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A wealth of shared data, specimens for aging research

Dr. Rosaly Correo-de-Araujo
Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director, DGCG,
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)

As part of NIA’s mission, we conduct and support various longitudinal and clinical studies on aging that generate a vast collection of biospecimens and related phenotypic and clinical data. When these grants end, it is often hard to maintain such collections with no support for them. And sometimes the cost of maintaining and distributing these resources taxes even funded awards.

To address this issue, we are pleased to announce the establishment of the AgingResearchBiobank, a central biorepository to provide a state-of-the-art inventory system for the storage and distribution of these collections to the broader scientific community. Ultimately, the Biobank is about accelerating science to help extend the healthy, active years of life for the world’s fast-growing population of older adults.

Getting to Know the Biobank

The AgingResearchBiobank has two components:

  • Biologic Specimens (Biorepository) – Using best practices, this component receives, stores, maintains, and distributes biospecimens from different study collections to qualified investigators.
  • Data Repository – Serving as the data coordinating center for the Biobank, the Data Repository receives, archives, maintains, and distributes databases from different study collections. It also analyzes stored data in response to inquiries, assists ongoing studies in preparing data for eventual archiving, assists in the selection of appropriate biospecimens for proposed secondary research, and coordinates cross-referencing between the two components of the Biobank.

Collections included in the Biobank were built over many years from studies that carefully selected subjects, and samples are available in limited quantities. Each biospecimen is unique and cannot be replaced. Pairing these one-of-a-kind resources with the opportunity to potentially pool data across study collections significantly increases the value and power of future research findings from the Biobank’s samples.

The Stuff of LIFE

As we debut the Biobank, the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study is our first featured collection of data and biological samples (plasma, serum, and DNA) to be made publicly available. Conducted from 2010 to 2013 at eight centers across the U.S., LIFE is the largest and longest-running randomized trial of physical activity in older persons. LIFE included 1,635 sedentary older adults (70-89 years) at high risk for developing major mobility disability, defined by the inability to walk 400 meters. The study found that, compared with a health education intervention, a long-term structured physical activity program reduced the incidence of major mobility disability by 18 percent and the risk of persistent mobility disability by 28 percent.

The valuable biospecimens and data collected under LIFE await your further uses for them. You can explore the effects of exercise on circulating biomarkers and how genetic differences among us change our responses to exercise. Such probing using LIFE’s resources has the potential to identify and understand molecular transducers of long-term physical activity and molecular risk factors of mobility disability in older adults.

Stay Tuned for Future Studies and Data

LIFE is the first of several studies and data resources we aim to make available to the research community in 2019. Stay tuned to the “Inside NIA” blog for future updates on the Biobank and news about additional study data that will be opened up for access. In the meantime, we hope you will visit the new Biobank site, and we welcome your questions and feedback. I can be reached via email and look forward to helping you connect with this exciting new resource in 2019.


Submitted by Moshe Levi on January 30, 2019

I am involved in aging research and I am interested in access to kidney and liver samples

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