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Neurovascular ageing research

Vascular ageing and neurodegenerative diseases are two of the leading health challenges faced by our society, yet there are significant knowledge gaps in current understanding of the biology of ageing as it relates to the central nervous system (CNS), particularly about the interplay between the vasculature and neuronal systems at the mechanistic level. While the area is clinically important it is currently under-researched and MRC has identified the need to build the UK portfolio.

In March 2015, an MRC Workshop on Neurovascular Ageing in Health and Disease (PDF, 1.95MB) identified specific opportunities to advance the field of neurovascular ageing under three broad themes:

  • Knowledge expansion – biological factors
  • Tools and technology
  • Capacity building

Research proposals – application and assessment process

Through this highlight notice, applicants are invited to submit innovative research proposals that address opportunities that fall under the above themes, as outlined below. Applicants should also read the full report (PDF, 1.95MB) to obtain more suggestions and further detail.

Knowledge expansion – biological factors

The biological risk factors for neurovascular ageing and cardiovascular disease are very similar. At the same time, there is regional differentiation in the vasculature throughout the body. There are opportunities to build on the existing substantial body of work in cardiovascular disease in order to expand our knowledge.

For illustrative purposes only, areas of research might include:

  • Repurposing existing murine models of cardiovascular disease
  • Providing detailed biological and structural descriptions of the CNS vasculature at an organ, cellular and molecular level
  • Comparative functional studies throughout the body to help understand the interplay of vascular function and neuronal systems
  • Addition of cognitive assessment of participants (baseline and at relevant time points) to cardiovascular disease clinical trials
  • Exploring the potential to repurpose cardiovascular disease drugs
  • Studies in human cohorts might include collection and analysis of data on comorbidities and data analysis to generate new hypotheses
  • Use of available human tissue to increase our mechanistic and translational understanding of the brain, for example: tissues used as brain surrogates, such as the retina, and non-CNS tissues including the kidney small vessels - surgically resected tissue
  • Blood-Brain Barrier and Neurovascular Unit are key areas for further research, for example: studies to compare normal and age-related changes, including functional assessments and application of novel approaches to assess BBB integrity in humans

Tools and technology

Imaging is a key tool to understanding the relationship between the vasculature and neuronal systems in the brain. In addition, human cohort studies could play an important role in understanding neurovascular ageing. More use can be made of available human tissue to increase our mechanistic and translational understanding of the brain.

Capacity building

Partnership or research grant proposal(s) based on interdisciplinary working between the fields of neurological science and cardiovascular biology are encouraged. Such proposals could be built around sharing resources, tools and experimental knowledge.

It is anticipated that proposals submitted under this highlight notice area will involve partnerships between researchers who have not previously worked together or who are new to the field. All applicants should highlight what will be their own contribution to the work and how their experience and expertise will add to the neurovascular ageing research base. It is expected that those investigators who are new to the field will make a substantial contribution to the programme of work, to enable them to build their own track record in this area of research.

The MRC encourages (but does not require) applicants to work in partnership with other funders where appropriate. Depending on the programme of work to be undertaken, applicants may wish to seek cash or in-kind support from charitable and/or industrial partners; details of support from any project partners should be included on the Je-S application form and in the case for support.

Applicants will be required to attach a letter of support from any project partner(s) to their application.

This is a joint Neuroscience and Mental Health Board (NMHB) and the Population and Systems Medicine Board (PSMB) highlight notice and proposals may be submitted to either board, based on scientific or clinical area. Please discuss with the Programme Managers (below) as to which board to submit your application. All applications received under this highlight notice will be assessed through MRC’s standard assessment procedure.

Please note that this highlight notice has been extended to include applications received by the May and Sep/Oct 2017 deadlines for NMHB/PSMB.

General guidance on how to apply for funding from the MRC can be found in the Guidance for applicants.

Potential applicants are advised to contact Dr Bruna Galobardes (NMHB) or Dr Stephen Meader (PSMB) if they are considering submitting an application under this highlight so that the appropriate strategic uplift is given where proposals meet the terms of this notice. Applicants are requested to reference this highlight in the ‘Objectives’ and the ‘Case for Support’ sections of their proposals.

Contact: Drs Bruna Galobardes or Stephen Meader, Programme Managers:

Email: or