The objectives of EURAGE were the following:
1. Changes in the immune response
- to characterise immune functions in relation to age
- to evaluate the importance of paraproteins and myelomas in relation to the ageing immune system
- to study lymphocyte activation and the occurrence of autoantibodies
2. Ageing of the crystalline lens
- to search for and to evaluate the role of ageing and other factors in cataract
- to study cellular and subcellular aspects of lens ageing
3. Drug metabolism in the elderly
- to study the effects of ageing on the responses to, and handling and metabolism of, drugs in relation to key functions of the liver
4. Brain ageing and dementia
- to establish common European criteria for clinical diagnosis
- to evaluate neuropathological diagnostic criteria
- to initiate a collaboration with regard to tissue banking
- to set up common criteria for neuroimaging
- to study the need for a protocol for the ethics and evaluation of clinical trials.
5. The establishment of a new group on molecular biology and ageing.
The EURAGE network encompasses European research groups active in biomedical ageing research. EURAGE has promoted distribution of information, exchange of researchers and provision of animals and biological material throughout the European countries.
The SENIEUR protocol, developed under EURAGE, specifies criteria for the healthy elderly for inclusion in studies on normal ageing. As a consequence some generally accepted age related changes were proven not to be due to ageing but to disease processes. These changes include a decrease in the number of immunological T-cells and an increase in the frequency of autoimmune phenomena.
During ageing involution of the thymus occurs leaving the elderly with a lack of immume reactivity especially against new infectious challenges. New strategies were developed for the improvement of both overall immunity and vaccination efficiency in the elderly. Combined European clinical and experimental studies in the field of influenza vaccination are currently underway.
In the field of brain ageing and dementia, diagnostic criteria have been set out in neuropathology. Catalogues of brain tissue banks from normal and demented persons have been made available with a view to investigation of a genetic basis for senile dementia.
Studies on lens ageing were aimed at the development of strategies for cataract prevention or to delay the progression of early opacities by the use of anti cataract agents or the elimination of risk factors. The results indicate that anti oxidant therapy is not likely to be successful, most probably inhibitors of oxidant metabolism will be more useful.
A study of hepatic ageing allowed the clarification of the mechanisms of impaired drug clearance in the elderly and the development of new techniques for the study of the increased sensitivity of ageing organisms to drug effects. Also the relation between Kupffer cell functions and the susceptability to infection in old age was thoroughly investigated in conjuncti on with metabolic and endocrine response to injury and trauma.
Finally, EURAGE resulted in the formal classification of 4 categories of monoclonal gammapathies resulting in new perspectives for the diagnosis and treatment of elderly patients suffering from these disorders.
In most European countries the over-65 age group constitutes the most rapidly increasing segment of the population and, thereby, presents unprecedented challenges to the medical care systems of each country. The resources which are presently available and those planned for the near future fall far short of the projected needs brought about by the virtual doubling of this population segment by the year 2020.
The past record of the success of biomedical research in controlling human diseases and the ensuring savings resulting from reduced morbidity and mortality justify a substantial investment of funds and resources for the stimulation and coordination of European research activities. These should be directed at a detailed understanding of the genetic and biochemical basis of age-related diseases and the fundamental causes of the ageing process itself.
The increase in the number of older Europeans, as well as the incidence of age-related diseases and the large monetary sums allocated to health care for elderly persons led to the EC's concerted action in the discipline of medial gerontology (EURAGE).