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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

Deer: ACSM Webinar

Deer gives lecture for American College of Sports Medicine webinar

September 21, 2016

Dr. Rachel Deer

Rachel Deer, SCOA Postdoctoral Fellow and associate scholar of the UTMB Pepper Center, recently gave a webinar lecture titled, "Challenges in Providing Protein to Support Nutrition and Health Needs in Older Adults" to over 1000 participants on Sept 21, 2016. It was co-sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Soyfoods Association of North America. The webinar focused on the unique challenge that older adults face in meeting their proper protein requirements to maintain muscle mass and independence.

Dr. Volpi Awarded R01 Funds

Dr. Volpi awarded $2.7 million to identify new treatments for muscle loss in older adults

August 5, 2016

Dr. Doug Paddon-Jones

Dr. Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, Director of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center and the Sealy Center on Aging, and Daisy Emery Allen Distinguished Chair in Geriatric Medicine has been awarded $2.7 million from the National Institute on Aging for the five-year project, "Identifying therapeutic targets of accelerated sarcopenia."

The study will identify the mechanisms that can accelerate loss of muscle size, strength and physical function in older adults with type 2 diabetes and those who have been hospitalized. About one-third of older Americans have type 2 diabetes, and about one-third of the hospitalizations in the USA involve persons older than 65 year of age. The project will study how diabetes and inactivity impact muscle growth and loss in older adults. The processes will be studied based on how amino acids, the components of protein, are used by muscle to build protein during bed rest inactivity or exercise training.

The proposed research will help further the mission of the National Institutes of Health to develop the fundamental knowledge to improve health and reduce the burden of disability. It will do this by providing the fundamental evidence to identify new targets for the development of innovative treatments to slow down muscle loss and disability in our aging society.

Co-investigators for the project, all from UTMB, include Drs. L. Maria Belalcazar, Steven Fisher, and Blake Rasmussen.

Dr. Paddon-Jones: Protein

Dr. Paddon-Jones: Protein Absorption by Muscles, Healthy Breakfast Ideas & More News on Protein

July 18-19, 25, 2016

Dr. Doug Paddon-Jones

Men's Health magazine spoke with Dr. Doug Paddon-Jones, Director of the Physical Activity and Functional Recovery Translational Research Laboratory and Senior Fellow of the Sealy Center on Aging, about the amount of protein your body is able to absorb. "Skeletal muscle protein synthesis is maximized by 25 to 35 grams of high-quality protein during a meal," Paddon-Jones told the magazine.

Dr. Paddon-Jones also commented in an article that looked into health breakfast ideas. Dr. Paddon-Jones told the website that people eat a lot of foods, such as breakfast cereal, bagels, breads, that are loaded with refined carbohydrates.

Time Magazine quoted Dr. Paddon-Jones in their "You Asked" column where he answered the question, "What Happens If I Don't Eat Enough Protein?" Dr. Paddon-Jones compared the human body lacking enough protein to a termite-infested house. "Like that termite-ridden house that looks fine on the outside, your protein-deprived body will have grown weaker over a period of many years," Paddon-Jones says. "If the house is solidly built, it could take a long time for the termite damage to cause problems."

More news on Protein from Dr. Paddon-Jones

Dr. Lyons Talks Popular Apps

Dr. Lyons Weighs in on Popular Apps

July 16, 2016

Dr. Liz Lyons

To say that Pokémon Go has been a hit would be an understatement. Players of the popular phone app can be seen walking around neighborhoods and parks searching for the little pocket monsters and the social and physical aspects of the game could be driving its popularity, said Dr. Elizabeth Lyons, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism and Investigator for UTMB's Pepper Center. "It's a lot more social than a lot of other active games have been," Lyons told The Daily News.

Dr. Lyons also explored, along with other research experts, various types of commercial activity trackers that promote social interactivity and help log specific movement and activities without breaking the bank. "When shopping for a tracker, consider the lower-end version of whichever brand you prefer—and buy two! That way you can give one to a friend for some built-in motivation," recommends Dr. Lyons

Drummond Wins Int'l Award

Dr. Micah Drummond Awarded the Vernon R. Young International Award

April 4, 2016

Dr. Micah Drummond, PhDDr. Micah Drummond, PhD received the Vernon R. Young International Award for Amino Acid Research on April 3, 2016 at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, California. The award is given for a single outstanding piece of research or for a series of papers in a related area on amino acid metabolism.

