• January 25, 2016

    Emerging researchers, including those with limited involvement in research on aging, are invited to apply for the next Butler-Williams Scholars Program, to be held July 25-29, 2016, 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 25, 2016.

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

  • January 11, 2016

    A randomized clinical trial of 100 patients found that diet and exercise—alone or combined—improved exercise capacity in obese older patients with a particular type of heart failure. The trial is the first to show that this dietary intervention was effective in improving exercise capacity and reducing symptoms in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF). The results appeared in the January 6, 2016, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was supported primarily by the NIA.

    HFPEF is the most rapidly increasing form of heart failure, especially in older adults. It occurs primarily in overweight and obese older women and is associated with high rates of morbidity, mortality, and health care expenditures. Exercise intolerance—fatigue and shortness of breath with exertion—in HFPEF patients was recently shown to be associated with increased body weight.

    Dr. Dalane Kitzman and colleagues at Wake Forest University School of Medicine randomized trial participants to four groups: diet alone, exercise alone, diet and exercise together, or control. After 20 weeks, people in the three intervention groups showed improved exercise tolerance, measured by peak exercise oxygen consumption. The diet and exercise groups both showed improvement; however, the combination group had almost twice the improvement in oxygen consumption. In addition to improving exercise capacity, diet and exercise decreased the amount of fat cells within the leg muscle, the researchers found; fat, which infiltrates leg muscle, contributes to reduced exercise capacity in heart failure.

    This is the first randomized controlled trial of calorie restriction in this patient population. While the researchers noted that follow-up studies are needed to investigate the loss of muscle mass associated with weight loss, this research supports a treatment for heart failure that relies on diet and exercise, unlike previous treatments which focused on regulating heart function through medication.

    Reference: “Effect of Caloric Restriction or Aerobic Exercise Training on Peak Oxygen Consumption and Quality of Life in Obese Older Patients with Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Dalane W. Kitzman, et al. JAMA. 2016,315(1)36-46. doi: 10.1001.jama2015.17346.


  • December 8, 2015

    The death rate among middle-aged, white Americans rose significantly between 1999 and 2013, reversing a decades-long trend of improvement, new research shows. This group also reported worse physical and mental health than other age groups, according to the NIA-funded study, published online Nov. 2, 2015, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    From 1978 to 1998, the death rate for U.S. non-Hispanic whites ages 45 to 54 fell 2 percent per year on average, matching the rate for some wealthy European countries, reported economists Drs. Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University. But in the following 15 years, the U.S. group’s death rate rose half a percent per year on average, while the death rate for their European peers continued to fall. The experts analyzed federal survey data.

    In the U.S., this higher death rate was unique to middle-aged whites. During the same period, the average yearly death rate decreased 1.8 percent for Hispanics and 2.8 percent for non-Hispanic blacks in the same age group. Even older Americans age 65–74 had a lower death rate than 45- to 54-year-old whites.

    Drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis drove up the death rate for white people in this age group, the analysis showed. For those aged 45–54, if the white mortality rate had held at its 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, the researchers noted. Death rates were highest for people with the least education (a high school degree or less).

    There was also a significant rise in the proportion of middle-aged adults reporting fair or poor health in 2011–13, compared with 1997–99. Individuals reported higher rates of chronic pain, psychological distress, and difficulty with daily activities. Risk for heavy drinking also rose significantly.

    The authors noted that the increase in midlife mortality is only partly understood. Increased availability of opioid prescription drugs, chronic pain (for which opioids are often prescribed), and the economic crisis which began in 2008 may all have contributed to an increase in overdoses, suicide, and increased liver disease associated with alcohol abuse.

    Reference: Case, A., and Deaton, A. Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1518393112. Published online Nov. 2, 2015.

  • December 11, 2015

    A new online report provides an easy-to-read overview of recent National Institutes of Health-funded research advances and initiatives in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Issued by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH, the annual report—2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Advancing Research Toward a Cure—discusses research momentum under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, describes research opportunities, and summarizes scientific advances in several areas:

    • Understanding the biology of Alzheimer’s, related dementias, and the aging brain
    • Identifying genetic influences on risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s, the most common form
    • Detecting the earliest Alzheimer’s-related brain changes, including further development of biomarkers to track the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s
    • Understanding gender and racial differences in the impact of Alzheimer’s
    • Stepping up translational research enabling the design and testing of new drugs
    • Testing in clinical trials potential new therapies to prevent, delay or treat Alzheimer’s
    • Finding better ways to support caregivers

    The report includes searchable tables of NIA-funded clinical trials that are testing promising interventions for Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, age-related cognitive decline, delirium and dementia-related psychiatric conditions and symptoms—agitation, apathy and depression.

