• February 5, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.NIA's Office of Special Populations promotes research on health disparities, career development for a more diverse research workforce, and additional priorities. Dr. Carl V. Hill, new director of the Office of Special Populations, describes his plans in a blog post.

    Read the full blog post: What is NIA’s Office of Special Populations and what does it do?

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • January 30, 2014

    Scientists have identified several rare but influential variants in a gene not previously linked to Alzheimer’s that may double the risk for the disease in people who carry the gene. The results of the study, led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, adds phospholipase D3 (PLD3) to a growing list of genes thought to influence the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s.

    The researchers used whole exome sequencing and cellular models in the study published online Dec. 11, 2013, in Nature. They found that the PLD3 gene influences the processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP), a protein that plays a role in the development of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The findings show that lower PLD3 expression in brains of people with Alzheimer’s is correlated with higher APP and greater amyloid protein levels.

    Supported in part by NIA, the scientists analyzed DNA samples of 14 families with 4 or more members affected by late-onset Alzheimer’s, plus more than 11,000 people of European descent and 302 African Americans, to find and confirm the PLD3 gene. The samples came from the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease, Washington University, and other institutions.

    Whole exome sequencing is a complex technique that identifies changes in an individual’s DNA that cause genetic disorders. The exome is the part of the human genome that contains key DNA sequences that tell the body to make proteins necessary for proper functioning. Analysis of these sequences can help researchers identify rare genetic disorders and, in this case, search vast amounts of genetic data efficiently to find new genetic variants that increase Alzheimer’s risk compared with those who do not have the variants.

    The newly identified risk gene adds to growing knowledge of genetic variants thought to influence risk for and protection against late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Results reported last fall by an international research consortium identified 11 new genes that offer new evidence about certain biological pathways involved in the development of Alzheimer’s. Together, the findings point to possible therapeutic targets to prevent or delay the disease’s progression.

    Reference: Cruchaga C, et al. Rare coding variants in the phospholipase D3 gene confer risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Nature, published online Dec. 11, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12825.

  • January 30, 2014

    "Options for New Investigators: Grant Mechanisms," the first in a series of Technical Assistance Webinars sponsored by the NIA Office of Special Populations was Thursday, March 6, 2014 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. EST. The purpose of this webinar series is to provide participants with technical assistance for successfully engaging the NIA grants application process. 

    Target Audience:

    Pre-and post-doctoral students and recent recipients of Ph.D., M.D., or related doctoral degrees who are researchers with an interest in health disparities and aging research are encouraged to register and participate. Applicants from diverse backgrounds, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities and women are encouraged to attend.

    About the Speaker:
    Robin A. Barr, D.Phil.

    Dr. Robin BarrDr. Barr joined the National Institute on Aging in 1987 as a program officer in the Behavioral and Social Research Program. He developed several initiatives there, most notably the ACTIVE clinical trial on cognitive training. During an interval as Acting Assistant Director for Special Populations, He helped to develop the ongoing program of Research Centers on Minority Aging Research. From 1994 to 2006 he was Deputy Head of the Division of Extramural Activities ‑ contributing to policy development and coordination at the NIA ‑ and the NIA Training Officer. During this time he developed the research dissertation (R36) program aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds who obtain research doctoral degrees. He has also overseen and helped to shape substantial growth in the career development awards program at NIA and has played a key role in establishing public-private partnerships to pursue career development and training initiatives. In April 2006, Dr. Barr became Acting Director of the Division of Extramural Activities, NIA and was appointed Director of the Division in June 2007. Since that time he has worked at the NIH level to help shape NIH’s policies towards new and early stage investigators. He was centrally involved in managing NIA’s response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. His leadership role at NIA includes managing the National Advisory Council on Aging and advising the Director, NIA on all extramural activities of the Institute.

    For additional information:

    Ms. Andrea Griffin-Mann
    Office of Special Populations
    National Institute on Aging
    National Institutes of Health

  • January 29, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Applicants sometimes ask us if grant reviewers can really determine which grant applications are the very best. When only a small proportion of applications can be funded, can the NIH scientific peer review process identify the very highest quality applications in a large group of high quality applications?

    Dr. Robin Barr, director of NIA's Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post with funding data indicating that it can. He explains, "On average, reviewers are meaningfully discriminating even among applications at the very top of the range on the Approach and Significance criteria. Their assessment is not random within this set."

    Read the full blog post: Are impact ratings random?

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • February 4, 2014

    A new online report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlights recent progress in NIH-supported Alzheimer’s disease research.

