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News and Events

ARCHA Researchers attend the prestigious Society of Glass Centenary Conference

Members of the bioactive glass research group within ARCHA, led by Dr Richard Martin, attended the Society of Glass Centenary Conference / European Society of Glass Conference in Sheffield (www.centenary.sgt.org/Conference.htm). The group presented five papers including presentations from: Ms Farah Raja on antimicrobial glasses to combat infection; Mr Louis Forto Chungong on novel glasses for dental applications and Mr Lucas Souza on novel bioactive glasses for bone repair and regeneration applications. The conference provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the work being undertaken within ARCHA to the wider international community.

September 2016

Could apple cider vinegar improve your health? 

Find out Thursday 1st September at 8:00 pm on Trust Me I'm a Doctor, BBC2 with Michael Mosley and Aston's Dr James Brown.

August 2016


"Old School with the Hairy Bikers"

Dr Carol Holland and ARCHA PhD student Jennifer Geraghty took part in the Programme "Old School with the Hairy Bikers" screened on BBC2 on the 10th May with two more episodes to come. The programme features an intergenerational project developing partnerships between teenagers and older adults, examining benefits for both groups. 

Old School with the Hairy Bikers, Episode 1 - View the first episode on BBC iPlayer at: http://bbc.in/1rSb04o.

Four teenagers are paired with pensioners in an attempt to transform their lives.  
BBC.CO.UK

May 2016

Researchers attend the Cognitive Ageing Conference in Atlanta

Poster presentation
Eleanor Callaghan
Eleanor in Atlanta


Dr Carol Holland, the Director of Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA), and PhD research students Fiona Leahy and Eleanor Callaghan, attended the Cognitive Ageing Conference 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Researchers from across America, Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries came to present work about cognitive ageing, including work on longitudinal research, working memory, prospective memory, metacognition, mild cognitive impairment and motor control. On Thursday, Carol gave a talk about a longitudinal study involving “ExtraCare Charitable Trust” villages. This study looked at changes in autobiographical memory and mediation of depression, perceived health, cognition and independence in older adults moving into supported living. During the poster session on Sunday, Fiona presented a poster on structured autobiographical memory training as a preventative strategy for cognitive and social functioning decline, and Eleanor presented a poster on the flexibility of switching between temporal and spatial attention in older drivers and its relation to driving behaviour. 
 

April 2016

ARCHAs Dr Richard Martin receives his ICG award 
Dr Richard Martin
Dr Richard Martin

The Science & Technology Facilities Council, ISIS have published an article on ARCHAs Dr Richard Martin receiving his ICG award, the Vittorio Gottardi Prize.

Bioactive glasses are widely used as synthetic implant materials to repair and replace diseased or damaged bone in patients with small bone defects. They are also used in glass ceramics cements and more recently there has been great interest in also using bioactive glasses in toothpaste to strengthen enamel.

Link to the article: ISIS User wins prestigious prize for glass research

 April 2016

March Paper of the Month

Building European Commitment to Prevent and Tackle Frailty: A Decalogue on frailty prevention
Carol Holland
Dr Carol Holland

Frailty is a common syndrome in older age that is defined as a state of high vulnerability to the risk of adverse events when exposed to a stressor, such as a new diagnosis of a chronic disease or exacerbation of a previously stable chronic condition, a fall or a traumatic life event. Frailty can be seen as the absence of resilience and includes both physical and psychological variables. It can lead to high health care needs, loss of independence, and is a predictor of end of life. Importantly, it can be treated and often prevented or reversed, which means that screening older people for signs of frailty is important. However, the extent to which frailty can be influenced by prevention or treatments is only now becoming apparent and new interventions are being examined. This paper is aimed at policy makers, medics, researchers, formal and informal carers and older adults themselves to provide some evidence and strategies on the management and prevention of frailty, in ten clear points - hence the title of "Decalogue". It is the result of collaboration of experts across Europe in the Frailty Action Group of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, in which Carol Holland and other ARCHA members play a significant role.

