Recent Grants

Seven Center faculty received notification of new grant awards in the fall of 2011 - five from NIA, one from AHRQ, and one from NHLBI. This is a notable achievement - especially in this current constrained funding climate. Of note, Cathleen Zick's award is an outgrowth of a 2009 CoA pilot grant award. In addition, Tony Donato and Richard King are recipients of current CoA pilot grants.

  • Richard Cawthon - NIA RO1 - "Mitochondrial Genetics of Exceptional Longevity in Multigeneration Matrilineages"
    • Patterns of exceptional longevity in large pedigrees suggest that longevity is, in part, mitochondrially inherited. This project will investigate the genetics, biochemistry, and possible influences on genomic integrity, of mitochondrially inherited exceptional longevity, in order to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of aging, and identify targets for the future development of pharmaceuticals and gene therapies to increase the human healthspan.
  • Anthony Donato - NIA RO1 - "Mechanisms of Caloric Restriction and Mimetic Vasoprotection in Old Arteries"
    • Advancing age is associated with arterial dysfunction. This proposal aims to determine if life-long caloric restriction and/or a pharmacological caloric restriction mimetic can prevent the age-related arterial function and the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which this may occur.
  • Richard King - NIA K23 Beeson - "Cortical Complexity Changes in Normal Aging and Alzheimer's Disease"
    • The proposed research is to develop a new structural imaging analysis technique based upon a quantitative metric known as fractal dimension (f3D). It is essential to understand the extent and distribution of size and shape changes occurring in the healthy aging brain because many of these changes are not associated with cognitive dysfunction. Dr. King will create a normative statistical imaging atlas of healthy brain aging using MR images of healthy subjects. The age-weighted normative atlas will then be used to statistically quantify the effects of neurodegenerative disease on cortical f3D values using MR images of subjects with mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. Finally, to understand how this imaging approach may be used in clinical practice, these data will enable a prospective trial on the role of cortical f3D in clinical practice.
  • Jan Morse - AHRQ R01 - "Linkages Between the Safety of the Hospital Bed, Patient Falls, and Immobility"
    • In the hospital, patient falls occur most frequently at the bedside, and some authors have reported that the rate of bedside falls is as high as 50% of all falls. Of concern, muscle strength failure during bed entry and exit and/or loss of balance as patients exit the bed without assistance, place these patients at high risk for a bedside fall. This study will explore the relationships between biomechanical factors in the fall-prone patient and the structural characteristics of the hospital bed as they contribute to fall risk. We will evaluate the safety of the hospital bed to determine how the design can be modified to reduce the risk of falls and injury.
  • Matthew Rondina - NIA GEMSSTAR R03 - "The Regulation of Inflammatory Gene Responses in Aging"
    • Aging is associated with significant increases in the risk of inflammatory and thrombotic disorders. The research that will be performed during the R03 (GEMSSTAR) award period will identify how the functions of platelets and monocytes are altered in elderly subjects and how these changes lead to the synthesis of pro-inflammatory gene products. The information gathered from these studies will help us understand how inflammatory responses are regulated in elderly subjects and how to develop new treatments for an aging population.
  • Mark Supiano - SPRINT Ancillary Study - "Pulse wave velocity and central aortic pressure outcomes in SPRINT"
    • This is an ancillary study to an national clinical trial, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) study. SPRINT is addressing whether a lower systolic
      blood pressure target (120 mm Hg vs. current 140 mm Hg goal) will be associated with better cardiovascular outcomes. Utah is one of the SPRINT study's clinical center network (CCN) hubs (led by CoA member Alfred Cheung, MD). This ancillary study will be conducted in 700 subjects recruited from ten of the Utah CCN clinical sites.

      Vascular stiffness that develops with aging is a major contributor to the development of hypertension. This ancillary study will investigate potentially useful clinical measures and surrogate biomarkers of vascular stiffness to determine if measures of vascular stiffness should be should be considered as a therapeutic target over
      and above the reduced peripheral systolic blood pressure that will be achieved in the intensive treatment arm of the SPRINT study.
  • Cathleen Zick - NIA R21 - "Family Health Histories and Retirement Planning"
    • This exploratory study will make use of recently developed population genetics based measures to characterize familial health histories and link them to important, but little-studied retirement planning behaviors and attitudes. The results will help better target retirement planning educational efforts as well as set the stage for building and testing theoretical models of the interrelationship between familial health histories, subjective longevity, and retirement planning.

