Research project to give people "50 active years after the age of 50" launched in uk


Research project to give people

Recently published research suggests that more than half of babies now born in wealthier nations will reach the age of 100, but unless we do something about it, their bodies will still degenerate at the same rate with age and their extra years will be accompanied by poor quality of life, so a new 50 million pound project was launched in the UK this week to find ways to give people "50 active years after 50".

The new research initiative was launched at the University of Leeds. The University's Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (iMBE) will be coordinating the project. Leeds' iMBE is the UK's largest bioengineering unit and a world-leading centre of excellence in research for artificial joint replacements.

The program will focus on developing tissue engineering and regeneration technologies that can revitalize those parts of the human body that wear out with age such as joints, spine, teeth, heart and circulation.

The project will also be speeding up the time it takes for new methods to move from discovery into clinical practice. One of its ambitious goals is to develop ten new products in the first five years and halve the time it takes to get them to market.

The iMBE itself focuses on three main areas: joint replacement, tissue re-engineering and functional spinal interventions.

Researchers at the iMBE are hoping to give older people new body parts and implants grown from their own tissue, starting with hips, knees and heart valves.

Professor John Fisher, who does joint replacement and substitution research at iMBE told the BBC that they have already made an artificial hip designed to last for life, instead of the 20 or so years patients expect from current technology.

Fisher said by combining a durable cobalt-chrome metal alloy socket with a ceramic ball they can make a replacement joint that easily allows athe recipient to take the 100 million or so steps that the average 50-year old will be expected to take over another 50 years of life.

Fisher's colleague Professor Eileen Ingham said that she and her team at iMBE are currently developing ways of making transplantable tissue and organs that grow in the patient's own body, thus overcoming the problems of rejection currently faced by recipients of donated tissue and organs.

They have already made fully functioning heart valves using their method. They take a donated heart valve (the donor could be a human or an animal like a pig), strip out the donor cells, and implant the remaining inert scaffold in the patient where it re-populates with new cells from the patient.

Ingham told the BBC that trials in Brazil on humans and animals have shown promising results.

The money for the "50 active years after 50" initiative will come from a number of sources ranging from research councils, charities and industry groups. The project will bring together engineers, computer experts, chemists, physicists, biologists, researching and practising dentists and physicians, from all over the UK and overseas.

There are two major projects in the program: the 10 million pound Innovation & Knowledge Centre in Regenerative Therapies and Devices and the 11 million pound Wellcome EPSRC Leeds Medical Engineering Centre.

Source: University of Leeds, BBC News.

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Section Issues On Medicine: Retirees