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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

Leadership Training

Pepper Team Leadership Training Program

By SCoA | October 9, 2018

On October 4th-5th, the UTMB Pepper Center and The Institute for Translational Sciences (ITS) held a two-day Team Leadership Training Program at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston.

Kevin Wooten, PhD and Eugene Frazier, MSW, CEAP, PCC, MCC, SCC, CPLC who developed the content specifically for team science leadership, spent two full days with the trainees. The leadership training program was interactive and the 27 attendees were engaged in the lecture and activities.

The UTMB Pepper center provided 25 scholarships based on merit including hotel accommodations for Wednesday and Thursday. Breakfast and lunch provided free of charge for all attendees.

NIA Grant Awarded

NIA P30 Grant Awarded to Dr. Kyriakos Markides

By SCoA | September 28, 2018

Kyriakos Markides, PhD receives P30 Grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to establish a Texas Resource Center on Minority Aging Research (RCMAR) in collaboration with UT Austin. It will provide an infrastructure that facilitates the development of research on aging in minority populations and developing researchers from underrepresented minorities.

Drs. Yong-Fang Kuo, Kristen Peek, Rebeca Wong and others are also involved.

Dr. Markides is a Professor and Director, Annie and John Gnitzinger Professor of Aging for Preventive Medicine and Community Health (PMCH), and Editor for the Journal of Aging and Health.

The Rise and Fall of T

The Rise and Fall of T

By SCoA | September 27, 2018

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The Texas Health Journal’s September edition focused on big data research projects. Included in the issue was the work of UTMB’s Jacques Baillargeon and his team to determine why there has been a decrease in men receiving testosterone therapy. Baillargeon encourages new graduate students and postdocs to be careful when using large databases. “Most of these big data sources were not designed for research, but for billing. If something is not a billable claim or related to billing in some meaningful way, it may not be accurately and consistently recorded,” said Baillargeon.

Dr. Baillargeon is a fellow in the Sealy Center on Aging and a core investigator at the UTMB Pepper Center.

Muscle Study Grant

New Muscle Study Grant from NIA

By SCoA | September 19, 2018

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SCoA Fellow and co-leader of the Pepper Center Metabolism and Biology Resource Core 2, Chris Fry, PhD is the UTMB Site PI on a new grant from the National Institute on Aging that will study age-related muscle degeneration. The one-year study, “Dose-ranging safety and efficacy studies to advance novel mechanism-of-action drug candidates to reverse age-related muscle degeneration,” is a partnership with Ridgeline Therapeutics.

Aspirin in Seniors

Low-dose aspirin found to have no effect on healthy life span in seniors

By UTMB Newsroom | September 17, 2018

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GALVESTON, Texas – The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston participated in an international study finding that low-dose aspirin therapy in older healthy adults without previous cardiovascular events did not prolong healthy independent living.

UTMB’s Sealy Center on Aging was one of 34 clinical sites in the United States taking part in the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly trial.

“This is a critically important study because many older adults who never had a heart attack or a stroke are taking aspirin,” says Dr. Elena Volpi, principal investigator of the UTMB clinical site. “In this study aspirin did not protect from developing dementia or physical disability, but it increased the risk of death.”

This is also posted at TMC News.

Pepper Pilots Awarded

Congratulations to Pepper Pilot Awardees

By SCoA | Sept 11, 2018

The Pilot/Exploratory Studies Core (PESC) is to stimulate new research addressing the issues of functional loss and gain and promoting functional recovery from serious illness in the elderly. The PESC funds one- or two-year pilot grants with budgets up to $50,000 per year and also small exploratory projects with seed money budgets of up to $10,000. This year's Pepper Pilot Awardees are:

Protein Absorption

Sorry, but that protein shake probably isn’t going to get you jacked

By Men’s Health | Aug 16, 2018

Ingesting large amounts of protein does not always translate to a size gain, it turns out there is a limit to how much protein your body can absorb in one sitting. “Skeletal muscle protein synthesis is maximized by 25 to 35 grams of high-quality protein during a meal,” said UTMB’s Doug Paddon-Jones. The full article can be read at Men's Health.

Dr. Paddon-Jones is the director for UTMB's CeRPAN Physical Activity and Functional Recovery Translational Research Laboratory.

Sleep Interventions

Pepper Investigator's Lecture Video Now Available

By SCoA | Aug 1, 2018

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This month's Pepper Investigator's Lecture "Sleep Assessment and Intervention in Hospital and Community-Based Settings," was presented by, Sara Nowakowski, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology on Aug 1, 2018 at UTMB.


Upcoming Conference

FASEB Science Research Conference

By SCoA | July 18, 2018

Blake Rasmussen, PhD has received an NIH R13 grant from the NIDDK to support a FASEB Science Research conference next month. The conference is titled “Nutrient Sensing and Metabolic Signaling” and will be held August 5-10, 2018 at Snowmass Village, Colorado. Dr. Rasmussen is the organizer of the conference which includes 35 invited speakers from around the world and 8 invited speakers from students, postdocs and junior faculty that submitted abstracts to the conference. The funds are used to support speaker travel and registration reimbursements. In addition to NIH support, Dr. Rasmussen has obtained support from several pharmaceutical companies and professional journals including: Cambridge Isotope Laboratories, Navitor Pharmaceuticals, AMGEN, Novo Nordisk, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Ajinomoto, Public Library of Science (PLOS) Journals, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Science Signaling.

