Less than a hundred years ago, we considered ourselves lucky to achieve sixty years of age, and supporting the old age pension for over 65 year olds was not an issue. Now, with Australia and much of the developed world facing an increasingly older population against a shrinking population of working age, declining health during old age is a "make or break" issue for healthcare systems and society at large. Old age increases (sometimes, exponentially so) the risk of health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone degeneration, inflammatory disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
While billions are spent researching and treating these diseases as symptoms of ageing, in the Laboratory for Ageing Research we seek to identify the fundamental causes of ageing itself. We view ageing not as a result of a series of damages accumulated during a lifetime, but as a malleable biological program that can be intervened in and reversed. Indeed, experiments from simple organisms tell us that simple tweaks to single genes can greatly extend lifespan. The challenge is now on to translate these findings into mammalian systems, as well as uncover mechanisms that are unique to mammals. Treatments that intervene in this biological program may soon not only delay or even completely prevent diseases of old age, but may extend lifespan altogether. Such a strategy may allow us to stay healthy and productive well into what we today consider to be old age and beyond.
The Laboratory for Ageing Research is currently pursuing a number of ongoing projects in the search for understanding and interventions that may delay ageing, with a focus on female reproductive ageing: please see a recent article from the lab providing some background context to declining fertility with age.
The following projects and more are available for study at both the honours and PhD level...
- New treatments to maintain female fertility during biological ageing and following chemotherapy treatment
- Role of the pentose phosphate pathway and the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in biological ageing
- DNA transposons in genome instability and the regulation of lifespan
- New treatments to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy
- New treatments to maintain long term health and prevent accelerated biological ageing in cancer survivors
- Studies of the metabolism of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+)