Announcements

  • April 16, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.The NIA recently hired someone new to help us work with Congress, outside groups, and others who would like to interact with NIA leadership. Dr. Marie A. Bernard, NIA deputy director explains that government agencies must have a point of contact for Members of Congress and their staff. "Legislation, including appropriations, affects all aspects of biomedical research," she writes.

    Read the full blog post: Working with Congress

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • April 9, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Different kinds of NIA grant applications receive different kinds of scores when they are reviewed. Some applications get a percentile rank, while others get a priority score. Dr. Robin Barr, director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post about this aspect of the NIA grant review process. "The answer to why we percentile some applications and not others comes down to trying to keep an even playing field for science across quite different review environments," he writes.

    Read the full blog post: Percentiling at NIA: sometimes we do. And sometimes we don’t.

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • April 7, 2014

    A rare mutation in a gene involved in RNA metabolism, which is part of the control mechanism determining protein synthesis within the cell, has been linked with development of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This finding, from a research team led by investigators at the NIA appears in the March 30, 2014, issue of Nature Neuroscience.

    ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive, fatal neurological disorder that kills about 6,000 Americans each year. The disease attacks and kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord; people with ALS lose strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body, and eventually, the ability to breathe without support. About 10 percent of people with ALS have a directly inherited form of the disease.

    Working with DNA samples from families in which several people had been diagnosed with ALS and dementia, the investigators used exome sequencing—a technique in which the entire coding regions of DNA are sequenced—to identify the mutation in the Matrin 3 gene, which is located on chromosome 5. Further investigation revealed an interaction between the Matrin 3 protein and the TDP-43 protein, an RNA-binding protein whose mutation is known to cause ALS.

    The identification of this gene mutation gives researchers another target to explore in the pathogenesis of this disease. In addition, it provides additional evidence that some disruption in RNA metabolism, an essential process within all cells, is involved in neuron death in ALS.

    Reference: Johnson JO, et al. Mutations in the Matrin 3 gene cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Nature Neuroscience. Published online March 30, 2014. doi:10.1038/nn.3688

     

  • April 2, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, or BLSA, is one of the world’s longest running studies of aging. Started in 1958, the BLSA enrolls healthy volunteers ages 20 years and older and follows them longitudinally—for life. The BLSA has accumulated a great deal of valuable data, and researchers can request access to this data for their own investigations of important scientific questions.

    In a new blog post, Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, director of the NIA Intramural Research Program, explains what makes the BLSA so unique and how scientists can get access to the data. He also introduces the new director of the BLSA, Dr. Stephanie Studenski. "I want to encourage researchers who study issues related to aging and have questions that require the unique design and depth of information available in the BLSA to submit an analysis proposal to use the data," Dr. Ferrucci writes.

    Read the full blog post: A valuable data resource: Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • March 26, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.The NIA updated its 2014 funding policy on March 20. In a new blog post, Robin Barr, director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, describes the funding policy, paylines, success rates, and how this year's funding compares to previous years. "When the dust cleared on our budget this year," he writes, "the NIA was blessed with a 12.5%, $130 million increase over fiscal year 2013’s sequester-dictated funding."

    Read the full blog post: It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. It is modern times at NIA.

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • March 26, 2014

    Neural activity in the basal forebrain (BF) leads to a faster and more precise response to reward-based stimuli in rats, report Irene Avila and Shih-Chieh Lin of the National Institute on Aging at NIH, in the March 18, 2014 issue of PLOS Biology.

    Stimuli that predict important behavioral outcomes such as a reward or punishment are known as motivationally salient. Quick decision speed, especially in response to such motivational salient stimuli, is important for survival in animals. In humans, slowed decision speed is a key feature in depression, schizophrenia, and cognitive aging.

    Rats were trained to respond to two sound stimuli associated with either large or small rewards. Researchers found that BF neurons, located in the bottom front part of the brain at the base of the cerebral cortex, responded more strongly to the sound associated with the larger reward. Artificially stimulating the BF neurons shortly after this motivationally salient signal led to faster and more precise reaction times.

    This study helps describe an important function of an otherwise poorly understood group of neurons. While more research is needed, these findings could have clinical implications for treating human conditions related to slow decision-making speeds.

    Reference:Motivational Salience Signal in the Basal Forebrain Is Coupled with Faster and More Precise Decision Speed” by Avila, I and Lin, S-C. PLOS Biology. 12(3):e1001811. doi 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001811. March 2014.

  • March 19, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    Postdoctoral fellow Davide Guerrieri left Italy three years ago to start his research fellowship at the National Institute on Aging labs in Baltimore, Maryland. "Doing science, living abroad, and learning how to speak and think in a new language. Not so easy!" he writes in a new NIA blog post. "But like many of you, I enjoy challenges. So, I took up all of these, all at once... Although I am sure many of you left your country to pursue your science career, as I did, every story is different. Here is mine."

    Read the full blog post: Coming to the U.S. to do science at NIA intramural

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • March 12, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The March 28, 2014 application deadline is fast approaching for NIA’s summer training opportunity: the Butler-Williams Scholars Program.

    Dr. Carl V. Hill, director of the NIA Office of Special Populations, has a new blog post encouraging researchers to apply. In his post, Dr. Hill sits down with NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard for a personal conversation about the program and what it offers. "Marie is a longtime advocate of this program," he writes, "an intensive week-long training whirlwind to boost the careers of emerging scholars in aging research."

    Read the full blog post: Applications due March 28: Butler-Williams Scholars Program

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • March 10, 2014

    The National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) periodically reviews each of the extramural divisions of the NIA to assess whether the overall performance and the future trajectory of research being supported are appropriate. The council evaluates the research portfolio and identifies areas that merit greater or less emphasis. This report (PDF, 768K), adopted at the February 25-26, 2014 NACA Meeting, summarizes the review of BSR conducted during 2013.

  • March 6, 2014

    Scientists have identified a possible cellular mechanism triggered by oxidative stress and DNA damage that is linked to tau, a protein commonly seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and certain other neurodegenerative diseases called “tauopathies.” The effect was observed in fruit fly and mouse tauopathy models and in human Alzheimer’s brains.

    The laboratory study, led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and supported in part by NIA, was published online January 26 in Nature Neuroscience. The research suggested a novel pathway in tauopathies by which oxidative stress may lead to a change in chromatin, a complex of DNA and proteins that is found in the nucleus of a cell, that is not seen in the normal aging brain. The analysis indicated that the way genes are expressed in Alzheimer’s brains because of this change in chromatin is consistent with a shift toward a less mature genetic state.

    The data identified chromatin as a potential therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease and suggested one mechanism by which changes in chromatin are associated with aberrant gene expression, and, ultimately, neurodegeneration in tau-related brain disorders. Further research may reveal additional mechanisms.

    Reference: Frost B, et al. Tau promotes neurodegeneration through global chromatin relaxation. Nature Neuroscience, published online Jan. 26, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3639.

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