Ageing is the gradual and irreversible breakdown of living systems associated with the advancement of time, which leads to an increase in vulnerability and eventual mortality. Despite recent advances in ageing research, the intrinsic complexity of the ageing process has prevented a full understanding of this process, therefore, ageing remains a grand challenge in contemporary biology. In AGELESS, we will tackle this challenge by uncovering the molecular mechanisms of halted ageing in a unique model system, the bats. Bats are the longest-lived mammals relative to their body size, and defy the ‘rate-of-living’ theories as they use twice as much the energy as other species of considerable size, but live far longer. This suggests that bats have some underlying mechanisms that may explain their exceptional longevity. In AGELESS, we will identify the molecular mechanisms that enable mammals to achieve extraordinary longevity, using state-of-the-art comparative genomic methodologies focused on bats. We will identify, using population transcriptomics and telomere/mtDNA genomics, the molecular changes that occur in an ageing wild population of bats to uncover how bats ‘age’ so slowly compared with other mammals. In silico whole genome analyses, field based ageing transcriptomic data, mtDNA and telomeric studies will be integrated and analysed using a networks approach, to ascertain how these systems interact to halt ageing. For the first time, we will be able to utilize the diversity seen within nature to identify key molecular targets and regions that regulate and control ageing in mammals. AGELESS will provide a deeper understanding of the causal mechanisms of ageing, potentially uncovering the crucial molecular pathways that can be modified to halt, alleviate and perhaps even reverse this process in man.
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