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Areas of Research

The Sealy Center on Aging is an independent, multidisciplinary component of UTMB that brings together a wide range of expertise in research, education and clinical care related to aging studies. Research activities in the Center cover four primary areas of research, including medical effectiveness, Hispanic aging, muscle aging, and implementation.


New Grants

Drs. Raji & Kuo receive $1.42M in second round of funding to study Opioid prescribing

Jul 24, 2020, 17:15 PM by SCOA

Mukaila Raji, MD and Yong-Fang Kuo, PhD received a second round of funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH for grant, "Effectiveness, toxicity and safety of opioid and benzodiazepine substitutes," through 2024.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines for “all prescribers to avoid co-prescribing of benzodiazepine (benzo) and opioids”; other guidelines also advised against benzos for anxiety and insomnia because safer substitutes exist. Since the 2016 CDC guideline, use of gabapentinoids as an opioid substitute has risen. While recent data showed a decline in opioid prescribing rates after publication of the CDC guideline, a knowledge gap exists in terms of the rates, effectiveness and safety of opioid/benzo substitute prescribing and co-prescribing, especially in populations at high risk of drug toxicity: persons living with disabilities, the elderly and Medicare enrollees in home health care. Neither opioid nor benzo substitutes (gabapentinoids, Z-drugs, SNRIs and SSRIs) alone or in combination have been studied in these populations.

Dr. Raji & Dr. Kuo will use both 20% national Medicare data and a large commercial health insurance database to study the effectiveness and safety of the substitutes, whether the substitutes improve pain and function, and whether they have fewer toxicities. Our overall hypotheses is that the substitute drugs, alone or in combination, have considerably lower rates of serious toxicity than do opioids and benzos, with similar effectiveness in many clinical situations. If this is the case, its demonstration by our proposed research should result in acceleration in the shift away from opioids and benzos to safer alternatives.


The Sealy Center on Aging is supported by:

  • Sealy & Smith Foundation
  • Gnitzinger Research Endowment Fund
  • Daisy Emery Allen Distinguished Chair in Geriatric Medicine
  • Annie and John Gnitzinger Distinguished Professorship of Aging 
  • Bertha and Robert Bucksch Distinguished Professorship of Aging
  • Edgar Gnitzinger Distinguished Professorship in Aging
  • Grace B. Gnitzinger Distinguished Professorship in Aging
  • Sheriden Lorenz Distinguished Professorship in Aging and Health
  • Lloyd and Sue Ann Hill Endowed Professorship in Healthy Aging
  • Don W. and Frances Powell Professorship in Aging
  • John H. Antonelli Endowment

Core Investigator Funding

graph showing increase in funding from 2000 to 2020

The Sealy Center on Aging membership brings UTMB more than $25 million per year in extramural research funding on aging. Large, multidisciplinary research programs spearheaded by the Center include the Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), a $5.9 million Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS), the $2.1 million Hispanic Established Populations Epidemiological Study of the Elderly (Hispanic-EPESE), a $8.2 million grant for Comparative Effectiveness Research on Cancer in Texas (CERCIT) funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research in Texas (CPRIT), the $2.7 million Texas Resource Center on Minority Aging Research (RCMAR), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)-funded UTMB Health Services Research Training Program and a $4.8 million AHRQ R24 on Patient-Centered Outcomes Research in the Elderly.