular and cognitive levels.

Includes:

  • The study of diet for the maintenance of human health.

Includes relevant aspects of:

  • Dietary components and effects (diet, digestion, absorption/uptake, nutrition, vitamins, food antigens and minerals (not synthesis)
  • Gut biology and interaction (.e.g. GI tract health & transport, epithelial barrier function; mucosal immunity; commensal bacteria)
  • Disease prevention through diet (e.g. antioxidants / bioactives and their protective effects; prevention of obesity and malnutrition)
  • Neuroscience (gut-brain interactions, psychology, satiety, appetite, food choice, flavour, dietary effects on cognition and mental health)
  • The influence of maternal diet on the developing foetus and/or future life course (e.g. through epigenetic modification; placental nutrition)
  • Food applications (neutraceuticals, including probiotics and prebiotics);
  • Effects of food structure, processing and modification on health-related food properties

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Pharmaceuticals:

Pharmaceuticals related research includes the development of novel therapeutics, including antibiotics and other drugs, including those for dental purposes. It includes biomedical or pharmacological research (for example on stem cells, ageing, neuropathological and other human illnesses) only where the research demonstrates a clear aim of relevance to the pharmaceutical industry

Includes:

  • Research on drug development and delivery such as:
    o identification of targets for therapeutic intervention
    o analysis and regulation of specific drug targets and drug transporters

  • effects and interactions of drugs with cells and cell components including enzymes, receptors, drug transporters

o understanding the mechanisms of drug resistance, prevention and combating drug resistance

o technology development for drug design.

  • Development of biomaterials for medical devises that have antimicrobial properties.

  • Underpinning bioscience and technology development to improve bioprocessing, scaling up of manufacture of novel drugs

  • Technology development for replacing animal use in drug testing.

  • Gene therapies

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Regenerative Biology:

This area includes projects whose driver is providing underpinning research leading to the repair, replacement or regeneration of cells, tissues, or organs, ultimately for clinical applications.

Includes:

  • Research on stem cells and their reprogramming where they are used for the purpose of tissue engineering or regeneration.
  • All tissue engineering research, including the development of 3D cell culture, tissue scaffolds & matrices, and the maintenance of tissue structure and function, and the generation of tissue models for research or pharmaceutical testing.
  • Growth factors and regulatory molecules involved in cellular communication that determine cell fate and differentiation, where the aim of the research is to develop an understanding of techniques for regenerative medicine.
  • The development of biomaterials or biomimetics; artificially engineered biological materials or units designed to replace natural human biological materials or units; development of biodegradable polymers, soluble molecules and related materials.
  • Development and application of improved wound healing technology, including fundamental studies on understanding wound healing.
  • Fundamental studies on understanding nerve regeneration.
  • Underpinning research that will enable the generation of patient-specific cell types (e.g. derivation of iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells).

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Departments carrying out research in the area of Integrated Understanding of Health