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The UTMB Pepper Center Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC)

The UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), currently directed by
Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, has been continuously funded since 2000. Our Center nurtures a multidisciplinary translational research culture to fulfill our mission, which is to improve physical function and independence in older adults. Central to this mission is the career development and training of the next generation of leaders in geriatric research. Our scientific focus has evolved over the years from a narrow interest in the mechanisms of sarcopenia to the translation of our findings in patient-centered interventions to improve physical function and independence in older adults.

The Pepper Center at UTMB has recently been refunded through 2020 by a $3.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. Read more about us.

Pepper Center News

Improving Muscle

New Publication on Improving Muscle in Older Adults

By SCoA | February 7, 2019

photoDoctoral Student Camille Brightwell is the first author on a new publication, "Moderate Intensity Aerobic Exercise Improves Skeletal Muscle Quality in Older Adults," in Translational Sports Medicine. Additional co-authors include M.M. Markofski, T. Moro, C.S. Fry, C. Porter, E. Volpi, and B.B. Rasmussen.

Camille is a current trainee in the Pre and Postdoctoral TrainingT32 - Health of Older Minorities program at the Sealy Center on Aging. She is also a member of the Muscle Biology Laboratory affiliated with the Center for Recovery, Physical Activity and Nutrition.

Protein and Inactivity

New study finds that correct amounts of protein during inactivity helps protect muscle mass

By UTMB Newsroom | January 30, 2019

photo of groupGALVESTON, Texas – A new research study suggests that improving the quality of protein people eat while on bed rest could actually help protect muscle mass and burn fat.

“When a person is restricted to bed rest, even for a few days, they typically lose muscle and gain fat,” said Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, a professor at UTMB and senior author of the study. “Simply eating more food and protein may help protect muscle, but will likely increase body fat. Conversely, eating less food may help avoid fat gain, but will accelerate muscle loss.  In this study, we were interested in finding a pragmatic, practical approach to help deal with this issue.” Read more at the UTMB Newsroom.

Read the article in the Journals of Gerontology, Improving Dietary Protein Quality Reduces the Negative Effects of Physical Inactivity on Body Composition and Muscle Function by Emily J Arentson-Lantz, PhD, Elfego Galvan, RD, PhD, Jennifer Ellison, PT, PhD, Adam Wacher, MD, and Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD.

Lefeber Winter Series

24th Annual Lefeber Winter Series on Aging at UTMB

By UTMB Provost's Office | January 25, 2019

photo of Dr. Lefeber and text about winter series, video available

When the Sealy Center on Aging initiated its winter lecture series 24 years ago, it was the perfect opportunity to honor the vision of Dr. Edward James Lefeber. The late UTMB Professor of Medicine had been a strong proponent of elder care and the study of aging at a time when few doctors were prepared to care for older patients. Read more about the Lefeber Winter Series in this article from the UTMB Provost's Office.

Lectures will be held each Tuesday evening beginning at 5pm January 29th through February 26th, 2019.

Protein and Older Adults

For older adults, a protein-rich diet is important for health

By Washington Post | January 19, 2019

Dr. Elena Volpi, Director of UTMB's Sealy Center on Aging

There is a growing consensus that as people age they need to eat more protein-rich foods, particularly when dealing with a chronic or acute illness, or facing a hospitalization. During these stressful times, aging bodies process protein less efficiently and need more of it to maintain muscle mass. UTMB’s Elena Volpi said it is not just the total amount of protein one eats, but also how much they eat at a given meal.

“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 it all away,” Volpi said.

This news is also covered in The Chicago TribuneGay San DiegoPittsburgh Post-GazetteThe Philadelphia InquirerSalonThe Washington Post and Navigating Aging.

Metabolism Publication

New Metabolism Publication

By SCoA | January 17, 2019

mitochondria graphicNew publication, "Skeletal Muscle Specific Knockout of DEP Domain-Containing 5 Increases mTORC1 Signaling, Muscle Cell Hypertrophy, and Mitochondrial Respiration" by Ted G. Graber, Christopher S. Fry, Camille R. Brightwell, Tatiana Moro, Rosario Maroto, Nisha Bhattari, Craig Porter, Maki Wakamiya and Blake B. Rasmussen.

“In this study, we knocked out the gene for DEPDC5, which is a subunit of the GATOR1 protein complex (a negative regulator of mTORC1—the master regulator of protein synthesis), in adult skeletal muscle in mice. GATOR1 shuts off protein synthesis in the cell when there are insufficient amino acids present. When we depleted DEPDC5, we determined a constitutive activation of mTORC1 leading to muscle hypertrophy increased mitochondrial respiration without functional improvements. Thus, we uncovered a role for DEPDC5/GATOR1 in the regulation of mitochondrial respiration, hinting that amino acid sensing apparatus in the cell may be more involved in metabolic programming than previously thought.

Dr. Graber is a member of the Muscle Biology Laboratory team in CeRPAN and a postdoctoral trainee in the Division of Rehabilitation Sciences at UTMB.

Call for Pilots

Call for Pilot Project Applications

By SCoA | January 11, 2019

graphicThe UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center encourages UTMB investigators to submit pilot research proposals in the area aging, physical function and recovery from illness in older adults. Proposals from any domain of translational research (T1-T4) are welcome. Projects will be funded for one year, with total annual direct costs not to exceed $50,000.

Areas of research include but are not limited to: basic science, clinical trials, patient-centered outcomes, and population health. Learn more.

New Cognition Grant

New Grant on Cognition & Quality of Skilled Nursing Facilities

By SCoA | January 11, 2019

photoRehabilitation Sciences Assistant Professor Brian Downer, PhD is the recipient of a K01 Grant, "Improvement in Patients’ Cognition and Relationship with SNF Quality Measures." from the National Institute on Aging of the NIH. Dr. Downer is a Core Research Investigator at the Sealy Center on Aging and a Pepper Center Scholar. Congratulations, Dr. Downer!

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The Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center Award #P30-AG024832 is funded by
the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.