The Institute for Biomedical Aging (IBA) was founded in 1992 as an institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and joined the University of Innsbruck in 2012.
Worldwide, the segment of the population aged 60 or over is increasing rapidly. In the year 2006, in Austria, more than one-fifth of our population has been over 60 years of age. In 2030 this segment will amount to one third. These senior citizens will place an enormous personal and socioeconomic burden on their families and on our society unless we act quickly to develop better prevention and treatment programs for many of the physical and mental ailments associated with old age. The goal of biomedical research on aging is to help people grow old with dignity and in good health.
At the IBA aging processes are studied at the molecular, cellular, and organismic level in order better to understand age-related changes and impairments and measures are defined to postpone/prevent age-related problems to improve the quality of life in old age. This multidisciplinary institute hosts research groups focusing on age-related aspects of dermal fibroblasts, vascular endothelial cells, the male reproductive tract, stem cells, bone regeneration, caloric restriction, human T cells and vaccination.
The main research areas of the immunology group include:
- Age-associated changes of the CD8+ T cell repertoire and the role of Cytomegalovirus
- Cell death and DNA repair in highly differentiated CD8+ T cells
- Antigen-experienced T and B cells in human bone marrow
- Vaccine-induced humoral and cellular immune responses in the elderly
IBA’s tasks and roles in the ADITEC project:
Prof. Beatrix Grubeck-Loebenstein of IBA is leader of the work package ‘Aging and Early Life’. Within this work package in vitro experiments, mouse models and human studies are utilized to investigate novel adjuvants and vaccine formulations as well as licensed vaccines at the extremes of age.
The IBA analyses the effect of novel adjuvant candidates on human immune cells derived from aged persons in order to identify adjuvants suitable for use in older adults. A phase 4 clinical trial using Hepatitis B vaccine will be performed in order to elucidate age-related defects of T cell and B cell responses after primary and booster vaccination. The IBA will also participate in a clinical study performed by other partners, which will compare the adjuvants MF59 and IC31 in persons of different age. The IBA´s role in this study will be to analyse the function of immune cells before and after vaccination.
IBA’s contribution in advancing immunization technologies in the coming years:
The importance of aged persons as a target group for vaccination is increasing. As a consequence participation of this age group in clinical trials is highly desirable. The IBA has a long-standing tradition of working with healthy older volunteers and has therefore access to this valuable cohort. Clinical studies at the IBA are performed in the context of basic research questions, such as for instance the mechanisms underlying age-related changes of primary and secondary immune responses. A better understanding of immunosenescence and particularly of the immunological mechanisms responsible for decreased immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccines in old age is a prerequisite for rational vaccine design and optimized vaccination strategies to ensure protection of the vulnerable elderly population.
IBA’s contribution so far:
- In vitro experiments have been performed to analyse the effect of the novel adjuvant GLA (Glucopyranosyl Lipid Adjuvant) on dendritic cells and monocytes of older adults and demonstrated that the immunstimulatory effect of the TLR4 agonist GLA is well preserved in old age.
- Recruitment has recently started for a study on primary and booster vaccination of the elderly using Hepatitis B virus as a model antigen.
ADITEC’s revenues for the IBA:
The ADITEC project offers a unique opportunity for collaborations with leading experts in the field of vaccinology. WP7 combines animal models and human studies at the extremes of age, namely in neonates and the elderly. As reagents and protocols are shared we hope to elucidate commonalities and differences between the very young and the very old immune system.
IBA’s expectaions of the ADITEC project:
The ADITEC project will strengthen interactions between researches from basic research and from clinical development. For the IBA ADITEC offers an opportunity to share knowledge, technical expertise and clinical samples with experts from all areas of vaccinology.
Hopefully, many of the fruitful collaborations established by ADITEC will outlive the duration of the project and will be the starting point of new ideas.
Prof. Dr. Beatrix Grubeck-Loebenstein, Institute Director and Head of the Immunology Group
Dr. Birgit Weinberger, Senior Scientist, Immunology Group