Proper research funding could propel Britain to the forefront of a lucrative industry – combating the effects of ageing, a scientist has said.
Professor Richard Faragher, the University of Brighton’s Professor of Biogerontology, told a House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee that the country’s scientists have the expertise and potential to reverse or slow ageing and, in doing so, build a “formidable” industry.
Members of the House of Lords were meeting to question academic experts about the fundamental processes of ageing. The committee will use the information to help its inquiry into how science and technology can enable healthier living in old age.
Professor Faragher said one of the culprits of ageing were senescent cells, cells that go rogue and start secreting chemicals that damage the body. He explained that older bodies were less able to get rid of these cells.
He said: “At the start of your life, every time you make a senescent cell it is almost always dealt with pretty swiftly. By the time you are my age it is more on the lines of ‘Hello, this is your immune system, your call is important to us but we are experiencing high volumes (of calls), please stay on this line’.”
The professor explained that if senescent cells were eliminated then the result could be dramatic: “We know this is a major ageing mechanism because in experimental animals where it has proved possible to delete these cells these animals showed enormous increase in their health.
“If you delete senescent cells in these mice they ran about three times as hard and as fast as their little mates who are still full of senescent cells.
“I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for what this would mean (for) a human and effectively it would rather be like taking somebody of eighty, putting something in their drinking water for a few weeks and watching them jog like a person of thirty.”
Professor Faragher, from the University’s Centre for Stress and Age-Related Disease, added: “If Government leads, funds basic research properly, establishes the full translation pipeline that our clinical and pharmaceutical colleagues (are proposing), if we do these things then this country could build up a formidable industrial base in this area.”