For more information and to register, visit the FASEB Registration website

Breast Cancer Grant

Dr. Lyons awarded $391,014 by the National Cancer Institute for a study to increase physical activity in breast cancer survivors

By SCoA | June 18, 2018

Dr. Lyons awarded $391,014 by the National Cancer Institute for a study to increase physical activity in breast cancer survivors

Elizabeth J. Lyons, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, The University of Texas Medical Branch, has been awarded $391,014 by the National Cancer Institute for her study entitled “Narrative visualization for breast cancer survivors' physical activity.” The study seeks to determine if breast cancer survivors will exercise more if they engage in narrative visualization, a process of adding photo - graphs, drawings and text to a data chart to make the information more meaningful. This addition may help increase the long-term willingness of such survivors to continue exercise and therefore reap the associated benefits. Dr. Lyons is a previous Pilot Project PI and RL5 Scholar at the UTMB Pepper Center. She is a fellow at the Sealy Center on Aging and a member of the core faculty at the Center for Recovery, Physical Activity and Nutrition.

Scientific Writing Tips

Pepper Investigator's Lecture Video Now Available

By SCoA | May 2, 2018

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This month's Pepper Investigator's Lecture "Sixteen Suggestions to Improve Skills in Scientific Writing," was presented by, James S. Goodwin, MD, George and Cynthia Mitchell Distinguished Chair of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatrics on May 2, 2018 at UTMB.


Annual Pepper Meeting

Research Investigators Attend Annual Pepper OAIC Meeting

By SCoA | May 1, 2018

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Researchers from the Sealy Center on Aging and the UTMB Pepper OAIC attended the Annual Pepper Meeting on April 30 & May 1, 2018.

Dr. Volpi presented, "How to Grow in Leadership Roles," with David Reuben, MD from UCLA. Blake Rasmussen, PhD, gave a report on the second year of MoTrPAC.

Best Poster Award

Best Poster Award Annual Pepper OAIC Meeting

By SCoA | May 1, 2018

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Researchers from the Sealy Center on Aging and the UTMB Pepper OAIC attended the Annual Pepper Meeting on April 30 & May 1, 2018.

Investigators participated in a poster session where Rafael Samper-Ternent, MD, PhD and co-authors received a Best Poster award for their work, "Enhancing Wellbeing of Older Hispanics with Dementia and their Caregivers: The Role of Functional and Cognitive Decline."

Diabetic Volunteers Needed

Diabetic Volunteers Aged 60-85 for Study

By SCoA | April 25, 2018

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Nutrition, Exercise and Muscle Growth in Diabetes DIABETIC VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! Ages 60-85

Researchers from the Sealy Center on Aging at UTMB need volunteers for a new study on exercise, nutrition and muscle growth.

To participate in this trial, you must be between the ages of 60 and 85 and not suffer from a serious medical condition except Type II Diabetes. We are recruiting for Type II Diabetes. You will be compensated for time and travel. You shall receive regular medical exams and tests. You will be given a copy of your test results. Dr. Elena Volpi is the Principal Investigator of this study. Contact Paula Skinkis: 409-772-1907


National Institutes of Health / NIAMS Award

By SCoA | March 23, 2018

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Christopher Fry, PhD receives an NIH / NIAMS R01 award. Dr. Fry is a former Pepper Research Education Component (REC) Scholar and current co-leader for the Metabolism and Biology Resource Core. The award of $2,186,072 is for 5 years, March 26, 2018 through February 28, 2023. The goal of the grant is to determine the efficacy of myostatin blockade in a mouse model of ACL injury to improve muscle mass, strength and morphology. Additionally, the goal is to determine the contribution of myostatin activation in patients following an ACL injury and reconstruction to underlying muscle cellular deficits that contribute to protracted muscle weakness.

Elite Reviewer 2017

Dr. Pappadis Named Elite Reviewer at Archives of PM&R

By SCoA | January 18, 2018

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Rehabilitation Sciences Assistant Professor Monique Pappadis, MEd, PhD has been named an Elite Reviewer for Archives of PM&R Journal for 2017.

Elite status designation reflects the number, timeliness, and quality of reviews for the Archives in 2017 as judged by the editors. Selection reflects critical thinking and effective participation in the process of peer review. After examining the performance of reviewers, approximately 3 percent of reviewers (97 people out of 2,985 reviewers who submitted 1,730 reviews in 2017) were judged to be deserving of this recognition.

Experienced Physicians

Patients more likely to die under care from 1st-year hospitalists

By HealthExec | January 02, 2018

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An extra year of experience for a physician can make an impact on patient mortality in a hospital, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that found 30-day and hospital mortality rates were higher for hospitalists in the first year of practice than their second.

The study, led by James Goodwin, MD of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, looked at more at Medicare data from between Jan. 2007 and Dec. 2013 for more than 3,800 first-year hospitalists. Only physicians who continued to practice as hospitalists four or more years after their initial year of experience were included. Read full article at

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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.