    Read the report online: 2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Advancing Research Toward a Cure

  • December 2, 2015

    As animals, including humans, age or develop brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, their brain cells may not produce enough energy to remain fully functional. A new study shows that an enzyme, SIRT3, may protect brain cells against stresses believed to contribute to energy loss. Researchers also found that physical exercise increases the expression of SIRT3, helping to protect the brain against degeneration. The results were published online Nov. 19, 2015, in Cell Metabolism.

    Scientists at NIH’s National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program, Baltimore, used a new mouse model to investigate whether they could aid brain cells called neurons in resisting the energy-depleting stress caused by neurotoxins and other factors. They found a biochemical hero in SIRT3, located in mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses. SIRT3 is part of the sirtuin family of proteins, which are thought to play an important role in aging, stress resistance, and metabolic regulation.

    The researchers, led by Mark Mattson, Ph.D., of NIA’s Laboratory of Neurosciences, found that mice that did not produce SIRT3 became highly sensitive to cellular stress when exposed to neurotoxins that cause neurodegeneration and cell death. In mouse models of Huntington’s disease and epilepsy, mice with SIRT3 deficiency had greater brain neuron degeneration and associated behavioral symptoms than those with sufficient SIRT3 after exposure to certain toxins.

    In addition, normal mice that exercised on running wheels for 30 days had significantly higher SIRT3 levels in neurons of the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory, than mice that did not exercise. Researchers concluded that running helped protect neurons against cell death in mice by increasing SIRT3 levels.

    The researchers also found that they could protect neurons against stress using a gene-therapy technology to increase levels of SIRT3 in neurons. Neurons without SIRT3 were significantly more vulnerable to toxic stress than those with SIRT3.

    The findings suggest that bolstering mitochondrial function and stress resistance by increasing SIRT3 levels may offer a promising therapeutic target for protecting against age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.

    Reference: Cheng A., et al. Mitochondrial SIRT3 mediates adaptive responses of neurons to exercise, and metabolic and excitatory challenges. Cell Metabolism. Published online Nov. 19, 2015.

  • December 1, 2015

    This Notice serves to communicate NIH’s priority areas of health economics research.

    Applicants and potential applicants for NIH research grants are advised to consult with NIH program officers in Institutes and Centers (IC) appropriate to their proposed topic if they have questions about the alignment of their research with IC program priorities.

    You may read the full Notice on the NIH Grants website.

  • November 16, 2015

    If you live in a residentially segregated area with comparatively high rates of crime and violence, limited access to healthy foods, and inadequate health care, it's going to affect your health. Public health professionals who ignore this reality do so at our peril, Carl V. Hill says.

    Hill, PhD '05, believes that to address health disparities in the U.S., new steps - and an interdisciplinary team approach - are needed, "because these disparities are created and sustained at environmental, sociocultural, behavioral, and biological levels."

    To read more, go to University of Michigan School of Public Health newsletter “Findings”, Fall 2015 issue.

  • November 16, 2015

    Heidi Williams, Class of 1957 Career Development Assistant Professor in the Economics Department at MIT, was awarded a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship. The citation recognizes her as

    “….an economist unraveling the causes and consequences of innovation in health care markets. Williams combines finely grained empirical observations and custom-designed data collection methods to build entirely new datasets about technological changes in health care. In addition, her creative methods for determining causal inference, and keen understanding of regulatory law, biological science, and medical research, have allowed her to trace the interplay among institutions, market behavior, and public policy–relevant outcomes.“

    During her studies for her PhD, Dr. Williams was a trainee supported by an NIA T32 institutional training grant, led by David Wise. She is now Principal Investigator for a project “Empirical Studies of the Development and Diffusion of Medical Technologies,” managed by NIA with funds from the NIH Common Fund program in Health Economics.

    All of us at NIA/BSR are delighted to congratulate Heidi Williams on this well deserved recognition of her work!

  • November 12, 2015

    The National Institute on Aging has been working to stimulate health disparities research related to aging. An opportunity is currently available for researchers interested in aging, stress, resilience, and health disparities. There are also exciting, new funding opportunities for Alzheimer’s Disease research that focuses on health disparities.