Hendry A, Rodriguez Manas L, Cano A, Bernabei R, Illario M, Molloy W, Vollenbroek M, Holland C, Garcia Sanchez I, Antunes PJ. Carta, A. (2015)  Building European Commitment to Prevent and Tackle Frailty: A Decalogue on frailty prevention. Luxembourg, Publication office of the European Union.

Electronic Link:  Building European Commitment to Prevent and Tackle Frailty: A Decalogue on frailty prevention

Posted April 2016

Jobs

ARCHA Fellowship

One post is available for a 4-year research fellowship with potential to progress to an academic post. 

Contract Type:  Fixed Term (4 years)
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  Closed

Further particulars and application forms are available here.

Post-doctoral Research Associate
One post is available for a 20 month fixed term researcher working with the EU funded project FOCUS (Frailty management Optimisation through EIP AHA Commitments and Utilisation of Stakeholders input (FOCUS). 

Contract Type:  Fixed Term (20 months)
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  Closed

Further particulars and application forms are available here.

Posted 03/03/2016

Vittorio Gottardi Prize awarded to ARCHA academic

Dr Richard Martin a member of the Medicines & Devices in Ageing cluster has been selected as the Vittorio Gottardi Prize Winner for 2016. He has been invited to collect the award at the international congress on glass in Shanghai.
The Gottardi award is a worldwide award that recognises leading glass scientists under the age of 40 and is given in memory of Professor Vittorio Gottardi. Dr Martin is the first non-professorial winner of this prestigious award and only the second UK winner.

4th March 2016

February Paper of the Month

Dr Doina Gherghel
Ageing effect on flicker-induced diameter changes in retinal microvessels of healthy individuals.

By 2022, 27% of the EU population will be 60 years and over.  As ageing is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke, non-invasive clinical measures of risk for such pathologies in asymptomatic individuals are necessary.  The assessment of retinal microcirculation offers us an important prognostic and diagnostic tool for unpredicted, acute circulatory events in an ageing population that otherwise are considered as low-risk.  This paper shows for the first time that important differences can indeed be found in the function of retinal vessels between healthy individuals of different age-groups.  A good understanding of these differences represents the first step towards a better prevention of morbidity and mortality caused by the number one killer: the cardiovascular disease.  

Ageing effect on flicker-induced diameter changes in retinal microvessels of healthy individuals.
Paper in Acta Ophthalmol. 2016 Feb;94(1):e35-42. doi: 10.1111/aos.12786. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Electronic Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26149453 

http://research.aston.ac.uk/portal/en/researchoutput/the-influence-of-ph-and-fluid-dynamics-on-the-antibacterial-efficacy-of-45s5-bioglass(f2cc7fa4-5314-41cc-9aef-cf291eb7dcb2)/export.html

January Paper of the Month

Saima Begum
Saima Begum


The influence of pH and fluid dynamics on the antibacterial efficacy of 45S5 Bioglass

Bioactive glasses fulfill many of the requirements for an ideal bone scaffold material because they bond to existing bone, are degradable and stimulate new bone growth by the action of their dissolution products on cells.  After surgery there is always a small risk of infection consequently there has been considerable interest in developing scaffold materials with antimicrobial properties.  However, there have been several conflicting reports in the literature over whether bioglass is antimicrobial.  The present study conducted within ARCHA characterised the antimicrobial efficacy of bioglass under a range of clinically relevant scenarios.  Results were found to be strongly influenced by the experimental conditions employed, which explains previously conflicting reports.  This paper identifies and explains which sites within the body that bioglass will act as an antimicrobial and which sites will be buffered by the body and therefore have minimal antimicrobial effects.

The influence of pH and fluid dynamics on the antibacterial efficacy of 45S5 Bioglass

Electronic Link: http://www.iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-6041/11/1/015006


December Paper of the Month

Ian Maidment
Dr Ian Maidment
Sedative load and frailty among community-dwelling population aged >65 years


This study explores the relationship between frailty and the number of sedative medicines someone is taking and how potent these medicines are, in a large population database.  The database contained details of appropriately 3, 500 senior citizens (older than 50 years of age) from Ireland living in the community.  We found that 19% of the participants took sedative drugs, most frequently sleeping tablets and antidepressants.  People who were frailer and more vulnerable to the side-effects of medicines, were more likely to take sedative medications.

