As our population rapidly grows older, it is ever more urgent that we find effective ways to address the often devastating diseases and conditions associated with advanced age. Since the NIA's founding in 1974, groundwork has been laid for today's important advances in understanding basic aging, preventing disease and disability, including AD, and defining special social and behavioral issues for older individuals, their families and caregivers, and clinicians. The latest studies provide additional basic understandings as well as improved interventions to treat, and even prevent, some of the more devastating and disabling aspects of aging. With such research continued and intensified, we can move forward in meeting the promise of a healthy old age by improving the health and well being of older people in America.
The NIH Neuroscience Blueprint
The Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperation among fifteen NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system. Over the past decade, driven by the science, the NIH neuroscience Institutes and Centers have increasingly joined forces through initiatives and working groups focused on specific disorders. The Blueprint builds on this foundation, making collaboration a day-to-day part of how the NIH does business in neuroscience. By pooling resources and expertise, the Blueprint can take advantage of economies of scale, confront challenges too large for any single Institute, and develop research tools and infrastructure that will serve the entire neuroscience community.
For fiscal year 2005, the Blueprint participants are developing an initial set of initiatives focused on tools, resources, and training that can have a quick and substantial impact because each builds on existing programs. These initiatives, with the participation of all Blueprint Institutes, include an inventory of neuroscience tools funded by the NIH and other government agencies, enhancement of training in the neurobiology of disease for basic neuroscientists, and expansion of ongoing gene expression database efforts. The NIA has been an active member in this initiative, and participates in the expansion of the ongoing Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) and microarray consortium projects, as well as in the development of supplements to training grants to include course work on specific diseases of the brain. In addition, the NIA has a special emphasis upon the neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, which occur predominantly later in life. Current NIA initiatives, such as the Alzheimer 's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a multisite, longitudinal, prospective, naturalistic study of normal cognitive aging, mild cognitive impairment, and early Alzheimer's disease, can provide bases upon which Blueprint initiatives can develop.
Advances in the neurosciences and the emergence of powerful new technologies offer many opportunities for Blueprint activities that will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of neuroscience research. Blueprint initiatives for fiscal year 2006 will include systematic development of genetically engineered mouse strains of critical importance to research on nervous system and its diseases and training in critical cross cutting areas such as neuroimaging and computational biology. The NIA will work with the other Blueprint Institutes on new initiatives such as the Neuromouse Project, which will investigate the function of each gene in the mouse brain, the training of physicians and scientists in translational opportunities in the neurobiology of disease, and the development of neuroscience resource cores to provide regional centers for access to specialized technologies for research on the brain. The NIA will also continue to work with NINDS and NIMH on the Cognitive and Emotional Health Project part of the Neuroepidemiology Initiative.