Introducing the new King’s Centre for Ageing Resilience in a Changing Environment

26th October 2023 – by King’s College London

Grey-haired man jogging in white T shirt in front of trees

 

We are thrilled to announce a further funding award for a new research programme: the King’s Centre for Ageing Resilience in a Changing Environment (CARICE).

CARICE will be led by Claire Steves, Clinical Director of TwinsUK and Professor of Ageing and Health at King’s College London, and will involve researchers from across the university. We are delighted to be leading on this work from within the Department of Twin Research, given our 30-year history in studying health and ageing through TwinsUK.

CARICE’s mission is to address the dual challenge of climate change and ageing populations. Its vision is that older people will develop greater biological and social resilience in the face of environmental and physical stressors thanks to the benefits of greater scientific understanding.

CARICE’s four themes are:

·       Biological ageing resilience, led by Professor Cathy Shanahan and Professor Georgina Ellison-Hughes

·       Lifestyles and ageing resilience, led by Professor Steve Harridge and Dr Ana Rodrigues Mateos

·       Environmental stressors and ageing resilience, led by Dr Mariam Molokhia and Professor Mark Ashworth

·       Innovations to promote ageing resilience, led by Dr Jude Partridge and Professor Phil Chowienczyk

CARICE will support researchers at all career stages by creating an inclusive, interdisciplinary research environment in which they can focus future grants on pathways towards resilience. It will bring together researchers who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to work together, facilitating connections in the interests of addressing these global challenges.   

We look forward to sharing news of CARICE’s progress.

 

TwinsUK successful in bid for multi-million-pound award for resilience research

Tuesday 3rd October – by Paz García

Older, grey-haired man and woman holding hands facing away from the camera

We are delighted to announce that TwinsUK has received a multi-million-pound funding award to study resilience in health and ageing through Wellcome Leap’s Dynamic Resilience programme, jointly funded by Temasek Trust. 

Led by TwinsUK’s Clinical Director Professor Claire Steves, the award will see TwinsUK invite 2,000 twins for clinic visits to collect post-pandemic health data and samples through a study named Resilience after COVID-19. The team will then analyse these together with data collected before and during the pandemic to further investigate known and suspected sources of resilience in the body. 

Resilience is the capacity to withstand or bounce back quickly from difficulties, including stressors and disease. The COVID-19 pandemic was a major stressor for everyone during 2020-2022, both in terms of the disease itself as well as the wider impact on wellbeing due to lockdowns and shielding mandates.    

The Resilience after COVID-19 study at TwinsUK will allow researchers to understand how certain processes in the body – including inflammation, changes to the microbiome and altered metabolism – affect resilience, using the twin design to control for and unpick genetic and environmental contributions. This in turn will help identify sources of resilience which can be targeted to promote healthy ageing. 

Professor Claire Steves said: 

“As the world population gets older, we need to find ways of protecting ourselves and ensuring we are healthier for longer. One way of doing that is to understand what makes us resilient, and that is what we’re aiming to achieve through this research programme.  

“This work is only possible thanks to our twins’ dedication and contributions over many years before and during the pandemic, providing samples and answering questionnaires.  

“Eligible TwinsUK members will be invited to take part in the Resilience after COVID-19 study over the next three years, so do keep an eye on your inbox.”  

In addition, the Dynamic Resilience programme has also funded research at the University of Birmingham, in which collaborators at King’s College London will study blood and stool samples collected before and after cancer patients undergo treatment. They will use computational learning methods to understand how changes in hallmarks of ageing relate to clinical changes and how such changes could be developed as predictive biomarkers of resilience. 

We are thrilled that TwinsUK has been recognised as a world leader in this field and we look forward to contributing to essential work on resilience through these two awards. 

Hope for hearing loss

26th September 2019 – by Paz Garcia

Hand holding a hearing aid against a green background

A new study of over 250,000 volunteers has identified 44 new genes linked to age-related hearing loss.

A third of people are affected by some degree of hearing loss by the age of 65, which can lead to social isolation and disability.

Despite being such a common sensory impairment, hearing aids are the only treatment available and not much is known about the genes behind the condition.

These findings will help researchers understand how hearing loss develops and so help us find ways to treat and prevent the condition.

Professor Frances Williams, who led the collaborative research using data from UK Biobank, TwinsUK and ELSA among others, explained: 

“We now know that very many genes are involved in the loss of hearing ability as we age. This study has identified genes that we know already cause deafness in children, but it has also revealed lots of additional genes which point to new biological pathways.”

The study is the largest genetic analysis conducted to date of people who report problems with their hearing.

The work was from a joint project involving King’s College London and University College London.

What did they do?

The team wanted to identify the genetic component of adult hearing loss in the UK so that we can understand better how the condition develops as we age.

The researchers analysed the genetic data and questionnaire responses about hearing in over 250,000 participants of the UK Biobank aged 40-69 years to see which genes were associated with people who had self-reported hearing problems.

The team identified 44 new genes linked with age-related hearing loss of which 34 have not been linked to any form of hearing loss previously.

The researchers then checked their findings by studying TwinsUK and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

What does this mean?

These finding will help researchers untangle the sequence of events that lead to hearing impairment as we age. Future research will investigate the biological hearing pathways influenced by these genes.

This will help us to identify possible targets for new therapies to treat and potentially prevent or delay hearing loss with age.

Wells et al., GWAS Identifies 44 Independent Associated Genomic Loci for Self-Reported Adult Hearing Difficulty in UK Biobank, The American Journal of Human Genetics (2019).

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