Announcements

  • May 22, 2014

    Official mortality figures may have substantially underreported deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 show two recent studies supported in part by NIA. Underreporting of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death on death certificates is a well-known phenomenon. Some people with the disease never receive a diagnosis. Many others have dementia-related conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, listed as the primary cause of death while the underlying cause, Alzheimer’s, is never reported.

    When a person dies, the cause or causes of death are listed on death certificates, typically by a physician, and filed with the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. This information is then forwarded to the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which compiles and reports the totals each year as the official U.S. mortality figures and leading causes of death. The CDC’s tally of 83,494 Alzheimer’s deaths in 2010, based on death certificates, ranks the disease as the sixth leading cause of death.

    Two groups of investigators at Rush University, Chicago, wanted to examine this phenomenon to gain a clearer picture of the full burden of Alzheimer’s disease now and in the decades to come. While their estimates of deaths due to Alzheimer’s in 2010 vary slightly, both groups determined that Alzheimer’s-related mortality rates were several times higher than the official figure.

    In one study, the researchers combined data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) with U.S. census data to estimate the number of deaths of older Americans with Alzheimer’s (Weuve et al., 2014). In a random sample of 1,913 CHAP participants age 65 and older, 990 people died over the course of 6 years. Data from this sample were used to calculate national Alzheimer’s mortality rates.

    These findings, reported in the March 2014 issue of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, showed that an estimated 600,000 people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s died in 2010. The researchers estimate that this number will rise to 900,000 in 2030 and to 1.6 million by 2050. This is an increase from 32 percent of deaths in people age 65 and older attributed to Alzheimer’s in 2010 to an estimated 43 percent in this population in 2050.

    The second study, published online on March 5, 2014, in Neurology, found that the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in people 75 and older could be six times higher than the official count (James et al., 2014). Researchers’ estimate of 503,400 deaths due to Alzheimer’s in 2010 among people in that age group would have made the disease the third leading cause of death in 2010, behind heart disease and cancer.

    Researchers followed 2,566 participants in the ongoing Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Study for 8 years. All participants, age 65 and older, were cognitively normal when they entered the studies. Over the course of the research, 22 percent of the volunteers developed Alzheimer’s dementia. About 72 percent of the people with Alzheimer’s disease died during that timeframe, compared with 34 percent of those who remained symptom-free. Based on autopsy findings, the researchers concluded that death certificates do not reflect the large number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths.

    References

    Weuve J, et al. Deaths in the United States among persons with Alzheimer’s disease (2010–2050). Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2014;10:e40-46.

    James BD, et al. Contribution of Alzheimer’s disease to mortality in the United States. Neurology. 2014 March; 82(12): 1045-50.

  • May 22, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    Most government funding agencies, including the NIH, have special pots of money reserved for small businesses. Dr. M-D Kerns, Small Business Program Coordinator in the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post about this funding. "If you’ve ever thought about spinning off some of your research into a product or service for sale," he explains, "this support could be for you. Or, if you would like to explore whether some of your ideas could be commercialized, there’s early phase exploratory funding for that kind of investigation."

    Read the full blog post: Consider small business funding

    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.

  • May 20, 2014

    The Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging is holding one of its thrice yearly meetings on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. EDT until 12:45 p.m EDT or until all business is completed. Please tune in to watch the live videocast.

    This videocast is a new service we are offering to enhance your access to NIA and our decision-making process about grants and funding. The agenda and other meeting materials are also available.

  • May 16, 2014

    Resveratrol, a compound in red wine, grapes, and nuts, has been the focus of many studies for its effects on aging and disease. Researchers have found it to improve the health (and in some cases, longevity) of animals, including mice and nonhuman primates. However, in a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine on May 12, 2014, researchers report that dietary resveratrol did not provide such effects in a group of community-dwelling, older people in Italy.

    Results are based on data collected from 1998 to 2009, as part of the Invecchiare in Chianti Study (“Aging in the Chianti Region”). The team of scientists from America and Italy, including NIA Scientific Director Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, found that resveratrol in the diet was not associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation, nor was it associated with longevity.

    In the paper, researchers note the interest in resveratrol supplementation in the U.S. and elsewhere, and they caution against use of such supplements based on animal data thus far. The paper states there is “limited and conflicting human clinical data demonstrating any metabolic benefits of resveratrol, and there is no data concerning its safety in high doses or for long-term supplementation in older people, who often have multiple comorbidities for which they are taking multiple medications.”

    The study authors suggest that more research with a larger group of participants is needed to determine whether resveratrol could have benefits in people, especially those who are overweight with health issues like diabetes.

    Reference: Semba, R.D., et al. Resveratrol Levels Unrelated to All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online May 12, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1582.

  • May 15, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    There is a new list of NIH information sources for funding announcements and important updates about applications, review, and grants policies relevant to researchers and their work. Ensure you’re not missing out with a new blog post by Britt Ehrhardt, Technical Writer/Editor in the NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison. "The National Institutes of Health puts out a lot of information for researchers," she writes. "Websites, email newsletters, help desks… we really want to help you find your way to the resources you need."

