Areas of ExcellenceAgeing & Health

Few changes in the world today have greater significance than the continuing increase in life expectancy. The medical, scientific and societal challenges of population ageing are immense and new knowledge is urgently needed to ensure as high a quality of life as possible, throughout the life-course. Understanding ageing is crucially important because a large proportion of medical conditions develop as people grow older.

Recognising the benefits of better understanding the ageing process, the UK Government has identified it as a major priority and Newcastle, as a city of science excellence is recognised throughout Europe as leading the way.

The last two decades have seen major investment in both buildings and research into this high profile area, enabling the city to capitalise on its strengths and continue to make major contributions that are impacting upon people's lives across the world.

Find out more about the innovative research taking place across the city in the case studies below.

First Class Facilities

The Institute for Ageing and Health, founded in 1994 and based on the rapidly developing Campus for Ageing and Vitality at the Newcastle General Hospital, has established a unique, multidisciplinary environment for research, training and engagement with both public and business.

The Institute, recently awarded a Queens Award, is unique in bringing together biological, clinical and social scientists from across the region and those working within the NHS services for old age medicine and psychiatry. Already recognised as Europe's leading centre for research related to ageing, the Centre is researching the link between medical conditions and the fraility and disability that often comes with age.

International excellence in research is reflected in the recent awards of funds for a series of new buildings and research-council funded Centres. Building on a distinguished history of research on age-related diseases, the IAH has recently led the creation of a Clinical Ageing Research Unit, focused on early assessment and intervention in multiple disorders, and the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing. It also hosts the National Co-ordinating Centres for two of the NIHR Clinical Research Networks - in Stroke (SRN) and Dementias and Neurodegenerative Diseases (DeNDRoN)

Finding ways to tackle such problems will lead to improved treatment for one of humanity’s biggest challenges as people in many nations live longer.

Key Facts

Newcastle's Institute for Ageing & Health (IAH) is recognised as Europe's leading centre for research into Ageing.

The IAH's wide-ranging programme of investigation involves a core of around 200 researchers and postgraduate students, and attracts average grant income in excess of £6.5M per year.

The IAH's core research is consistently rated 5 or 5* at RAE.

The IAH hosts the Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource which holds a nationally recognised collection of well characterised post-mortem brain tissue from control subjects and people with Alzheimer's Disease and related conditions.

Research undertaken at the centre has contributed to ground-breaking developments, including the Face, Arm, Speech, Time – or FAST – test for strokes, together with work to raise public awareness of the issues associated with ageing.

The 'Newcastle 85+ Study' is a groundbreaking study which aims to identify the complex factors contributing to health in old age and help society plan for the health and care needs of today's and tomorrow's populations.

To find out more about the region's pioneering work in this area visit http://www.ncl.ac.uk/iah/about.

Case Studies

Newcastle Scientists working to ease the suffering of millions of people

Neuromuscular diseases are debilitating conditions that affect 300,000 people in Europe and 2.2 million across the planet.

Now, a team from Newcastle University’s Institute of Human Genetics is playing a crucial role in coming up with ways to tackle their debilitating effects.

Known as NMD, neuromuscular diseases affect either the muscles themselves or the nerves controlling the muscles, causing conditions that result in chronic long-term disability, and even early death from lung or heart failure.

The conditions, including those known as muscular dystrophies, are currently incurable but the Institute has been working as part of a European network on treatments that could ease the suffering of patients.

Find out more at www.ncl.ac.uk/ihg

Video games help children with celebral palsy

A team of experts working at Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and the NHS Foundation Trust have designed a series of video games designed to increase children’s motor skills.

The Limbs Alive project uses new technology to help children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy to use both their hands rather than favouring their stronger side.

Children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy tend to learn strategies and techniques to manage tasks with one hand even if there is only mild impairment in the affected limb.

As they grow older, these children increasingly neglect the impaired hand, but if this is addressed early enough - by increasing use of the affected arm - the impairment becomes preventable or even reversible.

New Gene uses new technology in groundbreaking medical testing

NewGene a joint venture between Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University is using the very latest gene-sequencing technologies,  to bring down the cost of genetic testing for diseases such as breast cancer and leukaemia and so increase their availability to patients and the public.

David Huntley, NewGene’s chief executive, said, “While the technology available to the company is vitally important, our principal asset is the clinical and genetic expertise of our staff. Headed up by our scientific director, Dr Ann Curtis, the NewGene team has vast experience and clinical expertise in the fields of genetics and molecular biology.”

Over the past 20 years the number of diseases that have been linked to genetic mutations has increased many times over. This increase in demand is stretching the NHS service and this is where NewGene comes in.

The new low cost technology offered by NewGene has the potential to significantly reduce costs to the NHS whilst at the same time increasing testing capacity, enabling more patients to be seen and substantially reducing waiting times for test results.