Could pond snails unlock the secrets of a healthier old age
Our ageing population is on the increase and improving the quality of life for the elderly is the aim of three major research projects by Dr Mark Yeoman and his team in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences.
We are examining how age-related changes in serotonin - a signalling molecule for motor function and for helping us learn and remember - affect us.
In an project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, we have used the pond snail, Lymnaea, to show that serotonin signalling is altered with increasing age and this has consequences for the animals' ability to remember and to carry out life-sustaining behaviours including feeding.
We have received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to examine whether age-related changes in serotonin signalling contribute to faecal incontinence, a major problem in the elderly and which can lead to loss of independence.
Serotonin is also an important regulator of mood and medicines that target the serotonergic system are commonly used to treat depression.
Age-related alterations in serotonin signalling could affect the efficacy of these medicines and may also increase the incidence of side effects in this patient group.
Our group is currently involved in running a clinical trial at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton to conduct a risk-benefit analysis of the use of these medicines in the older patient.
This film explains more about this potentially life-enhancing work.