    Prepared annually by NIA, the latest report—2012-2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Seeking the Earliest Interventions—discusses the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, describes new investments and research priorities, and summarizes research in several areas:

    • biology of Alzheimer’s and the aging brain
    • biomarkers for Alzheimer’s progression
    • genes that may play a role in the disease
    • risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia
    • advances in detecting Alzheimer’s disease
    • translational research to identify and test new drugs
    • potential new therapies to treat, delay, or prevent Alzheimer’s
    • caregiving
    • gender and racial differences in the impact of Alzheimer’s

    Other features include a video introduction by NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes, a primer on Alzheimer’s disease and the brain, tables listing NIA-funded clinical trials, and videos that further explain critical areas of study.

    Read the report online: 2012-2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Seeking the Earliest Interventions

  • January 22, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Dr. David Schlessinger shares reflections on the birth of a new science, molecular biology, and his more than 50 years in genetics research. "When I first entered my mentor Jim Watson’s office as a graduate student in ancient times (i.e., 1957), I saw a slip of paper fastened by scotch tape to the fluorescent light fixture over his desk. On it he had clearly printed in ink: DNA --> RNA --> protein," writes Dr. Schlessinger, who works in NIA's Intramural, or in-house, Research Program.

    Read the full blog post: 50 years in genetics

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • January 17, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Have you seen the new rules for investigators using NIA biological resources?

    Dr. Nancy Nadon, Program Officer of the Biological Resources Program and Chief of the Biological Resources Branch in the Division of Aging Biology explains the rules in a new blog post. "The quick summary of these changes? Biological resources are now provided at no cost to researchers, but the eligibility criteria for use of the resources have necessarily been tightened," she explains.

    Read the full blog post: Eligibility criteria change: NIA scientific resources

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • January 16, 2014

    The Winter 2014 issue of LINKS: Minority Research and Training is now available!

    In the latest issue:

    • Learn about NIA’s annual summer institute on aging research, now named the Butler-Williams Scholars Program, and watch video of four 2013 participants reflecting on their interests and experiences
    • Find out how to apply for the 2014 Butler-Williams Scholars Program
    • Meet Dr. Carl Hill, new Director of NIA’s Office of Special Populations
    • Read about the recent NIA Advances in Geroscience summit focusing the interplay between chronic diseases and aging, and watch video from the summit
    • Subscribe to the Inside NIA blog and read a recent post from Dr. Marie Bernard about supporting researchers from diverse backgrounds

    New to LINKS? The twice-yearly newsletter is part of NIA’s initiative to address health disparities and support scientists representing underserved populations. Subscribing is easy.

    Also visit NIA’s Minority Aging and Health Disparities web page, where you’ll find information about the Health Disparities Research Persons Network, training opportunities, and more.

  • January 8, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.Program officers at the National Institute on Aging, and across the NIH, ensure that we are funding the best research projects, career development, and research training in the areas of science they cover. However, some grant applicants are not quite sure when to get in touch with their program officer, or how to get the best from their program officer.

    In a new blog post, Dr. John Haaga, Deputy Director of NIA's Division of Behavioral and Social Research, explains how program officers can advise potential applicants before they even submit a grant application. "Program officers assist you throughout the funding process, after you get a grant as well as when your idea is still just… an idea," he explains.

    Read the full blog post: What can your NIA program officer do for you? Part 1—before submitting your application

    The NIA blog publishes weekly with information on grants and funding policy, research priorities, scientific meetings, and topics of interest to researchers and others in the scientific community. Subscribe to get it weekly in your email inbox, or grab the RSS feed.

  • January 7, 2014

    Subject: Dr. Rita Effros February 5 at the GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) winter seminar
    When: Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    Where: Lipsett Amphitheater, Building 10, NIH
    Title: "Human T Cell Aging: Telomere Loss, Inflammation and Links to Disease"

    The Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) cordially invites you to its winter seminar, featuring Dr. Rita Effros. Dr. Effros is a Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles. She directs research programs in the areas of aging and HIV disease, with emphasis on immunity to infection. Both aging and HIV disease are characterized by the loss of immune control over viral infections and by increased cancer incidence. In turn, these are affected by T cell dysfunction. Dr. Effros and colleagues have been at the forefront of studies on replicative senescence, telomeres and telomerase underlying this dysfunction. They have documented the existence of populations of T cells that increase with age and with HIV disease progression and which have overlapping molecular characteristics. They also examine the functional aspects of senescent T cells that may contribute to multiple pathologies of aging and AIDS, and are attempting to reverse or retard the process of replicative senescence in human T cells through manipulation of telomerase activity.

    The GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) was formed to enhance opportunities for discussion of the intersection between the biology of aging and the biology of disease and conditions that are of interest across ICs. It is focused on basic biology, but with a longer view towards translation. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the GSIG web site (

    The seminar will be videocast at and archived in the GSIG web site.

    Sign Language Interpreters will be provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this event should contact Dr. Alison Deckhut at or at 301/496-7551 or Dr. Ron Kohanski at or at 301/496-6402.