Editor’s note: IMRIC’s Prof. Eli Keshet, an Emet Prize winner, IMRIC’s Prof. Ittai Ben Porath, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center’s Rivka Dresner Pollak, and Hebrew U’s Dr. Amnon Buxboim are grant winners in the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership. Their projects will focus on bone fragility in diabetes sufferers and reversing the aging process.
Seven research projects combining the best British and Israeli minds have won £2.8 million in medical funding, with one hoping to “reverse the effects of ageing”.
The winning projects were announced on Wednesday evening after the British Council and the British Embassy in Israel identified the most promising bilateral submissions in the field of ageing.
Earlier this year, researchers in British and Israeli institutions were asked to propose cutting edge three-year projects on which they would work cooperatively.
The funded projects include one between the University of Oxford and Hadassah Medical Center who will try to understand why bones are much more fragile in old people with Type 1 diabetes.
Another, between the University of Cambridge and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “will provide clues as to how the effects of age might be reversed therapeutically”.
It will examine how the brain is able to induce harmful in central nerve system stem cells, and how are the physical signals of the brain transmitted to a central nerve system stem cell to change its function.
Other winning projects will make the most of “dramatic new developments in brain imaging methods” to better understand diseases such as dementia, while another will initiate “a brain database in Israel”.
The projects will be awarded nearly £2.8 million in total from the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX), a £10 million programme to support cutting edge UK-Israeli research.
Millions of pounds have already been spent on bilateral UK-Israel research in fields such as regenerative medicine, and British Ambassador in Israel Neil Wigan hailed the funding awards as part of a wider effort.
“These cutting-edge research collaborations not only position the UK and Israel at the forefront of ageing research world-wide, but also reaffirm the close connection between British and Israeli academic communities,” he said.
“Through these meaningful and sustainable collaborations, we can together tackle universal ongoing challenges”.
A founding partner of BIRAX is the London-based Pears Foundation, whose chair Sir Trevor Pears this week said it had now “earned its excellent reputation for successfully nurturing UK–Israel scientific exchange for the advancement of knowledge”.
He added that BIRAX would “have an enduring impact and legacy… we are delighted to be part of a family of committed partners”.
Bilateral links in the field were boosted in April when Britain’s former ambassador to Israel was appointed to lead the forthcoming NHS digital revolution.
Matthew Gould, Britain’s man in Tel Aviv from 2010-15, who helped establish BIRAX in 2011, is now chief executive of NHSX, a Government unit charged with setting national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data.
The funded projects are:
Age-related bone fragility in type 1 diabetes – the role of bone cell senescence
Principal Investigators: Professor Lynne Cox, University of Oxford Professor; Rivka Dresner Pollak, Hadassah Medical Center
The overall aim of this research is to understand bone fragility in ageing patients with type 1 diabetes who are currently at high risk of bone fracture and premature death, and to develop new treatments.
Microstructural MRI of the ageing brain
Principal Investigators: Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg, University of Oxford; Professor Yaniv Assaf, Tel Aviv University
The project will explore neurodegenerative processes in age related disease such as dementia by understanding the processes behind “healthy” brain ageing. Owing to dramatic developments in brain imaging methods for providing quantitative measures of brain microstructure, in particular, in Prof Assaf’s lab in Tel Aviv, these methods could be particularly powerful ways to detect subtle changes in brain structure occurring with ageing, providing early indicators of age-related neurodegeneration. No database of microstructural imaging yet exists.
This project aims to create the first database of microstructural imaging and to initiate a brain database in Israel.
How does ageing-associated niche stiffening disrupt nucleus mechanotransduction signaling and suppresses the regenerative capacity of adult CNS progenitor cells?
Principal Investigators: Professor Robin Franklin, University of Cambridge; Dr Amnon Buxboim, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This project seeks to find answers that will provide clues as to how the effects of age might be reversed therapeutically. It will examine how the brain is able to induce harmful in central nerve system stem cells, and how are the physical signals of the brain transmitted to a central nerve system stem cell to change its function.
Vascular Ageing, Rejuvenation and Healthspan Extension
Principal Investigators: Professor Manuel Mayr, King’s College London; Professor Eli Keshet, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This project proposes a novel anti-ageing approach to combat age-associated deterioration of vascular function. The knowledge gained in the project will be leveraged for the development of new anti-aging treatments.
Cellular senescence, aging and diabetes
Principal Investigators: Professor Masashi Narita, University of Cambridge; Professor Ittai Ben-Porath, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This project addresses in depth the roles of beta-cell senescence in aging and diabetes. The researchers aim to uncover whether beta-cell senescence contributes to, or, alternatively acts to counteract diabetes.
Algorithms for diagnosis and management of age-related macular degeneration
Principal Investigators: Professor Tunde Peto, Queen’s University Belfast Professor Anat Loewenstein, Tel Aviv University
This project aims to investigate the performance of new automated software algorithms to monitor AMD and detect progression, towards implementation in routine patient’s management; and to investigate the potential for machine learning to identify factors and biomarkers associated with long-term AMD treatment response.