    Read the full blog post: Are you getting everything that NIH has to offer?

    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.

  • May 15, 2014

    Scientists suggest more research into link between aging, chronic disease

    To learn how common mechanisms in aging underlie the development of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, scientists have developed a new approach toward biomedical research, called geroscience. This innovative field of research seeks to bridge the divide between studies of aging and studies of chronic disease, with the hope of understanding their complex relationship and pointing the way to novel interventions for disease, frailty, and disability. Geroscience is now the focus of recommendations for new research, directed by a major, national summit at the National Institutes of Health.Advances in Geroscience conference logo

    The recommendations for research are based in large part on discussions at the groundbreaking 2013 NIH summit, Advances in Geroscience: Impact on Healthspan and Chronic Disease. The conference established a baseline for what we know about geroscience and outlined a roadmap for discovery about the connection between aging and disease. It was cosponsored with the NIH by the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America, with additional private sector support through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. An overview of the Summit sessions has just been published online on May 15, 2014 in a supplemental issue of The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

    At the summit, renowned experts in aging biology and disease concluded that this new field of study could be developed through specific actions by NIH and the broader research community. Among the scientific recommendations from the summit:

    • Identify how our current knowledge of the biology of aging can be applied to study the impact of aging on age-related diseases/conditions
    • Identify which aspects of aging are most responsive to prevention and treatment interventions
    • Develop ways to assess health span (years of good health and function) so that therapies designed to prevent disease can be assessed for efficacy
    • Construct animal models that develop chronic diseases at an equivalent age to humans (this may dramatically improve translation of interventions from animals to human)
    • Foster studies to understand the connection between the biology of aging and frailty, which is both a major risk factor for chronic disease and a consequence of chronic disease

    Most of the recommendations are deeply rooted in the spirit of collaboration and apply what is known about aging and chronic disease to help elucidate the unknown.

    The recommendations propose research directions in seven specific areas discussed at the summit, distinct mechanisms known or suspected to be related to aging that might also enable disease. Suggested areas of investigation focus on inflammation, adaptation to stress, epigenetics, metabolism, macromolecular (i.e., protein, DNA, and lipid/fat) damage, proteostasis (proper protein activity), and stem cells to better understand how they relate to serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and metabolic diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and frailty. Such studies might ultimately answer whether or not it is possible to prevent disease or reverse damage with therapies directed at the underlying contributions of aging.

    The summit was led by the recently-formed Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG).  GSIG founding and executive committee members Dr. Felipe Sierra, director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH and Dr. Kevin Howcroft, program director in the Cancer Immunology and Hematology Branch of the National Cancer Institute at NIH led development of the summit program. Ultimately, they said, the group is interested in developing new funding opportunities to support the interdisciplinary studies inherent in geroscience proposed by the scientific leaders at the summit.

  • May 14, 2014

    Website was early model for senior-friendly design

    Logo: 'NIHSeniorHealth.gov, built with you in mind'

    NIHSeniorHealth, a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, offers health and wellness information for older adults.

    NIHSeniorHealth.gov, the premier federal health and wellness website for older adults from the NIH, celebrated its 10th anniversary in October 2013. Jointly developed by the NIA and the National Library of Medicine, NIHSeniorHealth pioneered the development of senior-friendly web design when it launched in 2003. Using NIA-funded cognitive aging and vision research along with results from focus group and usability tests, developers designed a website especially tailored to the needs of adults 60+.

    According to the Pew Research Center, health information is one of the key topics that older adults search for online. By pairing authoritative health information with an easy-to-use design, NIHSeniorHealth uniquely positioned itself to serve a population increasingly interested in health issues but unfamiliar with how to access this information on the Internet.

    A range of senior-friendly features has made NIHSeniorHealth particularly easy for older adults to use. Large type and high color contrast schemes help with vision issues, plain language and chunking of content facilitate comprehension, and consistent page layouts and placement of buttons and prompts make for easy navigation.

    Older adult reading senior-friendly content on computer

    Special features on the NIHSeniorHealth website make it simple for old adults to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.

    The content is geared toward the health interests of people 60 and older, too. Visitors to the site will find information on healthy aging and ways to prevent and treat aging-related diseases, as well as tips on medical care and personal safety. To accommodate the different ways older adults assimilate information, NIHSeniorHealth presents its content in a variety of formats, including background information, quizzes, videos, and frequently asked questions. NIHSeniorHealth relies on NIH’s institutes and centers for its content, and to date, 16 have contributed more than 60 topics to the site.

    Innovations over the years have included updates to the look and feel of the site and the development of a trainer’s toolkit to help older adults learn to find additional reliable online health information on their own.

    In 2012, a revitalized NIHSeniorHealth was introduced. With a new design and updated approach, the site is now enhanced, for both the novice computer user and those who over the last decade have gained some experience searching for materials online. A search function now allows users access to age-related health information from a variety of reputable websites, and a “share” button lets them more easily send information from NIHSeniorHealth to their friends and families.    

