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WHO and ESCEO to develop roadmap on bone health and ageing



A new collaboration aims to deliver valuable new evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to support and strengthen osteoporosis and fracture prevention within global healthcare agendas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO) are to develop a strategic roadmap on bone health and ageing, as well as advocating for a public health strategy to prevent fractures among older people. 

The collaboration entails a strategic roadmap of research and publication deliverables, in recognition of the fact that osteoporosis is a major contributor to the Global Burden of Disease.

The collaboration agreement, signed on 23 February, 2023, at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, is an important springboard for osteoporosis, a disease which continues to suffer from under-prioritisation in healthcare agendas worldwide. 

Although globally an estimated one in three women and one in five men aged over 50 years will sustain a potentially life-threatening fragility fracture in their remaining lifetimes, the majority of high-risk individuals remain undiagnosed and untreated. 

Furthermore, systematic post-fracture care for secondary fracture prevention is not available to the vast majority of fracture patients who are at high risk of recurrent fractures.

Professor Jean-Yves Reginster, President of ESCEO, said: “With the ageing of the world’s populations, musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoporosis are on the rise, posing an increasing and costly burden on healthcare systems. We believe that this important agreement with the WHO signifies recognition that action must be taken to address the fragility fracture crisis. 

“Currently, the WHO Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal Conditions and Ageing, in Liège, Belgium, is the only institution that technically assists WHO in matters concerning musculoskeletal conditions that affect older people as mandated by the WHO Director-General. The impactful data and evidence that we will deliver under the umbrella of this broader agreement, together with the important publications to be actioned by the WHO, are of immense significance.”

Within the framework of the five-year collaboration, commencing in the first quarter of 2023, WHO, in collaboration with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and the WHO Collaborating Center for Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal Health and Ageing at the University of Liège, Belgium will commence on a broad range of research. 

This will include, among other research objectives, collecting data on the prevalence and incidence of osteoporosis and fractures for countries and regions around the world, and reviewing evidence on interventions for preventing fractures in older persons to inform guideline development and evidence-informed decision-making.

In return, WHO has committed to generating a range of important publications, including global health estimates on prevalence and incidence, as well as commentary on interventions for preventing fractures.

Together, the impactful data and influential WHO publications are expected to put osteoporosis on the global map, thereby helping to drive much-needed policy action.  

IOF President, Professor Cyrus Cooper, stated: “We are delighted and honoured to be working with the World Health Organization on this important collaborative initiative. WHO plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease, including by establishing international standards, and by coordinating multiple actors toward common goals. We expect that the strategic research and publications within the framework of this collaboration will lay the groundwork for the prioritisation of osteoporosis and fragility fracture prevention within global healthcare policy. In this sense, the collaboration is truly a game-changer for people with osteoporosis worldwide.”

Dr Anshu Banerjee, director, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, added: “The initiative will serve to promote action on musculoskeletal conditions, in keeping with the goals of the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030 for concerted, sustained collaboration to improve the lives of the world’s older population. We look forward to a productive collaboration in the years ahead.” 


Tai chi outperforms conventional exercise for seniors



New findings from 12 studies involving 2,901 participants have demonstrated that tai chi outperforms conventional exercise in improving mobility and balance in seniors.

While tai chi is understood to be beneficial for functional mobility and balance in older adults, such benefits are not well understood due to large variance in research study protocols and observations.

This new review and analysis has now shown that tai chi can induce greater improvement in functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults compared to conventional exercise.

The findings showed the following performance results:

  • The time to complete 50-foot walking was 1.84 seconds faster. 
  • The time to maintain a one-leg stance was 6 seconds longer when eyes were open and 1.65 seconds longer when eyes were closed. 
  • Individuals improved their timed-up-and-go test performance by 0.18 points, indicating quicker standing, walking, and sitting.
  • Individuals taking the functional reach test showed significant improvement with a standardised mean difference of 0.7, suggesting a noteworthy positive impact on the ability to reach and perform daily activities.

Secondary analyses revealed that the use of tai chi with relatively short duration of less than 20 weeks, low total time of less than 24 total hours, and/or focusing on the Yang-style of this ancient form of Chinese martial arts were particularly beneficial for functional mobility and balance as compared to conventional exercise.

