Announcements

  • January 1, 2012

    Patrick ShirdonIn January 2012, the NIA welcomed Patrick Shirdon as director for management. Mr. Shirdon will oversee business management functions involving human resources, budget, ethics, travel, procurement, space and facilities, and general administration. He takes over from Lynn Hellinger, who retired at the end of December.

    Mr. Shirdon comes to NIA from the National Institute of Mental Health, where he was executive officer. He is quite familiar, however, with the NIA and aging research—in 2004-2005, he served as budget officer at the Institute. Mr. Shirdon’s background in economics and business, experience well-suited to the fiscal and management challenges that NIA and all of NIH face in the near term. His aim in returning to NIA is to continue to improve NIA’s successful programs of research on health and aging, managing resources in efficient and innovative ways to support NIA’s scientific mission as the population ages.

    “I have been very interested in the science at the various institutes I have been part of. I think now is a particularly good time to be at the aging institute, as interest and importance in what we do is growing with the aging of the population,” Mr. Shirdon says. “The challenge is—how do we get the maximum return on our investment, how do we prioritize so that we can accomplish our mission to help improve quality of life and diminish disease with aging? I am excited to be at NIA.”

    Mr. Shirdon began his NIH career in the Office of Financial Management in 1992 and spent most of his career working in the NIH budget community. After his stint at NIA, he became deputy executive officer at NIMH in 2005 and in 2008 was promoted to lead that institute administratively.

    Mr. Shirdon earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a master’s degree in business management from Johns Hopkins University.

  • December 31, 2011

    Lynn C. HellingerLynn C. Hellinger, NIA’s director of management retired on December 31, 2011, after a decades-long career at NIH and as a federal manager. Ms. Hellinger was at the administrative helm of NIA since 2005, providing leadership on, workforce and strategic management, , budget, information technology, general administration , ethics, and all aspects of NIA’s overall operations.

    “We will greatly miss Lynn,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes. “She is an accomplished and creative leader, with a deep understanding of how large organizations can and should function. She managed the enterprise both in detail and strategically. At NIH, Lynn was guided by her strong belief that excellence in administration supports the best science.”

    Ms. Hellinger leaves NIH after an extraordinary 26-year career, where she was known for navigating complex administrative challenges while maintaining excellent interpersonal relationships. She came to the campus in 1982 as a personnel staffing specialist in the Office of the Director. In 1988, she served as the deputy director of human resources and chief of operations for NIH’s Clinical Center, a 500-bed research hospital with 17 medical and service departments. Later, at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), after serving as director of NIAID’s human resources, she became associate director for management and operations. Ms. Hellinger led the effort post-September 11, 2001, to create an infrastructure of staff and buildings for biodefense research in a compressed time frame and at a height of national concerns about terror.

    Ms. Hellinger was also a leader in numerous NIH senior scientific and administrative executive management activities. She was co-chair of the Commercial Activities steering committee and the Administrative Management Systems steering committee. She also served as a key advisor to the NIH Deputy Director of Management through her membership on the Strategic Administrative Management Policy Committee; she also regularly chaired executive leadership searches for key positions at the NIH.

    Ms. Hellinger is particularly well-known and admired in the administrative community for her activities in building excellence in public service. She was and will remain a tireless mentor of young professionals in public administration and management. She served as the federal representative to the International Public Management Association's (IPMA) executive council and has served as president of the Montgomery County chapter and eastern region of the association.

    To cap these achievements, Ms. Hellinger in 2010 received the SES Presidential Meritorious Rank Award. One of the highest awards in public service, it recognizes senior career employees who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service. Ms. Hellinger was also the recipient of several NIH Director’s Award, for mentoring and other achievements. She also received several prestigious awards through the IPMA, including the Frank H. Densler Award and the Charles H. Cushman Award.

  • December 31, 2011

    J. Taylor HardenDr. J Taylor Harden, who led efforts at NIA and in the research community nationwide to bring diversity to research and to the ranks of scientists conducting research on aging, retired from NIA on December 31. Since 1997, Dr. Harden was the Chief of the Office of Special Populations and the Assistant to the Director for Special Populations. In this capacity, she was responsible for activities supporting women, racially and ethnically diverse populations and disabled scientists; providing the NIA director and senior staff with advice and guidance on enhancing the participation of special populations in aging research initiatives; and providing guidance on NIA goals for research and training programs for special populations.

