This Core, led by Michael Lichtenstein, MD, MSc and Peter Hornsby, PhD, promotes the career development of early-stage investigators. Accessing the research education, training and career development resources of UTHSCSA’s Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) and the robust and unique aging research resources and research education programs in South Texas, our Mentored Research Career Development (San Antonio OAIC RL5) Scholars are trained in the mechanisms that govern the aging process, and in the design of pre-clinical and clinical interventions for diseases and conditions that affect older adults. All San Antonio OAIC RL5 Scholars will have research projects, mentoring teams, and specific short- and long-term career goals. The RCDC also will sponsor various training and mentoring research experiences. UT Health and its partners offer a rich pool of available trainees and mentors, additional sources of career funding, laboratories, and multiple opportunities for didactic coursework. San Antonio OAIC RL5 scholars also are eligible for pilot support from the PESC.
We plan to support cohorts of up to two San Antonio OAIC RL5 Scholars annually for up to two years per award. Leveraging the research education, training and career development resources of IIMS and the robust and unique aging research resources and research education programs in South Texas, the program enhances the clinical and translational research knowledge and experience of basic scientists, develop mechanistic research skills of clinical investigators, and facilitate collaborations among basic and clinical researchers.
San Antonio OAIC RL5 scholar applicants should be postdoctoral fellows transitioning to full-time academic faculty appointment or junior faculty members with a graduate or professional degree (e.g., M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., R.N., M.P.H., Pharm.D.) All applicants must display evidence of high motivation, a pro-active work style, strong academic achievement and scholarship. Other eligibility requirements include:
Program Entry: Scholars will be assessed to determine the competencies needed to move them forward to the next phase of their translational research career focused on aging. Each Scholar will be placed in a multidisciplinary mentoring team, essential because Scholars must work with scientists making fundamental discoveries and with clinicians who provide for the needs of older adults with multiple co-morbidities. Milestones for each scholar will be developed that comprise the steps in his or her research project.
Program Progress: During the program, each multi-disciplinary Mentoring Committee will monitor Scholar progress at quarterly group meetings. Progress will be measured and documented through written semi-annual self-evaluations with input from the primary mentor and committee.
Program Transition: Across the program there will be a focus on honing grant-seeking skills (e.g., individual career development awards), with activities including the KL2 Seminar Series – ‘Focus on Research Grant Excellence’ (FORGE) and Grant Writing with New Investigators (GWNI). As Scholars complete the program, each will be assisted with the next step of their career.
Core Activities: In addition to the IIMS/San Antonio OAIC RL5 Program curriculum, translational aging research focused training includes: ‘Introduction to Translational Science’ — provides a broad perspective on translational science processes from basic science discovery to population implementation and policy research; a clinical practicum with a San Antonio OAIC faculty member to learn principles of Geriatrics Assessment and measurement (especially important for individuals without prior geriatrics training); ‘Pharmacotherapy of Special Populations’ section related to older adults will provide instruction on drug utilization, impact, and evaluation.
Miranda E. Orr, PhD
Research project: The Effects of NAD Modulation on Cognitive Aging
Miranda E. Orr, PhD is an Instructor at UT Health San Antonio in the Department of Pharmacology and Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. Dr. Orr’s research focuses on cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. She earned her PhD in Neuroscience through a joint dissertation between Montana State University and the McLaughlin Research Institute for Biomedical Research, a mouse genetics facility renowned for their neurodegenerative disease mouse models. As a predoctoral student, she was a recipient of an NIA F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellowship, National Research Service Award and NIH COBRE Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience Award. Her work provided fundamental evidence for the utility of “patient derived stem cells” to study Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. In 2012, Dr. Orr earned a postdoctoral position on the NIA T32 Biology of Aging Training Grant at the Barshop Institute. She gained expertise in testing cognitive behavior and pharmacological interventions in Alzheimer’s disease mouse models, and investigated mechanisms of healthy brain aging using the longest-lived rodent known, the naked mole-rat. In 2016, Dr. Orr joined the UT Health faculty. She recently received two awards, one for basic research: Nathan Shock Transformative Pilot Award in Basic Aging, and one for translational research: Claude D. Pepper Center Pilot Award. Dr. Orr is using these resources to apply discoveries in basic science to human studies, which is the foundation of her RL5 project. Preclinical research has demonstrated that sustained NAD(+) levels is critical for the maintenance of healthy brain aging and overall lifespan in animal models. During her RL5, Dr. Orr will test whether therapies that boost NAD(+) levels can enhance cognition in healthy older individuals and those with cognitive impairment. Through this program, Dr. Orr will continue her pursuit in attaining her long-term career goal: find interventions that improve brain aging, and ultimately discover effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
Lisa Kilpela, PhD
Research project: Healthy Weight Intervention Among Aging Women: An Investigation into the Role of Aging on Intervention Efficacy
Lisa Smith Kilpela, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UT Health San Antonio, and is a member of the Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH) Center. Dr. Kilpela is a licensed clinical psychologist, and she received her PhD in clinical psychology from Emory University. She completed her clinical internship at Duke University Medical Center and her postdoctoral research fellowship at Trinity University on a multi-site R01 investigating eating disorders prevention in athletes. Dr. Kilpela’s research focuses on the assessment, prevention, and treatment of eating and weight disorders. Her previous research includes investigation into the base rates and negative health consequences of dysregulated eating behaviors and body dissatisfaction in women across the lifespan. Dr. Kilpela is particularly interested in the evaluation and treatment of dysregulated eating and weight control behaviors in older populations, as well as negative health and wellness outcomes associated with these behaviors. The primary objectives of her project are to: 1) identify the unique psychological, behavioral, and endocrinological characteristics associated with dysregulated eating and weight control behaviors in older women, including health/wellness correlates (e.g., sleep, exercise, mood, quality of life); and 2) investigate the efficacy, acceptability, and feasibility of a behavioral intervention for dysregulated eating among older women.
