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Who We Are and What We Do

The objective of DAB-funded research is to elucidate the basic biochemical, genetic, and physiological mechanisms underlying the process of aging and age-related changes in humans and in animal models of human aging. This includes investigations of the gradual or programmed alterations of structure and function that characterize normal aging and investigations of how these adverse changes become risk factors for, or accompany, age-related conditions and disease states.

The scientific research portfolio is managed by the Division Director and three Branches: Aging Physiology, Biological Resources, and Genetics and Cell Biology. In addition to the specific areas of interest indicated below, DAB also supports interdisciplinary research and integrated studies on the mechanisms that affect aging at the organism scale, including systems biology.

Office of the Director

Director, Ronald Kohanski, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Stacy Carrington-Lawrence, Ph.D.

Nathan Shock Centers for Excellence in Basic Biology of Aging

This Core Center Grant program (P30 mechanism) was established in 1995 to enhance well-developed institutional programs in basic research on aging by providing state-of-the-art research resources to create the strongest environment possible for the conduct of basic aging research. Applications are accepted only in response to a Request for Applications.

Fellowship and Training Grant (F's, T's) Program

NIA recognizes the continuing and expanding need to train new researchers in aging research, and the institutional training grant program is the major mechanism to accomplish this. These mechanisms provide institutional support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Support for individual trainees is usually limited to 3 years.

Small Business Grant (SBIR/STTR) Program

NIA recognizes the continuing and expanding need to support small businesses and nonprofit research organizations in aging research. The goals of the small business innovation research (SBIR) and small business technology transfer (STTR) programs is to facilitative innovative ideas, technology, tools and interventions that support healthy aging. This includes means to reduce the physiological burdens and diseases of aging as well as to improve care and services for older adults. Support for small businesses and non-profit institutions is usually limited to 2-3 years.

Administrative and Diversity Supplements

Supplements can be provided to current awards on a competitive basis to address specific needs identified by NIA. These have included diversity supplements to cover costs to study in more detail the roles and potential differences in sex and/or gender responses within the scope of the awarded project. Supplements may also provide support for increased operating costs caused by unforeseen hurdles during the awarded project period or to provide further clarifications to novel findings discovered during the course of the study that are within the scope of the awarded project. Supplements are usually limited to 1 year.

Health Disparities

Understanding health inequities and how they are impacted by the biology of aging is a high priority for the division. The NIA Health Disparities Framework and Goal F of the NIA Strategic Plan call attention to and highlight the importance of understanding the biological factors that delineate disparities in aging related outcomes among health disparities populations. DAB’s emphasis on hallmarks of aging brings a unique perspective to understanding mechanisms leading to health disparities in diverse communities and populations.

Cell Biology Branch (Chief: Max Guo, Ph.D.)

The Genetics and Cell Biology Branch focuses on the basic molecular mechanisms believed to underlie age-related dysfunction, with a focus on molecular studies, performed primarily in cell culture and model organisms. Research supported by this branch includes genetic manipulations that affect the length and/or quality of life.

Cell Biology Program (Viviana Perez, Ph.D.)

  • Cell senescence, apoptosis and cell proliferation in aging
  • Aging and the cellular microenvironment/extracellular matrix
  • Effect of the microenvironment on age-dependent tumors
  • Translation and posttranslational control
  • Age-dependent protein damage
  • Effects of age on protein turnover

Genetics Program (Max Guo, Ph.D.)

  • Longevity assurance genes and genes controlling the rate of aging
  • Genetics of healthy aging
  • Genome stability and aging
  • Genomics, gene expression and functional genomics
  • Telomere biology and genetic models of progerias

Metabolic Regulation Program (Yih-Woei Fridell, Ph.D.)

  • Effects of age on nutrition/metabolism
  • Metabolic syndrome and its sequelae
  • Metabolic hormone action in aging
  • Age-related changes in mitochondrial function
  • Mechanism of lifespan extension by caloric restriction
  • Generation of free radicals and oxidative stress
  • Molecular aspects of the stress response

Emerging Technologies Program (Leonid Tsap, Ph.D.)

  • Computational and informatic tools applied to the study of aging mechanisms
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, or health monitoring technologies in aging research
  • Systems biology study of aging mechanisms
  • Technology development for imaging modalities and visualization tools as applies to aging
  • Synthetic biology and technological innovations for aging research
  • Tissues-, organs- and organ systems-on-a-chip technologies

Aging Physiology Branch (Acting Chief: Stacy Carrington-Lawrence, Ph.D.)