    “Taylor is known for her commitment to the development and support of researchers new to the field of aging research,” says Dr. Richard J. Hodes, NIA Director. “She has brought a diverse group of talented researchers into science through a dedication to mentoring and by understanding and providing the types of support that were needed.”

    As one strategy for recruiting and mentoring, Dr. Harden facilitated the NIA Grants Technical Assistance Workshop in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. More than 600 participants attended the workshop between 1997 and 2011.

    The NIA Summer Institute on Aging Research, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2011, was a particularly special endeavor for Dr. Harden. Each year, she brought together new and early career scientists in aging research for a 7-day educational training curriculum that featured senior scientists from NIA staff and grantees. More than 1,000 investigators are graduates of the Summer Institute and many have gone on to distinguished careers in the field of aging research.

    Before coming to NIA, Dr. Harden held positions at the National Institute for Nursing Research and at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Nursing. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Nursing. In retirement she has transitioned to service as chief administrator of the John A. Hartford Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity initiative administered through the American Academy of Nursing.

  • May 14, 2012

    'Alzheimer's Disease Research Summit 2012; Path to Treatment and Prevention. May 14-15, 2012, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.'The Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention was held May 14-15, 2012.

    Webcast of the Summit is available here:

    Transcripts:

    The Summit was hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Aging at NIH, with private support through the Foundation for NIH.

    Location:
    Natcher Auditorium, Building 45
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD, Campus
    NIH Map and Visitor Information

    Date & Time:
    Monday, May 14, 2012: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    Tuesday, May 15, 2012: 8 a.m. - 1:40 p.m.

    Additional Public Comment through May 18:  COMMENT PERIOD IS CLOSED
    You may send your comments about the “Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention” to niaadresearchsummit@mail.nih.gov until Midnight (Eastern Time), Friday May 18, 2012. Comments received by that date will be added to the final Summit transcript, which will be sent to the Secretary of HHS for her consideration along with the recommendations from the Summit.

    Check back for further details to be posted here and on the HHS/Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation websites as they become available.

    Questions? E-mail niaadresearchsummit@mail.nih.gov

  • February 1, 2012

    Deposits of amyloid protein in the brain are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, for the first time, greater levels of cognitive activity—reading, writing, and playing games—have been associated with lower amyloid levels in the brains of cognitively healthy older people, according to NIA-supported research published online January 23 in the Archives of Neurology.

    Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley imaged the brains of 65 cognitively normal volunteers aged 60 and older using positron emission tomography (PET) and Pittsburgh Compound B (PiB), a tracer that binds to amyloid in the brain. The participants provided estimates of the frequency of their cognitive activities over their lifetimes and underwent neuropsychological testing of their memory and other cognitive functions. The researchers then compared the brain scans of these healthy older participants to brain scans of 10 volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease and to 11 cognitively healthy volunteers in their 20s.

    The researchers found a significant association between higher levels of mental stimulation over a lifetime and lower levels of amyloid in the brains of the healthy older volunteers. The relationship remained significant even when accounting for age, gender, and years of education. Other lifetime activities examined, such as current levels of cognitive activity, did not show an association with amyloid deposits. The results may suggest frequent engagement in cognitive activity in early and mid-life might help to delay or prevent the abnormal levels of amyloid in the brain, which accompany Alzheimer’s disease in later life. The NIA and the Alzheimer’s Association funded the study.

    Reference:

    Landau, S.M., et al. Association of lifetime cognitive engagement and low B-amyloid deposition. Archives of Neurology. Published online Jan. 23, 2012.

  • January 17, 2012

    2010 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: A Deeper Understanding, the latest annual Alzheimer’s research report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) , is now available online. Prepared by the National Institute on Aging, which leads the NIH effort conducting and supporting research on age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, the report highlights important developments and directions in NIH-funded research, including: risk for developing Alzheimer’s; genes that play a role in the disease; neuroimaging and biomarkers that detect and track the disease; research into new treatments; lifestyle factors that may worsen or protect against the disease; and help for caregivers. Special features include animation showing the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain and video interviews highlighting new insights into the disease.

