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About NIA

NACA Meeting: September 17-18, 2013

Institute-Sponsored Meetings, Workshops, and Conferences

Past Meetings

Transfer of Training Meeting – June 5, 2013 – Washington DC

This meeting was held at the National Academy of Sciences and featured members of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and two invited experts. The participants explored the current state of knowledge on how training of either basic cognitive skills or the induction of changes in overall state could lead to benefit (transfer) on un-trained tasks or areas of functioning. The meeting also attempted to advance our understanding of who does and does not benefit from training or show transfer of training. This meeting could influence the course of future cognitive interventions for older adults.

(For additional information please contact Dr. Jonathan King at BSR (301-402-4156).

Ceramides and Aging – Current Status and Future Directions (July 23, 2013)

The NIA Division of Aging Biology held a workshop to discuss ceramides and aging on July 23rd, 2013 in Bethesda, MD. Ceramide synthase was one of the first genes identified to regulate lifespan in model organisms. It also has been demonstrated to have a key regulatory role in apoptosis and the cellular stress response. Workshop speakers reviewed the current state of the art with respect to ceramide biology and aging. The workshop participants reviewed the history of research in this area and then focused on identifying the knowledge gaps and future research directions to enhance research on ceramides and aging. A detailed report will follow. (Contact: Dr. David Finkelstein, DAB, 301/496-6402).

Auditory Plasticity and Aging - August 12-13, 2013 Bethesda, MD

The NIA Division of Neuroscience convened a workshop to discuss research on auditory plasticity and aging on August 12 and 13, 2013 in Bethesda, MD. The workshop was co-organized by Dr. Gregg Recanzone from University of California at Davis, Drs. Wen Chen and Molly Wagster at NIA, and Dr. Christopher Platt at National Institute for Deafness & Other Communication Disorders. There were two main sessions for the workshop: the first one focused on Bottom-up Auditory Processing and Plasticity in Aging Model Organisms and the second one focused on Complex Auditory Processing and Plasticity in Aging. The workshop speakers included experts in the fields of brain aging, age-related hearing loss, and auditory plasticity. The workshop participants focused on identifying the knowledge gaps and future research directions to enhance research on auditory plasticity and aging. More information about the workshop program can be found on the NIA website. A more detailed workshop report will be published at the NIA workshop website at a later stage. Dr. Recanzone will also lead the effort to develop a conceptual framework or a few conceptual frameworks to guide future research on auditory plasticity and aging, with the aim of publishing in a peer-reviewed premier neuroscience journal.

For further information, please contact Dr. Wen G. Chen (chenw@nia.nih.gov; phone 301-496-9350).

Age-Related Changes in Neuromuscular Junction (August 27, 2013)

The neuromuscular junction changes with age, such that there is a loss in the number of functional junctions. It is not known what causes the loss in neuromuscular junctions, but there is evidence that changes in the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) play a role in sarcopenia and frailty. The purpose of this workshop is to explore and discuss the roll of aging in the loss of NMJ in sarcopenic frailty.

(Contacts: Dr. John Williams, DAB, 301/496-6402; Dr. Wen Chen, DN, 301/496-9350).

Role of Regulatory RNAs in Aging (August 29, 2013)

This workshop discussed how regulatory RNAs impact aging and age-related diseases, and determined if there are any gaps or opportunities that have not been met by the scientific community.

Regulatory RNAs include an increasing list of RNA molecules (miRNAs, NCRNAs, piRNAs, etc.) that have been shown to regulate either gene expression or protein synthesis in all kind of cells. These RNAs have significant biological importance in aging. For example, there is substantial evidence that indicates that miRNAs regulate the process of senescence. However, the precise mechanisms by which miRNAs and other regulatory RNAs control this and other age-related biological processes remain unsolved. The aim for the workshop was to bring experts in the RNA field and experts in the biology of aging to encourage a cross-talk among the different disciplines and to help determine what are the challenges and opportunities in furthering the research in this area. We held the workshop on August 29, 2013 in Bethesda, MD
(Contact: Dr. Jose Velazquez, DAB, 301/496-6402).

