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Leading Aging Care Since 1995


The Sealy Center on Aging (SCoA) focuses on improving the health and well-being of the elderly through interdisciplinary research, education, and community service by integrating the resources and activities relevant to aging at UTMB.

The Center also implements our research findings in hospitals and clinics, bringing excellence and visibility to our health care system, and improving the health of our seniors.

Center Director:
Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, Daisy Emery Allen Distinguished Chair in Geriatric Medicine and Professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine - Geriatrics, Neuroscience & Cell Biology and Nutrition & Metabolism.



New Aging Grant

Lyons receives $1.8M from the National Institute on Aging to Help Older Women Exercise More

By SCoA | October 14, 2019

photo of older woman with device

Many activity monitor apps use step competitions to motivate their users. Not everyone likes competing on real-world things like steps, though, and older women in particular report disliking this kind of competition. Older women are at high risk from negative health outcomes related to inactivity. To help solve this problem, Elizabeth J. Lyons, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, has been awarded $1,803,628 from the National Institute on Aging for her 5-year project, "A social media game to increase physical activity among older adult women." The goal of the project is test an intervention that uses weekly social media challenges to make reaching step goals more interesting. Click to learn more: Lyons receives $1.8M grant from the NIA/NIH

3 Publications in Gerontology

Three UTMB Pepper Center publications in the October 2019 issue of The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences

By SCoA | October 11, 2019

photo of group of older adults with link to video

Three scientific papers supported by the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at UTMB have been published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, Special Section: Interventions with EEA or Protein Quality. Click to learn more and view video: Improving Physical Function and Independence in Older Adults.

Discover Exercise: MoTrPAC

MoTrPAC Study Now Recruiting Volunteers, Age 18 & older

By SCoA | Sepetmber 27, 2019

photo of woman with trainer exercising

The Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, also known as the MoTrPAC research study, is one of the largest efforts to study physical activity involving universities, medical centers, researchers, and most importantly participants from all over the country. For years, we have known that being physically active is good for our health, but until this point there has not been a clear understanding of what actually is happening deep within the body, or how the molecular structure of the body changes to improve and preserve health. Having a better understanding of how the body changes with physical activity will help researchers and clinicians to better prescribe and tailor exercise programming in the future. This research program is the largest target National Institutes of Health (NIH) investment aimed at understanding how physical activity improves health and prevents disease.

We are looking for volunteers who:

  • Are 18 years of age or older
  • Exercise 1 time a week or less
  • Have no history of diabetes or heart disease
  • Would like to have an opportunity to exercise with a personal trainer for 12 weeks and have study-relatedhealth exams at UTMB.
  • Visit motrpac.org/join

Read more about MoTrPAC.

New Activity Grant

Paddon-Jones Receives $2 million from the National Institute on Aging to Help Adults Return to Full Activity

By SCoA | August 28, 2019

photo of man and skeleton with muscleAfter being in bed or having an injury like a broken leg, adults can take a long time to get back to their previous level of physical performance.

To help solve this problem, Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD, FACSM has been awarded $2,009,742 from the National Institute on Aging for his project, "Sex-specific determinants of early-phase recovery from skeletal muscle disuse."

The goal of the project is to map changes in key metabolic and molecular transducers of skeletal muscle disuse and rehabilitation in middle-aged men and women, while tracking clinically relevant morphologic, body composition and muscle function outcomes. The four-year project will run from August 2019 to March 2023.

The project addresses the major problems with current rehabilitation strategies. These include the inability to identify which patients are most at risk for decline during inactivity. Also, exercise as a prescription is now mostly done with a generic, one-size-fits-all approach, which does not optimize the benefit for all patients. Finally, we do not know the effect of exercise on those who have been immobile and how it is different from the effect on those who exercise regularly. Read press release.

Fellow Assistant Dean

SCoA Fellow Named Assistant Dean

By Galv Daily News | August 21, 2019

photo of womanNorma A. Pérez, MD, DrPH will serve as assistant dean for Student Affairs in the Office of Academic Affairs in the School of Medicine. Her appointment will be effective Sept. 1. Pérez serves as director of Career Counseling and Special Projects in the Office of Student Affairs and Admissions. She’s also associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and serves as president of Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools, an organization that supplies academic and career development resources to help improve the quality of health care available to Hispanics in the United States.

NP President Elect

SCoA Nurse Practitioner Melissa Lockhart President Elect

By SCoA | August 9, 2019

photo of womanCongratulations to Melissa Lockhart, PHD, GNP-BC, new President-Elect of Gulf Coast Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association for 2020. Dr. Lockhart was selected based on her "works and influence in the excellent care of the older adult population, their caregivers, the professional academe, and practice." Read more at the GCGAPNA website.

