New longevity centre looks at how to reverse ageing and prolong disease-free years

Joyce Teo

Senior Health Correspondent

Published 7 Sept 2022, 2:06 pm SGT

SINGAPORE - Imagine a day when you can walk into a clinic to do a series of tests - including blood and strength tests - to get your biological age, which will give you an idea of your health status so that you can do something to slow ageing and prevent diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disorders.

Research on new biomarkers to measure ageing is ongoing at the National University Health System (NUHS) Centre for Healthy Longevity (CHL), which opened on Wednesday.

The centre will also test ways to slow ageing and aims to translate findings from laboratory models to human clinical trials to clinical practice.

The urgency is clear as one in four Singaporeans will be above 65 years of age by 2030 and, as life expectancy rises, they will be spending about 10 of their twilight years in poor health.

"The hundred-year life may well be the norm for children born in developed countries, if the current trends continue," said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr Heng Swee Keat, at the centre's opening event at the NUHS auditorium in Kent Ridge Road.

"Healthy longevity ensures that the additional years are a boon, rather than a grim millstone of disease burden and fiscal cost. This is particularly salient for Singapore and many parts of the world, where populations are rapidly ageing.

At the centre's opening, Professor Chong Yap Seng, dean of National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said the ability to find biomarkers of ageing that can be altered in a few months to reverse or stop the ageing process will, in the long run, alter the cost of ageing.

Healthy longevity also involves a "life course" approach, which means it should start from even before a person is born - from the mother's health - to the health of the person in childhood, he said.

CHL's co-director, Professor Brian Kennedy, said the centre, located in Alexandra Hospital and a laboratory at NUS Medicine, integrates pre-clinical and clinical research to test ways of slowing ageing in a South-east Asian population.

The idea is that if you measure a person's biological age, this can tell you more about his current state of health than what traditional biomarkers for diseases, such as blood pressure or blood sugar, can.

"Somebody is chronologically 60, but... biologically, he may be only 50, or he may age poorly and be biologically 70. We need to be able to measure this so we can stratify the population to combat ageing and measure whether interventions are working efficiently biologically," he said.

The centre has screening tools that analyse facial ageing via machine learning and measure arterial stiffness, body composition, functional ability and others.

Participants aged 30 and above have been recruited over the past year for various studies.

At least 15 studies are ongoing, including Project Abios (Ageing Biomarker Study in Singaporeans) which is looking at several hundred biomarkers in 420 to 450 participants.

The centre is also participating in the healthy longevity translational research programme at NUS, which looks at hacking ageing. There will be a series of clinical studies to test novel nutritional supplements and repurposed drugs to slow ageing in adults aged 40 to 60 years old.

One of the supplements is alpha-ketoglutarate, which has been shown to increase the healthspan - the period of life spent in good health - and lifespan in mice.

The centre will be investigating whether six months of daily supplementation can slow biological ageing and initial results are estimated to be available in a year's time, said Professor Andrea Maier, the centre's co-director.

Repurposed drugs include metformin, a well-known drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, that may be able to slow ageing.

The centre's mission is to enhance healthspan by three to five years in the Singapore population by slowing biological ageing.

"In three to five years, healthy longevity will not only exist as a lab-proven concept, but also become part of everyone's life," said Prof Maier.

"So next time, tell your GP (general practitioner) your biological age, not your chronological age, for a more targeted, customised and precise prognosis and treatment or intervention plan."

To mark the CHL's opening, the centre on Wednesday held its inaugural one-day Longevity Science Singapore Conference at the NUHS auditorium, where experts from countries such as the United States and China gathered to talk about translating ageing research into clinical practice.

Road map for healthy longevity: Steps to ensure longer, more meaningful lives

Salma Khalik

Senior Health Correspondent


25 Aug 2022, 11:29 am SGT

SINGAPORE - The world's population is ageing.

This can become either a burden society has to bear or a benefit to all if older people remain healthy and continue contributing to the economy and society for longer years.

Recognising the need to promote healthy longevity, the National Academy of Medicine in the United States set up an international commission of experts to point the way forward.

They published Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity in June, which summarised the key considerations now that people live longer, and the steps needed to ensure longer and more meaningful lives:

1. Economic benefits generated by people living, working, volunteering and engaging longer

2. Social infrastructure, institutions and business systems that enable safe and meaningful work and other community engagements at every stage of life

3. Education and training opportunities that promote participation in lifelong learning and growth

4. Social cohesion augmented by intergenerational connections and the creation of opportunities for purposeful engagement by older people at the family, community and societal levels

5. Social protection and financial security that mitigate the effects of financial vulnerability at older ages

6. Physical environments and infrastructure that support functioning and engagement for people at older ages

7. Integrated public health, social service, person-centred healthcare, and long-term care systems designated to extend years of good health and support the diverse health needs of older people

8. Quality long-term care systems to ensure that people receive the care they require in the setting they desire for a life of meaning and dignity


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