CMAR

Technology, Platforms

and Resources

To facilitate musculoskeletal research in humans within the Centre, but also nationally, we have invested built or expanded a range of facilities and resources. These include state of the art technologies for analysing tissue turnover, imaging and metabolomics as well as well phentoyped cohorts.

Underpinning all our research themes is ready access to cohorts, e.g, the lifelong exercisers cohort (125 master cyclists aged 55–79 at inception in 2012) in collaboration with  King’s College, London; the Physical Activity and Healthy Ageing cohort (200 healthy elders not meeting exercise guidelines, inception 2011 at the University of Birmingham); Medical Research Council Chronic obstructive Pulmonary Disease MAP cohorts (>200 muscle wasted and non-wasted patients); the BEACON cohort of very early arthritis patients; the SIRS and SIFTI longitudinal cohorts of major trauma victims (n=250).

These cohorts are unique in that they have been extensively phenotyped, many with several tissues stored (including muscle, serum, urine and blood cells, whereas existing UK cohorts rarely store tissue or analyse physiology in-depth. One exception is the UK biobank, which has extensive physiological, biomarker and lifestyle data on 500,000 adults and we intend to use this resource and other pre-existing datasets to identify factors affecting the trajectory to physical frailty and musculoskeletal disease in themes one and two.

Elderly medical care

These cohorts are unique in that they have been extensively phenotyped, many with several tissues stored (including muscle, serum, urine and blood cells, whereas existing UK cohorts rarely store tissue or analyse physiology in-depth. One exception is the UK biobank, which has extensive physiological, biomarker and lifestyle data on 500,000 adults and we intend to use this resource and other pre-existing datasets to identify factors affecting the trajectory to physical frailty and musculoskeletal disease in themes one and two.

Public engagement activity

The Centre is very active in communicating its research to the general public through the web, social media and national press, as well as an ongoing programme of interactive activities which we encourage all our Principal Investigators and students to participate in. This includes running regular large-scale public engagement (PE) events on healthy ageing targeting older adults, including our annual ‘Agewell’ event, which attracts around 200 attendees, with enhanced dissemination via the Centre website and regular newsletters.

We proactively contribute to major national events such as the British Science Festival as well as local university and hospital open days; local talks and interactive discussion activities by individual researchers such as Pint of Science, Café Scientifique, U3A and interviews on local radio. We are active in communication via print media with general articles written with science or health journalists (Innovage, Saga and Yours magazines) as well as regular press releases and articles in the national press eg, the Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times and the Daily Mail. Our universities were founding partners in The Conversation UK, and we have embraced this opportunity through a number of articles.

Public Involvement activities

As well as communicating our research, we attempt to fully involve patients and the public in our work, following the INVOLVE principles around distinct support for participation, engagement and involvement. 

For our work on physiological musculoskeletal ageing, we work with the Birmingham 1000 Elders, several of whom are centenarians.

The Birmingham 1000 Elders group is managed by Professor Lord and they are involved at every level of our work, from acting as a focus group helping design research studies or associated information sheets, to being active researchers and disseminators, as well as research participants. For example, members of the Elders were involved as commissioners on the production of the Birmingham Policy Commission Report Healthy Ageing in the 21st Century: the best is yet to come, which launched at The House of Lords and Birmingham City Council. The Elders even changed the research question from ‘the Challenge of Ageing’ to ‘Healthy Ageing’, taking a more positive stance. The Elders are also involved in PE activity, one good example being the exercise DVD and associated book that we produced in collaboration with our industrial partner ‘Move It or Lose It‘, about chair-based exercises for older adults. The Elders themselves were featured in the DVD, demonstrating the exercises in their own homes, and it was their suggestion to make a book, as they pointed out that they did not always want to watch a DVD but would benefit from a book they could work through at their leisure. 

Finally, the Elders are of course research participants, and at any one time we have more than 20 studies running that would not be possible without them. For our arthritis work, we also have a very active Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) group known as R2P2 (Rheumatology Research Patient Partnership), who assess all studies involving patients before they go for grant funding and/or ethical approval. We provide training for our PPI members so that they are confident working with researchers.

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