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Wednesday, September 9, 1998 Published at 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK


The science of ageing unlocked

Genetically programmed to go on forever

BBC correspondent Pallab Ghosh: "Beyond good diet and exercise"
The UK Government is to spend £5m researching the fundamental causes of ageing.

The Science of Ageing project, launched on Wednesday, is designed to ensure the UK's ageing population becomes an "asset and not a burden" to the economy.

The BBC's Christine McGourty reports
Authorisation has been given for 29 nationwide research projects, with emphasis on early diagnosis of age-related illnesses, like osteoporosis and dementia, and new treatments to slow down the process of ageing.

'Minimise misery'

The project co-ordinator, Professor Mark Ferguson, said: "What we would really like to do is to keep people healthy and with a high quality of life for as long a time as possible.

"Really, it will minimise the amount of misery and disease and so on before death."

Professor Ferguson said that more accurate "targeting" of age-related illness is needed.

"You could target somebody and say 'you are especially prone to Alzheimer's disease or incontinence and if you do this you will greatly minimise your chances of this disease'."

He added: "When you can target the individual advice to people, the experience shows they take it much more seriously."

DNA bank

Researchers in Cardiff have already started psychological tests in local shopping centres to monitor individuals' ability to think and solve problems as they get older.

Professor Pat Rabbett said: "We are collecting DNA from our samples and we hope that the DNA bank, coupled with archival data we've got on their relative rate of change, will allow us to detect which people are genetically programmed to go on forever with very little change at all and which are less lucky."

Other projects will look into the role of genes in predetermining ageing and how cells in the body die.

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