NIA will hold its annual #ResearchDiversity Twitter Chat on Thursday, October 20, from 1:00—2:00 pm ET. This year’s event will focus on diversity in NIH small business programs. NIA and partners in the research and small business community will discuss the importance of diversity in small businesses, highlight programs that support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, and share helpful tips from NIA grantees and leaders in the field. To learn more, please visit the event webpage.
NIA released a statement on the recent report of lecanemab reducing cognitive decline in an Alzheimer’s disease clinical trial. Pharmaceutical companies Eisai and Biogen announced data for a phase 3 Alzheimer’s clinical trial which showed that lecanemab, an anti-amyloid antibody, slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 27% in an 18-month study. NIA eagerly awaits publication of the data in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Potentially promising outcomes such as this one are the result of sustained public investment in medical research, the tireless work of scientists around world, and the help of people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Although NIA did not fund the lecanemab study, our decades of research paved the way for this Alzheimer’s trial, including notable contributions detailed in the statement.
Dr. Melinda Kelley has been named NIA Associate Director for Scientific Strategy, Innovation, and Management. In this role, Dr. Kelley will work closely with the NIA director, deputy director, and executive officer, in addition to overseeing the Office of Communications and Public Liaison; the Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation; and the Office of Legislation, Policy, and International Activities (OLPIA). She previously served as NIA’s senior advisor and acting deputy director, and from 2014 to 2021, she served as OLPIA director.
NIA released a new video on biomarkers and how they help diagnose dementia. Biomarkers are measurable indicators of what is happening in the body and can be found in blood, other body fluids, organs, and tissues. Biomarkers are an important part of dementia research, as they can be used to track disease progression or responses to treatment. To view and share the video, please see the posting on NIA’s YouTube channel.
The United States Census Bureau released a new report on domestic migration of older Americans. The report, which was supported in part by NIA, details recent migration patterns of older adults from 2015—2019. Key findings include the movement of larger proportions of the 85+ population relative to those 65—84; that older adults living with at least one disability showed a higher likelihood of moving than those with no disabilities; and that the southern and western states were the most popular destinations for older adults who moved.
NIH announced the launch of the Bridge2AI program to expand the use of artificial intelligence in biomedical and behavioral research. The Bridge2AI program, an NIH Common Fund initiative, aims to advance biomedical and behavioral research by setting the stage for widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) that tackles complex challenges beyond human intuition. NIH plans to invest $130 million in the program to accelerate the widespread use of AI. To learn more, please see the full news release.
NIH released two new resources for the research community in preparation for the implementation of the new NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing, which will become effective on January 25, 2023. The two resources include notices on: (1) Protecting Privacy When Sharing Human Research Participant Data; and (2) Responsible Management and Sharing of American Indian/Alaska Native Participant Data.
NIH issued two new funding opportunities to develop the next generation of COVID-19 tests, with a major focus on accessibility. The funding opportunities are part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Tech program, managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The first solicitation is for accessible over-the-counter tests that can be used by people with disabilities, including aging-related disabilities. The second solicitation focuses on enhancing performance and ease of use of over-the-counter and point-of-care tests.
NIH has begun a clinical trial to evaluate the monkeypox vaccine, JYNNEOS. The trial will specifically evaluate whether it is possible to administer the vaccine intradermally, or between layers of the skin, rather than exclusively subcutaneously, or in the tissue beneath the skin. Intradermal administration uses one-fifth of the dose used in subcutaneous administration and could thereby increase the number of people who can be vaccinated with the current limited supply of vaccine. The trial, which is sponsored by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will enroll more than 200 adults across eight U.S. research sites.
A Phase 3 clinical trial is now underway to evaluate an antiviral for treatment of monkeypox. The antiviral, tecovirimat, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of smallpox. The drug prevents the virus from spreading in the body by inhibiting viral particles from exiting human cells, targeting a protein found on both the causal virus of smallpox, as well as the monkeypox virus. Study investigators aim to enroll more than 500 people nationwide in the trial.
