Researchers on both sides of the Atlantic are entering into what they refer to as a unique partnership that hopes to improve understanding about the biology of the ageing process.

In the first agreement of its kind, the USA's National Institute on Aging and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council are jointly funding £4 million of projects. The pact covers six collaborations.

First up, the University of Glasgow and Brown University will work together to test a new biological theory of ageing, while University College London and the University of Arizona will collaborate to study the decline in immunity of the skin of older people. The universities of Edinburgh and Georgia will examine the effects of fluctuating hormone levels on older people's immune systems, while King's College London and the Georgia Institute of Technology will investigate how environmental factors can impact the level of activity of certain genes involved in ageing.

Finally, Bangor University and the University of Texas Health Science Centre in San Antonio are looking at the world's longest-lived animal, the ocean quahog, “to ask what factors affect longevity and how can they lead to such a wide variation in lifespan”, while Imperial College London and the University of Washington are focusing on a molecular system in cells that is involved in healthy ageing.

Douglas Kell, BBSRC’s chief executive, said that “by working together, his organisation and NIA “have been able to capitalise on the world-class research in both countries and leverage the funding available to our scientists”. He added that “science has become a truly global effort these days, and we are very happy to support researchers who are coming together to maximise effort and take full advantage of each other's strengths”.