Partnership created to uncover reasons for frailty in aging populations

Blood samples collected from participants in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) will be analyzed for metabolomic and inflammatory biomarkers linked to frailty as a result of a $4-million research partnership that brings together the Canadian Frailty Network, the CLSA, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and Metabolon, Inc.

Three national research groups and a leading biotechnology company are teaming together to discover the frailty biomarkers that may shed light on why some people become frail, how to determine the severity of frailty and what can be done to help avoid the condition.

The Canadian Frailty Network, the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (CLSA), the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) and Metabolon, Inc. have announced a collaborative partnership to develop a $4-million research program. This will perform large-scale metabolomic profiling and biomarker identification on samples from Canada’s largest and most comprehensive study on aging.

Metabolomics is the process of measuring small molecules in blood and tissues, which can help scientists and clinicians identify biomarkers for diseases or health conditions, such as frailty.

The partnership brings together leaders in research on frailty, metabolomics and aging:

  • Canadian Frailty Network (CFN), Canada’s sole network devoted to improving care for older Canadians living with frailty and their families;
  • The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, a national research platform on aging involving 50,000 men and women in Canada, based at McMaster University;
  • The McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) at McMaster University, which seeks to optimize the health and longevity of the aging population through leading-edge research, education and stakeholder collaborations; and
  • Metabolon Inc., the global leader in revealing new biological insights through metabolomics.

In total, 10,000 blood samples collected from participants in the CLSA will be analyzed for both metabolomic and inflammatory biomarkers linked to frailty. Two additional biomarkers linked to aging will be analyzed from blood samples provided by 30,000 participants.

“CFN’s mission is to improve care for older Canadians to avoid or live with frailty,” said John Muscedere, MD, scientific director of Canadian Frailty Network and a professor of critical care medicine at Queen’s University/Kingston Health Sciences Centre. “Our work is based on creating scientific evidence that can be translated into practices and policies to avoid or delay frailty. We have built the largest and most comprehensive research portfolio and knowledge base on frailty that has ever existed in Canada.”

To date there has been little consensus on the biological mechanisms underpinning frailty. Analysis of the CLSA samples will allow researchers to identify metabolites that will help to improve not only early prediction of frailty, but also lead to further research on treatments addressing specific aspects of frailty.

“By enhancing the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging with data on frailty biomarkers, researchers will be able to ask questions not only about the basic science of frailty, but how that ties into the physical, psychological and social impacts of being frail,” said Parminder Raina, PhD, professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University, lead principal investigator of the CLSA and scientific director of MIRA.

“We know, from our nearly 20 years of experience conducting more than 10,000 studies, that metabolomics can enable biological discoveries that are otherwise unseen through other more established technologies,” said Rohan F. Hastie, PhD, president and CEO of Metabolon.

“By combining the detailed clinical and lifestyle information that is unique to the CLSA, with analytical power of Metabolon’s global metabolomics platform, this partnership will enable deeper understanding of disease etiology and progression across a wide range of conditions. It is an honor to be chosen by the CLSA to perform this important work.”

Specifically, the program will develop a research platform to understand the influence of the metabolome, microbiome, genes, diet, lifestyle and drug treatments on the health and well-being of aging populations.

“As a leader in mobility and frailty research, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging is a proud contributor to this important research partnership that will help to improve understanding and mitigate the risks and consequences of frailty,” said Ine Wauben, managing director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging and the CLSA.

More than one million older Canadians are medically frail. This translates to over 25 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 65–84 years, and over 50 per cent over the age of 85. By 2025, it is estimated that more than two million Canadians will be living with frailty. Frailty also impacts family and friend caregivers and places large burdens on health and social care systems to meet the growing demand.

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