Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University are teaming up to work on one of the biggest health challenges facing both countries today: healthy ageing.

Both organisations are contributing equally to a seed fund of $500,000 for joint research in precision health, with the first project to focus on the importance of gut health and exercise in healthy ageing.

The research will look at the gut microbiome, which has an important role in countering the onset and progression of chronic diseases in the elderly.

“By having a more precise understanding of what a healthy gut microbiome looks like, we will be better able to understand what we need to do to promote healthy ageing,” CSIRO Deputy Director Professor Lynne Cobiac said.

A range of factors contribute to older people’s ability to remain healthy as they age including diet, behavioural, genetic and biomedical factors.

This project will take these factors into account using cutting-edge technology to investigate the links between healthy ageing and a healthy gut.

“We will also be looking to understand if higher levels of usual exercise can have a positive impact on gut health,” Professor Cobiac said.

“Comparing the health impacts in elderly people across countries with the common goal of keeping people healthy for longer will give us new insights to develop tailored strategies.

“Ultimately the project will help inform how diet and lifestyle interventions in the older age groups can lead to a healthy gut microbiota, which in turn may reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease.”

This is the first joint Australia-Singapore funded project announced under CSIRO’s Precision Health Future Science Platform (FSP), which is centred on developing tailored solutions that help people live healthier lives for longer.

“Precision health is about keeping people healthier through-out their life by taking into account what is happening in an individual’s environment as well as what is happening within their bodies,” Professor Cobiac said.

“This partnership strengthens our commitment to this area of research as a key priority for Australia and Singapore.

“The ageing populations of both our countries are set to soar in the next few decades, with the elderly population forecast to double in Singapore by 2030 and increase by 22 per cent in Australia by 2056.

“So it’s critical that we focus on exploring disease prevention, through personalising lifestyle and healthcare solutions – including the gut microbiome.”

CSIRO is partnering with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) in support of Australia and Singapore’s bilateral commitment to increased collaboration in science and innovation.  

“Singapore, like Australia and many developed nations, is facing a rapidly aging population, so we need to understand the challenges faced by people in their silver years, and to develop new solutions that can improve their quality of life and lower the cost of healthcare,” NTU Singapore’s Research Director, Professor Theng Yin Leng said.

“By focusing on precision health and getting deeper insights into the behavioural, biological, psychological, and social aspects of the elderly in both countries, we hope to arrive at targeted solutions, such as recommended diets, lifestyle and exercise regimes that can best keep our population in the pink of health,” added Prof Theng, who is also the Acting Executive Director of Ageing Research Institute for Society and Education.

The project joins a suite of existing projects between CSIRO and NTU Singapore with a strong focus on biomedical manufacturing, and now precision health.

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