• November 21, 2013

    Measuring vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) may be important for accurately determining vitamin D deficiency, especially among African Americans, reports a team of researchers led by the National Institute on Aging, NIH, in the November 21, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Vitamin D deficiency is more commonly diagnosed among African Americans than in white Americans. However, the poor skeletal-bone health associated with vitamin D deficiency is less common in this population—African Americans generally have higher bone density and lower risk for fragility fractures than white Americans. This suggests that the vitamin D deficiency as it is currently diagnosed is likely inaccurate. With this study, researchers were able to evaluate the potential role of VDBP, the protein that carries vitamin D throughout the body, in assessing clinically significant vitamin D deficiency.

    The team measured levels of vitamin D, calcium, and VDBP, as well as bone density, and analyzed the genetic form of (genotyped) VDBP in NIA’s Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) cohort, a study comprised of community-dwelling blacks and whites initially aged 30 to 64 residing in Baltimore, Maryland. They found that, compared to whites, African Americans had lower levels of vitamin D and VDBP, but higher bone density and higher levels of calcium, another micronutrient important to bone health. Genetic analysis of participants’ VDBP indicated that African Americans were more likely to have one form of the protein and whites another. The version of VDBP more prevalent in African Americans, but also seen in some white participants, was associated with lower levels of the binding protein and lower levels of vitamin D.

    Researchers suggest that low VDBP may have a protective effect against the symptoms typically associated with lower vitamin D levels and clinically relevant vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, rather than diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency based on only lower vitamin D levels, clinicians may also want to account for VDBP in their assessment, especially in African Americans. Routine Vitamin D supplementation should be carefully considered in the context of the finding of this study.

    Reference “Vitamin D Binding Protein and Vitamin D Status of Community Dwelling Black and White Americans” by Powe, C.E., Evans, M.K., et al. New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1306357 (November 21, 2013).

  • November 20, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard has a new blog post about mentoring networks, funding opportunities, and support for researchers from diverse backgrounds. If you’re mentoring someone, or if you yourself are one of these junior investigators, you may be especially interested in her new post. "Already underrepresented groups—from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, to individuals with disabilities, and women—often enter the science training pipeline in smaller numbers and drop out at higher rates," she explains. "The NIH and the NIA are working very hard on this issue."

    Read the full blog post: Support for researchers from diverse backgrounds

    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.

  • November 18, 2013

    November is COPD Awareness Month and NIA staff and representatives of several other NIH ICs and agencies participated in a recent federal workshop on the disease.

    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 130,000 dying from it each year. COPD typically manifests as chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Many cases of COPD are related to present or past cigarette smoking. COPD is a leading cause of disability in both middle-aged and older people, and frequently causes hospital and intensive care unit admissions. COPD is associated with decreased employment and increased collection of disability insurance.

    At the meeting on May 3, 2013, the group described activities at each participating agency or Institute, and discussed ways to develop and enhance collaborations to improve federal efforts to deal with this disease.

    More information about COPD and federal efforts to address the disease during COPD Awareness Month are available at the NIH and NHLBI websites.

  • November 15, 2013

    Researchers leading the National Institute on Aging’s Intervention Testing Program (ITP) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio have found that acarbose, a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes, increases median lifespan of male mice by 22 percent. The drug’s effects were smaller in female mice, producing only a 5-percent increase in lifespan. The effect on maximum lifespan was similar in male and female mice, increasing longevity by 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

    In the same paper, published online October 26, 2013, in Aging Cell, researchers report the effects of three other agents on mice lifespan: sex hormone 17-α-estradiol (EST); antioxidant nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA); and dye and antioxidant methylene blue (MB). None had as large an impact on lifespan as acarbose. EST increased male median lifespan by 12 percent, but did not affect maximum lifespan; it had no effect on female lifespan. NDGA increased male median lifespan by 8 to 10 percent at three different doses; but, like EST, had no significant effect on female lifespan. Maximum lifespan data are not yet available. MB had no effect on male lifespan and only a 6–percent increase on female maximum lifespan.

