TAG: "Geriatrics"

Even at molecular level, taking it slow helps us cope with stress


UC Berkeley scientists ID new molecular pathway critical to aging.

Illustration of a mitochondrion, a cell’s energy station. Within mitochondria are a multitude of proteins, which must be folded properly to function. UC Berkeley research has linked stress from mitochondrial misfolded proteins to blood stem cell aging, and they found a way to help the cells cope with the damage.

By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley scientists have identified a new molecular pathway critical to aging, and confirmed that the process can be manipulated to help make old blood like new again.

The researchers found that blood stem cells’ ability to repair damage caused by inappropriate protein folding in the mitochondria, a cell’s energy station, is critical to their survival and regenerative capacity.

The discovery, to be published in the March 20 issue of the journal Science, has implications for research on reversing the signs of aging, a process thought to be caused by increased cellular stress and damage.

“Ultimately, a cell dies when it can’t deal well with stress,” said study senior author Danica Chen, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. “We found that by slowing down the activity of mitochondria in the blood stem cells of mice, we were able to enhance their capacity to handle stress and rejuvenate old blood. This confirms the significance of this pathway in the aging process.”

Mitochondria host a multitude of proteins that need to be folded properly to function correctly. When the folding goes awry, the mitochondrial unfolded-protein response, or UPRmt, kicks in to boost the production of specific proteins to fix or remove the misfolded protein.

Chen’s lab stumbled upon the importance of UPRmt in blood stem cell aging while studying a class of proteins known as sirtuins, which are increasingly recognized as stress-resistance regulators.

The researchers noticed that levels of one particular sirtuin, SIRT7, increase as a way to help cells cope with stress from misfolded proteins in the mitochondria. Notably, SIRT7 levels decline with age.

There has been little research on the UPRmt pathway, but studies in roundworms suggest that its activity increases when there is a burst of mitochondrial growth.

Chen noted that adult stem cells are normally in a quiescent, standby mode with little mitochondrial activity. They are activated only when needed to replenish tissue, at which time mitochondrial activity increases and stem cells proliferate and differentiate. When protein-folding problems occur, however, this fast growth could lead to more harm.

“We isolated blood stem cells from aged mice and found that when we increased the levels of SIRT7, we were able to reduce mitochondrial protein-folding stress,” said Chen. “We then transplanted the blood stem cells back into mice, and SIRT7 improved the blood stem cells’ regenerative capacity.”

The new study found that blood stem cells deficient in SIRT7 proliferate more. This faster growth is due to increased protein production and increased activity of the mitochondria, and slowing things down appears to be a critical step in giving cells time to recover from stress, the researchers found. Chen likened this to an auto accident or stalled car jamming traffic on a freeway.

“You can deal with this congestion by removing all the cars that are blocked, but you can also stop more cars from getting onto the freeway,” she said. “When there’s a mitochondrial protein-folding problem, there is a traffic jam in the mitochondria. If you prevent more proteins from being created and added to the mitochondria, you are helping to reduce the jam.”

Until this study, it was unclear which stress signals regulate the transition of stem cells to and from the quiescent mode, and how that related to tissue regeneration during aging.

“Identifying the role of this mitochondrial pathway in blood stem cells gives us a new target for controlling the aging process,” said Chen.

UC Berkeley co-lead authors of the study are postdoctoral researcher Mary Mohrin and graduate students Jiyung Shin, Yufei Liu and Katharine Brown.

The National Institutes of Health, Ellison Medical Foundation, Glenn Foundation, National Science Foundation and Siebel Stem Cell Institute helped support this research.

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Discovery opens the door to a potential ‘molecular fountain of youth’

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Commentary: Study affirms varied factors contribute to cognitive decline


Editorial: ‘A call for new thoughts about what might influence brain aging.’

Charles DeCarli, UC Davis

By Phyllis Brown, UC Davis

A study published online today (March 16) in JAMA Neurology that finds associations between reduced hippocampal volume (HVa) and being male, but not the gene APOE ɛ4, suggests that there are multiple factors contributing to cognitive decline throughout adulthood, according to an accompanying commentary by UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center Director Charles DeCarli.