Female Reproductive Aging and Women’s Health (September 4, 2013)

Reproductive aging in all female mammals is often associated with changes in numerous body functions and pathophysiology. Although some of these features are species-specific, there are those that parallel human menopause and aging. These include changes in hormone profiles across the menopausal transition, progression to cycle termination through irregular cycles, disturbances in thermogenesis, age-related gains in body weight, changes in fat distribution and disposition towards metabolic syndrome, epigenetic changes, and environmental triggers that time endocrine aging with implications on age-related diseases. Many post-menopausal features also increase the risk for age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

The concept that mammalian ovaries possess a static ovarian reserve is at odds with more recent findings. Ovarian stem cells are now thought to be the source of germline stem cells during fetal and adult life. The idea that these stem cells can differentiate into competent oocytes in a suitable environment is logical and thought-provoking. Stem cells in different compartments share properties such as pluripotency, self-renewal, and diminished regenerative potential with age. This new idea opens up an opportunity to suggest that menopause is driven by an age-related decline in ovarian stem cell function rather than depletion of a non-renewable follicular reserve. In any case, a gap in understanding how ovarian stem cells interact with their surrounding environment needs to be addressed. Such an understanding brings us a step closer to controlling the female biological clock when it might be clinically desirable.

Progress in menopausal research and women’s health has also been severely hampered by several factors, including lack of appropriate animal models, poor understanding of basic ovarian biology and lack of a staging system in a clinical setting. In the past, several vertebrate models have been employed. These include different mammalian species, genetically engineered rodents, non-human primates and inducible mouse models that mimic aspects of human menopause. Studies have traditionally used ovariectomy as the standard approach to study age-related menopause biology.

The primary goal of this workshop was to obtain a scientific update from the expert group and further, to identify potential gaps in the field. The workshop was held on September 4, 2013 in the Natcher Building (Room D), from 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM.

(Contact: Dr. Mahadev Murthy, DAB, 301/496-6402).

Future Meetings

SOBC Harnessing Neuroplasticity for Behavior Change – September 23-24, 2013 – Bethesda MD

Planning is underway for this NIA-administered Common Fund meeting which will explore the value of identifying neurobiological targets and harnessing neuroplasticity in the service of behavior change.

Planning committee includes Jonathan W. King and Lisbeth Nielsen, NIA/BSR (301-402-4156).

Network on Reversibility Meeting – October 15-16 – London, UK

This exploratory meeting will be co-chaired by Dr. David Reiss, BSR IPA, in conjunction with researchers at the UK Economic and Social Research Council. Participants will explore how existing datasets can be used (a) to identify pathways linking early social adversity to late life health outcomes, and (b) to accelerate understanding of the malleability of risk and the effects of interventions.

For additional information please contact Dr. Lis Nielsen at BSR (301-402-4156).

Summit on Advances in Geroscience: Impact on Healthspan and Chronic Disease October 30-31, 2013, Natcher Auditorium, NIH Campus, Bethesda MD

The Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG) is focused on identifying innovative approaches to better understand the relationships between the biological processes of aging and age-related chronic diseases and disabilities. Researchers in the biology of aging study the underlying molecular and cellular processes of aging, with a goal of using this knowledge to decrease the occurrence and severity of chronic disease and maximize health across the life span. This approach emerges from the simple fact that aging is itself the major risk factor for the majority of chronic diseases. Until recently the biological processes of aging were viewed as irreversible. However, current research suggests otherwise, raising the hope that there might be ways to capitalize on these discoveries to improve health as the population ages. These considerations led members of the GSIG to organize a summit that brings together leading researchers who study diverse molecular and cellular process in the biology of aging with leaders who study these same processes in the contexts of specific diseases. The goals of the summit are to find intersections among the biological pathways of aging and the multiple chronic diseases and conditions of aging, to promote these as fulcra on which to leverage new research on aging as the major risk factor for chronic disease, and – ultimately – to envision new ways to facilitate the translation of these findings into better health for the aging population.

The Summit will be opened by Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH. A Keynote Session will set the stage with three talks covering frailty and disease in the elderly, an overview of the global burden of disease, and a status report on the current research in the biology of aging. Seven Scientific Sessions will each use short thematic talks to open discussions on the interplay between specific aspects of the biology of aging and chronic diseases. Those sessions, the speakers and the topics for discussion are listed on the Summit Agenda.

The Summit is open to the public and is free of charge.
Links: Summit on GSIG Website
GSIG Summit on NIA Website
GSIG Summit at Gerontological Society of America Website

Organized by the trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group
DAB Contacts: Felipe Sierra and Ron Kohanski
GSIG Contacts: Felipe Sierra, Ron Kohanski and Kevin Howcroft (NCI)