    The researchers say that these findings reinforce the importance of evaluating both males and females in aging studies, since it appears that some interventions have gender-specific effects.

    Acarbose, EST, NDGA, and MB are four of several treatments that have been investigated through the ITP, which studies compounds in mice for their potential to extend lifespan and delay disease and dysfunction. So far, 6 of 18 compounds tested have shown a significant increase in lifespan of at least one sex of mice; other studies are still in progress.  A noteworthy discovery from the ITP was that rapamycin, an immunosuppressant, significantly increases lifespan of both male and female mice, mimicking many of the health benefits of calorie restriction. Learn more about the ITP.

    Reference: Harrison D, et al. Acarbose, 17-α-estradiol, and nordihydroguaiaretic acid extend mouse lifespan preferentially in males. Aging Cell, Epub 26 Oct 2013, DOI: 10.1111/acel.12170.

  • November 14, 2013

    The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is currently recruiting for a Senior Public Health Advisor position.

    ABOUT THE NIA: The NIA conducts, fosters, and supports biomedical, social, and behavioral research and training pertaining to the aging processes and common problems of older people through: (1) research performed in its own laboratories and through contracts; (2) a program of research grants and individual and institutional research training awards; (3) cooperation and collaboration with other Departmental agencies, voluntary organizations, and other institutions; and (4) collection and dissemination of the findings of aging research and studies, and other information about the process of aging. For more information about NIA, please visit our website at


    • Advise the NIA Director, Deputy Director, and senior leadership staff about congressional relations, legislative policy, international activities; including opportunities and potential vulnerabilities for the NIA programs;
    • Analyze, evaluate, and report data in response to special requests from DHHS, NIH, and Congress;
    • Prepare and/or coordinator testimony, in cooperation with NIA scientific staff, for delivery by NIA officials and coordinate and/or prepare other materials in response to congressional inquiries;
    • Serve as an expert and consultant on legislative matters and as a contact for the Institute;
    • Supervise and direct the congressional correspondence function;
    • Prepare presentations and speeches for NIA/NIH officials on legislative policies and aging-related topics;
    • Coordinate meetings in response to requests from congressional staff, members of Congress and representatives of outside organizations;
    • Serve as NIA Liaison to organizations outside of the NIA and NIH, including the General Accounting Office, Congressional Research Service, patient advocacy groups, professional organizations, and scientific organizations;
    • Coordinate the NIA’s international health and aging research activities;
    • Work with other NIH institutes who have ongoing research activities that relate to the goals and mission of the NIA; and
    • Review and analyze reports and proposals produced by other agencies that could effect the NIA and advice NIA leadership on potential policy matters.

    SALARY: GS-15 ($123,758- $155,500)

    LOCATION: Bethesda, MD (NIH Campus)

    QUALIFICATIONS: Specialized experience and a degree in public health or other field of study with course work directly related to the work of the position to be filled. Legislative experience is desirable but not required.

    HOW TO APPLY: Please send cover letters and CV to Ms. Jessica Schwartz at Please contact Ms. Schwartz with questions or concerns at 301-402-7719.

    NIH and NIA are equal opportunity employers. People with disabilities may be eligible under the Schedule A hiring authority, and are encouraged to apply.

  • November 13, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.The National Institute on Aging, like the rest of the NIH, faces a downturn in support for scientific research. In a new blog post, NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes explains how the sequester and the government shutdown have changed operations, "We have been scrambling to reschedule review meetings and to keep scientists and critical research activities from experiencing gaps in funding that could shut-down labs, layoff lab staff, and end productive projects." Dr. Hodes describes the creativity and dedication of NIH staff, the research community, and aging and research organizations in the face of these challenges.

    Read the full blog post: Moving research forward: creativity amid constraints.

    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.

