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Healthy ageing across the lifecourse


This priority addresses the grand societal challenge of an increasing ageing human population and in particular, the disparity between lifespan and healthspan. BBSRC considers ageing to be a lifelong process, from conception through to old age and thus, the overall aim of this priority is to promote research that will lead to improved understanding of the maintenance of health across the whole lifecourse and to provide knowledge and evidence to advance the development of interventions to improve human health and wellbeing throughout life.


To support research that aims to increase our understanding of the biology of the normal healthy ageing process across the lifecourse which will lead to strategies for improving lifelong health and wellbeing, and thus reduce pressure on the health and social care systems.

Scientific scope

Systems and data-driven approaches, applied across the range of scales, from molecules and cells to systems, whole organisms and populations, are encouraged under this priority. We also encourage multidisciplinary approaches, including those that draw on expertise from across the biosciences and, where appropriate (and provided the majority of the work falls within our remit), proposals at the interfaces with other Research Councils. These might include collaborations between biologists and physical, medical or social scientists.

Illustrative examples of key areas within the priority are shown below:

  • Understanding the fundamental biological mechanisms of the ageing process across the lifecourse, its modulation by nutrition, physical activity, developmental factors and the extent to which these impact on health in later life
  • Understanding how ageing processes impact on homeostasis/physiological function in areas such as the musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, immune, cognitive, circadian and sensory systems, and how this can lead to age-related frailty and poor health
  • The role of epigenetic effects in development and ageing across the lifecourse (including transgenerational effects)
  • The development of appropriate model organisms and systems that provide insight into physiological processes that are key for maintaining health in humans; and understanding the biological basis of inter- and individual differences in the ageing process
  • The use of resources and data from cohort studies, biobanks and longitudinal monitoring to increase the translation of research from model organisms and systems to the human population
  • Generating new knowledge to advance regenerative biology, including stem cell and tissue engineering research to improve the quality of life for the ageing population
  • The identification of 'critical periods' during the lifespan which may be particularly susceptible to biological influences/exposures and could potentially inform on the timings of interventions
  • Understanding the effect of modern lifestyle on human health, for example, sedentary behaviour, night shift work and sleep disruption
  • The development and validation of appropriate outcome measures, such as biomarkers of healthy ageing, which could be used to monitor health and track the impact of interventions

Although it is recognised that ageing is a risk factor for the development of disease, research directed at human pathology and disease is outside our remit.

Outputs and impacts

Outputs from an increased understanding of the basic biological mechanisms of normal healthy ageing are positioned uniquely at the vital, very early stage of knowledge generation in bioscience. Impacts are expected to improve health and wellbeing across the lifecourse when this increased understanding is used by other public and private funders to underpin innovation in healthcare, interventions to slow or modify the ageing process and new pharmaceutical targets.


Applicants should explore the potential to translate the outputs of the work. For example, applicants could consider the translational opportunities that can arise from multidisciplinary collaborations within the cross-Council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Programme and with ageing charities and the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Capacity building is an important impact and proposals could identify opportunities both for training and bringing researchers from other disciplines into the area. Translational opportunities for outputs or impacts on policy with Government bodies or departments (e.g. DH) should be explored.

Ethical and other issues

Applicants will need to consider their licenses and local ethical approval prior to applications and should refer to our grants guide.