Dr. Kilpela’s selection as a San Antonio OAIC scholar reflects the Center’s dedication to the identification of efficacious and effective interventions to improve the health, wellness, and longevity of older Americans.
Corinna Ross, PhD
Research Project: The effects of chronic rapamycin treatment on motor and cognitive functionin a nonhuman primate model of aging, common marmosets.
Dr. Ross is a basic scientist with a career trajectory that is leading to an emphasis on translational research, with a clear connection to clinical research in aging. Her career development plan reflects this position. Her project continues her ongoing work and moves more centrally to the theme of emphasis of the San Antonio OAIC.
The work builds on the observations made earlier in mice, that a pure pharmaceutical, rapamycin, can reproducibly extend lifespan. This seminal observation set in motion a vast array of investigations in many labs. In particular, it became evident that it would be essential to study rapamycin in nonhuman primates. Whatever the fundamental mechanisms of action of rapamycin, it will be necessary to show that these mechanisms work in primates. In primates investigational studies can be done that are impossible in humans. Therefore there is a clear path from basic observations on standard lab model organisms via nonhuman primates to human subjects.
Sukeshi Patel, MD
Research Project: A study to evaluate proteostasis modulation with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors as potential aging modulating agents in cancer patients.
In this project, Dr. Patel is studying the action of a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor on indicators of the rate of aging in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.
Dr. Patel represents an important developing area at UTHSCSA, geriatric oncology. While cancer strikes the older population disproportionately, most basic and clinical studies in cancer research are of younger individuals. It is vital to understand the changing biology of cancer in older individuals and to appreciate how these changes impact the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies. Moreover, an emerging concept is that drugs used to treat cancer may act as “gerontogens” – named by analogy with carcinogens, to indicate compounds that can actually cause aging, or change the basic rate of aging.
Dr. Patel’s selection as a OAIC KL2 scholar recognizes that clinician-scientists will be needed to advance the field of geriatric oncology by bridging the gap between basic biology (of both aging and cancer) and the clinical approach to the treatment of cancer in the older individual. Understanding the full potential of the action of chemotherapeutic drugs will need this breadth of understanding.
Kelly Reveles, PharmD, PhD
Research Project: Comparison of gut microbiota composition and inflammation in elderly proton pump inhibitor-users and non-users.
Dr. Reveles’ selection as a San Antonio OAIC Scholar reflects the focus of the Center on pharmacological interventions as modulators of human biology that may impact the rate of aging. The unique aspect of this focus is the potential modulation of aging via the gut microbiota. The importance of the microbiota in all aspects of human biology is now being fully realized. Interactions between gut bacteria and diet constituents (including pharmaceuticals) influence many aspects of the immune, endocrine and other physiological systems. Simultaneously these physiological systems can regulate the microbiota. The extensive interactions between the microbiota and the human body are beginning to be realized, but the full extent remains to be discovered. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that we will find that the microbiota actually affect fundamental aging processes – indeed, in C. elegans there is already evidence that this occurs.
The second focus of Dr. Reveles’ research is the class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, PPIs, available over the counter and consumed in huge amounts by Americans. The increasing use of these drugs is fueled by the prevailing assumption that long term use of these drugs is safe. However, the lack of stomach acid secondarily affects the colonization of the small intestine by bacteria and subsequently affects the much larger number of bacteria in the colon. The long-term consequences are unknown. Changes to a less favorable mix of species resulting from the change in stomach acid could conceivably have multiple long term adverse effects that involve fundamental aging processes, as Dr. Reveles describes in her project.