To support innovation in Aging research, CPHA offers members and affiliates seed grants for developing promising ideas into projects that compete successfully for NIH R01 awards or similar extramural funding. Pilot Awards have also been used to test ideas that are time-sensitive to either research or funding opportunities.
Competition for Pilot Awards is held in the fall every year and each application will be reviewed by a committee chaired by the CPHA Director. Applications are open to all CPHA affiliates; preference will be given to projects involving multiple CPHA investigators, investigations that support collaboration between UNC and Duke, or junior faculty.
In addition, because population science increasingly relies on approaches that integrate the social, health, and biological sciences, collaboration with researchers in allied fields has the potential to enrich the research environment for all involved. Thus we also give priority to projects that pursue outreach to other disciplines.
As a policy the program will not fund faculty time; instead, typical requests will be to fund small pilot data collection projects or experiments where participant compensation is the norm, costs associated with processing of biological data, data acquisition using special data archives, research assistant time, and travel to sites or travel for collaborators to Duke for research.Applications need to be submitted on the DUPRI RFP Pilot Program form, all instructions are included in the form. For further details contact Administrative Director Heather Tipaldos.
2015 P30 Pilot Projects
Advancing translation of molecular signatures of biological aging
The aging process is a gradual and progressive deterioration of the body's systems that is the leading cause of disease and disability. 1 To extend healthspan (i.e., years of life lived free of disease and disability), interventions are needed that can slow the aging process itself.2 My own work shows the aging process is already underway in young adult humans in their 20s-30s. 3 This suggests that the optimal timing for interventions to slow aging may be early in adulthood, in time to prevent age-related disease. Animals studies are producing therapies for healthspan extension in humans.4 To test the effectiveness of these therapies, we need to be able to measure "biological aging." Several methods to quantify biological aging in humans have been proposed. So far, they have been studied in isolation from one another, and in different samples. I propose the first integrative analysis of 7 prominent methods that use DNA methylation,5,6 gene expression,7,8 telomeres9 and composites of non-genomic biomarkers10,11 to measure biological aging. I will evaluate these measures in the same sample of pre-senescent humans. My proposed integrative analysis will test proof-of-concept for translating biological aging measures into surrogate endpoints for interventions to extend healthspan. I will test if the different biological aging measures appear to measure the same underlying aging process; if they show evidence of being able to quantify change over time within individuals, such as would be caused by an intervention; and if they can quantify early-emerging signs of diminished healthspan. My long-term goal is to advance translation of biological aging measures for use in population studies and clinical trials of interventions to extend healthspan. The overall objective of this application is to establish whether any of several existing measures are promising for such translation. The setting for my proposal is the Dunedin Study, a prospective longitudinal study of a 1972-3 birth cohort (N=1,037, 95% retention as of age-38 follow-up in 2012). The Dunedin Study is the only human study with whole-genome data on DNA methylation and RNA expression, telomeres, and repeated measures of many non-genomic biomarkers, together with indicators of healthspan. Dunedin Study data are stored at Duke University and I have a track record of productivity working and publishing with the Study.
Assessing Stress, Well-Being & Connectedness across Three Generations using Mobile Technologies
This 2-year pilot project seeks to address the following specific aims: Pilot a field-based trial to evaluate the use of mobile technologies to monitor stress, wellbeing and social connectedness among older parents and their adult children and grandchildren. To address this aim, we will: (a) evaluate the feasibility of using mobile technologies to collect ecological momentary assessments (EMA) of daily stressors, interpersonal exchanges and stress-related biomarkers among older parents, their adult children and grandchildren, (b) field test commercially available wearable devices that continuously capture heart rate, skin temperature, movement, and sleep duration and quality among study participants, (c) test whether social connectedness and daily exchanges between family members buffers the negative effects of daily stressors on the health and wellbeing of older adults, and (d) conduct semi-structured exit interviews to optimize the EMA protocol delivery, study compliance and quality of assessments within each of the targeted age groups.
Computer-based Cognitive Testing for Adults after a Disaster
Natural disasters that have killed tens of thousands of people have struck in 6 countries across the globe in just the last decade. Large scale disasters are potentially devastating for older adults whose health is typically in decline, for whom loss of assets and family often means loss of current and future economic support and who have less time to rebuild their lives than their younger counterparts. Studies have examined the impact of disasters on subsequent mortality, morbidity and economic security. Relatively little research examines the longer-term consequences of large-scale disasters on a key marker of the human capital and well-being of older adults: cognitive functioning. The aim of this pilot study is to develop, field and evaluate neuroscience-based assessments of cognitive functioning that measure specific domains of cognitive functioning and emotional control. The assessment will be implemented on touch-screen laptops in order to provide fine-grained and precise measures of accuracy, reactivity and control for each respondent. The pilot will be conducted on a sample of older males and females whose lives were differently devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The project will provide critical information with respect to the feasibility of implementing touch-screen based assessments for older adults and also provide preliminary evidence on whether exposure to a devastating disaster results in premature cognitive aging. The work will complement on-going research on the longer-term health consequences of the tsunami. The pilot will lay the groundwork for an application to NIH to implement the assessments on a larger sample in order to test hypothesis about resilience and recovery among older adults after a disaster.
2016 P30 Pilot Projects
Duke Alzheimer’s Progression Index: Development of Software for Clinical Applications
Recent research on human aging, health, and longevity by us and our colleagues using longitudinal panel study data has progresses to the point of identifying precise phenotypic developmental patterns. The specific topic of the present study is the rate of progression of Alzheiner’s disease (AD) among individuals with AD diagnoses. Findings from application of Grade of Membership (GoM) and Sullivan Life Table (SLT) models to panel data have produced prototypical trajectories of progression for four AD subtypes that can be used to estimate personalized expected trajectories of survival times and development of impaired functioning together with upper and lower bounds of uncertainty. The objective of this project is to write a computer software program based on the estimated GoM and SLT models that uses input data from tests conducted in clinical offices to make personalized estimates for individual patients.