By Lisa Brown
Times Higher Education puts BU 22nd among schools worldwide
For the second year in a row, BU’s health and medical education programs have been named among the top 100 worldwide in the 2013–2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, conducted by Thomson Reuters. The influential survey ranked BU 22nd for clinical, preclinical, and health programs, an advancement from 29th place last year.
The ranking applies to the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, and the School of Social Work, according to Thomson Reuters.
The Times Higher Education (formerly part of the Times of London) uses 13 criteria to compile the ratings. The criteria are grouped in five areas—teaching, international outlook, research, research income from industry, and citations of faculty research. “While BU received an overall score of 74.8 out of 100, our citation of research influence score is 95.8, highlighting the widespread impact of our research,” says Karen Antman, dean of MED, provost of the Medical Campus, and the John Sandson Professor of Health Sciences.
“I join my fellow deans from the Medical Campus in celebrating the high ranking that Boston University received,” says Jeffrey W. Hutter, dean of the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “I am particularly proud of the role that the faculty and staff of the School of Dental Medicine played in achieving the Times ranking.”
The rankings examine research influence by tracking the number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally. This year Thomson Reuters examined more than 50 million citations to 6 million journal articles published over five years in assembling the rankings, according to the Times website.
“This recognition is gratifying and is made possible by the hard work, talent, and dedication that you and all in our educational community contribute to the University’s health sciences programs,” Antman wrote in an email to MED, SPH, SDM, SAR, and SSW faculty and staff.
This BU Today story was written by Susan Seligson. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Dental Association (ADA) announced on Nov. 4, that Dr. Jonathan Shenkin of Freeport, Maine, clinical associate professor at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM), was elected ADA second vice president.
ADA vice president is a two-year position, with two VPs (first and second) serving at any time. In his second year next year, Dr. Shenkin will become first VP. Both VPs and the president-elect serve as voting members of the Board of Trustees, along with 17 others.
The election makes Shenkin the youngest member of the Board. The ADA House of Delegates also appointed Dr. Maxine Feinberg president-elect.
Dr. Shenkin is a faculty member in both the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research at GSDM. He joined Boston University in 2003.
“On behalf of all of us at GSDM, I extend my congratulations to Dr. Shenkin for this significant accomplishment,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “We look forward to seeing how he will continue to positively influence the dental profession in this new role.”
Dr. Shenkin is well-known as an ADA spokesperson for pediatric dentistry topics. He regularly comments on public policy issues related to tobacco, unhealthy beverages, and a broad range of dental topics.
Dr. Shenkin’s early policy efforts centered on reducing the availability of soda in public schools. He was appointed to the Maine Legislature’s Commission to Study Public Health, and served as the chair of the subcommittee on Children, Nutrition and Schools. This role led to an invitation by the Institute of Medicine to serve on an expert panel on school nutrition.
Later policy efforts focused on banning smoking in cars with children, leading to the successful effort to ban smoking in cars in Bangor, Maine, the first city in the nation to do so. He later led the successful effort on the state level in Maine.
His current interests are in clinical decision making by pediatric and general dentists. He continues his long term interest in reducing the dental disease risk among young children.
Dr. Shenkin served as chair of the ADA’s Council on Communications for 2012–13 and was a longtime consultant on nutrition and community issues to the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. He has been an ADA member for 21 years. He is a past president of the Maine Dental Association and served on the board of the Maine Dental Political Action Committee.
He maintains private practices in pediatric dentistry in Augusta, and Waterville, Maine.
He is a member of the of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists, and the Academy of General Dentistry.
He earned a DDS from Columbia University in New York. He also received an MPH and Certificate in Health Care Finance and Management from Johns Hopkins University and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Iowa. He completed a dental public health residency at the National Institutes of Health.
Submitted by GSDM Communications.
Despite current guidelines that recommend newly diagnosed high-cholesterol patients have a TSH blood test done to make sure they do not have hypothyroidism, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have found that only about half of these patients were screened for thyroid dysfunction. The findings, which appear online in JAMA Internal Medicine, show the current guidelines may be underutilized.
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is a relatively common cause of high cholesterol. Between one and 13 percent of patients with high cholesterol are thought to have hypothyroidism. Current guidelines recommend that patients newly diagnosed with high cholesterol should have a TSH blood test done to make sure they do not have hypothyroidism.
Researchers reviewed the records of adult patients with a new diagnosis of high cholesterol between 2003-2011 and found 8,795 patients with new high cholesterol diagnoses within the study period. Thyroid function was checked within six months of the high cholesterol diagnosis in 49.5 percent of the patients. Of those, 226 (5.2 percent) had an elevated TSH level consistent with hypothyroidism. Among the patients with hypothyroidism, 114 (50.7 percent) were treated with thyroid hormone. Only 25 percent of the patients treated with thyroid hormone (versus. 44 percent of the patients not treated with thyroid hormone) were also prescribed a lipid-lowering medication within one year.
