The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging: OPEN for Business
*Editor’s note: NIA is pleased to congratulate Dr. Simonsick upon her recent appointment as co-director of the BLSA.
NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), America’s longest continuous study of aging, is approaching its 65th birthday and it’s more vital than ever! Far from retirement, this study is thriving and evolving in multiple ways. Following are a few key updates:
OPEN for data sharing
The BLSA is a world-renowned data resource for studying the aging process over the life course. This fall, BLSA researchers will launch a new data-sharing component that is part of the ongoing implementation of NIH Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data principles. These “OPEN” data include:
- Open: Publicly available de-identified data, with participant consent to share. Typically accessed through externally curated data resource centers such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Data Initiative and the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network/Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.
- Permissioned: Widely shared data with participant consent. Available to internal BLSA researchers as well as to requesting institutions through approved analysis plans with executed data agreements and Institutional Review Board approval.
- Entrusted: Team-shared data that are connected to a specific initiative and/or supported by targeted funds and/or experimental in nature, which may become permissioned after adequate vetting and publication of core papers.
- Non-Shared: Data with personal identifiers and not intended for research purposes.
Visit the BLSA website for more information on how to apply to use our data.
BLSA response to COVID
When the BLSA clinic site shut down in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, BLSA investigators, clinical staff, and IT personnel teamed up to develop and administer two telephone surveys. This was done not only to track BLSA participant experiences with COVID and maintain contact safely during quarantine, but also to collect data on previously overlooked earlier life experiences and health-related conditions. Fortunately, few participants contracted COVID, but all experienced social, behavioral, and/or psychological effects ranging from severely negative to generally positive. Participants with high personal mastery — an enduring personality trait of belief in one’s ability to control important things in their life — demonstrated the least negative impact from COVID-related restrictions. You can read a comprehensive review of these findings online.
A published new paradigm for aging research
BLSA scientists recently published a new global index of aging that is highly predictive of changes in health as well as in physical and cognitive functions. This new measurement combines long-term trends of physiologic assessments organized into four domains: body composition, energetics (metabolic-related measures of how the body uses, processes, and stores fuel), homeostasis (a healthy steady state in the body for vital processes such as insulin regulation and temperature), and neurodegeneration/neuroplasticity (how well the brain forms and reorganizes connections as a result of learning or in adaptation to injury or illness). BLSA researchers aim to use this new metric as a reference gold standard to identify novel biological mechanisms of aging that could be targeted for intervention(s) aimed at healthy aging. View a synopsis of this work.
Reach out to connect with us
We are energized to keep the BLSA moving forward and excited to see what future years will bring! If you have a question or would like to collaborate, please visit blsa.nih.gov or leave a comment below.