Sedative load and frailty among community-dwelling population aged >65 years

Electronic Link:  http://www.jamda.com/article/S1525-8610(14)00672-0/abstract


Conference blog: Anita Morrison-Fokken

Midlands Ageing Forum
BPS Research Seminar Series: Beyond Boundaries: Exploring Psychologies of Ageing
Seminar 2, Positive Ageing: Lifestyles and living well
6th November 2015

Join us to find out what research into healthy ageing involves at a local university.

Open Event aimed at people over the age of 50 interested in healthy ageing.  
 Monday 2nd November 2015, 2:00 - 4:30 pm

The afternoon will consist of:

  • Welcome and introduction by  Dr Carol Holland, ARCHA Director 
  •  Visitors will be split into small groups and will rotate around the room to listen to presentations on aspects of healthy ageing. The presentations will last 10 minutes each with 5 minute Q&A sessions. They will be visual and interactive so that you can get involved.
There is no charge for this event and refreshments will be available throughout the afternoon.

To register for this event, please email the Centre Coordinator, Wendy at w.g.overton@aston.ac.uk with the names of the people who would like to attend.  There will be a limit of 100 attendees so do book early to avoid disappointment. 


ARCHA staff invited to attend the

EIT Health KIC workshop on metabotyping, nutrition and ageing trajectory

16 July 2015 9.30am - 5pm, MB246B, Main Building, Aston University, Birmingham, UK

A workshop for members of the EIT Health KIC consortium and the associated Innostars.
If you wish to attend, please contact Professor Helen R Griffiths on h.r.griffiths@aston.ac.uk or 0121 204 3950 
by 14 July. 


June  Paper of the Month

Dr Sri Bellary1


Senior Lecturer in metabolic medicine and honorary consultant physician at Aston University Dr Srikanth Bellary is also a Clinical Champion for Diabetes UK.  Dr Sri Bellary has developed a unified formulary to ensure equal access to medication for diabetes patients across Birmingham. Find out how he did this on the Diabetes UK website at Diabetes.org.uk.




May  Paper of the Month

Dr Irundika Dias

Paper in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia symptoms develop after brain cells are damaged in areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and behaviour. The major risk factor for dementia is age. Higher blood cholesterol levels in mid-life increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in later life. However, lower levels of the cholesterol-carrying high density lipoprotein (HDL) associate with increased risk for AD. HDL is considered “good” because it removes cholesterol from the body.  As HDL transports antioxidants, we have investigated whether antioxidant levels are lower in dementia patients, whether this changes the oxidation and affects the efficiency of cholesterol transport from cells by HDL. In this study we found that AD patients with vascular risk factors have low level of HDL and antioxidants and export of cholesterol to HDL is lower than in healthy control subjects of the same age. This study suggests the importance of improving micro- and macro-nutrient status in older adults.

Plasma Levels of HDL and Carotenoids are Lower in Dementia Patients with Vascular Comorbidities

Dias IH 1 , Polidori MC 2 , Li L 1 , Weber D 3 , Stahl W 4 , Nelles G 5 , Grune T 3 , Griffiths HR 1 .

*Corresponding author: Helen Griffiths: h.r.griffiths@aston.ac.uk

Author affiliation: 1Life and Health Sciences and Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, Aston University, Birmingham, UK.2Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I, Heinrich-Heine-University, Duesseldorf, Germany Institute of Geriatrics, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.3University of Jena, Jena, Germany.4Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I, Heinrich-Heine-University, Duesseldorf, Germany.5NeuroMed, MedCampus Hohenlind Cologne, Köln, Germany.

