Original Core Structure
The Leadership/Administrative Core
James S. Goodwin, M.D., Principal Investigator
This core provides overall coordination for the OAIC, and receives advice from both internal and external advisory committees. It is based in the UTMB Sealy Center on Aging, and is closely tied administratively to the General Clinical Research Center, the Office of Biostatistics, and other UTMB administrative entities. The administrative core is responsible for scheduling all OAIC meetings, for monitoring budgets and compliance with administrative requirements, and for submitting progress reports to NIA. The specific aims of the Leadership/Administrative Core are:
- To provide overall leadership and direction for all the activities of the OAIC programs and cores, including coordinating their functions.
- To promote collaboration and optimal utilization of the OAIC projects and cores, ensuring access of investigators to core resources.
- To monitor all fiscal matters of individual projects and cores and assure compliance with university and government policies regarding human subjects, animal care, etc.
- To promote quality and efficiency (timeliness) in all OAIC activities.
- To arrange the meetings of the internal and external advisory boards, the monthly meeting of the Executive Committee, and othßer OAIC meetings.
- To monitor progress of individual projects and progress of junior faculty development (this aim is shared with the Research Development Core).
The Research Development Core (RDC)
John Papaconstantinou, Ph.D., Project Leader
FAX: (409) 772-9216
The RDC, led by Drs. Papaconstantinou and Goodwin, provides career development training, support for pilot research projects, and coordinates the use of the research cores by other investigators who are not receiving direct support from the OAIC. We anticipate having 8 to 12 trainees at any one time. The RDC has two potential targets:
- Junior faculty and trainees in clinical and basic science disciplines relevant to aging.
- Established investigators with expertise highly relevant to aging research but not currently studying aging.
The RDC takes very different approaches to these two different groups. For junior faculty, the RDC coordinates structured didactic training with the provision of appropriate mentoring. Junior faculty are assigned both research mentors and career mentors, the one to focus on the specific goals of the research project and the other to assist with defining overall career goals. Mentors are selected from among senior faculty in aging research. A major theme of the training program is linked to mechanistically-driven research to evaluation of clinical outcomes. RDC activities involving more established faculty concentrate on providing opportunities and support for interdisciplinary collaboration, drawing investigators from other disciplines into ongoing studies of the OAIC.
Year 1 (2000-01) Junior Faculty Support
During the first year (2000-01), the OAIC and the RDC provided salary support for two junior faculty in aging research.
Elena Volpi, M.D., Ph.D. was a member of the Geriatrics Division as an Assistant Professor after completing a fellowship working with Dr. Robert Wolfe. She pursued a three-year training program, continuing her work on muscle physiology while learning other aspects of aging through clinical, didactic, and mentoring experiences. She is continuing her research as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Ruksana Huda, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. John Papaconstantinou, devoted her research to examining the role of reactive oxygen species on mitochondrial integrity and muscle function with age and the effect of hormonal (androgens) interventions on the process. She also attended the interdisciplinary conferences and a didactic curriculum in research design at the UTMB Clinical Research Center. Dr. Huda is continuing her post-doctoral training in Anesthesiology ay UTMB.
Year 2 (2001-02) Junior Faculty Support
Melinda Sheffield-Moore, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery and a fellow in the Sealy Center on Aging. She is currently in her second year as a junior faculty trainee in the Sealy Center on Aging. Her interests include aging and muscle protein metabolism with special interest in androgens and exercise.
Kristen Peek, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and a fellow in the Sealy Center on Aging. Her work involves the examination of disability and independent living among older Mexican Americans. She also has been involved in research focusing on the connection between marriage and health in the older Mexican Americans through her work with Dr. Kyriakos Markides.
A final point about the RDC is that we are supporting investigators in a wide spectrum of clinical and basic science disciplines. We feel strongly that it is important to train individuals in different medical and surgical subspecialties to address research issues in their disciplines directly relevant to aging. UTMB has a strong tradition of rigorous academic research in surgery and the surgical specialties. Obviously, the overall research focus of this OAIC, developing interventions to preserve or improve muscle function, is of great relevance to surgeons and to intensive care physicians such as anthesiologists. Similarly, there is need for a cadre of investigators in cardiology, oncology, nephrology, and other medical subspecialties to be addressing unique research questions relevant to the elderly within each of their disciplines. Thus, we will recruit trainees from many different clinical specialties. Recruitment for 2003-2004 has been initiated. We have an excellent group of senior and junior investigators from both Basic Sciences and Clinical Sciences departments.
Recruitment and Retention Core
Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, Ph.D., Project Leader
FAX: (409) 772-8931
This core coordinates recruitment of subjects for the IDS, Pilot Studies, and other studies by UTMB investigators relevant to the aims of the OAIC. Difficulty in accessing older subjects is a major barrier for clinical investigators who wish to study the elderly. Thus, this Core aggressively markets to other clinical investigators at UTMB the availability of older volunteers for clinical investigations, in addition to pursuing the primary goal of recruiting for the OAIC investigators. The Core also trains investigators in methods of recruiting older subjects for clinical research, particularly older minorities.
The Specific Aims of the Subject Recruitment and Retention Core include:
- Assist OAIC investigators in the identification, planning and implementation of recruitment strategies;
- Provide a source of well-described older adults who meet the inclusion criteria of intervention development studies and pilot investigations;
- Facilitate the recruitment of minority subjects for clinical research by expanding existing subject recruitment sources;
- Assist in the development of new research and training activities related to conducting research in aging; and
- Provide information and education programs related to the recruitment and participation of human subjects in clinical research to multiple groups including investigators and potential subjects.
