NIH grant will help researchers tackle aging-related diseases

As the so-called silver tsunami sweeps the country, the demand for ways to treat age-related diseases is growing dramatically.

A $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help UNT Health Science Center train researchers to meet the needs of the country’s aging population.

"This grant is a key to re-supplying the research personnel workforce needed to address challenging biomedical health care issues like Alzheimer’s disease," said Meharvan Singh, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Without research to slow or stop Alzheimer’s, the number of people with the disease is expected to triple from 5 million to 16 million by 2050, he said.

The training grant will provide pre-doctoral students with active, integrated research-based experiences that hone their skills as scientists. The fellowship funds each student’s stipend, travel to conferences and research for two years.

"By equipping the researcher workforce with the skills to tackle age-related neurological diseases, we hope they are able sustain the fight against Alzheimer’s and other diseases," Dr. Singh said. "If we don’t do something to stop Alzheimer’s, it will bring our health care system to its knees."

During the last five-year funding cycle, 38 percent of trainees were minority students, Dr. Singh said.

"That’s huge," he said. "Nationally similar training programs typically have only 10 to 12 percent of their trainees from under-represented groups."

While trainees often pursue a career in research, it’s not their only option. The skills they develop can be applied to other fields such as the pharmaceutical or biotech industries.

Whether students chose a career in research or a related field, the training provided by the grant will help them in achieving success, Dr. Singh said. Some graduates have gone on to accept faculty positions while others have been successful in industry or teaching positions.

"We’re trying to broaden their experience and show them options far beyond a faculty position," Dr. Singh said. "The success of a student can and should be defined by more than a faculty position."

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