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Intramural Research at NIA

NIA's Intramural Research Program (IRP) includes the scientific disciplines of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, structural biology, genetics, immunology, neurogenetics, behavioral sciences (psychology, cognition, and psychophysiology), epidemiology, statistics, and clinical research and the medical disciplines of neurobiology, immunology, endocrinology, cardiology, rheumatology, hematology, oncology, and gerontology. The program seeks to understand the changes associated with healthy aging and to define the criteria for evaluating when a change becomes pathologic. Studies focus on both common age-related diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, cancer) and the determinants of healthy aging.

In 2008, NIA's IRP will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, America's longest-running scientific study of human aging. More than 1,400 men and women, ranging in age from the 20s to the 90s, have been study volunteers. Since its inception in 1958, the BLSA has generated numerous findings to elucidate the normal course of aging and disentangle the effects of disease from the normal aging process.

Budget Policy: The 2008 budget estimate for NIA's Intramural Research Program is $101,370,000, a decrease of $710,000 or 0.7 percent from the FY 2007 Continuing Resolution of $102,080,000. Program objectives for FY 2008 include plans to:

  • Determine the effectiveness of already available therapeutic agents for prevention in models of heart disease. Animal studies suggest that the compound fenoterol, widely used for treatment of pulmonary disease, may be effective in the treatment of congestive heart failure. Other studies in animal models have shown that the drug erythropoietin, used to treat certain types of anemia, has a protective effect on the heart if administered shortly after a heart attack. NIA's IRP is conducting preclinical testing of both agents with the goal of moving them into human clinical trials in future years.
  • Continue to study the effects of obesity and sarcopenia on health outcomes. The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study is an ongoing study of body composition and weight-related health conditions. Clinical examinations will end in 2007, at which time NIA plans to initiate five years of focused event follow-up for physical and cognitive function, selected disease endpoints (fracture, heart disease, cancer, and stroke), cause-of-death assessment, and maintenance of the biorepository.
  • Continue to study the driving factors behind persistent black-white health disparities in overall longevity, cardiovascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease. NIA is in the midst of data collection for its ground-breaking Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity Across the Life Span (HANDLS) study. HANDLS is a community-based, epidemiological study for evaluating health disparities in socioeconomically diverse African American and white populations in Baltimore, Maryland.