Dr. Drummond has been committed to aging and protein metabolism research since 2006 beginning as a postdoc fellow at UTMB under the mentorship of Drs. Blake Rasmussen and Elena Volpi. Currently, Dr. Drummond is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah... Read more >>

Muscle Health Presentation

Dr. Paddon-Jones gives Sci Cafe presentation on Muscle Health

February 25, 2016

Doug Paddon-Jones, Ph.D.

The Institute for Translational Sciences presented SCI Cafe: "Protecting Muscle Health: Nutrition & Exercise Strategies" on Thu., Feb. 25 , 2016 at the Mod Coffeehouse in downtown Galveston, with Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD, Professor, Department of Nutrition & Metabolism and Research Lab Director at CeRPAN and Co-Leader of the Clinical Research Resource Core at the Pepper Center, with Glenda E. Blaskey, MS, RD, CSSD, LD Research Dietitian Institute for Translational Sciences.

Contact Lauren Scott at for more information

Congrats Dr. Rachel Deer

Congratulations Dr. Rachel Deer

January 2016

Dr. Rachel DeerCongratulations to Rachel Deer, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sealy Center on Aging. She received NRSA funding for her study “Translating Muscle Anabolic Strategies into Interventions to Accelerate Recovery from Hospitalization in Geriatric Patients”. Dr. Deer was also awarded The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Austin Bloch Post-Doctoral Fellow Award at the 2015 GSA Annual Scientific Meeting for the poster: "Improvement in Timed Up and Go Speed in Acutely Ill Older Adults after 1-month of Post-Hospitalization Interventions."

Rasmussen Receives Grant

Dr. Blake Rasmussen Receives New Grant from NIH/NIA

Dr. Blake Rasmussen, Associate Director of the Center for Recovery, Physical Activity and Nutrition (CeRPAN) received funding for his grant on Nutrition Sensing & Signaling in Aging Muscle - 1R56AG051267-01.

"The grant has two parts. The first part will be a small clinical trial in which we will enroll 20 older adults into a 3 month weight training program to determine whether an improvement in muscle strength and function causes muscle to become more sensitive to nutrients such as amino acids. In the second part we will perform a small study in transgenic mice in an effort to identify how aging results in muscle becoming less sensitive to nutrients." ~ Dr. Rasmussen.

Weightlifting Research

Dr. Craig Porter: New research on weightlifting

August 25, 2015

Resistance Exercise Training Alters Mitochondrial Function in Human Skeletal Muscle

Pepper Funding

UTMB Receives $3.4 Million to Continue Research on Maintaining Independence in Older Adults

June 5, 2015

Dr. Elena VolpiThe UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, directed by Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, has renewed its funding for the next five years through a $3.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. The grant enables the center to continue its mission to improve physical function and independence in older adults.

The UTMB Pepper Center, founded in 1999, nurtures scientific collaborations among translational research investigators by supporting research infrastructure, training and pilot studies. Dr. Volpi has been serving as the center's director and Principal Investigator since 2010. The focus of the UTMB Pepper Center for the next five years is to identify pathways of physical function loss and gain, and develop targeted interventions to improve functional recovery from illness in older adults.

Read more: Provost's website.

ASPREE Presentation

ASPREE Presentation

May 28, 2015

A senior attends a presentation on the ASPREE Study at UTMB.

Dr. Elena Volpi presented about the ASPREE Study at UTMB to seniors at Open Gates on May 28, 2015. ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) is an international clinical trial to determine whether daily low dose aspirin improves quality of life for older people around the world. The randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and some cancers is being undertaken in 19,000 participants in the US and Australia.

Read more: ASPREE | View pictures of the event

STRIDE Provider Training

STRIDE Provider Training

May 6, 2015

Thomas W. Storer, Ph.D.

A two-hour training was provided on May 6th for area healthcare professionals involved in the current STRIDE study.

Learn More: STRIDE Study at UTMB

Site managed by UTMB Sealy Center on Aging • Last updated Aug 2016

301 University Blvd. Galveston, TX 77555-0177 | p 409.747.0008 | f 409.772.8931
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.