Upcoming Events

Registration is open for the Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (ADRD) Summit 2022, which will take place on March 22nd-23rd. Hosted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Summit will address research priorities for ADRDs, including frontotemporal degeneration, Lewy body dementia, multiple etiology dementias, and vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia, along with broader cross-cutting areas, including health equity.

Recent Blogs

In a recent InsideNIA blog post, Dr. Kenneth Santora, Director of the NIA Division of Extramural Activities, discussed NIA’s new temporary interim pay lines. NIA is currently funded through a Continuing Resolution which provides continuing fiscal year 2022 appropriations to federal agencies through February 18th, 2022. In this post, Dr. Santora outlines the interim funding guidance on competing and non-competing awards, as well as Alzheimer’s projects. For more information, you can also visit NIA’s temporary FY 2022 interim pay lines webpage.

In another InsideNIA post, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes presented some of NIA’s priorities for the year ahead. These efforts include boosting diversity in the scientific workforce; developing tools and resources to improve clinical trial recruitment and participation among traditionally underserved communities; meeting ongoing COVID-19 challenges; building momentum for the new Center for Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias; and expanding the science of cellular senescence to inform healthy aging. Dr. Hodes’ post also highlights three upcoming events: the Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy (LATE) 2022 seminar in February and the 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias Summit and Development of Function Promoting Therapies: Public Health Need, Molecular Targets, and Drug Development Workshop in March.

In another recent InsideNIA blog post, Ms. Laura Major of the NIA Division of Behavioral and Social Research and Dr. Maria Carranza of the NIA Office of Small Business Research highlighted NIA’s diversity supplement program. Diversity supplements support the development of candidates who are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences and researchers who are disabled and need support for accommodations to complete their projects. The program strengthens the diversity of the aging research workforce via mentored training for candidates to develop their research skills. NIA accepts diversity supplement applications and makes funding decisions on a rolling basis, and this post includes tips for applicants.

In another InsideNIA post, Dr. Kristina McLinden of the NIA Division of Neuroscience announced a new funding opportunity for researchers new to the fields of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s and related dementias. This new funding opportunity invites applications for projects to collect pilot data to support early-stage clinical trials and related human and/or animal testing of promising interventions for these diseases. It is designed for studies that target presymptomatic to more severe stages of disease and also aims to stimulate studies to enhance clinical trial design and methods. The post also highlights other funding opportunities focused on later stage clinical trials.

In an InsideNIA post, Dr. Patricia Jones, Director of the NIA Office of Special Populations, invited applicants to apply to the 2022 NIA Butler-Williams Scholars Program. The program provides pathways for early-career scientists to expand their networks, advance grant writing skills, and gain a broader understanding of the science NIA conducts and supports. It is especially helpful for researchers aiming for a career development award or their first R01. The program blends seminars, presentations, small group discussions, and networking and provides the opportunity to connect with NIA leadership, scientific review and program staff, and NIA-supported researchers. This year, the program will be held virtually Aug. 23rd-25th and investigators must apply by the April 15th deadline.

In a recent blog post from the NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity (COSWD) Office, Dr. Marie Bernard invites comments on the Draft 2022–2026 COSWD Strategic Plan. The new strategic plan will guide the COSWD’s mission over the next five years to be NIH’s thought leader in the science of scientific workforce diversity, using evidence-based approaches to catalyze cultures of inclusive excellence. COSWD recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit feedback on the Draft COSWD Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022-2026. Comments to the RFI must be submitted by February 10th, 2022.

Research Highlights

Data from an NIA-led research study showed racial disparities in Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis between Black and white research study participants. The study found that Black participants in Alzheimer’s research studies were 35% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias than white participants, despite national statistics indicating that Black Americans are about twice as likely to develop dementias than whites. The analysis also showed that Black participants with these dementias had more risk factors for the disease, as well as greater cognitive impairment and symptom severity. The researchers see this as further evidence for the importance of addressing racial disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias treatment, especially to avoid delayed diagnoses that could have major adverse consequences for patients and their families.

