Researchers at UC San Diego scored a multi-million-dollar contract to study the resilience of aging adults following stress events like fall-related injuries. Professor and Dr. Anthony Molina, PhD, is leading the team, which was awarded funding through a contract with Wellcome Leap’s $60 million Dynamic Resilience program.
“Our overarching goal is to understand universal resilience – which underlies multiple aspects of healthy aging, including our ability to bounce back after a clinical event or physiological stress,” Dr. Molina said. “We are delighted to play and integral role in this international effort to promote healthy longevity on a global scale.”
Wellcome Leap is a global network with dedicated programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over five to ten years. The resilience program — jointly funded with Temasek Trust — seeks to identify and validate markers of health resilience that can be used to develop preventative interventions for those who are at a higher risk of deteriorating after suffering from a stress event.
According to Wellcome Leap, reducing frailty progression by 25% has the potential to prevent 71,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths annually from falls alone in the U.S., and benefit 87 million older adults around the globe. “We all share a desire to be healthy and live independently to our last breath. To do so, we will need to be able to measure, support, and maintain robust levels of dynamic resilience,” said Regina E. Dugan, Wellcome Leap CEO.
Dr. Molina, who is the Research Chief in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care and the Scientific Director of the Stein Institute for Research on Aging, leads one of 14 teams. He and his team will examine the role of mitochondrial function in healthy aging and how it affects certain age-related conditions. The local team is only one in the U.S. selected to receive resilience program funding from Wellcome Leap. Together, they’ll collaborate with researchers in other countries, including Chile, Kenya and Singapore.
Enabled by ‘Valuable Resources’
Researchers will also leverage information from UC San Diego’s Geriatrics Emergency Department and UC San Diego’s biospecimen and data repositories, including the Rancho Bernardo Study (RBS). For more than 50 years, UC San Diego’s RBS has been tracking the health of aging adults. “We are grateful to RBS participants for the availability of data about long term health trajectories and the foresight of researchers who have made biospecimen collections available to researchers such as ourselves,” added Dr. Molina. “These valuable resources enable us to apply cutting edge analytical approaches to identify the biological factors associated with long-term health trajectories.”
He and his colleagues will initially focus on fall-related injuries, before potentially widening the study to include other major stress events, like infections. “When considering the significant events that are most likely to negatively impact the functional independence of older adults, the first thing that comes to mind is falls. Almost all hip fractures in this population occur because of falls,” he shared. “We’re trying to understand what differentiates those who recover and maintain independence, from those who are at risk of falling again and sustaining debilitating injuries”.
The study has already been launched, with the first set of results anticipated within a year. A second set of results is expected within three years. “Aging is something that we universally care about,” he added. “I think it’s critical to focus on this research.”
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