Have you come across a compound or treatment in your own research that you think might promote healthy aging? Now is the time to propose it be tested! An NIA program is accepting proposals for candidate interventions for testing in a genetically heterogeneous mouse model.
While there is no magic pill to ensure healthy aging, our understanding of the cellular pathways influencing aging has burgeoned in the last decade or so, and with that understanding comes the potential to intervene in these pathways to modulate age-related changes. Yet going from concept to translation is a lengthy process, in which many candidates are winnowed down to just a few.
What is the Interventions Testing Program?
The Interventions Testing Program found that rapamycin extends life in mice. Diagram courtesy of Randy Strong.
When it comes to testing potential interventions to promote healthy aging, the early stages are complex. Recognizing this, the NIA began the Interventions Testing Program (ITP) in 2003. The ITP is a multi-institutional study designed to investigate compounds with the potential to extend lifespan and delay age-related disease and dysfunction. The program consists of three cooperative agreement grants funding the sites at which testing takes place: the University of Michigan (PI Richard Miller), the Jackson Laboratories (PI David Harrison), and the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio (PI Randy Strong).
The ITP solicits proposals from the research community for compounds to put into testing, and this is part of what makes it so unique. The program’s success relies not only on the quality of the three testing sites, which have developed a rigorous testing protocol, but also very much on the broad range of ideas and perspectives from the research community that contribute to the pool of candidate compounds for testing each year.
Next deadline is September 20—get your intervention tested by the ITP.
Proposals for candidate interventions are solicited once a year, and the next deadline for submitting candidate interventions for consideration is September 20, 2013. The ITP website has information and useful guidelines for submitting ITP proposals.
How are proposed interventions reviewed? How do we decide what gets tested by the ITP?
Proposals undergo a two-tier review process—a first committee evaluates the rationale and feasibility of each proposal and a second committee prioritizes proposals for the limited slots available each year. Proposals rising to the top of the priority list are then developed further to set up a series of pilot studies to optimize the protocol, including studies for toxicity, stability, and bioavailability. Successful pilot studies lead to Phase I testing, in which the primary endpoint is lifespan but which also include a few ancillary studies on aging-associated changes. The thinking is that compounds that extend lifespan in the mouse model likely have beneficial health span effects, too.
If your proposal is accepted, how will you be involved?
Proposal sponsors collaborate by assisting in protocol development, data analysis, and manuscript preparation, with authorship on papers describing results of ITP testing. While the ITP does not provide funding for a proposal sponsor’s labs, it provides a venue for testing compounds of interest in a rigorous program, at no cost to the sponsor. These results can be used in grant applications for further studies of compounds with potential to promote healthy aging.
One of the values of the ITP is that all findings are published, be they positive or negative. This is important so the research community builds on the ITP findings rather than duplicating failed tests.
Your intervention could be the next rapamycin.
The most exciting finding to date has been the extension of lifespan in both male and female mice by rapamycin, a natural product of Streptomyces hydroscopicus, a soil bacterium. But nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) also gave an early positive effect, albeit only in males, and other compounds still in testing look promising. The positive result for rapamycin, published in 2009, has led not only to a Phase II study within the ITP but also to numerous studies and publications continuing the analysis of rapamycin and the mTOR pathway through which it exerts its effects.
Browse NIA biological resources.
In addition to the ITP, the NIA has a range of animal models and tissue resources available to scientists. To view all of our resources, go to the Scientific Resources page on our website.