Cataract removal was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia among older adults, according to an NIA-funded study. Several studies suggest sensory loss may be a potentially modifiable risk factor for dementia later in life. In this study, researchers found that participants who underwent cataract removal surgery had nearly 30% lower risk of developing dementia compared with participants without surgery, even after controlling for demographic and health risks. In comparison, glaucoma surgery, which doesn’t restore vision, did not have a significant association with dementia risk. The researchers note that additional studies are needed to determine how cataract removal impacts dementia risk.

A recent NIA-funded study maps out genomic regions that may control levels of proteins linked to neurological disorders. The research team found that changes in certain regions of DNA were linked to the levels of specific proteins. Such regions of DNA are called protein quantitative trait loci (pQTL). The study identified several pQTLs linked to protein levels in the brain, plasma, and cerebrospinal fluid. Additionally, they found pQTLs associated with three proteins linked to the risk of Alzheimer’s in cerebrospinal fluid samples, 13 proteins in plasma samples, and seven proteins in brain samples. They also found pQTLs associated with proteins that are linked to the risk of Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and stroke. Finally, the team found 25 existing drugs that target these proteins, suggesting that the drugs could be repurposed to treat those conditions.

Another NIA-supported study found that the immune system may play a harmful role in Lewy body dementia (LBD). In this study, researchers identified a certain type of T cell, a key player in the body’s immune system that is involved with autoimmune diseases, that may be involved in the degeneration of neurons in LBD. The team proposed how these T cells could travel to the brain, react against the abnormal alpha-synuclein deposits associated with LBD, and secrete an inflammatory substance, leading to neurodegeneration. The findings suggest that drugs already used to treat certain autoimmune diseases may block this undesired T-cell activity.

Identifying delirium can be done effectively and quickly using an app-directed protocol, according to an NIA-supported study. Delirium, a state of acute confusion, affects millions of hospitalized older adults each year. In this new study, researchers tested the ability of a tablet computer-based app to identify delirium compared with a standard delirium assessment. Their findings suggest that using this app-directed protocol, clinicians can accurately identify delirium in older, hospitalized adults in fewer than two minutes as part of their routine daily workflow. The researchers noted that the app-directed protocol helped address two major barriers to delirium screening — lack of knowledge of how to assess delirium and lack of time.

Researchers tested various ways to encourage exercise in an NIA-funded megastudy. The researchers used a novel approach called a megastudy, in which they enrolled more than 60,000 members of 24 Hour Fitness gyms. Members check in electronically before using the gym, which allowed the researchers to track how often people exercised before, during, and after the study. They created 53 different 4-week programs designed to encourage exercise. Because of the megastudy’s size, each intervention could be tested in hundreds to thousands of people. Overall, 45% of the interventions boosted the number of weekly gym visits compared with the control group. These increased exercise from around 9% to 27%. Five of the interventions stood out for being especially effective. Megastudies have the additional advantage of being able to rule out, all at once, many interventions that don’t work.

Announcements

Dr. Richard Hodes published a statement on the proposed CMS Medicare coverage decision for aducanumab to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

NIA recently published two Notices of Special Interest highlighting research related to pain, pain management, and opioids that fall within NIA’s mission.

The 2021 Update of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease has been released. For the first time, it includes a new goal focused on work to promote healthy aging and reduce the risks that may contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has released a new strategic plan. The NIDDK Strategic Plan for Research presents a broad vision for accelerating research over the next 5 years to improve the health of people who have or are at risk for diseases within NIDDK’s mission: diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; liver, intestinal, and other digestive diseases; nutritional disorders; obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases.

NIH has published a set of FAQs about the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy. NIH is also seeking public comment on a new resource for researchers that promotes responsible management and sharing of American Indian/Alaska Native participant data through March 28th.

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