Adoue Hero Award

Ritchie Adoue named 2019 Freedom School Hero Award Recipient

By SCoA | August 5, 2019

photo of womanThe Sealy Center on Aging is proud to announce that RSVP Program of Galveston County Director Ritchie Adoue has been selected to be honored as a 2019 Freedom School Hero Award recipient by the NIA Cultural CDF Freedom School.

40 Under 40

Summer Chapman Honored in the Galveston Daily News 40 under 40

By Galv Daily News | July 24, 2019

red and gray grid graphic with photos of peopleThe Sealy Center on Aging is proud to announce that Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator Summer Chapman, RN, MSN has been selected to be honored as one of the Galveston Daily News 40 under 40, the best and brightest young professionals.

Opioids & Cannabis Law

Lower rates of opioid prescriptions in states that implemented medical cannabis use laws

By UTMB Newsroom | June 11, 2019

graphic molecules and chemistryGALVESTON, Texas – Using data from privately-insured adults, new findings from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston revealed that there is a lower level of opioids prescribed in states that have allowed the use of medical marijuana. The findings are currently available in Preventive Medicine.

“We found that the overall prescription opioid use increased by age, which we expected,” said senior author Mukaila Raji, UTMB professor and director, Division of Geriatrics Medicine. “But, when we looked at the results within different age groups, opioid prescription rates varied depending on the stringency of state cannabis laws. In particular, states that implemented medical cannabis laws had lower rates of opioid prescription in people aged 18 to 54.”

Read more at the UTMB Newsroom.

Meet & Greet

SCoA hosts community for informational session about aging research initiatives

By SCoA | May 30, 2019

photo of groupThe Sealy Center on Aging recently hosted over a dozen representatives from local area nursing, long term care, rehabilitation, skilled home health and personal assistance home care organizations. Dr. Volpi, director of the Center and leading aging researcher presented information about current research initiatives at UTMB.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to become involved in research, email aging.research@utmb.edu or call 1-800-298-7015.

Dr. Raji on Opioids

Study finds persistently high rate of long-term opioid prescribing for older cancer survivors

By Galveston Daily News | May 14, 2019

photo of manUsing Medicare data, new findings show for the first time that the rates of long term opiate therapy - a 90-day or more supply of opioids per year - for older cancer survivors remain high for at least five years in cancer survivors. The study also showed that cancer survivors diagnosed after 2004 had higher rates of opioid prescribing compared with those diagnosed earlier than 2004. Read the article, "Long-Term Opioid Therapy in Older Cancer Survivors: A Retrospective Cohort Study," by senior author Mukaila Raji, MD, MS, FACP in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

HCAP Data Release

Announcing Public Data Release: Healthy Cognitive Aging Project

By Inside NIA Blog | May 8, 2019

photo of womanAnnouncing the first public release of data from the Healthy Cognitive Aging Project (HCAP), a nationally representative study that will help shed light on how and when cognitive decline progresses in older adults. Longitudinal studies like the MHAS Cognitive Aging Ancillary Study (Mex-Cog), part of the HCAP, are important in providing prospective data on complex diseases.

Rebeca Wong, PhD is Principal Investigator of the MHAS and Associate Director of the Sealy Center on Aging. Read more: Two More Waves Of Longitudinal Study On Aging Will Be Collected.

PhD Student Journal Cover

Camille Brightwell Publishes Cover of Translational Sports Medicine

By SCoA | May 1, 2019

TSM Cover and link to issueA microscopic image of muscle by PhD Student Camille Brightwell and colleagues was selected as cover image for the journal Translational Sports Medicine, April 2019. The cover image is based on the Original Article Moderate‐intensity aerobic exercise improves skeletal muscle quality in older adults by Camille R. Brightwell et al., DOI: 10.1002/tsm2.70. Camille is a current trainee in the Pre and Postdoctoral Training T32 - Health of Older Minorities program at SCoA. She is also a member of the CeRPAN Muscle Biology Laboratory.

Pepper Annual Meeting

Researchers from UTMB attend Annual Pepper OAIC Meeting

By SCoA | April 26, 2019

photo of groupResearchers from the Sealy Center on Aging attended the annual Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center meeting April 25-26, 2019. Pictured left to right: Monique Pappadis, Yong-Fang Kuo, Kimberly Hreha, Brian Downer, Rachel Deer with son, Ken Ottenbacher, Elena Volpi, Blake Rasmussen and Rafael Samper-Ternent.

  • Rachel Deer, PhD presented, "Comparison of Malnutrition Screening Tools for Use in Hospitalized Older Adults."
  • Brian Downer, PhD presented, "Temporal Relationship between Physical and Cognitive Impairment and the Association with Mortality among Older Mexican Adults."
  • Rafael Samper-Ternent, MD, PhD presented, "Health Disparities in Medical Care and Social Support of Adults with Dementia."
  • Blake Rasmussen, PhD presented, “Role of Periodic mTORC1 Activation in the Prevention of Sarcopenia,” in a Biology of Aging breakout session moderated by Elena Volpi, MD, PhD.

