• November 2, 2011

    Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN have found a causal relationship between senescent cells and certain age-related diseases in a mouse model, according to a report in Nature. While research on cell cultures has long suggested that senescent cells have a role in aging, the nature of this connection in live animals was less clear. The new finding suggests that cell senescence may be a fundamental mechanism that drives aging. The study was supported in part by the NIA.

    In cell senescence, the cell turns off its capacity to produce new cells. This typically happens after a cell has divided so many times that it is in jeopardy of becoming abnormal and potentially dangerous. Thus, cell senescence is considered an anti-cancer mechanism. But the senescent cell, although different from its earlier self, is still alive and it works on many levels, by both sending and receiving signals.

    In the Mayo Clinic study, researchers designed a process to eliminate all senescent cells in a strain of mice. Removing senescent cells delayed the onset of disease-related changes in fat tissue, skeletal muscle, and eye tissue. In addition, removing senescent cells later in the life of the mice was found to slow the progression of already established age-related disorders. 

    Reference: Baker DJ, et al. Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays aging-associated disorders. Nature. 2011 Nov 2;479(7372):232-6.

  • December 1, 2011

    T. Franklin Williams, M.D., the second director of the National Institute on Aging, died on November 25, 2011, at his home in Rochester, New York. He would have been 90 years old on November 26. Dr. Williams is credited with bringing to aging research a perspective that sought to distinguish the effects of aging from those of preventable or treatable health conditions that affect older people.

    Dr. Williams was named NIA Director in July 1983, a position he held until 1991. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Williams was a professor of preventive, family, and rehabilitative medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He served as the hospital’s medical director from 1968 until 1983, and spearheaded the development of the university’s geriatrics program. Dr. Williams returned to Rochester following his retirement from NIA, where he continued as a scholar, teacher and attending physician. In 1995, he was appointed Distinguished Physician at the Canandaigua, N.Y., Veterans Administration Medical Center. From 1992 through 2002, he also served as scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research.

    “Frank Williams was an outstanding geriatrician, researcher, and administrator who was inspired by the possibilities of advanced age,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “He wanted to know how it was possible to achieve and maintain high functioning, good health, and a sharp mind well into late life. He achieved this ideal for himself and worked hard to achieve it for many others. He will be greatly missed.”

    During Dr. Williams’ tenure at NIA, the institute established a number of groundbreaking programs, including the Alzheimer's Disease Centers, where researchers focus on basic through clinical studies; the Federal Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, an organization of more than 35 federal agencies that collect and analyze data on older people; and the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, which conducts outreach and provides information about Alzheimer's disease to health professionals, patients and their families, and the general public. Under Dr. Williams’ leadership, the institute began the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study, which examines how older adults’ health interacts with social, economic, and psychological factors. He also established the Geriatric Research and Training Centers, later renamed the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers, charged with conducting research on diseases and conditions that threaten independent living.

    “Frank’s strong vision and leadership for NIA came from his deep appreciation of aging as an essential and valued part of life,” said Evan Hadley, M.D., director of NIA’s Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology. “He often cautioned against references to the “elderly” as a group inherently different from those of us who haven’t yet reached old age. In particular, he rejected common assumptions that older persons are inherently sicker or less capable.”

    Dr. Williams is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, the former Catharine Carter Catlett, a medical social worker who joined Dr. Williams on his trips around the world, gathering information on models of approaches to aging and working to implement new approaches in this country. He is also survived by two children, Mary Wright Williams Montague and Thomas Nelson Williams, four grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.

  • October 20, 2011

    BSR has commissioned a number of National Academies reports on topics such as global aging trends; data confidentiality and accessibility; health care cost growth and output measurement; and the psychology of aging. Please see BSR's page for a list of NAS reports available online or if you prefer, a CD which contains PDFs of these reports is also available. For a copy of the CD, please contact

  • November 8, 2010

    Dr. Gene D. Cohen, former NIA deputy director and acting NIA director from 1988 to 1993, died November 7 at his home in Kensington, MD, after a long battle with cancer.