The research, by Clifford R. Jack and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation, compared age, sex and apolipoprotein E ɛ4 (APOE ɛ4) genotype effects on memory, brain structure and the amyloid brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, using positron emission tomography (PET) in 1,246 cognitively normal individuals between the ages of 30 and 95.

The study found:

  • Overall memory worsened from age 30 through the 90s.
  • HVa worsened gradually from age 30 to the mid-60s and more steeply after that with advancing age.
  • Median amyloid accumulation seen on PET scans was low until age 70 but increased after that.
  • Memory was worse in men than women overall, especially after 40.
  • The HVa was lower in men than women overall, especially after 60.
  • For both males and females, memory performance and HVa were not different by APOE ɛ4 carrier status at any age.

“If one ascribes religiously to the concept that a large proportion of cognitive differences with age are driven by incipient disease, then one might expect that memory performance — a cognitive ability that changes most dramatically with age and is common to Alzheimer’s disease — would follow increasing levels of associated cerebral amyloid and be strongly associated with hippocampal atrophy. In their article Jack et al present new information that challenges the notion that amyloid accumulation explains memory performance across the entire age range,” DeCarli says in his editorial.

“Importantly, this work does not only address the likely highly significant impact of cerebral amyloid accumulation on dementia risk, but also extends current knowledge relating to the impact of the aging process across the spectrum of ages 30 to 95 years to brain structure, amyloid accumulation and memory performance among cognitively normal individuals.”

DeCarli notes that “If one tenaciously holds to the notion that the insidious consequences of other diseases may be contributing to these earlier differences, vascular brain injury is an obvious candidate. Vascular risk factors, such as diabetes mellitus, are associated with subtle cognitive impairment among individuals aged 47 to 57 years and hypertension is associated with significantly greater cerebral atrophy among individuals 40 years on average.”

Other contributing factors include genetic influences, which include sex differences and the “major effects” of APOE ɛ4 genotype on amyloid retention beyond age 70 years.

“Understanding the basic biology of these early processes is likely to substantially inform us about ways in which we can maintain cognitive health and optimize resistance to late-life dementia. However, such work requires the necessary motivation found by seminal work, such as that of Jack et al, which tell us where and when to investigate these processes. Establishing what is normal creates avenues for new research, increasing the likelihood of discovering novel therapeutics for late-life disease states, which is a laudable goal indeed,” DeCarli says.

For more information, visit alzheimer.ucdavis.edu.

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Keeping older drivers safe


National grant funds project to address safety and well-being of older drivers.

By Jackie Carr, UC San Diego

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine will share a $12 million grant with peer institutions across the United States to better understand the factors that influence the safety of older drivers, such as physical and cognitive functions, medical conditions, medications and adoption of vehicle technologies.

The study, called the Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project is funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and led by Guohua Li, Dr.P.H., M.D., professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. As the largest research initiative of the AAA Foundation, the LongROAD project represents a long-term commitment by the agency to support the well-being of older drivers.

“To many older adults, driving is essential for maintaining mobility and independence,” said Linda Hill, M.D., M.P.H., LongROAD co-investigator, professor and specialist in preventive medicine in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Unfortunately, declines in physical and cognitive functions may compromise the safety of these drivers. This project will provide insight into how to help older adults retain their driving privilege as long as safely possible, and how to provide them with comfortable and convenient transportation alternatives when they stop driving.”

A total of 3,000 active drivers aged 65-79 years will be recruited from five study sites in California, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan and New York, and follow these drivers through annual assessments and interviews. To learn about their driving patterns, researchers will fit each driver’s vehicle with a GPS device.

“By 2029, more than one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. Understanding their driving patterns, health, and transportation needs is a matter of public health and safety for all drivers,” said Hill. “Yet we have very limited observed data about the dynamic interplay between health and driving safety during the process of aging – a knowledge gap identified by the National Institute on Aging as a key strategic research priority. This project aims to close that gap.”

