Biomarkers and Genetics
Marcus Institute research is uncovering the science that will shape the future of precision medicine in aging.
Identifying Individuals Most at Risk for Debilitating Age-related Conditions
Precision medicine - care tailored to an individual’s health status and genetic makeup - is likely to shape how health care treatments will be prescribed in the future.
However, to make this kind of personalized care a mainstream reality, researchers must advance the understanding of the biomarkers and genetics of different diseases. That’s where Marcus Institute researchers are having an impact.
At the Marcus Institute, we are studying the human genetics of musculoskeletal phenotypes of aging, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, bone microarchitecture, muscle mass and strength, and frailty.
We’re also working to understand the role Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers play in causing delirium in older adults after a surgery or hospitalization.
The Marcus Institute’s Impact on Biomarkers and Genetics Research
Our researchers have pioneered work that leverages advancements in the field of human genetics to help identify risk factors for age-related conditions and to develop innovative interventions.
- Our researchers determined that genetic pre-screening of fracture risk could reduce the proportion of people who require bone mineral density screening by 41 percent, while maintaining a high ability to correctly determine appropriate treatment for those at risk. Understanding with more accuracy who is at most risk of fracture could reduce unnecessary testing and lower health care expenditures.
- We are using microbiome analysis to identify microbial biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, chronic gastritis, and gastric cancer.
The exploration of biomarkers and genetics has never been more important to improving quality of care for adults as they age. Keep reading to learn about projects that are currently underway.
Find current research projects
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Boston OAIC: A Translational Approach to Function Promoting Therapies
The Boston Older Americans Independence Center (Boston OAIC) is an interdisciplinary research network to foster translational research in function promoting therapies (FPTs) – pharmacologic, physical, nutritional, technological and behavioral interventions that reduce the burden of disabling functional limitations in older adults.
The overarching goal of the OAIC is to strengthen and expand our expertise and scientific resources in the areas of vascular biology, physiology, genetics, epidemiology, and biostatistics, in order to enhance our understanding of the vascular role in age-related physical and cognitive functional decline, design new interventions to ameliorate this decline, and train new investigators skilled in related areas of gerontologic research.
Dr. Lipsitz is a member of the Boston OAIC Leadership and Administrative Core (LAC). He also directs the Research Education Core (REC).
Dr. Kiel is a director of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC).
Dr. Travison is a director the Biostatistical Design and Analysis Core (BDAC).
Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions Pilot Core
This Pilot Core will support a group of innovative and scientifically rigorous pilot studies each year that will enable the Boston Roybal Center to develop and test behavior change- strategies that promote healthy aging, especially for persons at high risk for poor health outcomes. The work of the Core will ultimately lead to interventions to achieve health-promoting behavior change in vulnerable, at-risk populations.
Determinants and Outcomes of Age-related Muscle Loss
This research aims to measure total muscle mass (via the D3-creatine dilution method) in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) and determine its association with genetic and non-genetic risk factors, and their relation with falls, injurious falls, and fractures in two large, community-based cohort of older adults.
Effect of Baseline and Intercurrent Medical Factors on 6-year Cognitive Trajectory: Secondary Analysis of the SAGES Study
This research aims to evaluate the effects of intercurrent factors on cognitive trajectory, along with the moderating effects of delirium and/or ApoE-E4 status, which may serve as markers of brain vulnerability.
Harvard Translational Research in Aging Program (T32)
The specific aims of this training program are: 1) to provide a 2-year training program in basic and clinical aging research for postdoctoral trainees, 2) to bring together scientists across a broad range of basic and clinical research through seminars, didactic sessions, shared laboratory experiences, and collaborative projects.
Healthy Aging Initiative
The Hebrew SeniorLife Healthy Aging Initiative is a longitudinal cohort study of older adults to identify biological and lifestyle predictors of lifelong health and well-being, as well as early biomarkers for disease, and enable development of interventions to promote healthy aging and add life to years.
The initiative leverages the expertise of all scientists at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research.
The Healthy Aging Initiative aims to:
• Identify the factors and predictors of lifelong health and well-being
• Identify early biomarkers for disease and rate of aging
• Determine factors that modify the progression of disease
• Discover risks for specific illnesses
• Enable the development of interventions
• Ultimately expand the initiative to include a diverse population of older adults
The Healthy Aging Initiative will take place at all Hebrew SeniorLife housing sites in 2023 including Jack Satter House, Center Communities of Brookline, NewBridge on the Charles, Orchard Cove, and Simon C. Fireman Community. We will be rotating through all the sites in order to conduct Healthy Aging Initiative assessments in-person, at a location that is convenient for participants.
Home-based Multifocal Transcranial Current Stimulation for Cognitive and Motor Dysfunction in Dementia
This research aims to complete a phase II, randomized, sham-controlled, double-blinded, parallel-arm trial to compare the effects of two forms of transcranial current stimulation to two different brain regions tACS-AG and tDCS-PFC versus sham in older adults with mild dementia to assess the effects of memory and executive functions depending on blood, spinal fluid, and neurophysiologic biomarker status.
Identifying Osteoporosis Genes by Whole Genome Sequencing and Functional Validation in Zebra Fish
This research aims to identify potential causal-variants and their targeted genes via fine-mapping on previously reported GWAS loci of osteoporosis and identify potential targets for osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures therapy.
Mechanistic Effects of Combined Testosterone Therapy and Exercise on Axial Bone and Muscle Post-Hip Fracture
This research aims to investigate the hormonal mechanisms of action for exercise and transdermal testosterone on the skeleton and muscle in a parent study of frail older women during recovery from hip fracture.