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Three interconnected FOAs encourage a fresh look at aging hallmarks

Yih Woei Fridell
Health Scientist Administrator,
Division of Aging Biology (DAB)
picture of Viviana Perez
Viviana Perez Montes [Former NIA Staff],
Health Science Administrator,
Division of Aging Biology (DAB)

*The authors thank their colleague Max Guo for his assistance with this post.

Over the past few decades, scientists have made breakthroughs identifying molecular and cellular mechanisms of aging. Researchers have grouped these mechanisms into nine categories considered to be “hallmarks of aging” and, as a result, have created a useful framework to further advance our understanding of the diverse changes that occur as we grow older.

Importantly, these hallmarks also provide scientists with access points that can be manipulated and studied to inform further research about how we might change the ways we age, perhaps through the development of therapies to increase older adults’ health and well-being. In principle, the hallmark mechanisms could be altered to increase or decrease features of aging. NIA-supported research has also indicated that the hallmarks interact with each other in layered and nuanced ways. Our next step is to better understand how the hallmarks interact and whether they should be targeted for interventions individually or in groups.

Three new FOAs to connect the dots

To encourage innovative research on the interactions between hallmarks of aging, NIA has issued three interconnected Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), all with the due date of Oct. 11, 2022:

RFA-AG-23-012 Inter-Organelle Communication as a Platform to Interrogate the Interactions of Hallmarks of Aging (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Contact sites where the membranes of cell organelles come together are critical hubs for the transfer of ions, metabolites, lipids, and proteins that have important roles in cellular aging. This FOA aims to deepen our mechanistic understanding of organelle communication and how it shapes the interactions of the hallmarks of aging.

RFA-AG-23-013 Mapping Interconnectivity Among Hallmarks of Aging Under Lifespan Modifications (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
This FOA is designed to discover whether there are hierarchies among the hallmarks that underlie different changes with age, or if there is a threshold beyond which the hallmarks and/or their interactions with one another become “tipping points” that beyond which the aging process cannot be reversed.

RFA-AG-23-015 Studies of Cytosolic DNAs in the Interactions of Aging Hallmarks (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
The accumulation of DNA in the cytosol (the fluid portion of a cell’s cytoplasm) has important associations with aging, cellular senescence, and decline of cellular and physiological functions. The goal of this FOA is to explore cytosolic DNAs as integrators of hallmark interactions and instigators of downstream events leading to age-related cellular and tissue deterioration.

Building an innovative aging hallmarks research consortium

While each FOA emphasizes a unique challenge, releasing the trio of opportunities together should increase collaboration and the exchange of data, technical resources, and expertise. We hope the collective impact can lead to a clearer and more comprehensive view of the complex picture of the aging hallmarks and their mechanisms.

We are also optimistic that these three FOAs will spark additional scientific collaboration and data sharing to broadly advance the field of aging biology. We plan to help in this process by organizing regular scientific meetings and virtual conferences to build an innovative network of investigators and labs studying new approaches to understanding the hallmarks of aging. This network will serve as a platform to report updates, share technical advances and resources, and tackle research hurdles.

If you are interested in helping advance our understanding of aging hallmarks, we encourage you to apply by Oct. 11! If you have questions, please contact the NIA Division of Aging Biology or leave a comment below.

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