The LongROAD project will enhance the extensive outreach that Hill has achieved as director of the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) project at UC San Diego. TREDS training for health care professionals and law enforcement increases awareness and management of impairments common with aging that can impact driving ability. More than 6,000 health professionals and 3,500 law enforcement officers in California have received TREDS training, and several thousand more have been reached nationwide.

Participating institutions in the LongROAD project include Columbia University, University of Michigan, the Urban Institute, Bassett Research Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Colorado, Denver.

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Brain region vulnerable to aging is larger in those with longevity gene variant


1 in 5 carry KLOTHO allele associated with better cognition.

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, depicted in blue and red, is larger and linked with better function in those who carry one copy of the KLOTHO gene variant. (Illustration by Michael Griffin Kelly)

By Laura Kurtzman, UC San Francisco

People who carry a variant of a gene that is associated with longevity also have larger volumes in a front part of the brain involved in planning and decision-making, according to researchers at UC San Francisco.

The finding bolsters their previous discovery that middle-aged and older people who carry a single copy of the KLOTHO allele, called KL-VS, performed better on a wide range of cognitive tests. When they modeled KL-VS in mice, they found this strengthened the connections between neurons and enhanced learning and memory.

KLOTHO codes for a protein, called klotho, which is produced in the kidney and brain and regulates many different processes in the body. About 1 in 5 people carry a single copy of KL-VS, which increases klotho levels and is associated with a longer lifespan and better heart and kidney function. A small minority, about 3 percent, carries two copies, which is associated with a shorter lifespan.

Examining part of prefrontal cortex

In the current study, published today (Jan. 27), in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, researchers scanned the brains of 422 cognitively normal men and women aged 53 and older to see if the size of any brain area correlated with carrying one, two or no copies of the allele.

They found that the KLOTHO gene variant predicted the size of a region called the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), which is especially vulnerable to atrophy as people age. Deterioration in this area may be one reason why older people have difficulty suppressing distracting information and doing more than one thing at a time.

Researchers found that the rDLPFC shrank with age in all three groups, but those with one copy of KL-VS – about a quarter of the study group – had larger volumes than either non-carriers or those with two copies. Researchers also found that the size of the rDLPFC predicted how well the three groups performed on cognitive tests, such as working memory – the ability to keep a small amount of newly acquired information in mind – and processing speed. Both tests are considered to be good measures of the planning and decision-making functions that the rDLPFC controls.

“We’ve known for a long time that people lose cognitive abilities as they age, but now we’re beginning to understand that factors like klotho can give people a boost and confer resilience in aging,” said senior author Dena Dubal, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology at UCSF and the David A. Coulter Endowed Chair in Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease. “Genetic variation in KLOTHO could help us predict brain health and find ways to protect people from the devastating diseases that happen to us as we grow old, like Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

Bigger size means better function

In statistical tests, the researchers concluded that the larger rDLPFC volumes seen in single copy KL-VS carriers accounted for just 12 percent of the overall effect that the variant had on the abilities tested.

However, the allele may have other effects on the brain, such as increasing levels or changing the actions of the klotho protein to enhance synaptic plasticity, or the connections between neurons. In a previous experiment, they found that raising klotho in mice increased the action of a cell receptor critical to forming memories.

“The brain region enhanced by genetic variation in KLOTHO is vulnerable in aging and several psychiatric and neurologic diseases including schizophrenia, depression, substance abuse and frontotemporal dementia,” said Jennifer Yokoyama, Ph.D., first author and assistant professor of neurology at UCSF. “In this case, bigger size means better function. It will be important to determine whether the structural boost associated with carrying one copy of KL-VS can offset the cognitive deficits caused by disease.”