Your Feedback Requested
NIA seeks comments and suggestions regarding the establishment of a Real-World Data (RWD) Infrastructure to transform the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and AD-related dementias (ADRD) research enterprise. Through this Request for Information (RFI), NIA seeks information from stakeholders regarding how a RWD infrastructure can be best established and managed to support research and clinical trials on AD/ADRD treatments and diagnosis, prevention strategies, interventions, services, and supports to improve the quality of life of older adults living with AD/ADRD and their families, caregivers, and communities. Responses must be submitted via email to NIARWD@nih.gov by October 17, 2022.
NIA published another RFI inviting public comments and suggestions to inform planning of the third National Research Summit on Care, Services, and Supports for Persons Living with Dementia and their Caregivers/Care Partners, scheduled for March 20—22, 2023. NIA invites comments from stakeholders on notable research progress in the area, new and innovative research being undertaken, remaining unmet research needs, and key programmatic areas of possible interest at the 2023 Care Summit. The deadline to submit feedback via the RFI response form is October 21, 2022.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released two pairs of draft research recommendations and evidence reviews for public comment. The first concerns screening for depression and suicide risk in adults, and the second concerns screening for anxiety. Comments must be received by October 17, 2022.
On the NIH Director’s Blog, guest author Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, director of NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), discussed a collaborative NIH effort to understand the burden of health disparities in the U.S. Dr. Pérez-Stable and his colleagues at NIMHD conceived a new study of nationwide, county-level life expectancy, while also establishing the Global Burden of Disease U.S. Health Disparities Collaborators at NIH, with participation from NIA and other institutes and offices. The results highlighted declining life expectancy in 60% of counties and significant gaps across racial and ethnic groups. To visualize these findings, Dr. Pérez-Stable shared an interactive data map, noting that the level of detail contained in the map offers an opportunity for researchers and public health leaders to focus on areas where disparities are most pronounced and to develop interventions to eliminate them.
On the Inside NIA Blog, Dr. Ronald Kohanski, director of the NIA Division of Aging Biology, discussed training the next generation of geroscience researchers. In support of this effort, NIA recently released a funding opportunity to support creative educational programs aimed at enhancing and expanding broader awareness of geroscience research. The new opportunity, PAR-22-214, will support courses for skills development, research experiences, curriculum or methods development, or outreach programs on the topic of geroscience. Letters of intent for this opportunity are due October 21, 2022.
Also on the Inside NIA Blog, Dr. Melinda Kelley, NIA Associate Director for Scientific Strategy, Innovation, and Management, highlighted the latest NIA cleared concepts for aging research. Approved by the National Advisory Council on Aging last month, the newly cleared concepts provide a glimpse of NIA’s potential future funding opportunities, pending their conversion to an award mechanism and publication in the NIH Guide. Dr. Kelley noted that researchers may benefit from the opportunity to review the list of cleared concepts in order to plan ahead for a successful application. The complete list is available within Dr. Kelley’s post and includes such topics as an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) Real-World Data Platform, interorgan communication in aging, and gene—environment interactions in brain aging and ADRD.
In a final post to the Inside NIA Blog, Dr. Shreaya Chakroborty, program director in the NIA Division of Neuroscience, discussed the NIA Alzheimer’s Disease Preclinical Efficacy Database (AlzPED) and its efforts in raising standards for preclinical testing of Alzheimer’s drug candidates. AlzPED was launched with the goal of improving the predictive power of preclinical testing and today houses curated summaries of nearly 1,300 studies, 251 therapeutic targets, 1,123 therapeutic agents, 210 animal models, and more than 2,000 Alzheimer’s and related dementias outcome measures. Dr. Chakroborty encouraged individual researchers to connect to AlzPED to strengthen their studies and organizations which fund dementia research to make use of AlzPED in implementing expectations for rigorous and reproducible preclinical research.
