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NIA to Fund Researchers Taking Second Look at Existing Datasets, Biospecimens

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Aging plans to fund researchers conducting secondary analyses of existing datasets or stored biospecimens to address specific hypotheses about aging, including how it functions and interacts with diseases, according to a new funding announcement.

NIA says that existing datasets and stored samples offer considerable potential for researchers who are studying biological changes that occur across the lifespan and have an impact on health, disease, and disability, and that they can provide a cost-effective option for pursuing new ideas about these issues.

The institute is encouraging scientists to use a wide range of existing data and sample types and resources, including those coming from investigator-initiated research, cooperative agreements, and contracts from public or private sources.

These sources may include longstanding observational cohorts with periodic assessments or biospecimens, and those that were created to address specific questions and were followed over time, such as the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation and the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study, among others.

The projects also may use data and samples from family-based studies, such as sibling, twin, or parent-offspring studies, cohorts from large clinical trials that tested disease prevention or screening interventions, groups identified by disease or non-disease status, and groups defined by administrative databases, such as health insurance databases and electronic health records data.

The researchers also may delve into specialized datasets that were created to address specific questions, such as the Food and Drug Administration's Critical Path Initiative.

Among the resources that investigators may want to use for information on cohort, trials, and biospecimens are Clinical Trials.gov, the NIA Trial-Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy, the NIA Population Studies Database, the Osteoarthritis Initiative, the Kaiser Permanente Resource for Genetic Epidemiology Research in Adult Health and Aging, and others.

The main thrust of this funding will be to fuel analysis of existing data and samples, but investigators may use these resources in a wide range of research projects, such as efforts to understand genetic and other factors that influence changes in body composition, muscle mass, and bone density, and studies of the genetic determinants of exceptionally healthy aging, such as protective factors that slow down common age-related changes.

Researchers also may seek to understand what causes the differences in risk factors for age-related conditions at different ages; early life changes that influence health later in life; molecular, cellular, and genetic mechanisms related to sustained caloric restriction, which has been linked with longevity; and analysis and meta-analysis of existing datasets to inform the design of clinical trials and other studies, among others.

NIA has not set a limit on the funding amounts or the total number of awards it will support under this grant program.

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