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Advances in Aging Research

NIA supports and conducts genetic, biological, clinical, behavioral, social, and economic research to better understand the aging process, as well as diseases, conditions, and other problems or needs associated with growing older. Below is a listing of some of the most influential NIA-supported research findings from the past ten years. The hope is that one day these findings will be translated into strategies or treatments to prevent, delay, or slow age-related diseases.

NIA-Supported Advances in Aging Research

Advance

Description of research finding

Link to publication (Date)

Removal of dysfunctional and harmful cells in mice

Genetic-based removal of senescent cells from a mouse model of accelerated aging resulted in health improvements including better exercise capacity and fewer cataracts.

Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays ageing-associated disorders (Nov. 2011)

Circulation of young and old blood in mice

Parabiosis—the experimental procedure of joining a young and aged animal for the purposes of circulating shared blood—has been shown to have positive effects on several organs of aged mice, including enhancements in the brain and muscle tissue.

Restoring Systemic GDF11 Levels Reverses Age-Related Dysfunction in Mouse Skeletal Muscle (May 2014)

 

Young blood reverses age-related impairments in cognitive function and synaptic plasticity in mice (May 2014)

Extension of lifespan and healthspan in mice

Six interventions—including types of foods and diets, drugs, and hormones—can lead to longer lifespan and healthspan in mice.

NIA Interventions Testing Program: Investigating Putative Aging Intervention Agents in a Genetically Heterogeneous Mouse Model (Dec. 2016)

Incentivizing behavior change in humans

Financial incentives have been shown to encourage positive behavior change in people that can lead to improved health outcomes.

Effect of Financial Incentives to Physicians, Patients, or Both on Lipid Levels (Nov. 2015)

 

Randomized Trial of Four Financial-Incentive Programs for Smoking Cessation (May 2015)

Effect of physical activity on risk of major mobility disability in humans

A regular, balanced, and moderate physical activity program followed for an average of 2.6 years reduced the risk of major mobility disability among older adults by 18%.

Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults: The LIFE Study Randomized Clinical Trial (June 2014)

Health benefits of testosterone for older men

In older men with clinically diagnosed low testosterone, restoring levels to that of healthy young men resulted in improved sexual function, sense of vitality, physical function, and volumetric bone density.

Effect of Testosterone Treatment on Volumetric Bone Density and Strength in Older Men With Low Testosterone: A Controlled Clinical Trial (April 2017)

 

Effects of Testosterone Treatment in Older Men (Feb. 2016)

Health benefits of blood pressure management

Intensive blood pressure management below a recommended target can further reduce heart attacks, stroke, and death in people aged 50 and older.

A Randomized Trial of Intensive versus Standard Blood Pressure Control (Nov. 2015)

Strategies to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes

Weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity, and treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (Nov. 2009)

Vascular benefits of early menopausal hormone therapy

Menopausal hormone therapy, if initiated early in menopause (<6 years past menopause), can slow the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis, a condition leading to the narrowing or complete obliteration of blood vessels.

Vascular Effects of Early versus Late Postmenopausal Treatment with Estradiol (March 2016)

Identification of genes and genetic risk factors involved in diseases of aging

Researchers recently discovered three new risk genes for myasthenia gravis (a neuromuscular condition associated with weakness and fatigue of the muscles), as well as a genetic mutation that underlies a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia cases.

A genome-wide association study of myasthenia gravis (April 2015)

 

A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is the cause of chromosome 9p21-linked ALS-FTD (Oct. 2011)

Long-Term Studies

NIA supports a broad range of aging research is by creating and maintaining large cohorts for longitudinal studies. Find a listing of major cohorts and longitudinal studies below.

Long-term studies supported by NIA

Study/Cohort

Description of research finding

Link to publication (Date)

The Long Life Family Study

This longitudinal study identified a set of markers in blood which can predict survival, better physical function, disease-free aging, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.

Biomarker signatures of aging (Jan. 2017)

The Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) study

This longitudinal study continues to investigate the ways in which age, race, and socioeconomic status interact to influence health. Recent findings from the HANDLS study include identification of a measure of red blood cell oxidative stress associated with racial discrimination; identification of a potential genetic basis for iron deficiency among African Americans, who as a population are at greater risk for this condition; and the determination that food insecurity may contribute to disparities in kidney disease, especially among persons with diabetes or hypertension.

Healthy aging in neighborhoods of diversity across the life span (HANDLS): overcoming barriers to implementing a longitudinal, epidemiologic, urban study of health, race, and socioeconomic status (Summer 2010)

Age-Related Changes in Plasma Extracellular Vesicle Characteristics and Internalized by Leukocytes (May 2017)

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

For more than 50 years, this longitudinal study has advanced understanding about normal versus pathological aging as well as age-related diseases and conditions. Recently, researchers discovered that individuals who are fully functional and free of major medical conditions have lower resting metabolic rate than those with disease and functional impairment.

“IDEAL” aging is associated with lower resting metabolic rate: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (April 2014)