    Today, NIHSeniorHealth is reaching out to a broader audience to address the interests of web-savvy baby boomers looking for health information. Twice a week, Healthy Aging Tips are sent out to a growing subscriber base, and NIHSeniorHealth will soon launch its own YouTube channel, opening up many of its 150 videos to a wider audience. To stay current with the changing needs and expectations of web users, NIHSeniorHealth will incorporate more links to other government agencies on its pages and will debut new interactive features, beginning with its upcoming topic, Quitting Smoking for Older Adults.

    To learn more, watch these videos about NIHSeniorHealth:

    “Introducing NIHSeniorHealth” (2003)

    “Introducing the Toolkit” (2007)

    “Healthy Eyes Topic on NIHSeniorHealth” (2013)

    “Complementary Health Approaches on NIHSeniorHealth” (2013)

    Visit NIHSeniorHealth at www.nihseniorhealth.gov.

  • May 13, 2014

    The Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn), an online community to help women succeed in research, with a special focus on enhancing diversity in biomedical science, has received the Health Improvement Institute’s Aesculapius Award of Excellence. The award, named for the Greek god of healing, is presented to one website and one public service announcement each year to recognize excellence in communicating health information to the public.

    N I H's Women of Color Research Network (W o C R n) logo

    The Health Improvement Institute’s Aesculapius Award of Excellence was recently awarded to NIH’s Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn).

    The WoCRn is a web-based forum and networking site, managed by the Women of Color subcommittee of the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers, co-chaired by NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard. Early-career researchers interact with peers and more experienced investigators in this online community. Members can exchange ideas about career development, get advice on navigating the NIH grants process, and participate in discussion groups on topics such as mentoring, science policy, and work-life balance. The site also posts news items pertinent to scientific workforce diversity for comment and discussion. Learn more about the WoCRn.

  • May 13, 2014
    Dr. Stephanie Studenski, BLSA director and chief of the Longitudinal Studies Section

    Dr. Stephanie Studenski joins NIA as BLSA director and chief of the Longitudinal Studies Section in the Translational Gerontology Branch of NIA’s Intramural Research Program.

    On January 24, 2014, NIA welcomed Dr. Stephanie Studenski as chief of the Longitudinal Studies Section in the Translational Gerontology Branch of NIA’s Intramural Research Program. In this role, she will direct the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), one of the nation’s longest and most prestigious studies of aging.

    “I am pleased and honored to join such an exciting enterprise and look forward to new collaborations within and beyond NIA,” Dr. Studenski commented.

    Over her 30-year career, Dr. Studenski has conducted observational studies and clinical trials focusing on human aging and age-related disease, mainly using biomechanical and neuroimaging techniques to evaluate risk factors and mechanisms of late-life disability. She has translated her findings into clinical practice by leading efforts to develop physical performance measures for clinical use and by designing and testing novel interventions to improve mobility and reduce falls.

    “Stephanie has been at the front edge of research on aging all her professional life, and her creativity never ceases to amaze me,” said Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, NIA scientific director and former BLSA director. “She brings to the BLSA outstanding expertise in the area of geriatrics and research on aging and mobility decline. Both are key to begin translating some recent study results into clinical assessment tools and potentially new interventions. In her hands, the BLSA will continue to grow in innovation and scientific productivity.”

    Dr. Studenski comes to NIA from the University Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where she was a professor of geriatrics in the Department of Medicine, with a secondary professorship with the Schools of Allied Health, Public Health, and Nursing. At UPMC, she served as associate director for research in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology as well as the Aging Institute. She also held a part-time staff physician appointment at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Centers at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Pittsburgh. Before joining the UPMC staff in 2002, she held positions at University of Kansas Medical Center (1992-2002) and Duke University Medical Center (1979-1992).

    Dr. Studenski has co-authored more than 200 peer-review journal publications, three books, and nearly 40 invited papers and book chapters. She has presented at many national and international meetings, often as a keynote speaker, and served on several advisory boards, including NIA’s national advisory council.

  • May 13, 2014
    N I A’s Health Disparities Research Persons Network (H D P R N) group on LinkedIn

    Members can now join NIA’s Health Disparities Research Persons Network (HDPRN) group on LinkedIn.

    NIA’s Health Disparities Research Persons Network (HDRPN) has a new home with LinkedIn, the popular professional networking site.

    Developed in 2008 by NIA’s Office of Special Populations, the HDRPN provides technical and capacity-building assistance to scientists interested in aging research, especially studies involving diverse and underserved groups. Moving the HDRPN’s virtual network to LinkedIn will help enhance connections among senior investigators and early and mid-career investigators who seek professional guidance about effective study design, minority health, health disparities, and subject recruitment.

    Benefits of joining the HDRPN on LinkedIn

    • Greater interface with NIA’s Office of Special Populations and a direct line to learn about opportunities to participate in grant reviews and advise on other projects to support underserved populations
    • Notices about conferences and workshops related to aging, health disparities, and diversity
    • Opportunities to exchange ideas and potentially collaborate on research to effectively address the needs of diverse aging populations

    Network members can now link their personal LinkedIn profiles to the new NIA Health Disparities Resource Persons Network group.

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