Researchers hope to achieve healthy ageing by enhancing body healing capacity and reducing chronic inflammation.
Why does wound-healing deteriorate with advanced age? This issue will be addressed thanks to a research grant of nearly €11 million from the European Commission (EC).
Paolo Madeddu, Professor of Experimental Cardiovascluar Medicine at the Bristol Heart Institute, is a member of an international consortium that has received the EC grant. The consortium will try to understand the molecular mechanisms that cause impaired wound-healing and organ repair due to ageing or illness.
The study, known as "RESOLVE" will be co-ordinated by the Medical University of Vienna and aims to compare healthy and diseased wound-healing.
The UK team lead by Bristol University's Professor Madeddu will receive over €900 000. Their contribution will be to co-ordinate clinical studies on models of healing - concentrating on the impact of diabetes and ageing on tissue repair mechanisms.
Professor Madeddu will be responsible for delivering the "Research Activities in Human Model Diseases" part of the project. The basis for all human studies is a combination of careful clinical assessment of disease conditions and sequential analysis of biological data - to identify relevant molecular targets and separate them from those connected to regular organ repair.
Human studies will address aspects of major clinical relevance, such as good wound-healing in young individuals, non-healing diabetic foot ulcers, and chronic inflammation leading to scar formation in lung, liver and heart of ageing people.
Professor Madeddu, talking about the project, said: "The RESOLVE approach is unique; there is a vast pool of genes that encode proteins involved in organ repair. The consortium aims to characterise the functions of these genes, enabling the most promising ones to be identified, leading to development of the most promising pathways for wound-repair.
"The results of this project will aid doctors in determining the appropriate intervention for their patients, with little expenditure of time. It would be a monumental success for the consortium to identify substances that slow or even prevent non-regenerative diseases."
An objective of the project is to develop an experimental diagnostic chip, which will allow for the well-directed analysis of tissue cell growth to enable wound-healing and promote rapid evaluation of patient-specific data.
Professor Lutz-Henning, co-ordinator of the project at Vienna General Hospital, said: "RESOLVE's major objective is to find out why the body, at an advanced age, tends to react to injuries more often with non-revival of tissue growth repair. This is an important issue, because for some patients, scar formation and scar tissue are life-threatening."