    In July of 2015, the Office of Special Populations successfully posted a Funding Opportunity Announcement for administrative supplements entitled Aging Research to Address Health Disparities. The announcement was intended to expand existing research in specific areas of interest to include development of new measures to facilitate research on the behavioral and social mechanisms leading to disparities in health; addition of sub-group analyses to existing studies; studies focused on racial, ethnic or gender disparities in stress-responses; and studies focused on racial or ethnic disparities in functional, physiologic, or metabolic outcomes across the life span and in old age.

    The administrative supplement supports the NIA’s health disparity goals of (1) understanding environmental and sociocultural factors and related behavioral and biological mechanisms that diminish health and reduce life expectancy for populations that experience health disparities, (2) developing strategies to increase life expectancy among aging adults and improve the health status of elders from underserved and disadvantaged populations, and (3) using research insights and advances to inform policy that reduces health disparities. The parent projects that were supported cover a broad range of research areas (see below).

    We look forward to learning of valuable findings that inform health disparities research related to aging!

    PI Name (Contact) Institution Parent Project Title
    Sun, Liou
    Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University
    The Effects Of Early Life Nutritional And Hormonal Signals On Mammalian Aging (Health Disparities Admin Supplement)
    Fillingim, Roger B.
    Bradley, Laurence
    Goodin, Burel R.
    University of Florida Board of Trustees
    Ethnic Differences In Responses To Painful Stimuli
    Kasper, Judith
    Thorpe, Roland
    Johns Hopkins University
    Racial Disparities In Mobility Disability Among Older Men
    Mangione, Carol
    Paz, Sylvia
    University of California Los Angeles
    Center For Health Improvement Of Minority Elderly
    Kapteyn, Arie
    Barcellos, Silvia
    Carvalho, Leandro
    University of California Los Angeles
    Roybal Center For Health Decision Making And Financial Independence In Old Age
    Johnson, Sterling C.
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Wisconsin Registry For Alzheimer’s Prevention: Biomarkers For Preclinical Ad
    Wharton, Whitney
    Emory University
    Preclinical Alzheimer's Disease Biomarkers: Effects Of Midlife Vascular Factors
    Small, Scott A.
    The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
    Determinants Of Racial Disparities In Alzheimer’s Disease
    Erlandson, Kristine Mace
    University of Colorado Denver
    Barriers And Facilitators To Exercise Maintenance
    Polivka, Barbara J.
    University of Louisville
    Asthma In Older Adults: Identifying Phenotypes And Factors Impacting Outcomes


    --Toccara Chamberlain, NIA Office of Special Populations

  • October 23, 2015

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a major research component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is seeking exceptional candidates for the position of Health Scientist Administrator. This position is located in the Biological Resources Branch (BRB) and the Aging Physiology Branch (APB), in the Division of Aging Biology (DAB), National Institute on Aging. DAB is responsible for the planning, organization and direction of multidisciplinary programs of extramural research on the biology of aging and managing contract-supported resources for the research community. The incumbent in this position serves as the Program Director for grant portfolios in aging physiology (basic biology of aging of the kidney, liver, lung, and other internal organs) and in the development of novel animal models to study aging biology (from hydra to whales). The incumbent will also be required to take training to become a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) in order to assist with contracts that provide biological resources to the research community (e.g., aging rodent colonies, cell bank, tissue banks).

    Major Duties

    As a Health Scientist Administrator, the incumbent will:

    • Formulate, develop, and implement the scientific goals and activities of the Program
    • Formulate and recommend program goals and objectives for developing the resources needed to support the nation's potential to support research on aging;
    • Serve as a Health Scientist Administrator with scientific and administrative responsibility for the program to award and monitor grants and other funding mechanisms to support research goals of the aging research community;
    • Attend study section review meetings for research applications assigned to the portfolio under purview; and
    • Serve as alternate COR or COR on resource contracts, managing technical aspects of contracts and providing assistance to the research community using the resources.

    Candidate Qualifications

    Applicants must possess an M.D. and/or Ph.D., or equivalent degree in the biomedical sciences, with experience using mammalian laboratory animal models in cell biology, molecular biology, or animal physiology. Experience in gerontology (aging research) is desirable but not necessary. In addition, the incumbent must have demonstrated skill in interpersonal relationships and administration.