• June 2, 2014
    N I A director Richard J. Hodes

    NIA Director Richard J. Hodes discusses NIA's budget increase of $130 million for FY 2014.

    Welcome to this issue of Spotlight on Aging ResearchSOAR, our periodic update on NIA policies, programs, and events. This issue features a conversation with Kathie Reed, director of our Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation, along with articles on research on pain in older people and recruiting older adults for clinical trials, summaries of recent NIA-funded research, and happenings around NIA.

    In late January, we received our budget for fiscal year 2014, which is $130 million more than last year. NIA is pleased to have this 12.5 percent increase, which is a larger percentage increase than that of the overall increase for NIH funding. It means there will be more funding for aging research, including a focus on Alzheimer’s disease.

    The new funding in aging allows us a bit more flexibility, one immediate benefit being the ability to continue to support our biological resources that so many of you rely on for your research.

    The President and the Congress have expressed an interest in applying additional funds to Alzheimer’s research, and this new budget allows us to do so. About $100 million will be directed toward that effort. We appreciate that the budget legislation recognized the importance of the disease and of our intensified efforts to fight it. The additional money will support both new and competing research awards, as well as continued funding of ongoing high-priority research.

    This year’s appropriation has helped bring us some way back from the drastic cuts of last year’s sequestration. The 5.5 percent cuts that were made to noncompeting renewal grants will not have to be made in FY 2014, but the FY 2013 cuts will not be restored. We have been able to maintain our paylines at the same levels as last year.

    Despite the welcome and generous increases this year, it is still sobering to note that we remain far from recovering the buying power that we had several years ago. Stagnant budgets affected by inflation have eroded our ability to fund meritorious research by 18 percent over the past decade.

    As we adjust to this new reality of constrained budgets and lower paylines, we must maintain our focus on the needs of the older population we serve. As the number of older people continues to grow—in this country and around the world—we will continue to look for the ways in which research can help us all live longer and healthier lives.

    Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
    National Institute on Aging

  • May 30, 2014

    The Spring 2014 issue of Connections, the e-newsletter from NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, is now available!

    In the latest issue:

    • Learn about Recruiting Older Adults into Research (ROAR), a new push to encourage participation in Alzheimer’s and other clinical trials and studies.
    • Read about NIA and other Alzheimer’s research in Health Affairs, presented at a forum highlighting the journal’s April issue.
    • Find out what the HHS Secretary said about the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.
    • Check out the latest NIA-funded research findings related to Alzheimer’s.
    • Browse a list of clinical trials now recruiting.

    Want to get future issues of Connections and other Alzheimer’s and aging research news by e-mail? Sign up today! And follow us on Twitter @Alzheimers_NIH.

  • May 28, 2014

    Developmental Psychology, Special issue on Conscientiousness and Health Aging, 2014 is now available.

  • May 28, 2014

    Public data from the 2012 American Time Use Survey Well-Being Module (WBM) data files and re-release of the 2010 WBM Activity file is now available. All data files and supporting documentation are available at

    NIA continues to encourage investigator-initiated applications relevant to the themes outlined in the (expired) RFA-AG-11-003 Subjective Well-being: Advances in Measurement and Applications to Aging. Please use the R01 or R03 Parent Program Announcements for your proposals.

  • May 22, 2014

    Official mortality figures may have substantially underreported deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 show two recent studies supported in part by NIA. Underreporting of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death on death certificates is a well-known phenomenon. Some people with the disease never receive a diagnosis. Many others have dementia-related conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, listed as the primary cause of death while the underlying cause, Alzheimer’s, is never reported.

    When a person dies, the cause or causes of death are listed on death certificates, typically by a physician, and filed with the state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. This information is then forwarded to the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which compiles and reports the totals each year as the official U.S. mortality figures and leading causes of death. The CDC’s tally of 83,494 Alzheimer’s deaths in 2010, based on death certificates, ranks the disease as the sixth leading cause of death.

    Two groups of investigators at Rush University, Chicago, wanted to examine this phenomenon to gain a clearer picture of the full burden of Alzheimer’s disease now and in the decades to come. While their estimates of deaths due to Alzheimer’s in 2010 vary slightly, both groups determined that Alzheimer’s-related mortality rates were several times higher than the official figure.

    In one study, the researchers combined data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) with U.S. census data to estimate the number of deaths of older Americans with Alzheimer’s (Weuve et al., 2014). In a random sample of 1,913 CHAP participants age 65 and older, 990 people died over the course of 6 years. Data from this sample were used to calculate national Alzheimer’s mortality rates.

    These findings, reported in the March 2014 issue of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, showed that an estimated 600,000 people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s died in 2010. The researchers estimate that this number will rise to 900,000 in 2030 and to 1.6 million by 2050. This is an increase from 32 percent of deaths in people age 65 and older attributed to Alzheimer’s in 2010 to an estimated 43 percent in this population in 2050.

    The second study, published online on March 5, 2014, in Neurology, found that the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in people 75 and older could be six times higher than the official count (James et al., 2014). Researchers’ estimate of 503,400 deaths due to Alzheimer’s in 2010 among people in that age group would have made the disease the third leading cause of death in 2010, behind heart disease and cancer.

    Researchers followed 2,566 participants in the ongoing Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Study for 8 years. All participants, age 65 and older, were cognitively normal when they entered the studies. Over the course of the research, 22 percent of the volunteers developed Alzheimer’s dementia. About 72 percent of the people with Alzheimer’s disease died during that timeframe, compared with 34 percent of those who remained symptom-free. Based on autopsy findings, the researchers concluded that death certificates do not reflect the large number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths.