Journal Award

Drs. Wray and Supiano's paper, "Impact of Aldosterone Receptor Blockade compared with Thiazide Therapy on Sympathetic Nervous System Function in Geriatric Hypertension" (2010;55:1217-1223), was selected as the top paper for 2010 in the category of population science. The editors of "Hypertension" established an award to recognize the top original papers published in the Journal in the categories of basic, clinical, or population sciences. Drs. Wray and Supiano will receive this award in September 2011.

Training Program in Vascular Aging and Mobility

A group of CoA faculty led by proposed Program Directors Russ Richardson, PhD and Mark Supiano, MD, recently submitted a T32 training grant to NIA titled, "Training Program in Vascular Aging and Mobility." If funded, it will provide support for three pre-doctoral and four post-doctoral mentored research training positions sponsored by one of thirteen participating faculty mentors.

CME Alliance Award to Advancing Geriatric Education through Quality Improvement Project

On Thursday, January 27, 2011 the Advancing Geriatric Education through Quality Improvement (AGE QI) project was presented the 2011 Award for Outstanding CME Outcomes Assessment at the annual CME Alliance Meeting held in San Francisco. The AGE QI team: Mark A. Supiano, MD, Cherie Brunker, MD, Charlene Weir, PhD, RN, Nanci McLeskey, MCG, MDiv, BC-RN, FNGNA, and Denise Brooks, MS worked with community clinics throughout Utah and Idaho during 2006-2010, educating clinic staff on geriatric assessment and assisting clinics in completing a geriatric quality improvement (QI) project. AGE QI, a comprehensive QI-based education intervention, resulted in demonstrable changes in provider behavior and improvements in geriatric care. Thirty-three clinics were enrolled in the educational intervention: 10 University of Utah, 19 Intermountain Healthcare and 4 VA SLC. Overall, 82% of the clinics completed QI projects with a total of 128 providers and 252 staff participating. Providers were awarded up to 20 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits TM for performance improvement participation. QI projects included screening for fall-risk, dementia, depression, Pneumovax vaccination, advance directives and driving. AGE QI during this time was funded by a $2 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. See the press release and poster.

Utah Aging-related Research Grant Progress Update

A K07 grant from NIA supports the CoA research infrastructure and a portion of the annual pilot grant program. The number of funded investigators and the annual direct costs for research grants related to aging that are reported to the University's OSP and the VA have been tracked and reported in annual progress to NIA. In 2010, aging-related research funding and the number of funded investigators grew to $17.2 million (annual direct costs) and 50 funded faculty investigators. This represents a more than four-fold increase in annual direct cost funding and a more than three-fold increase in the number of funded investigators compared to the 2005 values. View the figure.

College of Nursing designated a John A. Hartford Foundation Geriatric Nursing Center of Excellence

On Friday, September 21, 2007 the Board of Directors of the John A. Hartford Foundation selected the University of Utah College of Nursing as a Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence. Four new Centers of Excellence were added to the five currently funded by the Hartford Foundation. The University of Utah Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence is designed to increase the number of faculty qualified to teach geriatric nursing through national and regional strategies. This five-year, $1 million dollar award will be augmented with significant investment in geriatric education by the University of Utah. Along with funding support comes the prestige of being affiliated with this nationally-recognized leader in the advancement of geriatric care and education. Ginette A. Pepper, PhD RN, FAAN will serve as the Center's Executive Director. Patricia Berry, PhD, APRN,BC and Dale Lund, PhD, FGSA will serve as Associate Directors. All are Center on Aging members.

The University of Utah Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence will have national impact by expanding the number of highly qualified geriatric nursing faculty prepared to teach in nursing programs throughout the country. A specialized program of study will utilize distance PhD education to prepare nurse scientists for teaching careers in research intensive universities. PhD students will attend classes via a sophisticated internet-based videoconferencing system that establishes a virtual classroom. Students can enroll from anywhere in the United States or Canada without re-locating to Utah. Using cutting-edge distance education technology to reach students throughout the nation, the College of Nursing will offer a PhD program to prepare faculty for major universities. Regionally, the master's and Doctor of Nurse Practioner programs will educate faculty to prepare registered nurses and nurse practioners. View the press release.

Center receives NIA Geriatric Academic Leadership Award

Dr. Supiano is pleased to announce that a five-year K07 Geriatric Academic Leadership Award has been funded for $500,000 direct costs. The primary objective of this proposal to enhance the visibility and support for aging-related research at the University of Utah will be accomplished by achieving the following three specific aims.