Other authors of the study include Virginia Sturm, Luke Bonham, Joel Kramer and Bruce Miller of UCSF; Eric Klein and Giovanni Coppola of UCLA; Lei Yu and David Bennett of Rush University Medical Center; and Konstantinos Arfanakis of Rush and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The study was funded by the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, the National Institute on Aging, the American Federation for Aging Research, the Coulter-Weeks Foundation and the Bakar Foundation.

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The ‘oddball organism’ that helped win a Nobel Prize


Tetrahymena became a model for research into aging.

By Arezu Sarvestani, UC San Francisco

What lives in freshwater ponds, comes in seven different sexes and helped UC San Francisco’s Elizabeth Blackburn win a Nobel Prize? The answer is the humble Tetrahymena, the single-celled organism that became a model for research into aging.

Many modern advances in health and medicine wouldn’t be possible without the tiny creatures that help researchers study life. That’s why Blackburn, Ph.D., gave a shout out to Tetrahymena when she accepted the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2009. Blackburn was honored for her work discovering telomeres and the telomerase enzyme, now known to play important roles in how and why cells degrade as we age.

Tetrahymena have a large number of short, paired chromosomes that made them ideal candidates for DNA sequencing in Blackburn’s early work. While studying the pear-shaped protozoa in the 1980s, Blackburn found that they were able to shrink and regrow their DNA, a concept that flew in the face of biological tenets of the time. Exploration of that phenomenon led Blackburn and colleagues Jack Szostak and Carol Greider to discover telomeres, the protective string of code at the ends of chromosomes, and telomerase, which protects chromosomes from degrading over time – in humans as well as Tetrahymena.

“If we had not been able to use these seemingly oddball organisms because of the advantages they offered as experimental systems for biological research, I don’t know when we would have learned about telomeres and telomerase,” Blackburn said during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

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Many seniors who fall repeatedly don’t seek medical attention


Study finds health care workers also often fail to counsel seniors on preventing future falls.

More than half a million older Californians — 12.6 percent of the state’s senior population — fall more than once a year, but nearly 60 percent of them fail to seek medical attention afterward, according to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study also found that among those who did seek treatment, 40 percent did not receive counseling from a medical provider about how to prevent future falls.

Falls are the leading injury-related cause of death and need for medical care among Californians age 65 and older, according to the study. In 2012, more than 1,800 seniors died after falling and seniors’ fall-related injuries resulted in more than 72,000 hospitalizations.

“There is a cost in terms of both lives and resources when doctors fail to talk to seniors who have already fallen about how to prevent future falls,” said Steven Wallace, associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research and author of the study.

Using data from the 2011–12 California Health Interview Survey, the study found older seniors are twice as likely as younger seniors to have multiple falls: nearly 1 in 5 people 85 and older reported that they fell more than once a year, compared with 1 in 10 of those aged 65 to 74. Nearly a quarter of seniors who have suffered a stroke, and almost 20 percent of those with any disability, had multiple falls. Twenty-six percent of seniors with moderate mental impairment had multiple falls, as did 38 percent with severe mental impairment.

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Keeping roadways safe as America grays


Doctors, law enforcement receive training in assessing elderly drivers.

Every day in America roughly 10,000 people turn age 65. To help keep roadways safe as America grays and to help preserve the freedom of mobility of older drivers, researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine are training law enforcement officers to recognize warning signs of impaired driving skills and to take appropriate, compassionate action. They are also training doctors to think more about their patients’ ability to drive safely with age.

The educational program, known as Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) was recently awarded its eighth consecutive year of funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Our goal is to reduce the number of fatalities involving older drivers and to prolong the time that seniors can drive safely,” said Linda Hill, M.D., M.P.H., professor of family and preventive medicine and TREDS program director.

“Our program focuses on educating people about the effects of aging on driving skills and the need to assess older people for driving impairments,” she said. “We also teach doctors about conditions and medications that can impact a persons ability to drive safely at any age, especially older adults.”

This year’s funding provides continued support for training courses for physicians and local law enforcement officers in Southern California. In addition, the UC San Diego team will offer a train-the-trainer program to law enforcement officers who go on to teach the program material to colleagues. A primary focus is identifying signs of dementia and other medical conditions that can impair safe driving. Identified drivers may be referred to the California Department of Motor Vehicles for further assessment.

