Announcements

  • August 7, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Have you come across a compound or treatment in your own research that you think might promote healthy aging? Now is the time to propose it be tested! An NIA program is accepting proposals for candidate interventions for testing in a genetically heterogeneous mouse model. The next deadline is September 20. Nancy Nadon, Program Officer of the Biological Resources Program and Chief of Biological Resources Branch in NIA's Division of Aging Biology explains this opportunity in a new blog post.

    Read the full blog post: Interventions Testing Program—upcoming deadline for candidate interventions

    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.

  • August 8, 2013

    Resveratrol, a compound in nuts, grapes, and wine, has been previously found to slow age-related health decline in mice on a standard diet and improve health and longevity of overweight, aged mice on a high fat diet. In a new study of non-human primates, researchers have found that resveratrol counters some of the negative effects of a high fat/high sugar diet on the pancreas, protecting these primates from developing diabetes.

    A healthy pancreas responds to an increase in blood sugar (after a meal, for instance) by activating β-cells in the part of pancreas called the islets.  These β-cells produce, store and release insulin helping to break down the sugar and restore the blood to normal levels. A long-term high fat/high sugar diet can cause diabetes, a condition in which the body cannot regulate its blood sugar.

    Rhesus monkeys were fed either a standard diet, a high fat diet/high sugar diet with a placebo, or a high fat/high sugar diet with resveratrol for 24 months. Researchers found that the islets of monkeys on a high fat/high sugar diet supplemented with resveratrol were similar to those of monkeys on a standard diet. The compound also helped to maintain the β-cell numbers and function in these monkeys, compared to those on a high fat/high sugar diet without resveratrol. Researchers suggest that their findings may have future implications for treatments for people with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and diabetes.

    Reference: Fiori JL, et al. Resveratrol Prevents β–cell Dedifferentiation in Non-Human Primates Given a High Fat/High Sugar Diet. Diabetes. Published online July 24, 2013; doi: 10.2337/db13-0266
     

  • August 5, 2013

    The protein topoisomerase is considered the “magician of the DNA world.” It stabilizes DNA’s double helix structure during replication and repair, enabling DNA to unwind and then rewind without breaking.

    Topoisomerase, was thought not to have a role in RNA—a single stranded genetic structure. In an important new study, however, researchers at the National Institute on Aging at NIH have discovered the first RNA topoisomerase, Top3β, in animal cells and determined it to be crucial for normal neurodevelopment in mice and fruit flies. Specifically, the scientists found Top3β genetically interacts with protein FMRP (fragile X mental retardation protein) to promote healthy brain function and protect against mental disorders.

    Furthermore, they report that some mutations in FMRP that cause Fragile X syndrome, the leading cause of autism and strongly associated with schizophrenia in humans, also disrupt the interaction between FMRP and Top3β.  These findings are reported in the August 4, 2013, online issue of Nature Neuroscience.  

    In the same issue of Nature Neuroscience is a paper linking Top3β deletion in a Finnish population to schizophrenia and/or intellectual disability.  This suggests a likely human application for the companion finding in animal models.  Researchers propose that these new reports might point the way to targets for future therapy for patients with these mental disorders.

    Reference: Xu D., et al. Top3β is an RNA topoisomerase that works with fragile X syndrome protein to promote synapse formation. Nature Neuroscience. Published online August 4, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3479

  • August 8, 2013

    NIHSeniorHealth.gov - Built with you in mindMaintaining your vision as you get older is vital to health and wellbeing. Even if you enjoy good vision now, it’s important to practice good eye healthcare to make sure your vision is as good as it can be as you age.

    To learn about ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the new Healthy Eyes topic on NIHSeniorHealth for information about:

    • maintaining your vision
    • tips for healthy eyes
    • the comprehensive dilated eye exam
    • visiting Your eye care professional

    Healthy Eyes was developed by the National Eye Institute (NEI) at NIH.

    For more about healthy vision, see the new tip sheet “Protect Your Eyes When you Exercise” (PDF, 299K) from Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.

    To find more health and wellness information for older adults from the National Institutes of Health, go to www.nihseniorhealth.gov. NIHSeniorHealth is a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

  • July 31, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.As most applicants for NIH grants know, reviewers assess research grant applications using five criteria. Every applicant wants great scores, and we want to help you understand how you’ll be scored, and why. Robin Barr, Director of the NIA's Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post discussing scores. He writes, "You may have heard that the Approach criterion score is highly correlated with the final impact score assigned to a grant application. Let’s get into the details of that."

    Read the full blog post: The Approach criterion: why does it matter so much in peer review?

    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.

  • July 30, 2013

    Deposits of a hormone called amylin in the brain may indicate risk for developing dementia and type 2 diabetes, according to a study published online in the Annals of Neurology. The analysis by researchers at the NIA-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, Davis, is the first to identify amylin deposits in post-mortem brain tissue from older people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia and diabetes. The findings also indicated that amylin may play a similar role in the Alzheimer’s disease process as amyloid protein, a hallmark of the disorder.

    Amylin (also known as islet amyloid polypeptide) is a hormone expressed and secreted with insulin. It influences blood sugar levels; when too much is secreted, risk for developing diabetes increases. These new findings show that amylin deposits can also build up and form plaques in the brain, similar to amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease.

    The researchers examined post-mortem brain tissue from three groups of volunteers older than 70 years: those who had diabetes and dementia (vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s), those who had Alzheimer’s but no diabetes, and those free of these disorders. Investigators found significant amylin deposits in the brain tissue of people with both dementia and diabetes. Surprisingly, they also found amylin in people with Alzheimer’s but without diabetes—perhaps because these individuals had undiagnosed insulin resistance. The healthy controls had few amylin deposits.

