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Ageing, Regeneration, and Drug Research

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ARDRE (Ageing, Regeneration, and Drug Research)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2021-07-31

Aging is linked to a functional decline in organismic function throughout most living organisms, including both the kingdoms of animals and plants. Age-related decline in tissue function is counter-acted by regeneration processes restoring tissue functions in aged organisms. However, regenerative capacity is limited in higher organisms including humans, and the reasons for these limitations are not well understood. The project aims at better understanding molecular mechanisms underlying aging and regeneration, which will lead attempts to develop new drugs and drug-like compounds to improve regeneration and help to reduce the pathological burden of age-associated diseases, by targeting the aging process as such.
As life expectancy and the proportion of elderly people increase, our societies need to rise to the challenges accompanying this demographic shift. In the European Union, the segment of those aged 80 years or over is projected to more than double between 2017 and 2080, from 5.5 % to 12.7 % (WHO, Eurostat). Similar trends are observed for industrialized countries globally. For the ageing individual, healthy ageing is a foremost goal. As yet, our health systems, public and private institutions caring for the elderly are not sufficiently prepared, and the costs for treating age-related diseases are predicted to be huge. Therefore, effective measures to promote healthy ageing are urgently needed. The scientific aims of ARDRE are to explore molecular mechanisms leading to severe disabilities associated with old age, and identify small molecules with the potential to prevent their development. Innovative new insights are expected through the exploration of evolutionarily conserved molecular mechanisms of ageing and regeneration across kingdoms, comprising life forms as distant as plants and fungi, nematodes and tunicates to fish and mice, and finally humans. The ultimate goal is to develop regenerative strategies for (at least partly) reversing age-related damage to various tissues and organ systems.
ARDRE is an inter- and multidisciplinary consortium comprising scientists from the Faculty of Biology and the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy of the University of Innsbruck, Austria. They committed to establish a doctoral programme (DP) for 12 early stage researchers (ESR) with the aim to transfer their knowledge of ageing and regeneration mechanisms, and drug research to the next generation of scientists, and train the ESR at the highest level possible.
ARDRE FM have started the transfer knowledge of ageing and regeneration mechanisms and drug research to the next generation of scientists. At the same time the ESR recruited by ARDRE have familiarized themselves with their projects and produced a large variety of data in the various project areas; in some cases, first publications involving ARDRE ESRs are currently being prepared. Unfortunately, some work packages in ARDRE were affected to some extent by the Corona Lockdown, although all our students could carry out their regular work, under more restricted conditions. Some of our ESR have started their scientific work with remote work arrangements and provisional home offices. In order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, ARDRE has switched all meetings from in-person assemblies to virtual implementations for the time being. Additionally, the COVID-19 impact caused disruptions to regular visa services in most countries which had a major influence on the international academic mobility of the ARDRE ESR. For all our ESR, personal career development plans have been designed and agreed upon with die respective Supervisors. Research training is currently being given to the ESR, and the introduction to transferable skills has started. The research is progressing smoothly and significant results have already been achieved.
ARDRE has successfully implemented a number of activities to promote early-stage researchers in the first few months: The recruitment of all PhD positions was successfully completed in a fully transparent way. The rigorous recruitment procedure ensured that only excellent candidates were chosen.12 early stage researchers have been recruited and started their research programme.

We were able to launch a number of supervision arrangements to provide our PhD students with the best possible support and benefit from the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Training on research skills within the appropriate disciplines has started up, as well as additional training in non-research-oriented transferable skills. Each of our ARDRE PhD students has officially submitted their diploma thesis. From the beginning they have been encouraged to gain new expertise outside their own discipline with regular Journal Club Meetings (total 17 ) and with networking activities with other PhD programmes from both Innsbruck Universities. Various conferences were organized in cooperation. For the coming year, concrete plans include the organization of the Joint AGE_REG & ARDRE Winter School & Ethics Meeting, the 2nd FEBS Workshop Ageing and Regeneration, and the next Life Science PhD Meeting in Innsbruck. To bring together our ARDRE ESR in an informal setting we have created ARDRE MINI RETREATS. In absence of their supervisors, the ARDRE ESR have met three times already to exchange ideas.
The media activities were carried out on UIBK Newsroom about the ARDRE DP. The ARDRE website hosted at the server of the Innsbruck University (UIBK) was first established as recruiting page with short descriptions of the programme, research and extra training, research areas, the thesis projects, the ARDRE supervisors as well as the application information. In M 13-16 we have turned the ARDRE recruiting page into a key communication resource highlighting the details of the ARDRE. Our first short image video gives a brief overview on our research areas. Our PhD students have been encouraged to write short posts for our new ARDRE Instagram account. With regard to cofinancing, we would like to point out, that our ESR Camille Brucker has recently successfully applied for co-funding: Her project will be funded with the amount of EUR 5.000 sponsored by our Vice Rector for Research.
Several observations in the published literature suggest that aging processes are tightly linked with the capability of multicellular organisms to cope with age-related damage by regenerative processes. However, mechanistic links between aging and regeneration are still scarce. Accordingly, a systematic analysis of these molecular links bears the promise to increase our understanding of both aging and regeneration, with the ultimate aim to promote healthy aging. By carrying out their work in the ARDRE host labs, ARDRE early stage researchers will provide new insight into molecular mechanisms of aging, regeneration, and their interplay. Additional progress beyond the state of the art will be provided by the interaction between ESR working in basic science and ESR working in drug research, with the aim to develop together new pharmacological treatments for age-associated conditions and to promote optimal regeneration. We expect that these findings will pave the way for new strategies of healthy aging with a broad socio-economic impact on our health systems, and to cope with the problems posed on our societies by the current demographic shift.
ARDRE participation @ VERSA Video games for skills training, part I
ARDRE @ Life Science PhD Meeting 2021
ARDRE co-funding
ARDRE social media activities
ARDRE socialising: summer hike 2020
ARDRE Seminar Scientific Project Management, part I
ARDRE ESR & Programme Coordinator at the 3rd ARDRE MINI RETREAT
ARDRE Summer School 2021
The ARDRE website has turned from a recruiting page into a key communication resource
ARDRE Seminar Performing under Pressure
12 Early Stage Researchers have been recruited and startet their PhD programme