In the coming year, researchers say they will continue to expand their training program to reach law enforcement officers throughout the state.

Since 2006, UC San Diego researchers have conducted in-person TREDS training to more than 9,000 doctors and 3,000 law enforcement officers. Companion TV, radio and online efforts have reached an estimate 1 million people.

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UCSF, UC Berkeley scientists team up in new Center for Aging Research


Glenn Center exploring role of decline in protein quality-control in dementias, other illnesses.

Andrew Dillin, UC Berkeley

Researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley have teamed up to create an innovative, integrated center for research on neurodegenerative diseases. Supported by a $3 million grant from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, the new center aims to pave the way to developing novel treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by investigating the many ways that proteins can malfunction within cells.

In particular, the center’s work will focus on a type of protein called the prion, which displays characteristics of infectious agents and is responsible for “mad cow” disease and a related, devastating human brain disorder known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., UCSF professor of neurology, and Andrew Dillin, Ph.D., the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair of Stem Cell Research at UC Berkeley and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will co-direct the new inter-campus program, known as the Paul F. Glenn Center for Aging Research. Ten additional researchers from UCSF and 13 from UC Berkeley will contribute to the center’s work, with more recruitments to come.

Stanley Prusiner, UC San Francisco

“The Glenn Foundation is pleased to welcome UCSF and UC Berkeley to the Glenn Consortium for Research in Aging,” said Mark R. Collins, president of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, which is based in Santa Barbara. “I had the pleasure to work with Dr. Dillin previously, when he led the Glenn Center for Aging Research at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences prior to moving to UC Berkeley. I’ve known Dr. Prusiner and followed his work for many years and it is a propitious time for us to assist these two leaders in biological research to discover treatments for age-related neurodegenerative disease.”

In 1997, Prusiner, director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of prions, which he demonstrated were an abnormally folded form of normal proteins that set up a template for replication in the brain. According to Prusiner, recent work provides persuasive evidence that, in addition to mad cow disease and CJD, many common neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are caused by abnormally folded forms of normal proteins functioning as prions.

Dillin agrees that prions are ideal targets for research and novel therapeutic approaches. “The Glenn Foundation’s confidence to support our hypothesis is greatly appreciated,” he said, adding that the combination of UCSF’s medical mission with the strong basic research traditions of both campuses will make the new Glenn Center’s work uniquely powerful.

Proteins are crucial for many of a cell’s normal functions, but as people age, cells’ quality-control mechanisms become less efficient. Normally these systems ensure that proteins are properly formed, and target badly formed or “worn-out” proteins for destruction. But as the effectiveness of cellular quality control wanes over time, improperly formed proteins, including prions, can begin to accumulate.

Badly formed proteins, called “misfolded” by biologists, cannot carry out their required functions and, even worse, they can stick to one another and to other cellular components, sometimes leading to devastating physiological consequences. Prions are particularly problematic because they can act like a template, converting properly formed proteins into additional prions, essentially spreading protein misfolding like an infection.

Seeking ways to counteract the accumulation of misfolded proteins, the new Glenn Center’s researchers will investigate the many cellular quality-control mechanisms that act throughout a protein’s lifetime, from when proteins are first made, to the interactions that help them reach their proper functional state, to the transport processes that take them to their final destinations, to their ultimate degradation when they can no longer serve their purpose.

Together, the UCSF and UC Berkeley researchers affiliated with the center have complementary expertise in all of these areas, and the center’s ultimate goal is to develop new anti-prion drugs, Dillin said. “At Berkeley, we aim to build the basic scientific knowledge to leverage clinical and therapeutic discoveries at UCSF.”

According to Prusiner, “the newest research indicates that Alzheimer’s alone kills as many people every year as cancer does, but it only receives one-tenth of the funding that we dedicate to cancer research. We are grateful to The Glenn Foundation for their support in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases.”

