The Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine is committed to developing multidisciplinary and translational initiatives in aging research and training to advance the state of knowledge regarding the medical problems of the older adult. Nearly 250 faculty from throughout the Medical School and the University participate in aging research totaling more than $75 million in NIH research support annually.
Learn More About Our Research
The Geriatrics Center and Institute of Gerontology receive more grant support from the National Institute on Aging than any other institution in the country. Drawing on the strength and breadth of our faculty expertise, the Geriatrics Center and Institute of Gerontology support research in a broad range of areas related to aging. Research is being conducted across many disciplines in basic biomedical science, translational and clinical research, behavior and social studies, and health services delivery.
These investigations share a common goal of enhancing the independence of older adults by improving the understanding of the aging process and related health outcomes. To this end, research programs at the Geriatrics Center and Institute of Gerontology focus on key programmatic areas:
Basic research studies are conducted at the cellular and molecular level by a team of approximately 70 faculty members, technicians, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students. Their work examines the effects of aging on cell function, molecular pathways, and late-life diseases in human and animal model systems.
Biomechanics and Mobility
The Biomechanics Research Laboratory and Mobility Research Center study performance, mobility assessment, bladder and pelvic muscle coordination, and other aspects of biomechanical and musculoskeletal function, and provide quantitative biomechanical assessment to define positive outcomes in quantitative terms.
A large body of work is being conducted by Institute of Gerontology faculty to better understand the risk factors and outcomes of diseases and conditions that affect older adults. Data from large population-based studies (such as the NIA-funded Health and Retirement Study and administrative datasets (such as Medicare and Medicaid) are being used for these studies.
The goal of these studies is to identify factors that might reduce the risk for chronic diseases and geriatric conditions in older adults, and improve the delivery, affordability, and quality of long-term care in both home-based and institutional settings. Researchers are working to assess care delivery in older populations to develop model approaches for delivering the most cost-effective care to the growing number of older adults.
Clinical and Translational Research
Translational research links basic and clinical investigations on aging and common health problems of older adults. Faculty are engaged in laboratory and clinical studies of a number of aging related diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, congestive heart failure, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurologic disorders. Research is also being conducted on a variety of age-related conditions including frailty, infections, and multiple chronic conditions to develop new approaches and therapies for treatment.
Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center
The overall goals of the U-M Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center is to increase scientific knowledge that allows older adults to maintain or restore their independence, and to train future academic leaders in geriatrics. Drawing on the large base of research underway in the fields of geriatrics and gerontology at the University of Michigan, the U-M Pepper Center fosters collaborative, multidisciplinary research to integrate basic science, clinical science, and health services research relevant to the health care problems of older adults.
Ann Arbor VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center
The Division of Geriatric & Palliative Medicine and the U-M Geriatrics Center are closely associated with the VA Ann Arbor through the Ann Arbor VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC). Goals of the Center include:
- Conduct a comprehensive, aged-veteran relevant research program that includes research in biogerontology, neurodegenerative disease, age- and disease-related changes, clinical epidemiology, and health care research.
- Transmit knowledge to health professionals who provide care to aged veterans.
- Develop and evaluate model multidisciplinary geriatric care programs.
Mobility Research Center
The Mobility Research Center (MRC), directed by Neil Alexander, MD, MS, houses studies of mobility and physical activity assessment and enhancement in older adults. The MRC leverages expertise from a number of disciplines (including geriatrics, biomechanics, exercise physiology, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and neuropsychology) to examine the mechanisms underlying mobility problems and develop interventions to address these problems. Goals of the Center include:
- Identify the mechanisms underlying impaired mobility task performance
- Develop methods to measure impaired mobility performance
- Develop interventions to reduce impairments in mobility performance
- Provide an environment to facilitate interdisciplinary research
- Publicize methods of evaluation and intervention to health care professionals and caregivers
An important mission of the MRC, which is part of the U-M Geriatrics Center, is to serve as a center for undergraduate, graduate, and junior faculty trainees.
Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research
The U-M Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research is part of a consortium that is made up of nine distinguished research universities whose faculty members are making progress in understanding the biology of aging, and exploring ways to translate our growing knowledge about the aging process to benefit people as they grow older. The Center has two components:
- Model Systems Unit that screens chemical compounds to find agents that extend healthy lifespan in worms and flies or that increase resistance of cultured cells to stress.
- Core Facility for Slow-Aging Mice which produces mice that have been treated with drugs already known to increase lifespan, and then collaborates with expert biologists to learn more about how these drugs work to slow disease and extend lifespan.
Center to Accelerate Population Research in Alzheimer's
The Center to Accelerate Population Research in Alzheimer's (CAPRA) focuses on science that informs government and health care organization actions to address the negative impacts of dementia on the health and financial well-being of individuals and the population.
