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Current Projects

Aging Muscle

Age-related decline in muscle mass and strength, termed sarcopenia, is a primary contributor to mobility problems, frailty, and institutionalization among older adults. Nearly half of all U.S. elders have low muscle mass or strength and the associated direct healthcare costs are estimated to exceed $18 billion per year. These numbers will only increase as the population of older adults continues to expand and live longer. Yet despite the major public health impact of sarcopenia there is no accepted clinical definition and no effective therapies that can be used to prevent or reverse sarcopenia.

See a list of current aging muscle research projects

Foot Disorders and Foot Biomechanics

Foot pain and certain foot disorders are very common in the general population, with disability related to these foot problems also a frequent occurrence in the community. Population-based studies indicate of the 25% of men and women with foot pain, approximately two-thirds report at least moderate disability. Foot disorders have been shown to have a detrimental impact on health-related quality of life across a spectrum of age-groups. Risk factors include increased age, being female, improperly fitting shoes, obesity and chronic medical conditions such as osteoarthritis and diabetes. Despite the high prevalence and significant impact of foot pain, and structural foot disorders, relatively little is known about the underlying risk factors for development. The initial work on foot disorders has been expanded to investigate biomechanical properties of the foot and to included participants from the Framingham Foot Study and the Johnston County OA Project, including over 3,000 participants. Current work focuses on the goal of understanding the etiology of, and interventions for foot dysfunction, foot biomechanics, and foot osteoarthritis in adults, involving several large collaborations across the world with investigators from the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA.

See a list of current foot disorders and foot pain research projects

Nutritional Program

Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies are associated with major causes of morbidity and mortality including, but not limited to osteoporosis, sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Osteoporosis and sarcopenia are major public health problems in the United States with direct medical costs of approximately $17 billion and $18.5 billion per year respectively. These diseases of the musculoskeletal system lead to falls, related fractures, disability, loss of independence, frailty and even death. Adequate nutrition is important in achieving and maintaining optimal bone mass and preserving muscle strength and physical function with aging. Nutrition has always played a central role in prevention and treatment for chronic diseases, and our work moves these ideas beyond the current boundaries to inform dietary recommendations for older adults. The goal of the Nutrition Program at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research is to focus on prevention, early detection, and intervention of these diseases through nutrition research, training, and education.

See a list of current nutritional epidemiology research projects

Osteoporosis, Fractures and Falls

Osteoporosis is considered a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or half of those aged 50 and older. An estimated 10 million in the U.S. already have the disease. Osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in health care costs in 2005, with that figure expected to increase to $25 billion by 2025.

The Musculoskeletal Research Center takes a broad approach to the study of risk factors and mechanisms influencing the development of osteoporosis, fractures and falls.  The following areas of research involve our Center staff as well as local, national and international collaborations.  The Center is actively involved in observational epidemiology studies as well as clinical trials.

  • Lifestyle risk factors for skeletal health including nutritional factors, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use, and muscle strength
  • Extensive studies of how genes and their products influence the skeleton using large populations from around the world including the Framingham Study
  • Studies to determine if bacteria in the intestines can influence bone health
  • Studies of how medications contribute to osteoporosis, fractures and falls using large claims data from older adults on Medicare as well as nursing home assessments
  • The influence of diseases involving blood vessels, and the contribution of diabetes to bone health, including the connection between blood vessel calcium deposits and the development of osteoporosis and fractures
  • The study of how genetic mutations in the bone marrow can lead to a decrease in bone strength and fractures

See a list of current osteoporosis, fractures and falls research projects

Spine Health in Older Adults

Excessive curvature of the spine, or hyperkyphosis, affects as many as 20-40% of older adults and poses serious problems in performing everyday activities like walking, standing, reaching, and even breathing.  Despite the public health burden of hyperkyphosis, little is known about ways to prevent the occurrence of this common condition or to reduce risk of progression of forward spinal posture with aging.  Identifying the causes and clinical impact of hyperkyphosis may help to develop methods to prevent the disability and disfigurement associated with poor spine health in older adults.  

See a list of current spine health research projects

Systems Genetics, Bioinformatics and Geriomics Research

Musculoskeletal disorders have been shown to have a detrimental impact on health-related quality of life across a spectrum of age-groups. Despite the high prevalence and significant impact of musculoskeletal disorders, relatively little is known about how genes work together with the environment to cause diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Common age-related conditions that are inherited, such as osteoporosis (bone loss), sarcopenia (loss of muscle), muscle weakness, foot disorders and metabolic syndrome (insulin-related obesity) result in disability and frailty. Since these conditions are genetically determined, knowledge about their molecular underpinnings may yield important discoveries related to prevention and treatment.

See a list of current systems genetics, bioinformatics and geriomics research projects

Geriomics in the news:

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/genes-linked-abnormal-bone-density-fracture

https://hms.harvard.edu/news/bone-deep

Visit the Geriomics Website