The Subject Recruitment and Retention Core involves the integration and coordination of three sources of older adult subjects. The three sources include:
- The Health of the Public Project, a population-based survey of older adults (> 75 years) in Galveston County;
- The Volunteer Registry supported by the Sealy Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch; and
- Community-based older adults including the Sealy Center on Aging Consortium of Nursing Homes.
Subject recruitment and retention activities are coordinated with the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) at the UTMB. The GCRC has a funding mandate from the NIH to facilitate clinical trials research. Subjects are recruited for two intervention and development studies (IDS) and pilot studies. One of the goals of the Subject Recruitment and Retention Core is to encourage new clinical investigations in aging by researchers currently not conducting aging related research. The Subject Recruitment and Retention Core facilitates new research by identifying potential subjects and assisting investigators with strategies to recruit and retain subjects, focusing on participation of persons from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Mass Spectroscopy Core
Robert R. Wolfe, Ph.D., Project Leader
FAX: (409) 770-6825
The purpose of this Core is to perform the measurements of amino acids and their metabolites required by IDS-1, IDS-2, and Pilot Project 1, and to train investigators in these techniques.
Stable isotope tracers have become invaluable tools with which to investigate human metabolism. This laboratory has been involved in the application and development of stable isotope tracer methods for the past 20 years. New kinetic models and analytical approaches have been developed in this lab to investigate various aspects of glucose, fat and protein metabolism. The specific goal of this core laboratory is to make available mass spectrometry analysis for all projects involved with the Pepper Center. In a more general sense, we will assist investigators in all aspects of tracer methodology necessary to use this approach to study metabolism in elderly individuals. We have all the equipment necessary to perform stable isotope enrichment measurements, including five quadruple gas chromatograph mass spectrometers, a gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometer, and an isotope ratio mass spectrometer interfaced to an elemental analyzer. We also have expertise in experimental design, performance and analysis of tracer studies, and in mathematical modeling. Finally, we are actively involved in training and education. Every year we offer an intensive, one-week formal course on tracer methodology that is open to interested investigators. We also have a Ph.D. program on human metabolism/nutrition, and an active research fellow program that includes one formal meeting per week and informal training.
Molecular Biology Core
Thomas G. Wood, Ph.D., Project Leader
FAX: (409) 747-8608
The Molecular Biology Core (MB Core) is directed by Dr. Wood, who also directs the Recombinant DNA Laboratory Core Facility for the Sealy Center for Molecular Biology. This core processes muscle biopsy samples obtained in IDS-1 and IDS-2 and extract RNA and synthesize cDNA for distribution to investigators in IDS-2 and Year 1 (2000-01) Pilot Studies 3 and 4. Central processing of RNA extraction is efficient and allows for enough RNA from each set of muscle biopsies for analyses by all investigators. The MB Core also assists investigators in Pilot Projects 2 and 3 to develop DNA probes and conduct polymerase chain reactions (PCR).
Age-associated reduction in muscle mass and the corresponding decrease in mobility represent a significant problem in the elderly population. The UTMB OAIC program is a coordinated effort designed to examine the effect of exercise, nutrition and hormonal therapy on the improvement of muscle strength and function in the elderly. The Molecular Biology (MB) Core provides technical support and services to UTMB OAIC investigators in the areas of recombinant DNA technology and molecular genetics. Services include plasmid DNA production, phage DNA (lambda and M13) preparation, competent cell production, plasmid DNA transformation and screening, oligonucleotide synthesis, DNA sequence analysis, DNA fragment purification, vector and plasmid construction and RNA/DNA isolation from human tissue. In addition to these services, technical support in the preparation of cDNA from human total RNA, deletion mutagenesis to create internal control targets to be used in quantitative PCR analysis and the cloning of the murine myostatin gene and characterization of the myostatin core promoter is provided. Technical expertise in bacterial expression of protein (lambda and T7 based systems), site-directed mutagenesis, library construction and DNA transfection of eukaryotic cells will be available. The MB Core also provides protocols and training to UTMB OAIC students, staff and Junior Faculty in the areas of recombinant DNA techniques and molecular genetics. In summation, the MB Core provides state-of-the-art support to UTMB OAIC investigators that enhances the productivity of the individual programs and facilitates the successful attainment of their respective research goals.
The Demonstration and Information Dissemination Core
Judith C. Drew, R.N., Ph.D., Project Leader
FAX: (409) 747-1325
This core uses existing networks established by UTMB including providers, community organizations and other health professional schools to disseminate information and conduct programs to preserve muscle function in older men and women. Special emphasis is given to providers and schools that service substantial minority elderly populations.
The overall objective of the Demonstration and Information Dissemination Core (DIDC) is to build bridges across the continuum between basic research, applied research, clinical practice/interventions, and the general population. The specific aims that work in combination to achieve this overall objective include:
- Translate state of the art research findings into language useful to the practitioner and consumer.
- Provide formal coursework to students in the health professions.
- Provide continuing education programs and credit to health professionals.
- Provide consumer education programs
- Plan and implement conference programming that will disseminate research findings to practitioners.
Research findings that provide the content for dissemination draw on those obtained from OAIC-sponsored activities but also draw on the general research literature. The target audiences consist of students and practitioners in the health professions, as well as older Americans and their families. Four themes underlie operation of the DIDC.
- The enhancement of efforts to improve the health and independence of minority elderly, with a particular focus upon three groups: African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Vietnamese Americans.
- To extend the scope and magnitude of dissemination activities by partnering with existing programs.
- The use of new technologies to make DIDC products more readily accessible by health professionals and a lay audience.
- The incorporation of rigorous performance outcome evaluations for all DIDC activities.