Barshop Institute gains NIA award renewals totaling $11 million; funds support translating research discoveries into healthier aging

Senior adult kicking a soccer ball on playground. elderly, aging,

UT Health San Antonio announced today (Sept. 10) that its Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies gained renewal of two highly competitive center grants awarded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The Pepper and Shock grants, which total $11 million over the next five years, support basic research of the biology of aging and translation of discoveries into human application.

The renewals further cement the Barshop Institute as one of America’s premier centers of aging research.

Claude Pepper Center

The Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, named for the late U.S. representative, is a center of excellence aimed at increasing scientific knowledge to develop better ways of maintaining or restoring independence in senior adults. The Barshop Institute’s Pepper Center is entering its sixth year. NIA currently funds 14 Pepper Centers nationwide.

Nathan Shock Center

The Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging provides core services to enhance research of the fundamental biological questions of aging. Services help researchers to study aging animal models, pathology of aging and disease, and drug evaluation, among other areas. The Barshop Institute’s Shock Center is entering its 26th year. NIA currently funds six Shock Centers nationwide.

“Despite the current pandemic, our programs continue in both the laboratories and in our clinical research units,” said Nicolas Musi, MD, director of the Barshop Institute. He is a tenured professor in UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.

Interventions testing and graduate training

During 2019 the Barshop Institute renewed two other critical NIA grants, one that funds testing of pharmacological interventions to improve aging, and the other to train eight graduate students or postdoctoral fellows per year. Those grants, both for five years through 2024, total $9 million.

VA aging center

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2019 gave a highly favorable review of the San Antonio Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) to continue for five more years. The San Antonio GRECC provides approximately $2 million per year in additional research funding to Barshop Institute investigators and allows them to compete for VA funding for aging research conducted in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

Exercise study center

The Barshop Institute also is partnering with The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in an NIA-funded center called the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC). The Texas site, funded by $4.8 million over six years, joins nine other clinical sites exploring the benefits of exercise at the molecular level.

Funding from the NIA, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, is higher at the Barshop Institute than ever before, Dr. Musi said. “That is because we continue to grow our studies in the basic biology of aging, but now we have expanded into the translational and clinical research areas,” he said.

The Barshop Institute is the only aging-intensive research institute in the country to currently have all of the following four designations: the NIA-funded Shock and Pepper centers, a testing site of the NIA-sponsored Interventions Testing Program and the VA-funded GRECC, Dr. Musi said.

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The Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is named for Texas philanthropists Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long. The school is the largest educator of physicians in South Texas, many of whom remain in San Antonio and the region to practice medicine. The school teaches more than 900 students and trains 800 residents each year. As a beacon of multicultural sensitivity, the school annually exceeds the national medical school average of Hispanic students enrolled. The school’s clinical practice is the largest multidisciplinary medical group in South Texas with 850 physicians in more than 100 specialties. The school has a highly productive research enterprise where world leaders in Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, aging, heart disease, kidney disease and many other fields are translating molecular discoveries into new therapies. The Long School of Medicine is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center known for prolific clinical trials and drug development programs, as well as a world-renowned center for aging and related diseases.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also referred to as UT Health San Antonio, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated more than 37,000 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields, and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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