“We performed this retrospective study to see how many patients with newly diagnosed high cholesterol were having their thyroid function checked and found that only about half of these patients were screened for thyroid dysfunction, despite current guidelines,” explained corresponding author Elizabeth Pearce, MD, associate professor of medicine at BUSM and endocrinologist at BMC. “We conclude that the low rate of thyroid function testing in patients with new-onset hyperlipidemia demonstrates the need for greater awareness of current guidelines.”
According to Pearce, future studies are needed to better understand reasons for low thyroid function screening rates among patients with high cholesterol, and the cost-effectiveness of hypothyroidism screening and treatment for patients with high cholesterol.
Funding for this study was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health (7K23HD068552).
At helm 21 years, led school to national prominence
University President Robert A. Brown has informed School of Public Health faculty and staff in a letter sent yesterday that Robert Meenan has decided to step down after more than two decades as dean of SPH.
A rheumatologist with master’s degrees in public health and in business administration, Meenan (MED’72, GSM’89), who is also a School of Medicine professor of medicine, oversaw a period of growing student enrollment, expanding research support, and rising national rankings during his tenure as dean. He also oversaw the establishment of SPH’s international health department and the BU-wide Center for Global Health and Development, based at SPH. Under his leadership, the school also took on a more prominent role in the greater Boston community.
Meenan will remain as dean until a successor is in place, after which he’ll move to the Charles River Campus as a special assistant to Brown.
“This is the right time for me to make this change,” says Meenan, who, with 21 years on the job, is the longest serving dean of a school of public health nationwide and the longest serving dean at BU. “With the recent reaccreditation of the school and the timing of the school’s planning process, my stepping down now will give the school and the University time to search for my successor before we have to tackle the next round of internal and external reviews.”
“In his more than two decades as dean, Bob Meenan has led the transformation of SPH into one of the preeminent schools of public health in the nation,” says Brown. “He has nurtured vibrant educational and research programs, and he has built and supported an outstanding faculty. His legacy will be found in the generations of SPH graduates who are helping to transform public health and health care delivery around the world.”
Meenan “has led a succession of strategic plans and their implementation and evaluation, providing a firm base of goals and priorities,” says Karen Antman, provost of the Medical Campus and dean of the School of Medicine. Under Meenan’s watch, she points out, SPH has moved up steadily in the US News and World Report rankings, from 15th to 13th to, most recently, 11th, even as new schools of public health have been established at competitive universities.
“I feel like I have an opportunity to go out on top,” Meenan says. “We have reached an all-time high in student enrollments, our research program continues to grow despite a very difficult funding environment, and we recently achieved a record budget surplus that can be used going forward to support strategic initiatives and space improvements.” He notes that the school has also passed the 60 percent mark of its goal for the Campaign for Boston University. “I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”
It was under Meenan that the department of international health was created. Founded and chaired for many years by the late William Bicknell, the department now offers one of the most popular concentrations in the school’s Master of Public Health program. The other concentrations are biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, health policy and management, maternal and child health, social and behavior sciences, and health law, bioethics, and human rights.
“Bob Meenan further expanded international health at SPH by recruiting Jonathon Simon and his colleagues from Harvard School of Public Health 10 years ago,” says Antman. Simon, who is the inaugural Robert A. Knox Professor, leads the Center for Global Health and Development. “Bob Meenan has very ably managed finances at SPH, skillfully steering the school through an expensive space expansion into the Crosstown building, and more recently, through the financial challenges of sequestration and cuts in federal funding for research,” Antman says.
Initial steps to launch a national search process for a new SPH dean, led by Antman and Jean Morrison, University provost, are expected in the coming weeks.
This BU Today story was written by Susan Seligson. She can be reached at email@example.com.
On Oct. 24, the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) held the inaugural Gerald M. Kramer Symposium on Periodontology, led by Dr. Serge Dibart, Chair of the Department of Periodontology and Director of the Advanced Specialty Education Program in Periodontics. Former colleagues, students, and acquaintances of Dr. Kramer along with other alumni, clinicians, faculty, and residents gathered in Keefer Auditorium for a day of reminiscence, commemoration, and learning. The day highlighted both the lasting impact that Kramer had on virtually everyone he came into contact with and his contribution to the strength and character of the GSDM periodontics department.
Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter addressed the attendees, “I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to me that our Kramer era alumni have returned to the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, at long last. You are and always have been important members of the alumni family and it is deeply gratifying to me to be your host for this important symposium, in honor of Dr. Kramer.”
Dean Hutter continued, “It is thrilling for all of us to host the first Kramer Symposium during Alumni Weekend 2013 and I trust that, with the support of our periodontic alumni, this will become an enduring tradition.”
Dean Hutter commended Dr. Dibart for all of his efforts in planning the symposium. He also thanked each of the featured moderators and speakers. He said to them: “Your presence and participation today truly honors your mentor and I know he would be proud to see you onstage today.”
Before introducing the first speaker, morning moderator Dr. Luigi Montesani reflected on the characteristics that made Dr. Kramer such an exceptional person. Even as only an acquaintance, Montesani was tremendously impressed by Dr. Kramer’s excellence and passion. Montesani noted that, in everyone’s experience with Kramer, “perfection was the common denominator.”
