What we do

AGEing and Nutrient Sensing (AGENTS) Network was established to understand the role of nutrient sensing in the ageing process. The network will aim to address the priority area of “health span and quality of life in old age”. AGENT is one of 11 new networks, made up of researchers from 28 universities, aimed at transforming ageing research in the UK. The research will be funded with £2 million from the UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Why it is important

Studies have shown that nutrition and the systems the body uses to sense the nutritional environment have an effect on metabolism and ageing, but in humans it is not yet fully understood why some people metabolically age at a faster rate than others. To address the current gaps in knowledge and to develop deeper mechanistic and translational understanding in the area of nutrient sensing and ageing, we have brought together five university partners including Imperial College London, Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh, all of which have a track record in nutrition, nutrient sensing or ageing. This highly multidisciplinary team will initiate the network that spans fundamental cell biology through to policy making The network will use the hackathon methodology to develop multidisciplinary research topics which the network will support to develop into full grant applications and contributions to the scientific literature.

How it can benefit patients

Understanding the role of nutrient sensing in ageing can lead to the development of nutritional and pharmacological therapies that can slow down ageing, increase healthy life span and increase quality of life during ageing.

Summary of current research

The group had their first inaugural meeting in Manchester on 10th June 2022 and their first hackathon meeting in London on 6-7th September. During the first meeting the group defined nutrient sensing as “Systems at multiple scales that detect and respond to nutrient status”. During the hackathon, the network generated four research topics which will be developed into grant applications. These were

  • Understanding and influencing the mechanisms of ageing through dietary interventions
  • Mechanistic Understanding of the Impact of Nutrition on Healthy Ageing
  • Understanding the Biological Mechanism and Societal Determinants of Anorexia of Ageing
  • Exploring the impact of protein quality and fibre on gut barrier function, inflammation and body composition

The next hackathon will be held in February 2023.

ECR Awards in the field of Ageing and Nutrient sensing

The network is now offering awards to provide support to Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in the field of Ageing and Nutrient sensing. Applicants can request a maximum of £1,000 of flexible funding to support any activity that has a clear case for personal or professional development.

To apply, please complete the form and email it to ecr.agents@​gmail.com.

Introducing the Founding Members

Professor Gary Frost (Network PI)
Professor Gary Frost is the head of the Section for Nutrition Research at Imperial College London and lead the Imperial Nutrition and Food Network. He qualified as a dietitian in 1982 and worked as a dietitian for 18 years. He was appointed to Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Imperial College in January 2008.  He has a track record in nutrient sensing in the gastrointestinal  track.    His  work  in  the  field  of  SCFA  has  led  to  new  understanding  of  signalling pathways.

Professor John Mathers (CoI)
Professor John Mathers is the director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Director of the Centre for Healthier Lives in Newcastle University. His major research interests are in understanding how eating patterns influence risks of age-related diseases including heart disease, diabetes, dementia and bowel cancer. Among his external roles, John was the President of the Nutrition Society and serves/ served on grants panels such as MRC, BBSRC and others. He is a Trustee of the British Nutrition Foundation and of the Rank Prize Funds. John is Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition.

Professor John McLaughlin (CoI)
John McLaughlin is Professor of Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Head of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Gastroenterology at the University of Manchester. Current research interests are gastrointestinal physiology in health and disease particularly the interactions between nutrients and the gut epithelium, gut inflammation, gut hormones, and gut-to-brain signalling. Also working as a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Salford Royal Hospital he manages the clinical GI physiology service and leads the Comprehensive Research Network for Gastroenterology in Greater Manchester. Another current role is as research lead Trustee for the charity GUTS UK.

Dr. Viktor Korolchuk (CoI)
Dr Viktor Korolchuk is a Reader in Molecular Cell Biology at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University. His lab focuses on a homeostatic process of autophagy, its regulation by nutrients and energy and the contribution to human longevity. Within the Network Viktor will contribute his knowledge of molecular mechanisms to guide the development of novel strategies for healthy ageing.

Dr. Bernadette Carroll (CoI)
Dr Bernadette Carroll is a Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellow within the School of Biochemistry at University of Bristol. The Carroll lab study how the cells of our body sense and respond to nutrients both in health and upon exposure to age-related stress.