The butterfly project


The Roquette Foundation for Health supports the FRailty In Ageing Research Group (FRIA) for its BUTTERFLY study, which aims to decipher the mechanisms of frailty in people aged over 80. 


Frailty is one of the most prominent barriers to active and healthy ageing. It is a dynamic, age-related condition characterized by a decline in equilibrium in multiple physiological systems, leading to decreased resistance to external factors and stress. This results in an increased risk of adverse health effects (malnutrition, falls, hospitalization, diminished mobility, loss of balance in daily activities) and ultimately premature death.

The butterfly project

The BUTTERFLY study (BrUssels sTudy on The Early pRedictors of FraiLtY), directed by Professor I. Bautmans, is an innovative study aimed at identifying early markers of frailty in subjects over 80 years old. It consists in particular of measuring biomarkers* on a cohort of more than 400 subjects over a period of 2 years.

This study on frailty in older adults includes: 

  • The assessment of relevant factors to measure the physical and mental state of an individual such as nutritional status, body composition (bone, muscle mass, fat mass, etc.), physical functioning, frailty status, etc.
  • The validation of a set of biomarkers in the blood that can easily identify frailty
  • The use of prospective data from the BUTTERFLY project to validate biomarkers identified by other cross-sectional studies 

In fact, the consequences of frailty in the elderly lead to a strain on health care systems and high costs. By identifying and validating biological markers, the BUTTERFLY study will make it possible to identify a decline in an individual’s physical or mental state at a real stage, well before frailty or dependence is revealed by other methods.

This will open up opportunities for preventive measures, such as recommendations for diet and exercise, and will be the subject of publications.

*Biomarker: a measurable biological characteristic that can be used for medical screening, diagnosis, to assess the response to a medical treatment, the relapse after treatment, the toxicity of a molecule.

Examples of biomarkers: hemoglobin, albumin, testosterone, etc.