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Pepper Center to Promote Independence for Elderly

Boston Medical Center receives $5.8 million for aging research

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Boston Medical Center has received a $5,807,469 grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to fund the Boston Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. The new center at BMC is one of only 11 Pepper Centers in the country. The NIA grant is over five years.

The Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center Program was established in honor of the late Claude D. Pepper, a U.S. senator from Florida. During his five decades of public service, Pepper was an advocate for the health and well-being of older adults, and he built a legacy of ongoing research support to promote independence, function, and quality of life in the elderly.

Currently there are no drugs or therapies for older people who become frail and are unable to get around, according to Shalender Bhasin, chief of endocrinology, diabetes, and nutrition at Boston Medical Center, a School of Medicine professor of medicine, and the principal investigator of the Pepper Center grant.

“Physical ailments and social isolation take the elderly on a downward spiral in which they lose their independence and become a burden to society,” says Bhasin. “The grant will foster collaborations among our multidisciplinary team of investigators to promote physical function mobility and cover the entire spectrum of discovery from target identification to clinical trials and function promoting anabolic therapies.”

BMC researchers are currently developing drugs that will target muscle proteins to increase muscle mass and prevent walking intolerance in older people, allowing them to maintain or restore their independence. Researchers will also conduct collaborative, interdisciplinary research to address other elderly ailments, such as osteoporosis, hip fractures, and type one diabetes.

“We are very pleased to receive this National Institute on Aging grant and are very honored to be the only Pepper Center in Massachusetts,” says Elaine Ullian, BMC president and CEO. “This grant provides BMC researchers with additional resources to expand on rehabilitation strategies to improve the lifestyle of older Americans.”

The Pepper Center’s facilities are based in the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health and College of Engineering and Boston Medical Center. Since establishing the Pepper Center, BMC investigators have established strong research collaborations with scientists at Tufts Medical Center and the Joslin Diabetes Center.

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