A little-understood medical condition - which affects millions of older people in Britain - is to be studied at The University of Nottingham. David Humes of the Division of Gastroenterology, in The School of Medical and Surgical Sciences, has gained funding from Help the Aged and the Royal College of Surgeons to explore how the pain caused by diverticular disease can be reduced. The condition is formed by pouching in the lower gut - which can be painful, and, if infection sets in, can also be life-threatening.

Dr David Humes, said: "Our aim is to discover whether inflammation of the bowels causes the pain of diverticular disease. We will test new anti-inflammatory drugs to see if they could become a valuable treatment for this condition, which in varying degrees affects as many as two-thirds of the older people in our society."

Dr Lorna Layward, Research Manager for Help the Aged, said: "We are delighted to be supporting David Humes alongside the Royal College of Surgeons. This study is elegant and clear-sighted, with the potential quickly to produce real treatments for people with diverticular disease. That would be fantastic news for older people and another great success for researchers at The University of Nottingham."

The project is one of 20 new studies across the UK that have been awarded funding this year by the Help the Aged biomedical Research into Ageing programme, all of which are helping bring better health and independence to older people.

Dr Layward adds: "Help the Aged is committed to funding high quality biomedical research through our Research into Ageing programme and we have funded 20 new projects in 2007. Unfortunately for each project we can fund a further four must be turned away, so we need more donations to enable us to fund as many of the best projects as possible. We must prevent a situation that sees much of this life-changing research being consigned to the scrapheap, never to happen."

This new funding enhances the existing partnership between Help the Aged and The University of Nottingham. The charity has funded numerous projects at the University over the last three decades and, in addition to the new study with David Humes, currently funds Dr Simon Conroy's project that may lead to new support programmes for older people known to be at risk from accidental falls.

The Help the Aged biomedical Research into Ageing programme exists to improve the health and independence of older people. This is very important for the wellbeing of our ageing population. The number of people in the UK aged over 75 is projected to rise by over 70 per cent in the next 15 years whereas the population of people under 16 is set to decline slightly (1).

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¹Government Actuary Department website 2007, period life expectancy, based on mid-2004 population estimates.

The Help the Aged biomedical Research into Ageing programme has funded 20 new projects this year totalling £1.7m in value and bringing its current total of funded studies to 67. The funded studies include themes as diverse as:
Ways to improve wound-healing - University of Manchester
Better understanding the human bladder to help fight incontinence - University of London
Understanding how the 'circadian' clock becomes faulty causing sleep problems - Swansea University

The Help the Aged biomedical Research into Ageing programme has funded numerous breakthroughs including:
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell's (of the University of Manchester) discovery in 2005 of the 'brain killer' molecule IL-1 that is released in stroke and a way to block it
Dr Dawn Skelton's (of the University of Manchester) development of exercise programmes to prevent falls which were implemented by the Department of Health
Professor Rose Anne Kenny's (of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle Upon Tyne) discovery in 2001 that a heart condition called carotid sinus syndrome causes many falls and can be treated to prevent even potentially life-threatening falls in many cases

More information about the Help the Aged biomedical Research into Ageing programme is available at http://research.helptheaged.org.uk/_research/

Help the Aged is the charity fighting to free disadvantaged older people in the UK and overseas from poverty, isolation and neglect. In addition to its biomedical Research into Ageing programme, it delivers a range of services including information and advice, home support and community living that are supported by its fundraising activities and paid for services.

The University of Nottingham is Britain's University of the Year (The Times Higher Awards 2006). It undertakes world-changing research, provides innovative teaching and a student experience of the highest quality. Ranked by Newsweek in the world's Top 75 universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. The University is an international institution with campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

Contact: Jonathan Ray
University of Nottingham