Topics and goals

The aging population is slowly changing the epidemiological, social, and economic scenarios of our society. The health, welfare, and scientific research systems must adapt quickly.
Following this priority, we typify our research activities by interdisciplinarity, translational approach, the support to research and education, and public engagement.

Research on aging

The European Commission in the “White paper Together for health” of 2007 reported as the first goal of the European collaboration the AGING: “Fostering good health in an aging Europe.” The European Commission, in this document, supports the need to promote geriatric medicine also through the development of research strategies on AGING.
  In the document Global Health and Aging, the World Health Organization underlines the urgent need to act on the research front:
A better understanding of the changing relationship between health with age is crucial if we are to create a future that takes full advantage of the powerful resource inherent in older populations. To do so, nations must develop appropriate data systems and research capacity to monitor and understand these patterns and relationships, specifically longitudinal studie that incorporate measures of health, economic status, family, and well-being. And research needs to be better coordinated if we are to discover the most costeffective ways to maintain healthful life styles and everyday functioning in countries at different stages of economic development and with varying resources. Global efforts are required to understand and existing knowledge about the prevention and treatment of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Managing population aging also requires building needed infrastructure and institutions as soon as possible. The longer we delay, the more costly and less effective the solutions are likely to be”.

Research areas

The Aging Project includes research in 4 main areas. Aging is a complex issue, and we need to analyze it distinguishing different research questions. Research projects finding answers to these questions, in concrete terms, often cross several areas, relating to each other according to a circularity in which the parts are always integrated into the overall picture.

Why do we age

In order to understand what the causes of aging are, we start with basic research into the biological phenomena and the physiopathological and pathological mechanisms that determine the aging process.
For example, the molecular mechanisms involved in the appearance of sarcopenia and the condition of the frailty of the elderly are not fully known, as well as the biological and environmental factors underlying brain aging in healthy subjects and patients with neurodegenerative diseases.
Understanding why we age is not enough unless we also ask why some people age healthy and others do not. This area of research also includes the analysis of individual and social factors associated with healthy aging.

Age-related diseases

What are the causes of non-communicable diseases during aging? Why do some diseases only appear in the elderly? How can we prevent their onset or slow them down?
Aging is the most critical risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.
Besides, also oncological and autoimmune diseases affect the elderly: a reduced ability of the body to regenerate tissues properly, due to the aging of stem cells, hormonal alterations, and weakening of the immune system, are aging features that foster the onset of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Age-related diseases

What are the causes of non-communicable diseases during aging? Why do some diseases only appear in the elderly? How can we prevent their onset or slow them down?
Aging is the most critical risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.
Besides, also oncological and autoimmune diseases affect the elderly: a reduced ability of the body to regenerate tissues properly, due to the aging of stem cells, hormonal alterations, and weakening of the immune system, are aging features that foster the onset of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Burden of old age and disability

How can we contain the impact of an aging population also from a socio-economic point of view? By acting in advance, with prevention and lifestyle medicine, which like any form of medicine, requires a rigorous experimental approach. This research area includes projects aimed at developing and testing interventions for the prevention and mitigation of age-related diseases. We will also evaluate the impact of these interventions with costeffectiveness models.

Prevention and treatment pathways

This Area includes the development and evaluation of the effectiveness of strategic interventions for treatment and care and prevention (relapses of chronic diseases; models of risk prediction and prevention of falls in the elderly; model of management of the frail elderly at home). The research projects will be developed through the identification of best practices; the exploration of the sustainability and impact of the organizational/predictive intervention will be evaluated through before/after studies; the evaluation of effectiveness will be carried out with randomized and controlled studies if possible multicentric.

Prevention and treatment pathways

This Area includes the development and evaluation of the effectiveness of strategic interventions for treatment and care and prevention (relapses of chronic diseases; models of risk prediction and prevention of falls in the elderly; model of management of the frail elderly at home). The research projects will be developed through the identification of best practices; the exploration of the sustainability and impact of the organizational/predictive intervention will be evaluated through before/after studies; the evaluation of effectiveness will be carried out with randomized and controlled studies if possible multicentric.

Research facilities

The AGING Project uses for the research goals the following university’s facilities

  • Infrastructure for basic and translational research on AGING.
    The research groups will be able to use the spaces within the Center for Translational Research on Autoimmune and Allergic Diseases (CAAD). The CAAD provides all the facilities needed for the study of genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics.
    The DIMET facility DIMET (located in Palazzo Bellini), is equipped to guarantee all the needs for basic and advanced research, including the use of a recently built enclosure.
  • Infrastructure for methodological support to research.
    The goal of this infrastructure is to provide advice on the best study model for specific research questions, to produce a design and drafting of the clinical protocol, to be a facilitator for the presentation of studies to Ethics Committees and finally to be able to provide support to the conduct and analysis of data (data management).
  • Fundraising support infrastructure.
    The objective of this infrastructure is the monitoring of national and international (mainly European) research calls, in order to identify possible external funding sources useful for the development of research activities related to the AGING project.