Scientists try to keep centenarians on their toes

LONDON, England (CNN) – An $80 million research project aimed at giving people 50 active years after the age of 50 was launched by scientists at the University of Leeds in northern England Tuesday.

About half of the babies born in Western countries today will live until they are 100 years old, according to recent research published in the medical journal The Lancet, so the challenge is to ensure they remain active throughout their old age.

While most of us will live longer than our parents and grandparents, the aging population means that in coming decades more people will suffer from age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis, heart disease and chronic back pain. Obesity and increased physical activity also put more pressure on our joints, causing them to wear out faster.

Scientists at Leeds University envisage that many of the body parts that flounder with age could be upgraded using own-grown tissues and more durable implants. This will mean artificial hips, knees and heart valves, for example, lasting far longer than the current 20-year typical lifespan.

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