An extensive and multidisciplinary team of experts in ageing secured over 8.5 million euros for a large-scale study into the factors and solutions that contribute to healthy aging and increasing vitality. The team wants to identify functional deterioration in the elderly at an earlier stage, slow it down, and reverse it so that they can spend more years in good health. Nine research institutes and eight private parties are collaborating in the research that will kick off in September of this year.
Wageningen University & Research is one of the initiators of this large-scale research project. Leading the research is Prof. Eline Slagboom, Chair of The Dutch Society for Research on Ageing (DuSRA) and Professor of Molecular Epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). “The life expectancy of the population in the Netherlands is continually increasing. Unfortunately, an ageing population means that the number of people with one or more age-related diseases is also increasing. This is why we are creating a platform for continuing collaboration into healthy ageing. The is the largest ever public-private partnership in the field of healthy aging.”
Slowing down ageing
Three projects come together under the DuSRA-VOILA umbrella: VOILA (Vitality Oriented Innovations for the Lifecourse of the Ageing Society), SMARTage (Senescence Models, Aging Research and Therapeutics, led by Cleara Biotech) and Neuromet (Neuroinflammation and metabolomics). The collaboration is unique in that the researchers do not want to only focus on one disease, but instead want to work on several age-related diseases simultaneously. The team uses new biomarkers (tracers) to examine which ageing people are most at risk of accelerated ageing and of increased vulnerability during medical treatments. They also examine in which way the combined health of the metabolism, the immune system, the intestinal flora, and the muscular system can be influenced by lifestyle changes.
Another research theme is ageing at the cellular level, in which scientists specifically look at senescent (“rusty”) cells and how they can be recognised and handled. By timely intervention in these partly-known mechanisms, the researchers hope to slow down or even reverse diseases such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
Research line lifestyle intervention
Prof. Lisette de Groot (Nutrition and Ageing) from Wageningen University & Research is the lead investigator of the VOILA subproject, in which lifestyle interventions are implemented for different groups of aging people. She does this in a collaboration with Prof. Clara Belzer (Assistant Professor at the Microbiology chair at Wageningen University & Research). This research line aims to link the heterogeneity of the response of the muscle, intestinal flora, immune system, and/or the metabolism to profiles of ageing, which are defined in parallel research lines. Wageningen also contributes to these research lines by making data available from previously conducted observational and intervention studies of ageing people.
Most extensive Healthy Ageing collaboration
VOILA is a collaboration between the medical centres in Leiden (LUMC), Utrecht (UMC Utrecht), Groningen (ERIBA-UMCG), Rotterdam (Erasmus MC) and Maastricht (MUMC), Wageningen University & Research, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR), Delft University of Technology and private parties consisting of Cleara Biotech, Sciex, Interscience/Sample Q, FrieslandCampina, &niped, Diabetes Fonds, Zorg & Zekerheid and the Leyden Academy. The partnership has also received €6m from ZonMw and Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health. The rest of the funding comes from private parties.