Electronic link: http://iospress.metapress.com/content/043n17244552312t/


April  Paper of the Month

Paper in Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism 

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia affecting around 36 million people worldwide.  The symptoms of the disease are associated with well-characterised patterns of damage in the brain. In addition, metabolic changes in the brains of AD patients, particularly abnormalities in the way the brain utilises sugars such as glucose have been identified decades before these symptoms appear. It is impossible to study such changes in the cells of living patients, and it is difficult to adequately study the disease in animals as they do not naturally develop the condition. Our technique uses human stem cells, that can be turned into brain cells to generate functional models of the brain. Generating functional brain models from these cells will allow us to study AD induced metabolic changes in order to determine how changes in the metabolism of these cells will lead to the neurodegeneration observed in AD.

Amyloid β 1-42 induces hypometabolism in human stem cell-derived neuron and astrocyte networks

Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication 8 April 2015; doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2015.58

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:
http://www.nature.com/jcbfm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/jcbfm201558a.html 

Marta A Tarczyluk 1 , David A Nagel 2 , H Rhein Parri 2 , Erin HY Tse 2 , James E Brown 2 , Michael D Coleman 2  
and Eric J Hill
2
1.    Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, James Black Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK
2.    Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK

Correspondence: Dr EJ Hill, Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK. E-mail:hillej@aston.ac.uk

Received 29 September 2014; Revised 17 February 2015; Accepted 7 March 2015
Advance online publication 8 April 2015

This study was supported by the Alzheimer's Research UK (PPG2009B-3) (www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/).


 March Paper of the Month 

Paper in BioMed Central Family Practice

This article reports an evaluation of the NHS Health Check in an area of Birmingham. The NHS Health Check is available for anyone aged 40-74 and assesses their risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. It also helps provide support for people who need to make lifestyle changes to help reduce their risk to these conditions. This is particularly relevant to people as they get older because our risk to cardiovascular disease increases as we age.



Be SMART: examining the experience of implementing the NHS Health Check in UK primary care

Rachel Shaw*, Helen M Pattison, Carol Holland
and 
Richard Cooke
* Corresponding author: Rachel L Shaw r.l.shaw@aston.ac.uk

Author Affiliations 
School of Life & Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK 

BMC Family Practice 2015, 16:1  doi:10.1186/s12875-014-0212-7

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2296/16/1

Abstract

Background

The NHS Health Check was designed by UK Department of Health to address increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease by identifying risk levels and facilitating behaviour change. It constituted biomedical testing, personalised advice and lifestyle support. The objective of the study was to explore Health Care Professionals’ (HCPs) and patients’ experiences of delivering and receiving the NHS Health Check in an inner-city region of England.

Methods

Patients and HCPs in primary care were interviewed using semi-structured schedules. Data were analysed using Thematic Analysis.

Results

Four themes were identified. Firstly, Health Check as a test of ‘roadworthiness’ for people. The roadworthiness metaphor resonated with some patients but it signified a passive stance toward illness. Some patients described the check as useful in the theme, Health check as revelatory. HCPs found visual aids demonstrating levels of salt/fat/sugar in everyday foods and a ‘traffic light’ tape measure helpful in communicating such ‘revelations’ with patients. Being SMART and following the protocol revealed that few HCPs used SMART goals and few patients spoke of them. HCPs require training to understand their rationale compared with traditional advice-giving. The need for further follow-up revealed disparity in follow-ups and patients were not systematically monitored over time.

Conclusions

HCPs’ training needs to include the use and evidence of the effectiveness of SMART goals in changing health behaviours. The significance of fidelity to protocol needs to be communicated to HCPs and commissioners to ensure consistency. Monitoring and measurement of follow-up, e.g., tracking of referrals, need to be resourced to provide evidence of the success of the NHS Health Check in terms of healthier lifestyles and reduced CVD risk. 


Older Driver 

Older drivers who lack confidence on the road could benefit from a new training plan being developed by researchers at Aston University.

The project will target older drivers’ ability to pay attention to different locations when moving at speed – known as their ‘attentional switching flexibility’. As people age, this ability, essential for safe driving, can slow down, with serious implications for drivers and others on the road.

Although older drivers are reported to have fewer collisions and pose a lower safety risk to other road users than other age groups, it is known they are much more likely to suffer from a lack of attentional switching flexibility, which can severely affect their confidence. Aston researchers believe the extra time it takes older people to shift their attention from one thing to another may be a major source of this problem, and have developed a new training plan to tackle the issue.

