Centre of Excellence for Research on Environment, Health and Aging

Project Description

Project Description

The project is built on a set of priority needs, clearly identified during the SWOT analysis. The conclusions of the SWOT were in the direction of upgrading and reinforcing the research capacity of MIGAL for sustainable integration to the ERA. This will be supported by a team of experts from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the USA.

Since MIGAL is located in a remote region of Israel and youngsters who are seeking challenges tend to migrate to the cities, MIGAL wants to create the conditions to attract the best talents to stay in the region.

As an overall strategy, not dependent on the outcomes of the present proposal, it is planned (as decided by the government (decision 08/02/2009) and by the Israeli Council of Higher Education (ICHE )(11/07/2006) to expand MIGAL from 145 to 250-300 researchers in 10 years. To realize these targets, there is a need for financial support through the coming years of around 7 million Euros, part of which will come from governmental agencies. The CEREHA project will set the way for the successful implementation of this programme.

The focus of the proposal is on the MIGAL’s most promising departments operating on aging related issues. It will support specific research activities carried out by 6 MIGAL departments (out of 19 Dept at MIGAL) through cooperation between the departments (as shown in Fig. 3) and with external entities.

The new CEREHA Centre will focus on the following research areas, each matching the core activities of departments involved in the Center:

Environmental risk factors and health

Many technologies introduced in the past 50-100 years entail inflammatory pathways and excessive oxidative stress. Materials and processes in agriculture, food production, and nutrition have created a proinflammatory nutrient profile. The material economy is infused with toxic chemicals in products and practices that drive these and other underlying biological aspects of neurodegeneration and many other diseases. Transportation adds significantly to air pollutants that cause inflammation and
oxidative stress.
Complex interactions among these variables create the conditions from which today's patterns of disease emerge.
Individual behavior and environmental exposures influence health, but family-, community-, and societal level features are also expressed in individuals, even at the cellular and sub-cellular levels. Researchers are increasingly aware that we must look at multiple levels for explanations of diseases and disease patterns.
Expanded models, sometimes called eco-social, bio-eco-social, or ecological frameworks or paradigms, are attempts to capture this awareness. These frameworks fundamentally embed health in the context of the larger community, society, and ecosystem. Moreover, the ecological framework not only embodies an expanded, interconnected worldview, but also suggests new approaches to research into the origins of disease and disease patterns, as well as policy interventions likely to improve health community

Effect of nutrition

Similarly, we predict that population-wide shifts toward the Mediterranean diet can significantly decrease the incidence of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease. That does not mean that everyone eating a Mediterranean diet will be spared from these conditions. In some people, other risk factors may be determinative, regardless of diet. But from a public health perspective, that kind of dietary modification is highly likely to be beneficial and can easily be supported by research.

Age-related neurological diseases

It is a study of key processes of inflammation and oxidative stress which are known to play critical roles in the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. These processes are also linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, among others, so that we can begin to think of common mechanisms that underlie prevalent disease patterns and not just individual diseases. These cellular and sub-cellular processes of oxidative stress and inflammation are influenced by variables at the level of the individual, community, and society: how and where we live and the influence of the environment on our life. Individuals can often make choices that will help prevent or slow the onset of neurodegenerative conditions, but community-wide characteristics of the shared environment must also be addressed. Diseases involving excessive oxidative stress, inflammation, and other relevant pathologic mechanisms are not only diseases of individuals but also of communities and societies. And the diseases of old age do not usually begin in old age. They are influenced by many variables throughout the lifespan and these ecological aspects are very much influencing our health.

Institution and hospital-acquired diseases

Aging involves a decrease in the efficiency of the immune systems. Under these conditions contact with infectious agents may result in severe consequences. For example, urinary tract infections which are overcome easily by healthy and young adults often develop into renal diseases or even septicemia in older people. Because of this, and in addition, aging involves frequent hospitalization or even life in institutions.
These conditions expose the individuals to bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics, making the treatment more difficult and costly. The research will centre on developing early warning systems as well as means for prevention of the diseases.

Minimizing risk factors

The ecological framework also reminds us that, in some individuals, risk factors of modest size in
populations can be much more significant when they occur together with others. When they occur together, they act as effect modifiers, meaning that the presence of one or more increases the impacts of another.
Despite uncertainties about which are causes and which are consequences of disease progression,
considerable evidence shows that the mechanisms of inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the cascade of events leading to the onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. An ecological and microbiological perspective calls our attention to how factors at many levels can pathologically upregulate oxidative stress and inflammation and thereby influence risk in individuals and patterns of disease in populations. We can also see why the age-adjusted incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer's disease may vary from one society to another, depending on the distribution of risk factors within them. Such complex interconnections make it difficult to quantify with certainty the extent to which a single variable contributes to a particular outcome. With conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and in all likelihood,
Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, all are somehow connected to the oxidation pattern.

Effect of socioeconomic gaps on health among the aging population

Life expectancy in the western world and in Israel has risen significantly in the past century mostly due to an increase in both health and welfare services, standard of living and economic growth. However, due to socioeconomic gaps (measured by education, income and employment), the lower socio-economic two groups in this population still suffer from poor health and quality of life. Research points to the direct effect of low socioeconomic conditions on increased health and mortality rates. Furthermore, psycho-social factors have been found to contribute to health behavior and compliance. The aged population constitutes one of the most vulnerable groups. Improving these economic gaps will enhance the quality of life of the elderly individual and subsequently be cost effective to service providers. The Upper Galilee area is low in service provision and high in socioeconomic gaps. Studying the causes of this situation and providing the necessary data for improving quality of life of the elderly population, should contribute to tackle the issue also from a regional perspective.