    Weuve J, et al. Deaths in the United States among persons with Alzheimer’s disease (2010–2050). Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2014;10:e40-46.

    James BD, et al. Contribution of Alzheimer’s disease to mortality in the United States. Neurology. 2014 March; 82(12): 1045-50.

  • May 22, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    Most government funding agencies, including the NIH, have special pots of money reserved for small businesses. Dr. M-D Kerns, Small Business Program Coordinator in the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, has a new blog post about this funding. "If you’ve ever thought about spinning off some of your research into a product or service for sale," he explains, "this support could be for you. Or, if you would like to explore whether some of your ideas could be commercialized, there’s early phase exploratory funding for that kind of investigation."

    Read the full blog post: Consider small business funding

    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.

  • May 20, 2014

    The Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging is holding one of its thrice yearly meetings on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. EDT until 12:45 p.m EDT or until all business is completed. Please tune in to watch the live videocast.

    This videocast is a new service we are offering to enhance your access to NIA and our decision-making process about grants and funding. The agenda and other meeting materials are also available.

  • May 16, 2014

    Resveratrol, a compound in red wine, grapes, and nuts, has been the focus of many studies for its effects on aging and disease. Researchers have found it to improve the health (and in some cases, longevity) of animals, including mice and nonhuman primates. However, in a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine on May 12, 2014, researchers report that dietary resveratrol did not provide such effects in a group of community-dwelling, older people in Italy.

    Results are based on data collected from 1998 to 2009, as part of the Invecchiare in Chianti Study (“Aging in the Chianti Region”). The team of scientists from America and Italy, including NIA Scientific Director Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, found that resveratrol in the diet was not associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation, nor was it associated with longevity.

    In the paper, researchers note the interest in resveratrol supplementation in the U.S. and elsewhere, and they caution against use of such supplements based on animal data thus far. The paper states there is “limited and conflicting human clinical data demonstrating any metabolic benefits of resveratrol, and there is no data concerning its safety in high doses or for long-term supplementation in older people, who often have multiple comorbidities for which they are taking multiple medications.”

    The study authors suggest that more research with a larger group of participants is needed to determine whether resveratrol could have benefits in people, especially those who are overweight with health issues like diabetes.

    Reference: Semba, R.D., et al. Resveratrol Levels Unrelated to All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online May 12, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1582.

  • May 15, 2014

    Cartoon of four people in conversation.

    There is a new list of NIH information sources for funding announcements and important updates about applications, review, and grants policies relevant to researchers and their work. Ensure you’re not missing out with a new blog post by Britt Ehrhardt, Technical Writer/Editor in the NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison. "The National Institutes of Health puts out a lot of information for researchers," she writes. "Websites, email newsletters, help desks… we really want to help you find your way to the resources you need."

    Read the full blog post: Are you getting everything that NIH has to offer?

    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.

  • May 15, 2014

    Scientists suggest more research into link between aging, chronic disease

    To learn how common mechanisms in aging underlie the development of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, scientists have developed a new approach toward biomedical research, called geroscience. This innovative field of research seeks to bridge the divide between studies of aging and studies of chronic disease, with the hope of understanding their complex relationship and pointing the way to novel interventions for disease, frailty, and disability. Geroscience is now the focus of recommendations for new research, directed by a major, national summit at the National Institutes of Health.Advances in Geroscience conference logo

    The recommendations for research are based in large part on discussions at the groundbreaking 2013 NIH summit, Advances in Geroscience: Impact on Healthspan and Chronic Disease. The conference established a baseline for what we know about geroscience and outlined a roadmap for discovery about the connection between aging and disease. It was cosponsored with the NIH by the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America, with additional private sector support through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. An overview of the Summit sessions has just been published online on May 15, 2014 in a supplemental issue of The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

    At the summit, renowned experts in aging biology and disease concluded that this new field of study could be developed through specific actions by NIH and the broader research community. Among the scientific recommendations from the summit:

    • Identify how our current knowledge of the biology of aging can be applied to study the impact of aging on age-related diseases/conditions
    • Identify which aspects of aging are most responsive to prevention and treatment interventions
    • Develop ways to assess health span (years of good health and function) so that therapies designed to prevent disease can be assessed for efficacy
    • Construct animal models that develop chronic diseases at an equivalent age to humans (this may dramatically improve translation of interventions from animals to human)
    • Foster studies to understand the connection between the biology of aging and frailty, which is both a major risk factor for chronic disease and a consequence of chronic disease

    Most of the recommendations are deeply rooted in the spirit of collaboration and apply what is known about aging and chronic disease to help elucidate the unknown.

    The recommendations propose research directions in seven specific areas discussed at the summit, distinct mechanisms known or suspected to be related to aging that might also enable disease. Suggested areas of investigation focus on inflammation, adaptation to stress, epigenetics, metabolism, macromolecular (i.e., protein, DNA, and lipid/fat) damage, proteostasis (proper protein activity), and stem cells to better understand how they relate to serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and metabolic diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and frailty. Such studies might ultimately answer whether or not it is possible to prevent disease or reverse damage with therapies directed at the underlying contributions of aging.

    The summit was led by the recently-formed Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG).  GSIG founding and executive committee members Dr. Felipe Sierra, director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging at NIH and Dr. Kevin Howcroft, program director in the Cancer Immunology and Hematology Branch of the National Cancer Institute at NIH led development of the summit program. Ultimately, they said, the group is interested in developing new funding opportunities to support the interdisciplinary studies inherent in geroscience proposed by the scientific leaders at the summit.