A team, led by Dr Carol Holland, Director of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing at Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, will test participants with a series of visual prompts designed to gradually increase the speed at which they can focus their attention. They will then be placed in a driving simulator and asked to tackle difficult traffic situations such as at virtual roundabouts and road intersections. 

Their performance on the simulator will be measured over a period of time to assess the degree of their improvement. 

Dr Holland said: “Many older drivers give up driving because of concerns about their safety and a general loss of confidence on the road. We hope to be able to keep them on the road for longer because they tend not to be bad drivers at all – far from it. The issue is one of confidence; if this can be built up through a specifically-designed training programme such as the one we are developing, it will improve the safety not only of older drivers, but of other road users as well.

“No one has studied the impact of attentional switching costs on the proficiency of older drivers before. We want to change the untrue stereotype of older drivers as unsafe and help enable them to feel more confident and competent on the road.”


Delaying the point when people give up driving could have significant general health benefits. Early driver cessation is often a precursor of depression and isolation. Loss of independent mobility is also associated with ‘life space constriction’, which is linked to frailty and loss of independence.

It is also known that maintaining or increasing the proportion of older drivers on the roads in any area or region has a positive influence on the road transport environment and overall incident frequency.

A recent RAC study estimated that of the 500,000 drivers who turned 70 in 2013 in the UK, 170,000 of them will give up driving before they need to.

The project is part funded by the Rees Jeffreys road fund as a PhD studentship and will be conducted in collaboration with Professor Klaus Kessler of the Aston Brain Centre

For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or j.garbett@aston.ac.uk

Paper published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B
Bioactive Organic-Inorganic Hybrids with Improved Mechanical Performance

Human tissue including both soft tissue (e.g. skin) and hard tissue (e.g. bones) are continuously remodelled and regenerated throughout our lifetime. However, as we age our bodies’ ability to repair and regenerate significantly reduces. Healing in older adults can be particularly slow due to reduced cellular activity. As we age our bones become brittle and weaker and reduced bone density can be problematic for post-menopausal women. Consequently bone is the most widely transplanted material with the exception of blood. It is therefore very important to develop new and improved biomaterials for bone regeneration. Effective implant biomaterials can help tissue regenerate and significantly improve the quality of life of older adults in later life. Recently there has been a change in philosophy moving away from traditional materials (e.g. large metal plates that are inserted for life) towards developing new smart biomaterials that can help the body self-heal and eventually become absorbed and replaced by the body. Solid glass particles containing calcium and phosphorous (the main building blocks of bone) are now used widely clinically to treat small bone defects (e.g. orthopaedic bone grafting in non-load bearing sites, ossicular replacement, head and neck surgery, tooth root implants). The latest drive is to mimic nature by developing highly porous scaffolds which enhance blood flow and cell ingrowth to increase the rate of healing. However these materials are usually mechanically weak. Dr Richard Martin (ARCHA & EAS) in collaboration with colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Science have developed novel sol-gel polymer hybrids for bone replacement applications with vastly improved mechanical properties whilst still maintaining this porosity. A key feature of this work was ensuring that the organic and inorganic phases are strongly bonded together to stop the polymer from rapidly washing out from the hybrid which would reduce the strength. The work was recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B; full details can be found at http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2014/tb/c4tb01776e#!divAbstract

The work was supported by ARCHA and a Royal Society/Natural Science Foundation of China international exchange grant (IE131323, 513111170).

ARCHA staff awarded European funding 
Dr Carol Holland and a team from ARCHA including colleagues from psychology, biology and computer science have been awarded funding from the European 3 rd  Health programme in collaboration with European colleagues from Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. The project is to extend the work of the European Innovation Partnership on Active & Healthy Ageing in the subtopic of Frailty and Cognitive Decline. The title of the two year programme is “Frailty Management Optimisation through EIP AHA Commitments and Utilisation of Stakeholders input”, or “FOCUS”.