The BLAST (Building Links in Ageing Science and Translation) network brings together researchers from across the country to increase our understanding of how the ageing process causes illness and impairment in later life. It will inform the nationwide research agenda for the development of new tools and interventions to help people stay healthy as they grow old and treat conditions for which little can be done today.
Potential new developments include treatments aimed at removing or modifying senescent cells, which are known to drive ageing pathology. Identifying markers of ageing biology that can detect changes before the onset of illness, and that can be used to monitor the effectiveness of early treatments, is also a priority. The network will also look at regenerative approaches to improving health.
Breakthroughs such as these would greatly increase older people’s quality of life in the UK and have a significant impact on national productivity and wealth. Research in the USA, for example, found that adding just one year to healthy life expectancy would add trillions of dollars to the US economy. Similar savings are possible for the UK, with the new research placing the UK at the forefront of a burgeoning new biotech industry.