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NIA expands Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence into exciting new fields of aging biology

Candace Kerr
Candace KERR [Former NIA Staff],
Health Scientist Administrator,

We get so focused on the future of aging research that we sometimes forget its long history. Many of our field’s roots can be traced back to Nathan Shock, Ph.D., a pioneering researcher who led NIH’s Gerontology Research Center for nearly 35 years. Known as the “father of gerontology,” Dr. Shock was instrumental in establishing NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the world’s longest running longitudinal examination of human aging. Today, through NIA’s Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence (NSCs), researchers carry on his legacy of scientific leadership across the nation.

Supporting basic research in aging biology

NIA’s Division of Aging Biology supports a network of NSCs across the U.S. Founded in 1995, the Nathan Shock Centers Program is part of the Research Centers Collaborative Network. The NSCs lead the pursuit of basic research into the biology of aging through funding aging biology research, conferences to convene leading and up-and-coming aging biology researchers, research resources and equipment, and networking opportunities. Each NSC supports a number of research core facilities that correspond to the center’s areas of expertise in aging biology, and funds pilot projects that leverage those cores. Through an NIA grant, The American Federation for Aging Research leads a Nathan Shock Center coordinating center to communicate NSC-funded advances, ensure data quality control and data sharing among the centers and with the larger scientific community, and evaluate NSC progress and opportunities.

NSCs at the cutting edge of aging science

This year, in addition to the renewal of all six currently funded centers, NIA awarded two new centers: one a collaboration between the Buck Institute and University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, and the other at the Salk Institute in San Diego. Cores at all the centers are positioned to advance emerging technologies and priorities in aging biology, including:

  • Single-cell technologies
  • Next generation geroscience technology platforms for aging biomarker discovery
  • Innovative cellular models and analyses focused on heterogeneity of aging
  • Epigenetic aging and the mystery of why different types of human cells and tissues age at different rates and how that variability impacts overall health over time

To complement the research of the six renewed centers, researchers at both of the new NSCs will develop and support the latest approaches in computational biology.

Learn more about the NSCs!

Much like their namesake, the Nathan Shock Centers provide mentorship and inspiration for a new generation of scientists looking to tackle the mysteries of extending the happy and healthy later years of life. Visit the Nathan Shock Centers and NSC Coordinating Center websites to learn about pilot awards, conferences and workshops, and networking and career development opportunities for emerging aging biology researchers. If you have any questions about how the Nathan Shock Centers can help advance your aging biology research, comment below!


Submitted by Felipe Sierra on October 14, 2020

The successes of the NSC program are not highlighted enough, yet they represent the foundation upon which much of the work of NIA other programs rests. Thanks for highlighting them, I’m excited to see their expansion and very much look forward to exciting new discoveries.

Submitted by Denise Orwig on October 14, 2020

I am director of Gerontology Doctoral Program that offers a Biology of Aging course. Many of our students have very little background in biology and their research in areas related to policy, epidemiology, and sociocultural behavioral sciences. To be a good gerontologist, I believe you need to have an understanding of how the body ages, and I am always looking for ways to make the class more "exciting." With the virtual learning world extending into the spring semester we are looking different tools to enhance the learning experience. I was wondering if there were any tools available to use in a Biology of Aging course. It would be great to be able to share current research going in the field (at a basic level if possible). Is someone available to provide an overview of the NSCs for the class? I appreciate any guidance you may have.

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