The recently launched CARINA Network is an innovative initiative bringing together researchers and experts from different disciplines to tackle key questions on the immunology of ageing. In this article, BSI Research Partnership Manager, Ben Wilcock, tells us about the project and what it hopes to achieve.
The CARINA (CAtalyst Reducing ImmuNe Ageing) Network is a new interdisciplinary research network on the immunology of ageing funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and supported by the British Society for Immunology. The initiative has created a UK-wide, inclusive platform to enhance collaboration and foster knowledge exchange. With over 70 researchers from different disciplines and career levels across the UK, it aims to improve our understanding of the immunology of ageing: from preconception to old age.
The importance of the immune system & ageing
Most parts of the immune system change as we get older. Different cells and organs respond to different threats, and the efficacy of these responses varies according to the age of the individual. Studies suggest that immunity declines with age, making it harder to mount an effective immune response to infection. Older people seem more likely to experience severe outcomes upon infection with pathogens that have not been encountered previously, which has become increasingly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the population of older age groups rapidly grows, further understanding of the changes to the immune system throughout life could help to identify new routes to support ageing populations to experience healthier lives for longer. The CARINA Network seeks to achieve this by bringing together researchers and experts specialising in a wide range of areas related to ageing and working in a variety of sectors including medical, immunology, nutrition, industry and charity sectors.
The CARINA Network will facilitate large-scale collaboration between researchers from multiple disciplines who, for the first time, will work together to identify and better understand patterns and commonalities in the immunology of ageing.
What the network will deliver
The network will focus on mapping key research questions in immune ageing and investigating how to address them through an interdisciplinary and holistic approach. By identifying gaps in knowledge and exploring current research in this field, the network aims to expand existing understanding of this topic, identify new research strategies and create a space for further future development.
BSI involvement & management structure
The BSI is excited to have a leading role in supporting the CARINA Network. Our President, Professor Arne Akbar, will chair the CARINA Management Board comprising Dr Ed Chambers (Imperial College London), Professor Deborah Dunn-Walters (University of Surrey), Professor Janet Lord (University of Birmingham) and Professor Neil Mabbott (University of Edinburgh). This Management Board will work with an external Scientific Advisory Board made up of experts from multiple fields and Public and Patient (PPI) representatives, who will guide the network in identifying scientific priorities and ensuring that the network’s activity delivers the most benefit to the public.
Professor Arne Akbar, BSI President & Principal Investigator of CARINA Network, commented: “The CARINA Network will facilitate large-scale collaboration between researchers from multiple disciplines who, for the first time, will work together to identify and better understand patterns and commonalities in the immunology of ageing. I am excited to lead this new network, and the support of the BSI will ensure that CARINA is milestone-driven, inclusive and effective.”
Dr Doug Brown, BSI Chief Executive, shared: “The BSI is proud to support the management of this exciting new network. The CARINA Network will bring together researchers to map the key research questions in immune ageing and investigate how to address them through a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach, empowering researchers to develop new avenues of innovative research in this increasingly important field.”
By working with the CARINA Network, we aim to bring together the UK ageing research community at a national level to catalyse the important work in this area and shed light on the many different factors that cause immune decline during ageing. Through our support on different fronts, including communications, project management and patient and public involvement, we aim for a sector-wide transformation in our approach to ageing research, creating a holistic framework to address the key research questions in immune ageing as a united community in the years to come.