August 1, 2002

Thanks to nearly $650,000 from the National Institute on Aging, UNT Health Science Center will enhance its training of researchers in brain aging issues. James Simpkins, PhD, chair of pharmacology and neuroscience, will oversee the five-year project, â??Predoctoral Training in the Neurobiology of Aging.â?

As baby boomers reach retirement age and diseases related to brain aging become more common, it is even more important to find the causes of aging and to treat and prevent these diseases, Simpkins said. â??This program is a vital part of an overall effort of the health science center to enhance training and research in the causes, treatments and prevention of brain aging and its consequential diseases.â?

In Fort Worth alone, more than 65,000 people are over the age of 65 â?? more than 10 percent of the cityâ??s residents â?? making it a prime place for research about the aging population. The â??grayingâ? population is a worldwide phenomenon. According to the NIA, the worldâ??s 65-and-older population is growing by more than 800,000 people a month. NIA and U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that the average citizen in most industrialized countries has a life expectancy of 76-78 years, and many countries, including Japan and Singapore, have average life expectancies extending into the 80s.

According to the Alzheimerâ??s Disease Educational and Referral Center, as many as four million American suffer from Alzheimerâ??s disease â?? about three percent of men and women between 65 and 74, and nearly half of Americans over the age of 85.

The training program will be conducted through the health science centerâ??s Institute for Aging and Alzheimerâ??s Disease Research, of which Simpkins is the director.

Participants will be selected from doctoral students from the four basic science departments: pharmacology and neuroscience, integrative physiology, molecular biology, and immunology and pathology. DO/PhD students will also be eligible to apply.

Once selected, trainees will participate in several new activities, including a neurobiology of aging course, seminar series and journal club, in addition to the regular requirements of the studentsâ?? principal departments. Each spring, a symposium will feature seminar presentations by the trainees, followed by a discussion of their research or their research plans. The symposium will be open to preceptors, funded trainees and other interested individuals.

â??This training program is ideal for the health science center,â? Simpkins said. â??In 2001 the Texas Legislature granted funding for our Biotechnology Center, which will house the health science centerâ??s aging institute, providing an additional site for training our predoctoral fellows. Our proposed preceptors have a strong record of training undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. They are well funded and well published in the neurobiology of aging.â?

The NIAâ??s mission includes improving the health and well-being of older Americans by supporting and conducting research on the aging process, age-related diseases, and special problems and needs of the elderly.


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