  • January 5, 2012

    While most Americans depend on heating and air conditioning systems to keep comfortable during winter and summer, the body itself is a master regulator of temperature. The nervous system regulates the body’s heat production and dissipation through the skin, causing us to shiver when we are too cold and sweat when we are too hot. However, the genetic mechanisms driving sweat secretion are still largely unknown.

    In the January 5, 2012 online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators from NIA’s Laboratory of Genetics describe the first genetic cascade found to be involved in regulating sweat secretion. The scientists developed a strain of mice that lack FoxA1, a protein that controls when certain genes are activated, specifically in skin. They found that, while the mice did develop sweat glands, they did not sweat. This indicates that FoxA1 is involved in regulating sweat secretion. They also found evidence that two additional proteins, Best2 and NKcc1, were targets of FoxA1 and involved in the sweating process. The findings may provide future research direction for studying potential medicines that could protect against hyperthermia in extreme conditions, and alleviate reduced temperature regulation in older people.

    Reference: Cui C.Y., et al. Forkhead transcription factor FoxA1 regulates sweat secretion through Bestrophin 2 anion channel and Na-K-Cl cotransporter 1. PNAS USA January 5, 2012. Epub ahead of print.

  • January 16, 2012

    NIA and the World Health Organization (WHO) announce the availability of a new report, Global Health and Aging (PDF, 15.7M). As both the proportion of older people and the length of life increase throughout the world, key questions arise. Will population aging be accompanied by a longer period of good health, a sustained sense of well-being, and extended periods of social engagement and productivity, or will it be associated with more illness, disability, and dependency? How will aging affect health care and social costs? Are these futures inevitable, or can we act to establish a physical and social infrastructure that might foster better health and wellbeing in older age? How will population aging play out differently for low-income countries that will age faster than their counterparts have, but before they become industrialized and wealthy? This brief report, jointly issued by the WHO’s Department of Ageing and the Life Course and the NIA attempts to address some of these questions, emphasizing the central role that health will play in coming years.

  • January 10, 2012

    A nicotine skin patch may improve cognition in older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition marked by memory loss that often leads to Alzheimer’s dementia, according to findings from a small pilot clinical trial reported in the Jan. 10, 2012 print issue of Neurology. Nearly 70 volunteers, all non-smokers, wore either a nicotine patch or a placebo patch during the six month trial supported by the NIH. Researchers measured the volunteers’ cognitive performance at the start, at three months and at the end of the trial. They found the nicotine group showed significantly improved cognition during tests of mental speed, attention, and memory, and that the nicotine patch was safe to use for the trial period.  Additionally, the nicotine group participants reported improved cognition, which was also noted by their caregivers.  While the results of this small pilot trial were promising, the findings are not definitive and further investigation of a nicotine patch treatment for MCI in larger studies is warranted. Paul Newhouse, M.D., now of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, led the trial while at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, both parts of NIH at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Reference:

    Newhouse P., et al. Nicotine treatment of mild cognitive impairment: a six-month double-blind pilot clinical trial. Neurology January 10, 2012 78:91-101.

  • February 15, 2011

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding support nationally to caregivers of veterans with Alzheimer’s disease with a program developed by NIA-funded researchers. The REACH VA (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health in VA) program is the first national clinical implementation of a proven behavioral intervention for caregiver burden and stress. Results of the original REACH program were published in 2006.

    REACH VA involved 127 caregivers connected to 24 VA medical centers. The median age for the caregiver was 72 and the majority of the participants were spouses. For 6 months, the REACH VA caregivers were provided with a number of options based on their needs: individual in-home and telephone counseling sessions; telephone support group sessions; a caregiver quick guide with 48 behavioral and stress topics; education on safety and patient behavior management; and training for their individual health and well-being.

    Caregivers for veterans with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia typically reported feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, cut off from family and friends, lonely, prone to bouts of crying and having worse physical health than the year before. After participating in the REACH VA program, caregivers reported their burden reduced; drops in depressive symptoms; fewer frustrations, including those that have potential for abuse; and decreases in dementia-related behaviors from the veterans they cared for. Caregivers also reported they were able to spend fewer hours per day devoted to caregiving duties.

    Reference:

    Nichols LO, Martindale-Adams J, Burns R, Graney MJ, Zuber J. Translation of a Dementia Caregiver Support Program in a Health Care System—REACH VA. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(4):353-359.

Pages