    “We will remember Gene Cohen as a talented and dedicated scientist as well as a kind and compassionate friend and mentor to many at NIH and in the aging community,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes.

    Dr. Cohen was a pioneer in the field of geriatric psychiatry who in later years turned his focus from the problems of aging to the creative potential of older people. His U.S. Public Health Service career began as a commissioned officer at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he was the first chief of the Center on Aging.

    Dr. Cohen maintained his commitment to biological, psychological, and social issues in geriatric medicine when he moved to the NIA. Over the years, he was involved in many groundbreaking Alzheimer’s disease initiatives, including a task force that resulted in a 1984 report that helped increase federal support for Alzheimer’s research. In 1994, Dr. Cohen became the first director of the Center on Aging, Health, and Humanities at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

    Dr. Cohen’s interest in creativity in older adults brought a new view to aging, which he interpreted with the development of interactive and intergenerational games. His most recent game, Making Memories Together, helps families and caregivers recognize the untapped imaginative potential of Alzheimer’s patients.

    “Gene Cohen was a renaissance man, merging mental health and aging research outcomes with the nourishment of creativity in older people,” said Dr. Marie Bernard, NIA deputy director. “He was a perpetual presence at meetings of the Gerontological Society of America, distinguished by his bow tie, curly hair, and welcoming smile. He will be missed in the aging research community.”

  • December 30, 2008

    Age (Dordr). 2008 Dec;30(4):187-99. Epub 2008 Apr 18.,Nadon, N.L., Strong, R., Miller, R.A., Nelson, J., Sharp, Z. D., Paralbe, J.M.,Harrison, D.E., The field of biogerontology has made great strides towards understanding the biological processes underlying aging, and the time is ripe to look towards applying this knowledge to the pursuit of aging interventions. Identification of safe, inexpensive, and non-invasive interventions that slow the aging process and promote healthy aging could have a significant impact on quality of life and health care expenditures for the aged. While there is a plethora of supplements and interventions on the market that purport to slow aging, the evidence to validate such claims is generally lacking. Here we describe the development of an aging interventions testing program funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to test candidate interventions in a model system. The development of this program highlights the challenges of long-term intervention studies and provides approaches to cope with the stringent requirements of a multi-site testing program.  

  • September 12, 2011

    Results of a pilot clinical trial show a nasal-spray form of insulin delayed memory loss and preserved cognition in people with cognitive deficits that range from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle led the trial, which was supported in large part by the NIA.

    Previous research suggests that insulin abnormalities contribute to Alzheimer’s pathophysiology. Researchers suspected that restoring normal insulin function in the brain may provide cognitive benefit and slow disease progression. A nasal spray delivered insulin quickly and directly to the brain and does not result in harmful side effects, such as increased peripheral insulin levels.

    The trial included 104 adults with either amnestic MCI or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease dementia. They received 20 IU (international units) of insulin, 40 IU of insulin, or a saline placebo, all administered through a nasal drug delivery device for 4 months. Memory, cognition, and functional ability were measured before and after treatment. A subset of participants also received lumbar punctures to test cerebrospinal fluid and brain scans before and after treatment.

    Treatment with 20 IU of intranasal insulin improved memory and both doses of insulin preserved general cognition and functional ability. These results point out the need for larger trials of insulin nasal-spray therapy to further test its effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

    Reference: Craft S, et al. Intranasal insulin therapy for Alzheimer disease and amnestic mild cognitive impairment: a pilot clinical trial. Archives of Neurology. 2012 Jan;69(1):29-38. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

  • February 9, 2007

    Dr. Leon Thal, one of the world’s leading researchers on Alzheimer’s disease and the head of the National Insitute on Aging’s (NIA) clinical trials consortium, the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), died Saturday, February 3, in a fatal airplane accident near San Diego, his home. Dr. Thal was chairman of the neurosciences department at the University of California San Diego and also director of the NIA-supported Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center there. He recently completed a tour as a member of NIA's National Advisory Council on Aging.

