One of the great achievements of developed Western societies in the last century has been the remarkable extension of human lifespan. Since 1850 life expectancy of people in Western societies has continuously increased by 2 years every decade (Vaupel JW. Nature, 2010 464:536). In 2010 17.4% of the Europeans was 65 years of age or older while in 2060, this age group is expected to represent 30% of the EU population (source: European Commission – Demography report 2010). During this time, the total population of people over 90 years of age is expected to more than triple while the number of people below age 44 is expected to decreased. These demographic changes will have a profound impact on society and economy, ranging from our view on retirement to changing demands on the medical system. The extent of this impact will depend on the health of our aging society. This in turn will be heavily influenced by our scientific understanding of the aging process, through which we may improve the health of the elderly. Notwithstanding these unprecedented demographic changes, our understandings of the biological mechanisms that contribute and influence ageing and associated pathologies remain superficial (Fontana L,.Science. 2010 328:321). This lack of insight results partly from the very diverse levels at which ageing of the organism manifests itself, which therefore call for an integrated multidisciplinary research approach where teams of researchers with different expertise collaborate and join forces.
The Marie Curie Initial Training Network framework provides an excellent opportunity to train and teach the next generation of scientists in the emerging field of ageing. Ageing as a scientific field cannot possibly be developed in isolation but requires larger teams of investigators to collectively collaborate on specific molecular aspects. For MARRIAGE, the current Initial Training Network, we have therefore assembled a premier group of pan-European scientists and industrial partners that focus their research activities on the molecular mechanisms that underlie ageing, with a strong emphasis on the role of DNA repair, telomeres and metabolic rate on homeostasis in self renewing tissues. Early Stage and Experienced Researchers (ESR and ER) in the Network will be trained in ageing science in European laboratories where scientific quality is of the highest level. Trainees will have access to a large variety of experimental approaches, techniques and model systems, some of which will be offered by commercial partners. The MARRIAGE Network will ensure that the best possible Ph.D. training is provided. The Board of MARRIAGE will define eligibility criteria for early stage researchers, but will also validate the training that is achieved, and will establish a mentoring system for its Ph.D. students. Trainees will become experts in the field of ageing, and are expected to constitute future leaders in the field of ageing science. The curriculum as laid out in the present Initial Training Network application will prepare these young scientists for an outstanding career in academia, government, or industry.
The Marie Curie Ageing Network – Marriage – is funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement n°316964.