Pittsburgh Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

Research Findings

Pittsburgh Pepper Highlights/High Impact: Although we have had many successful studies and supported more than 400 publications from Pepper investigators, we have identified several to highlight as important achievements:

  • Exercise improves memory and function: Drs. Rosano and Aizenstein added to our understanding of the role of specific areas of gray matter atrophy and white matter damage associated with deficits in mobility and balance. This led to expanded cutting edge techniques in neuro¬imag¬ing and has prompted other Pepper investigators to examine associations between the brain and mobility. One of the high impact studies was Dr. Erickson’s (an RCDC scholar). It demonstrated that aerobic exercise training improves memory function and reverses hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood. This concept forms the basis of a new pilot study and a new KL2 CTSI award to Dr. Rosso, Pepper trainee.
  • Mobility and survival are linked: We have demonstrated the importance of gait speed on the association of survival. A high impact JAMA study by Drs. Studenski, Perera, Rosano, Faulkner, Brach, Newman (all Pittsburgh OAIC collaborators) analyzed 9 cohort studies comprising data from more than 34,000 community dwelling adults. They demonstrated that gait speed was associated with survival. We include gait speed in our clinical studies and hope to expand this in the ongoing FNIH studies on sarcopenia.
  • Low cost program to reduce falls in the community: Drs. Albert and Newman found that falls were reduced by 17% over 12 months through use of a population-wide state program. Pennsylvania Healthy Steps for Older Adults was funded and recently refunded through the CDC. Older adults identified through screening as having high fall risk were educated about their risk and referred to primary care providers and home safety resources.
  • Frail older adults benefit from exercise: Early results from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study set the stage by demonstrating the feasibility of enrolling frail older adults into a study of sustained activity. And, compared to a health education group, the intervention group improved its lower extremity performance. The main trial enrolled >1600 participants, including 100 in Pittsburgh with Dr. Newman as the site PI. The results of this landmark trial, published in JAMA, demonstrated that sustained physical activity can delay the onset of mobility disability in at-risk older adults.
  • Frail residents in LTC benefit from osteoporosis treatment: Dr. Greenspan completed an NIA funded randomized controlled trial for maintaining bone health in frail LTC residents. Innovative features included a mobile unit able to assess bone mass and vertebral fractures, and a novel electronic surveillance system to quickly identify injurious falls, fractures and SAEs. This NIA- and Pepper pilot-supported study has been a model of how to successfully perform clinical research in the long term care setting with fragile participants. The study received the Best Abstract Award out of more than 900 submitted to the 2014 AGS and manuscript is now under review.
  • DNA damage of aging due in part to NF-KB activation: DNA damage of aging due in part to NF-KB activation: A third high impact finding from Drs. Huard, Neidernhofer and Robbins demonstrated that the mechanism of DNA damage derived aging is due in part to NF-KB activation. IKK/NF-KB inhibitors that attenuate this damage could potentially provide clinical benefit for degenerative changes associated with accelerated aging disorders and normal aging. Pepper support for this study resulted in a recently-funded P01 to support further investigation.

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