New research programme to focus on frailty

Frail adults at higher risk of poor health outcomes

Deborah Condon

November 28, 2022

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  • A new Irish research programme which aims to develop more accurate tools to detect frailty has been launched.

    Frailty is related to the ageing process and it can affect up to one in three older adults in Ireland. It refers to how our bodies gradually lose their in-built reserves, leaving people vulnerable to dramatic, sudden changes in health triggered by seemingly small events, such as a minor infection or a change in medication or environment.

    Those affected are at a higher risk of adverse health outcomes such as falls, disability, admission to hospital or the need for long-term care.

    The new research programme – FRAILMatics – has been launched by researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). It aims to develop more accurate frailty tools that, without expert input, automatically identify subtle dysregulated responses to stressors across physiological systems.  

    This programme involves developing data-driven models and measures using data from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at TCD. These models and measures are also being tested and validated in smaller clinical cohorts recruited from ambulatory care clinics at the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA) in St James’s Hospital, Dublin.

    According to FRAILMatics principal investigator, Prof Roman Romero-Ortuno, not all individuals age in the same way and frailty can sometimes be difficult to assess.

    “During a standard medical consultation, an older adult sitting in a chair could seem ‘well’, but problems may become more apparent during real-life situations that place sudden demands on body and brain. This difficulty adapting to stressors is what we call frailty and can affect up to a third of older adults who otherwise live independently. Since frailty can be improved, early detection is crucial,” he commented.

    Prof Romero-Ortuno explained that through the study of large population-based and clinical datasets, FRAILMatics is discovering new objective signals of frailty “that could translate into the next generation of transdisciplinary diagnostics for ageing adults”.

    This research will pave the way towards a new generation of non-invasive medical devices that could be able to detect early frailty and be used by non-specialists in routine clinical care, especially prior to consideration of invasive interventions, such as surgery.

    The programme brings together a number of STEAM areas and disciplines across TCD, alongside collaborators from the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the University of Palermo in Italy.

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