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SeniorHealth Center is designated as patient-centered medical home


UC Irvine center’ s team approach highlights comprehensive care for aging adults.

Lisa Gibbs, UC Irvine

UC Irvine Health is proud to announce that the SeniorHealth Center has become one of the country’s first Patient-Centered Medical Homes focusing on geriatric care.

Certified by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Patient-Centered Medical Home designation reflects the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on improving patients’ health through a team-based approach that coordinates primary and specialty care to provide for all of a patient’s needs, produce better health outcomes and drive down the cost of care by focusing on patient-centered care. This includes coordinating higher levels of care for chronic conditions, providing preventive care, and empowering patients in managing their own health, as well as increasing access and implementing new ways of delivering care.

The center’s disease management focus is on diabetes, heart failure and dementia. Patients and families will experience optimal care and coordination from a whole team resulting in a customized approach to their care.

“We are very excited about this achievement because it enhances our mission of caring for older adults in a very personal manner through interdisciplinary teamwork,” said Dr. Lisa Gibbs, medical director of the UC Irvine Health SeniorHealth Center and chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology in the UC Irvine School of Medicine. “Our program is committed to compassionate and comprehensive care that revolves around the needs of our patients and families.”

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. Its recognition programs are built on evidenced-based, nationally recognized clinical standards of care.

The UC Irvine Health geriatrics team includes physicians, pharmacologists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and others and places a major emphasis on enhancing quality of life for patients and their families by providing primary care and understanding the changing health needs of aging adults.

Patients come to the SeniorHealth Center to see geriatric medicine specialists for many conditions specific to older adults, including healthy aging, as well as specific concerns such as memory loss, falls, frailty, urinary incontinence and functional decline. Older adults can see physicians for one-time consultations or for primary care.

UC Irvine Health has long taken a team approach to integrating primary and specialty care. The program in geriatrics is well known nationally for its groundbreaking clinical, education and research programs. The center is ranked 39th among the nation’s top hospitals for senior care by U.S. News & World Report.

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How to delay the aging process by ‘remote control’


UCLA biologists ID gene that can slow the aging process.

David Walker, UCLA

UCLA biologists have identified a gene that can slow the aging process throughout the entire body when activated remotely in key organ systems.

Working with fruit flies, the life scientists activated a gene called AMPK that is a key energy sensor in cells; it gets activated when cellular energy levels are low.

Increasing the amount of AMPK in fruit flies’ intestines increased their lifespans by about 30 percent — to roughly eight weeks from the typical six — and the flies stayed healthier longer as well.

The research, published Sept. 4 in the open-source journal Cell Reports, could have important implications for delaying aging and disease in humans, said David Walker, an associate professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA and senior author of the research.

“We have shown that when we activate the gene in the intestine or the nervous system, we see the aging process is slowed beyond the organ system in which the gene is activated,” Walker said.

Walker said that the findings are important because extending the healthy life of humans would presumably require protecting many of the body’s organ systems from the ravages of aging — but delivering anti-aging treatments to the brain or other key organs could prove technically difficult. The study suggests that activating AMPK in a more accessible organ such as the intestine, for example, could ultimately slow the aging process throughout the entire body, including the brain.

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Project launched to develop depression care for older adults


UC Davis and University of Washington receive $2.5M grant from Archstone Foundation.

Ladson Hinton, UC Davis

UC Davis and the University of Washington are implementing a project to develop innovative new models of care for depression in older adults through a $2.5 million grant from the California-based Archstone Foundation, a private grant-making organization whose mission is to contribute toward the preparation of society in meeting the needs of an aging population. The grant launches Archstone Foundation’s Depression in Late Life Initiative to improve the quality of life for older adults suffering from depression.

The work of this grant is based on a one-year systematic review of the literature and current practice. It will advance care for late-life depression by supporting innovative approaches to promote partnership and collaboration among primary care clinics, family members, friends and community-based organizations. Through the Archstone Foundation’s Depression in Late Life Initiative, a number of organizations will also be funded to carry out this effort in California.

