SPRINTT: Italy leads the first European project to fight aging
Eighty researchers from 11 European countries, 1500 patients involved and a public-private funding of €49 million. These figures are related to SPRINTT, the first project in Europe aimed at fighting aging defined as physical frailty. The study will be coordinated by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome and Sanofi Aventis.
The treatment of diseases that are typical of old age – including hypertension, diabetes and obesity – is not sufficient to slow down aging. The real challenge against aging is trying to fight against physical frailty and loss of muscular mass (sarcopenia): two conditions that are usually associated with the elderly which represent an early step towards disability and lack of self-sufficiency in elderly subjects.
Possible strategies to fight these important symptoms of aging have been studied for the first time in SPRINTT (Sarcopenia and Physical fRailty IN older people: multi-componenT Treatment strategies), a European project that involves 80 researchers from 11 countries, under the Italian leadership of Roberto Bernabei, Director of the Department of Geriatrics, Neuroscience and Orthopedics of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and Susanna Del Signore, Associate Vice-President, Global Regulatory Affairs at Sanofi R&D. Due to its importance and potential impact on society, this project has obtained a funding of €49 million – an unprecedented amount of funds in this sector – by IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative), the public-private partnership promoted by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission in cooperation with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).
“SPRINTT project changes the paradigm: we are not trying to treat diseases in elderly patients who are already ill; we rather aim at really managing frail people who are becoming old. Therefore, we are testing a multicomponent approach on them that ensures that they maintain a sufficient level of physical vigor that allows them to remain autonomous and independent individuals”, said Roberto Bernabei.
The key element of SPRINTT project is a Phase III randomized, controlled trial – a study with the same design as those performed to test new drugs – carried out on a sample of 1500 European patients aged over seventy years and classified as “frail” according to specific tests, and based on a multicomponent intervention of physical exercise and appropriate nutrition. Subjects will be divided into two groups: the first group will be invited to participate in specific physical activity for 45 minutes three times per week with their nutritional status to be evaluated monthly. A continuous monitoring will be also ensured by a special wrist watch that will record daily physical activity and falls, if any, every day. The second group – the so-called control group – will be repeatedly advised on appropriate life style as well as a few exercises to do for improving upper limb mobility. Over two years, researchers will precisely measure the evolution of the physical conditions of the two groups, by assessing their ability to walk and move autonomously, to prevent falls, frequent illnesses and hospitalizations or institutional stays.
The clinical results will be submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to obtain a regulatory opinion and will provide new treatment options against physical frailty associated with aging. This is an important challenge in a society – such as Europe’s one – that is characterized by progressive population aging, with 151 million subjects aged over fifty in 2060 vs. 85 million estimated in 2008.