• February 25, 2014

    NIH-funded researchers are testing interventions to alleviate psychiatric conditions and symptoms, such as agitation, that distress people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. The goal is to identify treatments that are safer and more effective than the currently available antipsychotic drugs that are linked to increased risk for stroke and excessive sedation. Agitation, a syndrome that includes anxious, disruptive, or aggressive behavior, is common in the later stages of dementia and often leads to placing a loved one in residential care.

    The online Feb. 19, 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association reported results from the NIH-supported Citalopram for Agitation in Alzheimer’s Disease Study (CitAD) clinical trial of the antidepressant citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil) as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s agitation. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, led the randomized, double-blinded trial involving 186 Alzheimer’s volunteers experiencing agitation. Ninety-four participants at eight sites in the United States and Canada received citalopram in dosages that gradually increased from 10 mg. to up to 30 mg. per day over 9 weeks; 92 participants received placebos. All the trial volunteers and their caregivers received psychosocial interventions, which included educational materials, supportive counseling, and care plans.

    The results were intriguing. About 40 percent of the citalopram group showed significant improvement in agitation symptoms compared to 26 percent of those receiving the placebo. The caregivers of those receiving citalopram also reported feeling less stress. However, citalopram volunteers showed some decline in cognition and heart function. In light of the even greater heart health risks associated with antipsychotic treatments, the researchers concluded that citalopram, especially in lower doses, may be a more effective and safer alternative to treating agitation in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Reference: Porsteinsson, A.P., et al. Effect of citalopram on agitation in Alzheimer’s disease: The CitAD randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2014 Feb. 19;311(7):682-91. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.93.

  • February 19, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Researchers sometimes wonder when and how to communicate with staff at the National Institute on Aging. "I hope you’re not agonizing over whether now is the right moment or whether your message will be well received," writes Dr. John Haaga, deputy director of NIA's Division of Behavioral and Social Research. "So, here are some tips that might make you more comfortable hitting send on that email to a program officer."

    Read the full blog post: What can your NIA program officer do for you? Part 2—how to get in touch

    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.

  • February 12, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Last month, Congress and the President finalized NIA's budget for the fiscal year. Dr. Richard J. Hodes, NIA director, has a new blog post about what this means for the aging and Alzheimer's disease research community. He explains, "the NIA got good news about our budget for fiscal year 2014: $130 million more than last year."

    Read the full blog post: NIA budget update

    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 in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • February 5, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.NIA's Office of Special Populations promotes research on health disparities, career development for a more diverse research workforce, and additional priorities. Dr. Carl V. Hill, new director of the Office of Special Populations, describes his plans in a blog post.

    Read the full blog post: What is NIA’s Office of Special Populations and what does it do?

    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 in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • January 30, 2014

    Scientists have identified several rare but influential variants in a gene not previously linked to Alzheimer’s that may double the risk for the disease in people who carry the gene. The results of the study, led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, adds phospholipase D3 (PLD3) to a growing list of genes thought to influence the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s.

    The researchers used whole exome sequencing and cellular models in the study published online Dec. 11, 2013, in Nature. They found that the PLD3 gene influences the processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP), a protein that plays a role in the development of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The findings show that lower PLD3 expression in brains of people with Alzheimer’s is correlated with higher APP and greater amyloid protein levels.

    Supported in part by NIA, the scientists analyzed DNA samples of 14 families with 4 or more members affected by late-onset Alzheimer’s, plus more than 11,000 people of European descent and 302 African Americans, to find and confirm the PLD3 gene. The samples came from the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease, Washington University, and other institutions.

    Whole exome sequencing is a complex technique that identifies changes in an individual’s DNA that cause genetic disorders. The exome is the part of the human genome that contains key DNA sequences that tell the body to make proteins necessary for proper functioning. Analysis of these sequences can help researchers identify rare genetic disorders and, in this case, search vast amounts of genetic data efficiently to find new genetic variants that increase Alzheimer’s risk compared with those who do not have the variants.

    The newly identified risk gene adds to growing knowledge of genetic variants thought to influence risk for and protection against late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Results reported last fall by an international research consortium identified 11 new genes that offer new evidence about certain biological pathways involved in the development of Alzheimer’s. Together, the findings point to possible therapeutic targets to prevent or delay the disease’s progression.

    Reference: Cruchaga C, et al. Rare coding variants in the phospholipase D3 gene confer risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Nature, published online Dec. 11, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12825.