    "The loss of Dr. Thal is a devastating blow to the Alzheimer’s research community," said NIA Director Richard Hodes. "Beyond his exceptional talents as a scientist, he was a wonderful human being of extraordinary wisdom and energy and a deeply caring clinician. His tragic and sudden loss is very difficult for us all to comprehend, and we will miss him in many ways."

    Thal’s entire career was devoted to the study of aging and dementia. Over the past three decades, he achieved a remarkable body of research productivity that includes more than 300 peer-reviewed papers. One of the world’s leading investigators engaged in development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, his efforts contributed significantly to the world’s understanding of the cause, prevention and treatment of AD and related disorders. He directed more than $100 million in federally funded research grants, and was a collaborator on many others.

    As director of the ADCS since its inception in 1991, Thal led a consortium of more than 70 research centers around the United States and Canada. Established to test drugs for their effectiveness in slowing down the progression or treating the symptoms of AD, as well as to investigate new methods for conducting dementia research, the ADCS was recently awarded $52 million by NIA to continue its work. More than 4,600 people have participated in these studies.

    In recognition of his career accomplishments and leadership in the field of Alzheimer’s research, he was awarded The Potamkin Prize, one of the nation’s highest honors in dementia research, in 2004. In presenting the award, the American Academy of Neurology recognized Thal’s “outstanding achievements in research of Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases.”

  • October 25, 2010

    In recent months, many of you have expressed increasing concern about the reduced pay line and success rates for aging research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). I recognize the impact that the situation is having on established researchers as well as on the development of younger scientists for the field. I also understand the implications for research at a time when the population is aging, and when studies addressing the problems of aging are critical to individuals and to society. We at NIA recognize and empathize with the struggle that our constrained funding creates for the research community, and feel that it is vital that we do everything we can to sustain the momentum of investigator-generated research in this successful and vibrant field, as we continue to make a difference in health and well-being in later life.

    NIA staff and I have had numerous contacts with individuals and organizations about this extraordinary problem. Because we cannot meet with everyone personally, I offer this open statement to explain the circumstances surrounding the current pay line and outline our intensive efforts to open up opportunities for aging research.

    In recent years, NIA has faced a collection of circumstances pressuring the Institute’s pay line and success rates. In common with other NIH institutes, we have seen our numbers of new and competing awards fall as biomedical inflation has surpassed limited increases in appropriations. At the same time, NIA has recently seen a rise in the number and average cost of applications submitted. While a welcome sign of increasing interest in aging research, the surge in applications has put additional pressure on our success rate and funding line. Increasing maturity of the field has significantly improved the performance of NIA-assigned applications in review, resulting in a higher proportion of applications with outstanding scores eligible for funding. That maturity, too, has resulted in more applications for clinical trials based on findings from basic and translational research. The interest in conducting many of these trials is high, as can be their expense, also contributing to reduced ability to fund new and competing awards.

    In the last few years, we have worked diligently and creatively to balance a number of funding priorities to make as many highly meritorious awards as possible. Since 2004, NIA has made competing awards at an average 18 percent below recommended costs. In 2007, the Institute limited costs of program project applications and in 2008 established new procedures, including use of an Advisory Panel of experts for clinical trials in geriatrics, to advise on the state of research and on public health need in order to help evaluate proposals for such clinical trials. More details on how and when the advice of this panel is sought are available elsewhere on this site.