Dr. Volpi on Protein

This is why you need to eat more protein as you age

By Considerable | April 25, 2019

photo of womanDr. Volpi was recently quoted about protein:

“The total dose that you eat may not matter as much as the dose you eat at a given meal,” said Dr. Elena Volpi, a professor of geriatrics and cell biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. “If I eat too little protein during a meal, I may not adequately stimulate the uptake of amino acids into skeletal muscle. If I eat too much, say from a large T-bone steak, I won’t be able to store all of it away.”

Based on her research, Volpi suggests that older adults eat 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Practically, that means rethinking what people eat at breakfast, when protein intake tends to be lowest. “Oatmeal or cereal with milk isn’t enough; people should think of adding a Greek yogurt, an egg, or a turkey sausage,” Volpi said.

Dr. Wong NIH Appointment

Dr. Wong Appointed to NIH Advisory Council

By Galveston Daily News | April 9, 2019

photo of womanDr. Rebeca Wong was appointed to the National Institutes of Health’s National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council. The council is charged with advising, consulting with, and making recommendations to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development director on matters relating to research and research support activities and functions. Wong is director of the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization Collaborating Center on Aging and Health, professor of Socio-medical Sciences in Preventive Medicine and Community Health, and a senior fellow and Associate Director of the Sealy Center on Aging. Dr. Wong is also the Research Education Component Director at the new Texas RCMAR.

Stopping Muscle Wasting

UTMB Researchers Seek to Block the Process of Muscle Wasting with Age

By SCoA | April 8, 2019

molecule graphicBy age of 60, 30% of US adults will suffer from sarcopenia, characterized by clinically recognizable chronic muscle degeneration manifesting as extreme fatigue, weakness, and greatly reduced physical activity. To combat this decline, UTMB investigators Drs. Stanley Watowich and Christopher Fry received funding for an innovative study of drugs to block the molecular processes involved. Read more about the new study, Development of NNMT inhibitors as novel interventions to activate quiescent muscle stem cells and improve age-related muscle degeneration.

Dr. Fry is a Core Investigator at SCoA and co-leader of the Metabolism and Biology Resource Core in the UTMB Pepper Center.

MHAS Visitors

MHAS Hosts Visitors from Mexico

By SCoA | April 5, 2019

photo of groupThe Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) hosted data management experts from the National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) and National Institute of Geriatrics (INGER) in Mexico. The group interviewed international users of the data – both basic and sophisticated users – to understand better how to meet the needs of the MHAS data users. As the MHAS data becomes more complex, including biomarkers, anthropometric measures, and samples for genetic analyses, new tools will be developed to mine the data.

Pictured left to right: (back): Eduardo Rioja, INEGI; Brian Downer, UTMB – the expert, sophisticated data user that was being interviewed; Juan Carlos Gomez Verjan, INGER; Javier Morales Escalante, INGER; Mario Becerril, INEGI; Otto Hahn Herrera, INGER (front): Rebeca Wong, UTMB; Alejandra Michaels, UTMB; Ricardo Ramirez Aldana, INGER


Texas RCMAR Website Now Online

By SCoA | April 5, 2019

photo of three people's hands clasped over table with earth colored patternsThe Texas Texas Resource Center on Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) website is now online. RCMAR provides mentorship to scholars with research focused on the health and aging in minority elderly populations with special emphasis on the Hispanic population in the United States and Mexico. The program is led by Kyriakos Markides, PhD, Yong Fan Kuo,PhD and Rebeca Wong, PhD. A call for pilot applications is due April 15, 2019.

Recovery from Hospitalization

UTMB Researchers Help Older Patients Recover Better

By SCoA | April 1, 2019

photo of woman A new paper, A Phase I Randomized Clinical Trial of Evidence-Based, Pragmatic Interventions to Improve Functional Recovery After Hospitalization in Geriatric Patients, in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences shows potential new ways to speed up recovery from the hospital. UTMB researchers, led by Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, tried different strategies to boost the function of older adults hospitalized for an acute illness. Read press release from Sealy Center on Aging.

This article was the result of a pilot study performed in the Acute Care for Elders Unit at UTMB.

Lead author Rachel R. Deer, PhD is an Assistant Professor, Division of Rehabilitation Sciences at UTMB. She also has appointments in the Division of Nutrition and Metabolism and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Deer is an RL5 Scholar in the UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center. Her research focuses on interventions to accelerate functional recovery from hospitalization in older adults.

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Site managed by UTMB Sealy Center on Aging • Date Updated: 2019