  • January 30, 2014

    "Options for New Investigators: Grant Mechanisms," the first in a series of Technical Assistance Webinars sponsored by the NIA Office of Special Populations was Thursday, March 6, 2014 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. EST. The purpose of this webinar series is to provide participants with technical assistance for successfully engaging the NIA grants application process. 

    Target Audience:

    Pre-and post-doctoral students and recent recipients of Ph.D., M.D., or related doctoral degrees who are researchers with an interest in health disparities and aging research are encouraged to register and participate. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities and women are encouraged to attend.

    About the Speaker:
    Robin A. Barr, D.Phil.

    Dr. Robin BarrDr. Barr joined the National Institute on Aging in 1987 as a program officer in the Behavioral and Social Research Program. He developed several initiatives there, most notably the ACTIVE clinical trial on cognitive training. During an interval as Acting Assistant Director for Special Populations, He helped to develop the ongoing program of Research Centers on Minority Aging Research. From 1994 to 2006 he was Deputy Head of the Division of Extramural Activities ‑ contributing to policy development and coordination at the NIA ‑ and the NIA Training Officer. During this time he developed the research dissertation (R36) program aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds who obtain research doctoral degrees. He has also overseen and helped to shape substantial growth in the career development awards program at NIA and has played a key role in establishing public-private partnerships to pursue career development and training initiatives. In April 2006, Dr. Barr became Acting Director of the Division of Extramural Activities, NIA and was appointed Director of the Division in June 2007. Since that time he has worked at the NIH level to help shape NIH’s policies towards new and early stage investigators. He was centrally involved in managing NIA’s response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. His leadership role at NIA includes managing the National Advisory Council on Aging and advising the Director, NIA on all extramural activities of the Institute.

    For additional information:

    Ms. Andrea Griffin-Mann
    Office of Special Populations
    National Institute on Aging
    National Institutes of Health

  • January 29, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Applicants sometimes ask us if grant reviewers can really determine which grant applications are the very best. When only a small proportion of applications can be funded, can the NIH scientific peer review process identify the very highest quality applications in a large group of high quality applications?

    Dr. Robin Barr, director of NIA's Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post with funding data indicating that it can. He explains, "On average, reviewers are meaningfully discriminating even among applications at the very top of the range on the Approach and Significance criteria. Their assessment is not random within this set."

    Read the full blog post: Are impact ratings random?

    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 in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • February 13, 2014

    Emerging researchers, including those with limited involvement in research on aging, are invited to apply for the next Butler-Williams Scholars Program (formerly the Summer Institute on Aging Research), to be held August 4-8, 2014, at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, MD.

    Sponsored by NIA, the 5-day program will explore research design relative to aging, including issues relevant to racial/ethnic minorities and health disparities. The agenda will include:

    • lectures covering the biology of aging; genetics and Alzheimer’s disease; and health, behavior, and aging
    • discussion sessions focusing on methodological approaches and interventions
    • consultation on the development of research interests
    • advice on preparing and submitting research grant applications to NIA

    Applications and letters of recommendation are due by March 28, 2014.

    Learn more about the Butler-Williams Scholars Program and access the online application form

  • February 4, 2014

    A new online report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlights recent progress in NIH-supported Alzheimer’s disease research.

    Prepared annually by NIA, the latest report—2012-2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Seeking the Earliest Interventions—discusses the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, describes new investments and research priorities, and summarizes research in several areas:

    • biology of Alzheimer’s and the aging brain
    • biomarkers for Alzheimer’s progression
    • genes that may play a role in the disease
    • risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia
    • advances in detecting Alzheimer’s disease
    • translational research to identify and test new drugs
    • potential new therapies to treat, delay, or prevent Alzheimer’s
    • caregiving
    • gender and racial differences in the impact of Alzheimer’s

    Other features include a video introduction by NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes, a primer on Alzheimer’s disease and the brain, tables listing NIA-funded clinical trials, and videos that further explain critical areas of study.

    Read the report online: 2012-2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Seeking the Earliest Interventions

  • January 22, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Dr. David Schlessinger shares reflections on the birth of a new science, molecular biology, and his more than 50 years in genetics research. "When I first entered my mentor Jim Watson’s office as a graduate student in ancient times (i.e., 1957), I saw a slip of paper fastened by scotch tape to the fluorescent light fixture over his desk. On it he had clearly printed in ink: DNA --> RNA --> protein," writes Dr. Schlessinger, who works in NIA's Intramural, or in-house, Research Program.

    Read the full blog post: 50 years in genetics

    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 in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.