Healthy ageing

Scientists at Birmingham are conducting research to ensure that old age is enjoyed and not simply endured.

In the UK, life expectancy is increasing by two years every decade, but healthiness is failing to increase at the same rate. As we age, our immune systems are less able to deal with new infections, or to control infections we were immune to in our youth. In addition, older adults are less efficient in responding to vaccinations.

A suppressed immune system leads to an increased risk of arthritis, inflammation, and chronic inflammatory diseases. The Institute of Inflammation and Ageing brings together leading academics across multiple disciplines, investigating the mechanisms underlying the loss of immunity that accompanies older age, and developing approaches to improve immunity in older adults.

The Inflammation Research Facility (IRF) is a clinical facility focusing on inflammation based within the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. It is run under the governance of the National Institute of Health Research/ Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility and links directly to University of Birmingham research labs. The IRF includes the careful characterisation of cohorts of patients with arthritis, kidney, lung and endocrine diseases, as well as utilising vital dentistry research to facilitate a truly cross-disciplinary approach to inflammation.

Bedside to bedside

The Institute of Inflammation and Ageing adopts a process-driven pathology approach, which allows the research on inflammation to be applied to a vast range of diseases, rather than to just a single illness. This means that for every £1 donated, £50 worth of research is carried out. Inflammation, like cancer, is indiscriminate in its choice of body-part to target. Common biological mechanisms can be identified across inflammation in the joints, liver, lung, eye and kidney as well as in bodily trauma. By sharing disease-specific expertise, the researchers and doctors in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing are able to share best practice to take their discoveries from bedside to bedside.  

Bench to bedside

By working together in a shared location with a shared goal, scientists and clinicians reaffirm their passion and dedication for this research. The clinicians are able to take a holistic view to exploring the science behind the symptoms that their patients present with, while the scientists are motivated to consider the patient that their day-to-day work is helping to support.  The Institute combines bespoke research labs and specialised clinical facilities to ensure that basic science is translated efficiently into patient treatment to offer an innovative approach to chronic inflammation.

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