Ageing and biology
A combined genetic and small molecule approach to studying the role of p38/MK2 stress signalling pathway in human premature ageing syndrome.
There is an increasing realisation that an improved understanding of the biology of normal ageing will give important insights into what is a major risk factor for many age-related diseases - age itself.
This programme studied accelerated ageing in a rare human genetic disease called Werner syndrome (WS).
WS is associated with more rapid ageing at the cellular level. If premature cell ageing underlies the premature ageing of WS individuals, the study of WS can aid in the understanding of not only how cellular processes lead to human ageing, but also in the pathology of age-related diseases.
The study used a combination of genetic modification and chemical drugs to study a key stress-signalling pathway and provide direct interventional evidence regarding its role in premature ageing. This in turn raised a number of important issues regarding the use of true "anti-ageing" medicines.
Such drugs (which target symptoms of ageing but not overt disease) have largely been the realms of fantasy. However, progress has raised the very real possibility of direct clinical intervention in aspects of the ageing process. This programme took the first steps to engage with this societal issue.
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For more information, read the full project details.