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LEAD SUPERVISOR: Dr Ghada Alsaleh, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences 

Co-supervisor: Prof. Christopher Buckley, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences

Commercial partner: Metavisionaries and Space Application Services (MSA)


Population ageing is a transformative social phenomenon impacting sectors like labor force and finances. Ageing is linked to cellular function decline and diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and infection. The growing elderly population affects quality of life and incurs significant medical-economic costs often underestimated. More research is needed to comprehend ageing at molecular, cellular, and organismal levels for better health. Space environments simulate accelerated ageing models, offering a platform to study ageing mechanisms. However, limited collaboration between Earth and space labs hampers research on space travel's impact on ageing. We established an innovation space lab in the UK, part of a global network of Space Innovation Labs, dedicated to studying microgravity's effects on ageing. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, we aim to advance cellular and molecular biology research in space, enhancing our understanding of human physiology and health on Earth. Autophagy, central to ageing hallmarks, is involved in many of these processes. Declining autophagy levels with age contribute to senescence in multiple tissues, including the immune system. Cellular senescence, a well-known phenotype associated with age-related dysfunction and chronic inflammation, represents a key ageing pathway. Exposure to microgravity in space impairs the immune response, increasing susceptibility to infections. NASA implemented a pre-flight quarantine program to mitigate infections after one astronaut's illness on Apollo 13. Our research revealed the role of autophagy in immunosenescence and demonstrated that autophagy levels can be increased by spermidine, reversing the ageing phenotype in human cells. In addition, we find that decreased autophagy leads to increased senescence in chondrocytes and fibroblasts from patients with osteoarthritis, an age-related disease. Targeting autophagy could effectively address age-related multimorbidity. Our goal is to identify a drug targeting autophagy, leveraging microgravity to induce accelerated ageing processes. 



Apply using course: DPhil in Molecular and Cellular Medicine


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