  • November 6, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.The National Advisory Council on Aging meets three times a year to consider grant applications and programs and make recommendations. Materials for the meetings contain critical information about research priorities and future directions for the National Institute on Aging, including outlook for funding in future years, new areas of research, and new kinds of grants.

    Dr. Robin Barr, director of NIA's Division of Extramural Activities, explains how to access this information in a new blog post, How to find the best parts of our Council minutes.

    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.

  • October 30, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The National Institute on Aging just wrapped up fiscal year 2013. In this new blog post, Dr. Robin Barr, director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities summarizes our funding strategy for 2013 and the outlook for 2014. "We want to get the most benefit from every dollar invested," he writes, "And that means identifying and implementing even more efficient spending and cost cutting."

    Read the full blog post: Was fiscal year 2013 our unlucky number?

    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.

  • October 23, 2013

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    The NIA, like the rest of the NIH, is working to get back to normal after the 16-day government shutdown.

    Chyren Hunter, Deputy Director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities describes grants policy and guidance changes in a new blog post, Ripple effects: getting research funding restarted. "The grant application and review process has been greatly affected by the shutdown," she explains. "We want to thank all of you for your patience and support during this period."

    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.

  • October 21, 2013

    Dr. Carl V. Hill, P h D, M P HTo lead efforts addressing health disparities in biomedical research and its workforce, the National Institute on Aging is pleased to welcome Carl V. Hill, Ph.D., M.P.H. Hill joins NIA as the new Director of the Office of Special Populations. In this position he will help facilitate studies focused on health disparities; facilitate the development of initiatives to enhance NIA’s research and training efforts targeting underrepresented groups, including minorities and women; and provide advice and guidance to senior staff on health research related to special populations.

    “Dr. Hill’s experience and innovative ideas for addressing health disparities will enrich NIA’s existing initiatives, as well as generate new ideas and approaches,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director of NIA. “Reducing health disparities is a top priority for the Institute, even more so as the aging population becomes larger and more diverse.”

    The demographics of aging are changing dramatically, according to the most recent federal report, “Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being.” In 2010, non-Hispanic whites accounted for 80 percent of the U.S. older population; projections for 2050 indicate that the composition of the older population will be 58 percent non-Hispanic whites, with increasing proportions of Hispanic, Black and Asian older Americans.

    Hill comes to NIA from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), where he was a Contract Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) with the National Children’s Study after serving as Health Scientist Administrator (HSA) for the Extramural Associates Research Development Award (EARDA) in the NICHD Division of Special Populations. Before NICHD, Hill was an HSA with the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (now the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities). He is the current chair of the trans-NIH Special Populations Research Forum and member of the NIH Diversity Council.

    “The science of considering populations that are disproportionately affected by various health outcomes is critical for protecting public health. Research suggests that what we experience in early life and through adulthood can significantly influence our ability to thrive as seniors. With my previous experience at NIMHD and child health and now at the aging institute, I’m excited for the opportunity to address health disparities across the lifespan,” said Hill. “I especially look forward to working with the amazing community of scientists at NIA to continue this work.”

    Hill was a member of the inaugural class of the Master of Public Health program at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He later joined the charter class of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS), where he worked on the CDC's 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), helped to establish the Center for Bioethics in Research and Healthcare at Tuskegee University, and implemented a local version of the YRBS in Harris County, Texas. Upon completing the PHPS program, Hill was a research fellow at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and joined the W.K. Kellogg Doctoral Fellowship Program in Health Policy at Michigan. He completed his dissertation research on the influence of ethnicity, stress, and coping on black men's health at the Michigan’s Institute of Social Research Program for Research on Black Americans. Most recently, Hill has teamed with extramural investigators at Morgan State and Central Florida Universities to publish a public health and health disparities approach to crime and violence.

    “Dr. Hill’s career demonstrates a long dedication to supporting the health needs of our most vulnerable populations. We are thrilled to have him be part of the NIA team and join us in helping to improve the health of all older Americans,” said NIA Deputy Director, Marie A. Bernard, M.D.