Our Vision for Ageing and Multiple Long-Term Conditions

25 March 2022 | By: Newcastle University | 4 min read
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Through the work done at our Biomedical Research Centre, we aim to help people with multiple long-term conditions to age well and live longer, happier lives. 

Our research is changing the approach to translational ageing research, resulting in important health benefits for all older people in the UK and beyond. 

The Ageing Challenge and Opportunity

By 2040, one in seven of us will be aged 75 or over. An ageing UK population with increasingly complex needs is putting ever more pressure on the NHS and social care system.

Yet, the Ageing Report from a House of Lords Inquiry in 2021 noted that capacity for translational age research is limited. There is a huge opportunity to better use what is known about the fundamental ageing process in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of common ageing syndromes such as sarcopenia and multimorbidity (also known as multiple long-term conditions).

What are multiple long-term health conditions?

One in four people in England are living with more than one long-term condition.

Also, the age at which people are acquiring multiple conditions is lower than it has ever been, and those living in the most disadvantaged communities typically have two or more conditions 10 years earlier than those in the least deprived.

These conditions include dementia, frailty, reduced mobility, and other medical conditions that can develop at any stage of life but become more common and troublesome with age. This can then lead to significant personal expense and costs to society, such as an increased need for health and social care.

Despite limited capacity for translational age research, ageing and multiple long-term conditions have been consistently raised as important research priorities, not only by the UK Government Life Sciences Vision 2021 and research funders, but also by patients and members of the public.

How our NIHR Biomedical Research Centre is changing the landscape of ageing

Our ongoing vision is to transform lives through world-leading research in ageing and multiple long-term conditions in the UK and beyond.

Since the beginning of its current funding period in 2017, the Biomedical Research Centre’s cutting-edge work has leveraged £79.6 million of external funding, delivered 868 publications and funded 62 interdisciplinary trainees in the last four years.

The Centre is home to ageing innovations across the sector, from generating an assessment toolkit to help with the challenging diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia to developing an app to help the public share their skin problems with their doctor remotely.

And there’s a lot more we want to do.

Our vision for the future

Next, we’re taking 21st century approaches to driving discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic to advance diagnosis, treatment and prevention for complex patient groups often not represented in experimental medicine research.

By building on our already internationally-recognised research on ageing, we’re addressing the gap identified by the Ageing Report and changing the approach to translational ageing research, resulting in important health benefits for older people.

For example, together with patient and public partners, we are building the UK’s first experimental ageing medicine platform to deliver experimental medicine studies into sarcopenia and multimorbidity.

This state-of-the-art platform will translate mechanistic insights into proof-of-concept studies with the potential to drive improved diagnosis and treatment of older populations, as well as inform future preventive strategies. Our vision will harness Newcastle’s world leading experimental medicine expertise to deliver an ambitious programme of research, aligned to local health needs in the following priority areas:

  • Translating the understanding of fundamental ageing processes into advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of common ageing syndromes and long-term conditions.
  • Building on world-class Lewy Body Dementia research and leveraging excellence in translational mental health research.
  • Tackling the common age-related, long-term conditions that encompass chronic liver disease and its associated long-term health conditions.
  • Addressing musculoskeletal disease as a major impediment to healthy ageing, a leading cause of health-related disability and a common comorbidity amongst multiple long-term conditions.
  • Developing and evaluating innovative approaches to diagnosing, monitoring and treating neuromuscular disease, mitochondrial dysfunction, and a broader spectrum of rare diseases.
  • Developing pioneering diagnostic and therapeutic interventions based on understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms underpinning skin and oral diseases.
  • Addressing the complexities of enabling people with multiple long-term conditions to age well through Digital Health Technologies.
  • Exploiting cutting-edge techniques in single-cell genomics, multi-omics, computational imaging and precision medicine to develop precision care for an ageing population.

World-class collaboration

To achieve our vision, collaboration is key.

Our Biomedical Research Centre sits at the heart of a world-class research environment across the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University partnership.

Through our existing AHSC partnership with the Cumbria, Northumbria, Tyne and Wear (CNTW) Mental Health Trust, we’ve strengthened the Biomedical Research Centre’s regional reach by bringing them in as a partner Trust for the first time.

CNTW boasts some awe-inspiring credentials, such as being twice rated ‘Outstanding’ in 2016 and 2018, and hosts the NIHR Applied Research Centre North East and North Cumbria.

Our world-class research environment is one of only eight Academic Health Science Centres in the UK, bringing together Newcastle University, both NHS Trusts, Newcastle Council and the Academic Health Science Network North East North Cumbria to address the health inequalities and medical needs of people in the North East.

Our vision is for Patient and Public Involvement, Engagement and Participation (PPIEP) to be a driving force for our research. Our plans and ethos align with the UK Standards for Public Involvement to guide best practice. We work with public contributors at all stages of research, ensuring that our research is relevant, meets patient needs, and maximises research quality, value and impact.

National Innovation Centre for Ageing

Our Biomedical Research Centre is also highly integrated with local and regional National Institute of Health Research infrastructure and facilities. It is also linked to two of the national innovation centres led by Newcastle University.

The National Innovation Centre for Ageing is a £40m co-investment with the UK Government, bringing together world-leading scientists, business and industry, health and care providers, and the public.
The Centre aims to create a world in which we all live better, for longer, and to help businesses harness the opportunities related to the ageing population through human experience, ethics, data, collaboration, emerging technologies, and innovative business models.

It is also home to VOICE®, a global community of patients, carers and other citizens, who share their lived experience to focus research and development on needs and priorities.

Together with VOICE®, the National Innovation Centre for Ageing has developed Ageing Intelligence®, which leverages the experience, wisdom, skills, insights and expertise of citizens, older adults alongside people of all ages and backgrounds, together with their stakeholders, while harnessing big data.

The National Innovation Centre for Ageing is co-located with the National Innovation Centre for Data, a £30m centre which enables the UK to capitalise on data opportunities across sectors and grow the economy, and the NIHR Innovation Observatory, the national medical horizon scanning facility.

A new health innovation neighbourhood...

Our Biomedical Research Centre is central to plans to develop a £500m campus on a 29 acre site.

The campus will be a world-leading centre of innovation and evaluation for services targeted to our ageing population, and will be a global beacon for healthy ageing, enabling people to live longer, healthier lives.

Under the approved plans, the site’s wide-ranging research will tackle major challenges in ageing, such as multiple long-term conditions, mental health issues and health inequalities, how to better integrate health and care across the life course, and how to develop original precision diagnostics and therapeutics.

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The above image is not representative of the proposed developments but rather show the aspirations of the 29 acre site.
The Future

Our research in the fields of ageing and multiple long-term health conditions is ground-breaking.

Through the work carried out at our Biomedical Research Centre, we aim to transform lives in the UK and beyond. Our cutting-edge environment is the ideal backdrop for world-leading experts and partners to come together and make a difference to the issues facing more and more of the population, every day.

For what we do next, watch this space.

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