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Institute of Healthy Ageing

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The Institute of Healthy Ageing is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence for research on the biology of ageing and ageing-related diseases. The biological process of ageing contributes to increased risk of a wide range of diseases, from neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) and cancer to cardiovascular disease (causing heart attack and stroke) and age-related macular degeneration (causing blindness in the elderly).

Our primary purpose is to bring together researchers working on the basic biology of ageing (biogerontology) with those working to understand the causes of ageing-related disease. By merging the two, we aim to develop a new translational biogerontology using the ageing process as a point of intervention to protect against the diseases of old age. Our goal is to improve the health and quality of life for older people.

The work of the Institute of Healthy Ageing is pursuing these ends by:

  • Conducting world class research on the biology of ageing and ageing-related disease
  • Increasing capacity in research on the biology of ageing by training new researchers and nurturing the work of younger principal investigators
  • Teaching about the biology of ageing at undergraduate and postgraduate levels

The problem of ageing is not just an issue of biology, but also of social science, economics and the built environment. A secondary aim of the Institute is to nurture broader collaborations across UCL between researchers working on different aspects of ageing.

We aim, through our combined activities, to transform healthcare technology and the social conditions of the elderly to create a future society in which the lives of older people are healthy, meaningful and happy.

Governance

Origins

Work on the creation of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing began in March 2004 and was taken forward by a large team, including a cross-faculty Steering Committee whose membership included Prof Arne Akbar, Prof Ed Byrne, Prof Leon Fine, Prof David Gems, Prof Bob Lieberman, Prof Peter Mobbs, Prof Dame Linda Partridge, Dr Mary Phillips, Prof Mike Spyer, Prof Patrick Vallance and Prof Dominic Withers, with strong support from the then UCL Provost, Prof Malcolm Grant.

The Institute of Healthy Ageing formally replaced the earlier Centre for Research on Ageing in Autumn 2007.

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing

In 2010 Linda Partridge took on an additional role as a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. The close links that have since developed between the IHA and the MPI continue to help strengthen and enliven both institutions.

UCL's tradition of ageing research

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UCL has a long and distinguished tradition of work on the biology of ageing; indeed the roots of the modern evolutionary theory of ageing lie in the ideas of J.B.S. Haldane and Sir Peter Medawar both of whom worked at UCL.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Alex Comfort (1920-2000), famously known as the author of the 'Joy of Sex', carried out his pioneering experimental research into ageing in the UCL Department of Biology. His landmark work, "Ageing: The Biology of Senescence" (1956) helped to stimulate popular interest in the subject of biogerontology.

The Institute of Healthy Ageing follows in this tradition and continues to carry out ground-breaking research on the biology of ageing and ageing-related diseases.