The Aging Physiology Branch focuses on age-related changes affecting tissue and organ function. Research supported by this branch includes fundamental mechanisms of altered function in tissues and organs that contribute to conditions and diseases of aging. Research is supported at molecular, cellular and higher levels of organization including integration across tissues and organ systems. The Aging Physiology Branch coordinates support for stem cell and translational research.

Immunology Program (Mulualem Tilahun, Ph.D., DVM)

  • Molecular basis of age-related decline in adaptive and innate immune functions
  • Age-related changes in hematopoiesis, thymopoiesis, lymphocyte differentiation and proliferation
  • Inflammation and aging
  • Autoimmune disease and other age-related immunopathology
  • Interventions to retard and/or correct age-related decline in immune function

Reproductive and Endocrine Program (Acting, John Williams, Ph.D.)

  • Age-related changes in hormone production, metabolism, and action
  • Aging changes in the reproductive system, including hormonal changes and their consequences
  • Age-related changes in non-reproductive hormones and hormone action
  • Aging of the liver in disease and injury, in the exocrine functions of the pancreas and function of the gastrointestinal (stomach, intestine) systems including changes in the microbiome
  • Effects of aging on pancreas endocrine function and diabetes

Circulatory and Pulmonary Program (Hongwei Gao, M.D., Ph.D.)

  • Age-dependent changes in cardiac and vascular structure and function
  • Role of stem cells in cardiac and vascular maintenance and renewal
  • Effects of aging on erythropoietic proliferation, differentiation and transformation
  • Aging of the respiratory system including the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Kidney and Urogenital Program (John Williams, Ph.D.)

  • Physiological basis of age-related kidney disease and kidney failure including decreased glomeruli function, nephrosclerosis, and susceptibility to injury
  • Systems biology approaches to understanding cell nonautonomous regulation of the aging kidney
  • Age-related changes in the function of the bladder, urethra, an prostate including the molecular basis and pathogenesis of incontinence, underactive bladder and prostate hyperplasia

Muscle and Skeletal Program (John Williams, Ph.D.)

  • Age-related changes in the cellular and matrix components of bone, muscle structure and function, and cartilage and soft connective tissue
  • Molecular basis of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and sarcopenia

Skin and Wound Healing Program (John Williams, Ph.D.)

  • Age-related changes in skin and wound healing

Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Program (Acting, Ronald Kohanski, Ph.D.)

  • Role of the aged microenvironment in stem cell functions
  • Factors affecting age-dependent changes in stem cell renewal and differentiation

Biological Resources Branch (Chief: Francesca Macchiarini, Ph.D.)

The Biological Resources Branch focuses on the identification, development and characterization of new animal models — both mammalian and invertebrate — for use in aging research. In addition, this Branch manages and maintains the biological resources needed to support aging research, including both rodent colonies and tissue banks.

Animal Models Program (Manuel Moro, Ph.D.)

  • Development of new models for aging research
  • Comparative biology of aging
  • Rodent pathology and lifespan studies

Biological Resources Program (Francesca Macchiarini, Ph.D.)

Division of Aging Biology Staff

Name Title Email
Siobhan ADDIE Health Science Policy Analyst
Heidi BROGDON Program Specialist
Stacy CARRINGTON-LAWRENCE Deputy Director Division of Aging Biology
Christy CARTER
Nhi CHAU Program Analyst
Tiziana COGLIATI Health Scientist Administrator
Tracy COPE Health Scientist Specialist
Jennifer FOX Health Scientist Administrator
Yih-Woei FRIDELL Health Scientist Administrator
Hongwei GAO Health Scientist Administrator
Max GUO Health Scientist Administrator
Pragati KATIYAR Health Science Specialist
Ronald KOHANSKI Director, Division of Aging Biology
Nimi KONDE Staff Assistant
Francesca MACCHIARINI Health Scientist Administrator
Manuel MORO Health Scientist Administrator
Timothy MORRISON Research Program Analyst
Viviana Perez Montes Health Science Administrator
Mulualem TILAHUN Health Scientist Administrator
Leonid TSAP Health Scientist Administrator
John WILLIAMS Health Scientist Administrator