    The study, led by Dr. Florin Despa, may explain why people with diabetes are at risk for dementia. Like amyloid, amylin circulates in the blood and, during the disease process, is overproduced and not cleared normally, building up in the brain. Over time, both proteins lead to the loss of brain cells and brain damage. Amylin buildup in the brain’s blood vessels may also play a role in amyloid buildup and contribute to risk for Alzheimer’s, the study found.

    Reference: Jackson K, et al. Amylin deposition in the brain: A second amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease? Annals of Neurology. Published online June 22, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23956.

  • July 29, 2013

    On May 22, 2013, the National Institute on Aging (NIA), NIH, in collaboration with the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Association for Psychological Science (APS), convened a meeting of eminent scientists from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics to highlight the potential for social and behavioral research to play a more influential role in the service of public policy, discuss strategies for bringing important research findings to the attention of policy makers, and identify lessons that can be learned from approaches undertaken in the United Kingdom Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team to leverage behavioral research findings, a great deal of which has been from research conducted in the United States. While NIA does not support policy research per se, findings from the basic behavioral and social science research that it does support are an important resource for informing policies that address the multiple causes of the U.S. health disadvantage. The meeting summary (PDF, 849K) and speaker biographies (MS Word, 2.0M) are now available on the BSR workshops page.

  • July 24, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The NIA summer training program builds the pipeline for the future biomedical research workforce. Our Summer Institute, just renamed the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, provides early to mid-career scientists with a unique opportunity to interact with leaders in the field of aging and health disparities research. Scientists who attend learn how to design strong projects and put together competitive grant applications, as well as develop relationships and networks that often continue long after the week-end goodbyes. In a new blog post, NIA Deputy Director Marie Bernard describes how the training works its magic and how you or your trainees can apply to attend.

    Read the full blog post: Preparing the next generation: announcing the 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.

  • July 23, 2013

    Evaluating the cognitive status of older patients in the primary care setting is one of the first steps in determining the cause of problems with memory, attention, and other aspects of thinking that can affect their health and well-being. With dozens of instruments available, finding the right ones to use can be a challenge. Now, clinicians and researchers have a new and simple way to find appropriate instruments—through a searchable database from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health.

    The database, available at www.nia.nih.gov/research/cognitive-instrument, contains detailed information about more than 100 published instruments for detecting Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive impairment. It was created by NIA staff in consultation with experts in the field. Many instruments are suitable for outpatient practices and community studies. Each instrument in the database was developed as a cognitive assessment for age-related dementia and has had at least three published studies using the instrument since its debut and at least one publication in the last 10 years.

    Users can search the database by specific criteria, such as time to administer the instrument, the administrator’s level of expertise, cost, and target diagnosis. They can also find instruments that have been evaluated in specific populations and translated into languages other than English. Each instrument is summarized, with references cited and linked for easy access.

  • July 19, 2013

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH has named its prestigious Summer Institute on Aging Research after NIA’s first two directors—Dr. Robert N. Butler and Dr. T. Franklin Williams. The week-long training program for early and mid-career scientists will now be known as the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, and participants from here on will be recognized as Butler-Williams Scholars.

    The naming, announced at the conclusion of the 2013 Summer Institute on July 19, is a tribute to the legacies of Butler and Williams in aging research. “Both Dr. Butler and Dr. Williams saw the aging of individuals and society as an opportunity for change and sought to reset our thinking of what advancing age can be,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., NIA director. “I am pleased that their names will be permanently linked to this important and forward-looking program.”

    Butler, who came to the NIA as its founding director in 1974, built the framework for a broad research endeavor in basic, clinical and behavioral and social research that remains the core of NIA’s research program today. A geriatric psychiatrist, he was particularly proud of focusing public and research attention on Alzheimer’s disease and dementias. Butler served as director of the institute until 1982. He died on July 4, 2010, at the age of 83.

    Williams came to the NIA in 1983 and developed and further expanded these visionary programs. During Williams’ tenure, the NIA launched several groundbreaking programs, including the Alzheimer's Disease Centers network and the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. He also established the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers, which conduct research on diseases and conditions that threaten independent living. Williams left the NIA in 1991. He died November 25, 2011, one day before his 90th birthday.

    Both Butler and Williams were early and leading proponents of geriatrics as a medical specialty, urging medical schools to focus on research and teaching related to the health care needs of older people. In 1986, highlighting what NIA itself could do to train the biomedical workforce for an aging society, Williams established the Summer Institute on Aging Research.

    The annual Butler-Williams Scholars Program includes lectures, seminars, and small group discussions in research design relative to aging, including issues relevant to aging of ethnic and racial minorities. The week features interactive sessions with NIA staff and leading researchers in a variety of disciplines covering topics on the biology of aging; genetics and Alzheimer’s disease; and health, behavior, and aging. Discussion sessions focus on methodological approaches and interventions, as well as development of research interests and advice on preparing and submitting research grant applications to NIA.

    Applications are accepted from emerging researchers, including those with previously limited involvement in aging research. The program is an offering of the NIA Office of Special Populations, and researchers with an interest in health disparities research are encouraged to apply. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities and women are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

    Between 25-30 participants are chosen each year. The interaction and networking among the attendees has been a lasting—and fun—part of the program, and participants have already established their own community of “alumni.”

    “Both Drs. Butler and Williams were pioneers in aging research who cared deeply about its future,” said NIA Deputy Director Marie A. Bernard, M.D. “We hope and expect that the Butler-Williams Scholars will become the future leaders in the field, emulating the examples of the program’s namesakes, as innovators and advocates on behalf of older people.”

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