Depression is common among older adults and comes at a high cost to patients and their families. Major depression affects 2 to 5 percent of older adults in the community, 5 to 10 percent of older adults in primary-care settings, and as many as 50 percent in nursing homes.

The UC Davis group will be led by Ladson Hinton, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a nationally recognized expert in minority mental health and aging. Hinton is the director of the Latino Aging Research Resource Center and the education core of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The University of Washington group is led by Jürgen Unützer, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington, and the developer of the Improving Mood–Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment (IMPACT) model, the leading collaborative care program for late-life depression, which has been implemented in more than 500 clinics around the country.

“This initiative will help build on the success of collaborative care and include important partners, such as family members and community-based organizations,” Hinton said.

“While we have evidence-based treatments for depression in primary care, such as collaborative care, very little work has been done to mobilize community agencies (i.e. adult-day health programs, senior centers, meals on wheels, faith-based organizations) and families to help in the process,” he said. “Archstone Foundation’s Depression in Late Life Initiative addresses this important gap in the field, and may also help to engage groups at risk for under-treatment of their depression, such as ethnic minority elders and older men.”

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Nursing dean to receive national gerontological research award


UC Davis’ Heather Young honored for contribution to gerontological nursing research.

Heather Young, UC Davis

The founding dean for the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, Heather M. Young, was recently named the 2014 recipient of the Doris Schwartz Gerontological Nursing Research Award by the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — the Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

The honor, presented by GSA’s Health Sciences Section, is bestowed upon a member of the society in recognition of outstanding and sustained contribution to gerontological nursing research.

“This honor means a great deal to me because GSA is the first major research organization I joined as a doctoral student in 1986,” Young said. “GSA has offered me a foundational perspective on gerontology and research because it is so interdisciplinary. I am able to understand the field from so many perspectives beyond the clinical, including policy, urban planning, the arts and humanities, as well as basic sciences.”

Young has attended more than 20 of the annual meetings and is a regular presenter and convener.
“Through this organization I have established a strong network of collaborators and colleagues in gerontology — experts who have helped shape my research and provided advice and mentorship over the years. I also had the opportunity to meet and mentor many up and coming scholars and learn from them about their priories and perspectives in this field,” she said. “In large part, due to GSA, the field of gerontology has grown and flourished. It is exciting to be part of this development over almost three decades.”

In addition to serving as the founding dean for the 5-year-old nursing school at UC Davis, Young also serves as associate vice chancellor for nursing and a member of the executive leadership team for UC Davis Health System. She is a nationally recognized expert in gerontological nursing and rural health care. Her research and clinical interest is the promotion of healthy aging with a particular focus on the interface between family and formal health care systems.

Her systems research focused on medication management and safety in rural, assisted-living settings and technological approaches to promoting medication safety in rural hospitals, as well as the use of telehealth and community-based strategies to promote health for rural older adults. Young leads an interprofessional team of UC Davis researchers on a recently approved $2.1 million Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute study looking to improve health for individuals with diabetes. Young is also a collaborator of the Initiative for Wireless Health and Wellness at UC Davis and the Center for Information Technology Research for the Interest of Society, initiatives bringing together nursing, medicine, engineering and computer science to address compelling health issues. She is co-director of the Latino Aging Research Resource Center, a National Aging-funded Research Center for Minority Aging Research.

She is active in the implementation of the recommendations of the landmark Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” serving on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Strategic Advisory Committee that guides the national campaign as well as the California Action Coalition executive committee, which leads activities at the state level. She recently served as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Working Group on Systems Engineering for Healthcare. Earlier in her career, Young practiced as a geriatric nurse practitioner in community-based long-term care and served as chief operations officer for a company designing and managing retirement communities.

The award presentation will take place at GSA’s 67th annual Scientific Meeting, which is set for Nov. 5-9 in Washington, D.C. The conference is organized to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, educators and practitioners who specialize in the study of the aging process.

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