DAB

As you may know, the National Advisory Council on Aging met here in Bethesda last week. Among the many actions it took was the review and approval of seven new concepts for NIA Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). You can find brief summaries of the cleared concepts on our website.

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Dr. Nancy Nadon, chief of DAB’s Biological Resources Branch, is retiring next month, and I undertake this writing with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m elated that Nancy will now be able to fully enjoy the benefits of retirement. But on the other hand, I’m sad to see such a fair-minded and accomplished colleague leave the NIA.

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The wait was long—but the news is good! If you’ve been following events on Capitol Hill, you already know this. NIH has received a $2 billion increase in budget for this fiscal year, reflecting much-appreciated bipartisan support for biomedical research. NIA’s own budget received a monster $400 million boost for Alzheimer’s-related research, and our budget for other research areas increased at the same percentage rate as the NIH budget.

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Stem-cell therapies or stem-cell-targeted treatments are being used in clinics across the country to treat a variety of diseases and conditions. The 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted in December2016, includes the Regenerative Medicine Initiative which will help us better understand how clinicians may use stem cells safely and effectively in therapy.

 

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Did you know? NIA receives somewhere around 4,000 applications for funding in response to new and existing funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) each year. And, each application is reviewed. With that level of interest, you can imagine that we are always looking for investigators who are willing and able to serve as peer reviewers.

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Researchers find clue to damage and repair of aging cells

Why does the chance of getting cancer increase as we age? A long-standing hypothesis, supported by compelling evidence in the past several decades, implicates the accumulation over time of damage to cells, organelles, and biomolecules as an underlying cause of aging. This accumulated biomolecular damage, particularly that affecting DNA, along with cells’ declining ability to repair DNA as a person ages, may also lead to cancer, according to the theory.

Though research on age differences has its place, almost by definition, research on aging involves tracking people over time periods long enough to observe long-term changes in their lives and health. And, accurate measurements of large samples can be an expensive undertaking. The NIA has made major investments to create and maintain data resources that can be used for dozens—and in some cases, hundreds—of analyses, using the tools of the behavioral and social sciences.

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Flip a coin? Roll the dice? Consult an expert? How do you decide?

What happens as we age that may either compromise or strengthen our decision-making capacities? To appreciate how aging affects our ability to make decisions, we need to first understand age-related changes in basic psychological processes involved, including social, cognitive and emotional motivations for decisions. Research providing that knowledge can help us build better interventions to support decision making by older adults including decisions that affect their health.

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The entire U.S. government, including NIA, is currently operating under an extension of a continuing resolution (CR) that will end on April 28…unless it is extended again, that is. A continuing resolution extends the previous year’s appropriations act, and the appropriations language within it, into the next fiscal year. It is usually minimally altered from the terms in the prior year. In other words, at this point in FY 2017, we’re operating with virtually the same budget we had in FY 2016.

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