  • Specific Aim 1. Expand the number of investigators with aging-related research interests. The measurable goal for this aim is the increase in the number of investigators identified at the University of Utah with funded programs in aging-related research. The growth will occur through recruitment to four areas of research strength, developing new partnerships, and by career development.
  • Specific Aim 2. Foster the development of new interdisciplinary collaborations in aging research. The Center will support an infrastructure to facilitate aging research by developing a registry for subject recruitment, providing administrative assistance, and developing a facility for exercise and rehabilitation protocols. Accomplishing this aim will be evaluated by the further development of the Center on Aging program, success of the pilot grant program, growth in the University's aging research related grant portfolio, and funding for interdisciplinary research programs and center grant proposals.
  • Specific Aim 3. Develop a multidisciplinary research training program in aging for pre- and post-doctoral trainees. The measurable outcomes for this aim are the number of trainees who participate in aging-related research, the development of the aging-research curriculum in the K30 program, and funding for a multidisciplinary T32 training grant focused on aging research.

The funding from this award added $50,000 to the 2007 pilot grant program and will enhance the infrastructure needed to further develop aging research programs. For example, a registry of individuals who are interested in participating in aging research studies is being developed. Subsequent newsletters will include information about this and other programs that are under development. Dr. Supiano would like to hear from you about your ideas about how the Center on Aging can better serve the needs of your aging research activities. He also values your help in advancing each of the award's specific aims.

Dr. Bradley J. Katz, M.D., Ph.D. awarded the Jahnigen Career Development Scholars Award by the American Geriatrics Society

For more information - click here

$2 Million Grant Puts U of U at Forefront training Physicians in Geriatric Medicine

The University of Utah School of Medicine has been awarded a $2 million grant to help address one of the most urgent needs in U.S. health care: competent medical treatment for the nation's growing elderly population.

Mark A. Supiano, M.D., professor and chief of geriatrics and executive director of the U of U Center on Aging, is principal investigator for the grant—"Comprehensive Program to Strengthen Physicians' Training in Geriatrics"—from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

Supiano, who also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System's Geriatric, Research, and Education Center, and 45 U of U faculty and staff members plan to develop a curriculum that provides every U medical school student training in geriatric medicine. By the time they graduate, each student will possess the clinical skills to evaluate their older patients' functional status and screen for geriatric conditions often missed in their routine care. Each student's clinical progress will be assessed and tracked by a Web-based computer program.

"We're going to document that students are competent in geriatric skills," Supiano says.

Geriatric medicine is not a required part of most U.S. medical schools' curricula. The University is one of 10 leading academic medical centers awarded a Reynolds Foundation grant, which provides $500,000 annually over four years. It is the only program of its kind in the Intermountain region.

"We will never be able to train enough geriatricians to meet the coming needs," Supiano says. "But we can teach new doctors, within the context of their own specialties, to competently treat older patients. This will have an enormous impact on people in the Intermountain region."

People 65 and older are considered geriatric patients, but as the average life expectancy continues to increase, doctors are seeing more people 85 and older. The University's emerging strength in the field of geriatrics played an important role in receiving the grant, according to Supiano.

The U of U Center on Aging includes 55 faculty members conducting research, educating health-care professionals, and providing health care for people age 65 and older - and the program is growing. Faculty from numerous U of U departments, schools, and colleges are working in aging, including the Colleges of Nursing, Health, Pharmacy, Social Work, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the School of Medicine.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is one of the largest private foundations in the country.

The grant also will have a major impact on practicing physicians. Primary care providers at University Health Care's community clinics, the VA medical system, and Intermountain Health - all leaders in the use of electronic medical records - will receive training to improve the care for elderly patients in their practices.

Utah's need for geriatric physicians will outpace most of the country's in the coming years. While the state is widely known for having the nation's youngest population, it also ranks seventh in people age 85 and older. It is predicted that 20 years from now Utah will have the country's fastest growth rate for people age 65 and older.

John A. Hartford Foundation Geriatric Training Program Development Grant

To support the development of an emerging geriatrics training program, the John A. Hartford Foundation awarded $100,000 to The University of Utah to provide funding for fellows and faculty in geriatric medicine. This grant will complement recent local commitments to geriatric medicine and will be used to develop fellows' research skills and provide travel funds to national conferences to expose future faculty members to experts in aging medicine. This grant was awarded to support Mark A. Supiano, MD - formerly a senior faculty member at the University of Michigan Hartford-funded Center of Excellence in Geriatric Medicine and Training - in his new position as the director of the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Utah. For more information refer to

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