    While we do not have our final FY 2011 appropriation, we expect continued austerity, and, consequently, a constrained success rate in 2011. Therefore, additional and important steps, begun this summer, are being implemented now. Among the new measures are: wider use across programs of an Advisory Panel for clinical trials, a new funding policy in FY 2011 that more tightly controls acceptance of requests for applications over $500,000 and limits the total competing dollars awarded to such large grants, the introduction of incentives encouraging investigators to use existing resources more efficiently and extensively, and an emphasis at NIA on partnerships with other organizations to further leverage resources. As these measures are implemented, we have begun to see a difference. For example, NIA recorded an average $30,000 drop in amounts requested on RO1 applications from January 2010 to January 2011 Council rounds. This change is likely the result, at least in part, of the announcement earlier this year of restrictions on large applications.

    Moving forward, the Institute also will be working closely with the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) to find ways to improve our success rate. At its September 2010 meeting, the Council proposed and passed a motion to conduct a review of the NIA extramural program to evaluate effects of the tight pay line on the field of aging research and to consider ways to improve it. Membership on the review team will include both current and former members of the Council and representation from all four major grant program areas at NIA.

    We are considering additional actions as circumstances require, which will be announced as appropriate on the NIA website or in the NIH Guide. The steps already undertaken and the strategies we devise together will function to improve the funding line and success rate in future years and to bring us back into line with those of other Institutes and Centers at NIH. All of these decisions will be taken in the context of continued support for outstanding research that addresses priorities of scientific opportunity and public health need. I assure you of my commitment to this effort and to the continuing vitality and success of research on aging.

    Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
    Director, National Institute on Aging
    National Institutes of Health


  • May 12, 2011

    For a description of NIA’s mission and priorities please see: NIA's listing of Priorities and Programs

    Budget Data: NIH (including NIA) received a full year continuing resolution budget for FY 2011 at approximately 1% below the FY 2010 level. A detailed mechanism table showing allocations through FY2010 is available at: NIA's FY 2010 Budget Mechanism Table


    Strategy: NIA’s effort to increase the number of competing awards made during this cycle of minimal to negative growth includes limiting the numbers of large applications accepted for review and the numbers awarded (a large application requests direct costs of $500,000 or more in any single year). NIA program divisions have been assigned a limited annual budget for accepting large applications. NIA continues to make competing RPG awards at an average reduction of 18% below the study-section recommended amount.


    Competing awards:

    RPG applications requesting less than $500,000 (direct costs) in all requested years: These applications will be paid through the 11th percentile with the following exceptions. Early Stage Investigator (ESI)-eligible R01 applications will be paid through the 16th percentile. Other new investigator eligible R01 applications will be paid through the 14th percentile.

    RPG applications requesting at least $500,000 (direct costs) in one or more years: These applications will be paid through the 8th percentile with the following exceptions. If an application is ESI-eligible these R01 applications will be paid through the 13th percentile. Other R01 new investigator applications will be paid through the 11th percentile.

    Non-Competing awards:

    NIA will follow NIH policy on noncompeting awards and post further information to this site when it becomes available.

    NIA is also continuing to review balances in noncompeting awards and adjusting or delaying award of the next noncompeting or competing year when appropriate.

    Non-RPG mechanisms:

    NIA is following NIH policy on remaining lines including centers, small business, training, scientific meetings, resource-related, and career development awards.

    NIA will review RPG balances in July and any update to the funding lines will be announced at that time.

    Note on Ranking of RPG applications reviewed at NIA:

    Although the bulk of RPG applications (other than those submitted in response to RFAs and a few PARs) are reviewed at CSR and given percentile ranks based on the panel in which they were reviewed, program project applications and some multi-site cooperative agreement and research grant (R01) applications are reviewed at NIA. Beginning May 2011, no percentile rank appears on the summary statement for these applications. Instead, for funding consideration, they are ranked against other NIA-reviewed RPG applications from the current and recent preceding rounds. This policy for ranking P01 and other non-RPG applications reviewed at NIA became effective for all FY 2011 and succeeding year applications.

  • August 3, 2011

    The NIA announces the reissuance of a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that provides dissertation awards in all areas of research within NIA’s strategic priorities to increase diversity of the scientific research workforce engaged in research on aging and aging-related health conditions. See more information »