Research Training in Biogerontology (T32)
Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Training Program
Scott Pletcher, PhD, Director
The U-M Geriatrics Center’s research training program emphasizes studies of the biology of the aging process and its relation to human diseases of late life. Areas of particular interest include:
- Genetic control of aging in mice
- Effects of aging on muscle structure and function
- Regulation of balance, glucose homeostasis and blood pressure in aging people
- Effects of aging on bone, brain and stem cell function
- Genetic studies of aging in fruit flies and C. elegans
Supported by a training grant from the National Institute on Aging, research fellowships provide stipends and related expenses to qualified applicants. The program offers:
- Exposure to the traditional rigors of disciplinary research training
- Sensitization to the multidimensional nature of the process of biological aging
- Exposure to affiliated faculty from various disciplines
- Seminar series, a journal club, poster sessions and annual research retreats
Required experiences include:
- Research project
- Research seminar series
- Participation in scientific meetings
- Bi-weekly trainee meetings
- Program for the Education and Evaluation in Responsible Research and Scholarship
Research Training Program Information for Applicants
The Geriatrics Center supervises an NIA-funded training program, "Research Training in Biogerontology" (formerly known as "Biomedical Research Training in the Biology of Aging"). The program provides training and financial support for predoctoral and postdoctoral students committed to laboratory studies of the cellular and molecular basis of aging and the links between the aging process and late-life illnesses and disabilities. The 21 faculty members who comprise the preceptor group come from a wide range of departments and divisions at the University of Michigan, including Internal Medicine, Pathology, Kinesiology, Orthopedic Surgery, Neurology, Human Genetics, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Urology, and Biological Chemistry. The training program provides students with valuable training experiences, including a guest seminar series, trainee meetings, and assistance with preparation for national meeting presentations. The central activity of all trainees is hands-on laboratory work on individual research projects under the supervision of their chosen mentor.
A training grant supported by the National Institute on Aging, active since 1984, supports both pre and post-doctoral students with stipend rates based on current NIH guidelines. In addition, most of our laboratories work closely with our two major core grants, the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (directed by Jeffrey Halter) and the Nathan Shock Center of Excellence for the Biology of Aging (directed by Richard Miller). Core facilities include specialized laboratories and consultant services in muscle biology, production and analysis of transgenic and mutant mice, biostatistics and experimental design, gene expression analysis, development of new animal models, use of human subjects, comparative biology of aging, and genetic studies in invertebrate models.
Although program activities are open to all students and postdoctoral fellows who are interested in aging research, financial support can also be provided to six predoctoral and three postdoctoral fellows each year. Predoctoral applicants are typically supported for two years after they achieve candidacy in their home department; postdoctoral fellows typically receive two years of financial support. Applications are evaluated for academic excellence, commitment of mentor and trainee to biogerontology, and likelihood that the project will produce exciting research results. Because of Federal regulations, only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for support from the NIA training grant.
Individuals interested in applying for support from the Aging Training Program should forward a letter of interest, a letter of support from the mentor, a one-page description of the proposed research project, a complete curriculum vitae and bibliography, graduate transcript, and at least two additional letters of recommendation to:
109 Zina Pitcher Place
University of Michigan Geriatrics Center
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2200
Research Education Core (REC)
The Research Education Core (REC), a component of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), is funded by the National Institute on Aging. The primary goal of the REC is to recruit, select, support, mentor, and train junior faculty to become independent investigators in aging-related research and academic leaders in geriatrics and gerontology within their respective disciplines. The REC focuses on stimulating the translation between basic and clinical research across the spectrum of its training activities, including the annual research education core retreat. To this end, it serves a critical function in supporting the overall OAIC focus, by training the next generation of investigators whose research will lead to an improved understanding of the predictors and modulators of the aging phenotype.
Institute of Gerontology
In 1965, the State of Michigan took a landmark step in advancing gerontology as a field of inquiry in the United States by creating the nation's first state-funded center on aging at the University of Michigan. The Institute of Gerontology (IoG) grew into a premier center for aging research and remains at the forefront of the field.
Today, the Institute of Gerontology, led by Raymond Yung, MB, ChB, is one of the oldest and most highly regarded academic programs of its kind. Operating as the research arm of the U-M Geriatrics Center, the IoG is a major resource in studying the aging process and is home to world-class faculty.
Because of the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research of the IoG, faculty members are drawn from many areas throughout the University and the Medical School. In addition to IoG core faculty, many associated faculty participate as members of the IoG, conducting cutting-edge research to advance the field of aging.
The IoG and the University of Michigan continue to lead the way in attracting and maintaining federal research dollars. The IoG has a remarkably broad range of intellectual interests, is home to two National Institutes of Aging-funded center grants, and its faculty's research productivity is second to none. In the future, as in the past, innovation will be the benchmark of the University of Michigan record in gerontology.