NIA-funded research mapped genome regions that regulate the speed of brain aging. The pace of brain aging varies across the human lifespan, with faster development often seen during childhood and atrophy, or the loss of brain cells, seen more commonly in older age. In the current work, researchers examined MRI brain scan data from 15,640 participants to assess how fast tissue in the brain grew or shrank over time. A genome-wide association analysis was then conducted to identify genes or DNA patterns associated with the speed of brain aging. Fifteen genomic “hot spots” were identified, including the APOE gene, a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. These findings may guide future studies of brain aging and the prevention and treatment of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Exposure to green space may boost cognitive health, according to NIA-supported research. Residential areas with more green space – including those with parks, gardens, grass, trees, and flowers – were associated with faster thinking, better attention, and higher overall cognitive function in middle-aged women. To derive these associations, researchers assessed participants’ cognitive function, and then examined the amount of green space around their homes using satellite imagery. The results suggested improved cognition among those living within walking distance of green space. These findings support the need for further research into the use of green space exposure as a possible community-based approach to reduce the risks of cognitive decline and dementia.
NIA-supported research suggests that combined decline in gait speed and memory may better predict dementia risk than either factor alone. Prior research has demonstrated that declining gait speed is associated with dementia, and, when paired with measures of declines in cognition, can more accurately pinpoint dementia risk than either gait speed or cognition alone. This new study used data from the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial to examine which domain of cognition (e.g., memory, processing speed) was most predictive of dementia when combined with gait speed. Researchers found that declines in gait speed and memory were most strongly associated with dementia. This finding indicates that screenings which include both gait speed and memory may be useful in predicting future dementia risk.
NIA-funded research used CRISPR systems to create a model examining the genetic activation and inactivation of microglia. Microglia are the brain’s immune cells and help to clear damaged cells and infectious agents. CRISPR techniques allow researchers to turn genes on or off to study their function. Researchers have aspired to use CRISPR in mature microglia, but this had previously presented challenges. However, a team of researchers has now successfully engineered human stem cells that can more quickly be converted to microglia-like cells, and then studied by turning specific genes on or off. In so doing, the researchers were able to increase the activity of microglia in the pathogenic state of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to decrease it. These findings may give rise to potential future drug targets for Alzheimer’s and other types of neurodegenerative disease.
An NIH-supported genomics study identified a unique set of proteins that can restore hearing in zebrafish. The study, which was led by investigators at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, may inform the development of treatments for hearing loss in humans. Hearing loss affects around 37.5 million Americans, and most cases come from the loss of hearing receptors known as “hair cells” in the inner ear. In the present study, researchers used a combination of genomic techniques and computational-based machine learning to determine that hair cell regeneration in zebrafish relies on a network of proteins, known as transcription factors, that can switch genes on and off. This finding could ultimately facilitate studies of hearing loss and potential interventions in humans.
A multidimensional MRI method developed at NIH can detect astrogliosis, a neuroinflammatory response that occurs in traumatic brain injury (TBI) and many other neurological conditions. Together with prior work which established that multidimensional MRI can identify a type of microscopic brain injury that cannot be detected by conventional radiological methods, a new study conducted with postmortem human brain tissue illustrated the potential of using multidimensional MRI with living humans to identify biomarkers for diseases and disorders previously considered radiologically invisible. If successfully adapted for use, this multidimensional MRI strategy could be applied to personalized diagnosis and therapy of TBI and other neurological conditions.
An NIH-funded research team developed a method to identify future SARS-CoV-2 mutations that could affect rapid antigen test performance. With the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, concerns have been raised about the performance of rapid antigen tests. Now, researchers funded through the RADx Tech program have developed a method to evaluate how SARS-CoV-2 mutations can affect their recognition in rapid antigen tests. The findings indicated that none of the major past and present SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern contain mutations that can escape detection by current rapid antigen tests. In addition, the findings can help ensure that rapid tests will be able to properly detect future mutations.
That’s all the news for now – please stay tuned for more updates soon.