“This systematic literature review and meta-analysis are exciting because they provide strong evidence that tai chi is a more efficient strategy to improve functional mobility and balance in relatively healthy older adults, as compared to conventional exercise,” said Brad Manor, Ph.D., director of the Mobility and Falls Program at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“This research suggests that tai chi should be carefully considered in future studies and routines of rehabilitative programs for balance and mobility in older adults,” said Bao Dapeng, professor at Beijing Sport University.

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New standards for biomarkers of ageing



A paper has put forward a new framework for standardising the development and validation of biomarkers of ageing to better predict longevity and quality of life.

Led by Harvard researchers, the team has zeroed in on biomarkers of ageing using omic data from population-based studies. 

The team included ageing and longevity expert Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, founder and CEO of AI-driven drug discovery company Insilico Medicine, and the findings appeared in Nature Medicine

Ageing is associated with a number of biological changes including increased molecular and cellular damage, however, researchers do not yet have a standardised means to evaluate and validate biomarkers related to ageing. 

In order to create those standards as well as actionable clinical tools, the team analysed population-based cohort studies built on omic data (data related to biological molecules which can include proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics, and epigenomics) of blood-based biomarkers of ageing. The researchers then compared the predictive strength of different biomarkers, including study design and data collection approaches, and looked at how these biomarkers presented in different populations. 

In order to better assess the impact of ageing using biomarkers, the researchers found that clinicians needed to expand their focus to consider not only mortality as an outcome, but also how biomarkers of aging are associated with numerous other health outcomes, including functional decline, frailty, chronic disease, and disability. They also call for the standardisation of omic data to improve reliability. 

“Omics and biomarkers harmonisation efforts, such as the Biolearn project, are instrumental in validation of biomarkers of aging” said co-first author Mahdi Moqri, PhD, of the Division of Genetics. 

Biolearn is an open-source project for biomarkers of aging and is helping to harmonise existing ageing biomarkers, unify public datasets, and provide computational methodologies.

The team also emphasised the importance of continued collaborations among research groups on “large-scale, longitudinal studies that can track long-term physiological changes and responses to therapeutics in diverse populations”, and that further work is required to understand how implementation of biomarker evaluation in clinical trials might improve patient quality of life and survival.

“If we hope to have clinical trials for interventions that extend healthy lifespan in humans, we need reliable, validated biomarkers of ageing,” said co-first author Jesse Poganik, PhD, of the Division of Genetics. 

“We hope that our framework will help prioritise the most promising biomarkers and provide health care providers with clinically valuable and actionable tools.”

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Healthy aging research to receive $115 million



Global non-profit Hevolution Foundation has announced $115 million in funding that makes up 49 new awards under its Geroscience Research Opportunities (HF-GRO) programme.  

As part of Hevolution’s mission to catalyse the healthspan scientific ecosystem and drive transformative breakthroughs in healthy aging, HF-GRO is funding promising pre-clinical research in aging biology and geroscience. 

Through this first wave of HF-GRO awards, Hevolution will invest up to $115 million in this first cohort of 49 selected projects over the next five years. Its second call for proposals under HF-GRO will be announced later this year, offering an additional $115 million to address the significant funding gaps in aging research.  

Dr. Felipe Sierra, Hevolution’s Chief Scientific Officer stated: “These 49 important research projects represent a significant step forward in deepening our understanding of healthy aging. Hevolution’s prime objective is to mobilise greater investment around uncovering the foundational mechanisms behind biological aging. 

“We are steadfast in our belief that by examining the root causes of aging, rather than solely focusing on its associated diseases, we can usher in a brighter future for humanity.” 

HF-GRO awardees include researchers at prestigious institutions across the United States, Canada, and Europe, including the U.S. National Institute on Aging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Buck Institute, the Mayo Clinic, New York University, and the University of California San Francisco, among many others. 

The American Federation for Aging Research is providing programmatic support for the HF-GRO program, with grantees selected through a rigorous two-stage peer-review process involving 100 experts in aging biology and geroscience. 

Dr Berenice Benayoun, an HF-GRO grant recipient at the University of Southern California, stated: “I am extremely honored and excited that Hevolution selected our project for funding. This is a project close to my heart, which aims at understanding why and how the female and male innate immune aging differs. 

“This funding will support us as we start laying the foundation for a lasting improvement of women’s health throughout aging.” 

To date, Hevolution has committed approximately $250 million to transform the healthy aging sector, including the $40 million for specialised research and development in healthspan science recently announced at Hevolution’s Global Healthspan Summit. 

Hevolution is ramping up its investments to enable healthier aging for all and is now the second largest funder of aging biology research worldwide.  

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