The first lecture was presented by Myron Nevins PERIO 67, who practiced and taught with Kramer for 30 years and co-edited with him the Journal of Periodontics & Restorative Dentistry. Dr. Nevins interwove reminiscences of his work with Kramer with clinical discussions in his lecture “Long-term treatment regimens for the periodontally compromised patient.” Nevins supported Montesani’s observation of Kramer’s continuous quest for perfection, and pointed out, however, that while Kramer viewed perfection as a goal, he himself never saw a case without a flaw. Dr. Nevins identified this as a part of his excellence and dedication to lifelong learning.
Dr. Nevins shared with the audience many of the valuable lessons imparted to him by Dr. Kramer. In his clinical discussion, Nevins revealed the great care that he and Kramer had for their patients as people. Before advising a treatment plan for a patient, he learned to ask, “What would I do if it were my tooth?”
The overarching message imparted by Dr. Nevins was the importance of long-term dedication to a patient’s total well-being. As Nevins put it, he and Kramer treated patients as if they were running a marathon with them, rather than a sprint. “That is,” said Nevins, “they ended up ‘marrying’ their patients.” He cited one patient who, when she began treatment, had children in prep school. Later, when he saw this patient, those children had children in prep school. “The hallmark of the BU program,” said Dr. Nevins, “was setting up a case for long-term care.”
Burton Langer PERIO 66 also had many positive memories of Dr. Kramer to share over his lecture, “Soft and hard tissue reconstruction: from teeth to implants.” He spoke of Kramer as a “role model in therapy” and likened his hands during clinical work to delicately flitting butterflies. He reiterated Kramer’s care for the patient as a person. “The BU mantra is to not only provide therapy, but to treat the individual.”
Paul Fugazzotto PERIO 81 presented a lecture, “Dr. Kramer: A teacher, a clinician, a philosopher and a paradigm for life.” He conveyed the deep impact that Kramer’s teaching had had on him. Dr. Fugazzotto relayed one of a number of memorable words of wisdom that he has retained from his time with Kramer: “Our definition of success is limited by our perception of possibilities.”
After lunch, the afternoon moderator Phil Melnick PERIO 81 said to the residents in the audience, “This is a day you’ll talk about later in life.” Dr. Melnick likened the residents to “progenitor cells”: The residents would model themselves after role models in their field, such as Dr. Kramer, and carry on the GSDM tradition of excellence.
Reminiscences of Kramer continued through the afternoon lectures. The lectures were “Peri-implantitis: What do we know and can we treat it?” presented by Richard Lazzara PERIO 76; “LANAP, clinical outcomes in private practice after 4 years,” presented by Thomas Mone PERIO 77; and “Kramer’s inspiration—Thinking out of the box,” presented by Paul Ricchetti PERIO 78.
Following the lectures, the attendees were welcomed to share additional memories of Dr. Kramer.
Gordon L. Pattison PERIO 75 gave a moving reminiscence. He said that he was eternally grateful to Dr. Kramer as someone who had changed his life. “Despite his elegant exterior, he was a very humble man and the kindest man I’ve ever met,” Pattison said. He described a time when he had been feeling down and Dr. Kramer noticed, took him aside, and cheered him up. Pattison described Kramer as a father figure and said, “In fact, I think we were all his children.”
Dr. Montesani concluded the reminiscences by saying that the vivid memories of Dr. Kramer that had been shared throughout the day “proved that when you die, you don’t really die.”
Dean Hutter closed the program with thanks and appreciation. Although they were not able to attend the Symposium, he thanked Mrs. Sylvia Kramer and her children, Leslie and Lloyd, for their support and involvement in seeing the symposium come to fruition. Dean Hutter also thanked the special guests who were present: the Kramers’ niece Sandy Griffel; family member Dr. Peter Cahn and his partner, BU School of Medicine faculty member Dr. Donald Hess; and Dr. Kramer’s first secretary Annie Delli Santi and her husband, Tony. Additionally, he thanked everyone present for making the effort to be there to experience and hear the respect, devotion, and gratitude that Dr. Kramer’s students have for him to this day.
“Dr. Kramer’s legacy continues to impact residents and patients at the School every day and alumni and friends around the world put his legacy into practice each and every day in their offices,” said Dean Hutter. He continued, “Dr. Kramer was a founder of the field, and his efforts in building the Department of Periodontology at our School had a profound influence on our School. For the last 50 years, the department has been an internationally recognized leader in the profession, and his spirit and philosophy live on.”
Following the symposium, attendees gathered for a reception at the BU Castle.
This story was submitted by GSDM Communications.
MED’s Holick will discuss the sunshine nutrient and why we need it
“Vitamin D chose me,” says Michael Holick, who has been an outspoken advocate worldwide for awareness of the ravages of vitamin D deficiency. As tonight’s 2013 University Lecturer, the School of Medicine professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics will speak about his long career studying what he dubs the “D-Lightful” nutrient and share the story of how he became consumed by a subject he once considered boring.
Director of Boston Medical Center’s Bone Health Care Clinic and of MED’s Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Holick is a winner of the Linus Pauling Institute’s Linus Pauling Prize for health research and the author of The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problem (Plume, 2011). He believes the world is in the throes of a vitamin D defiency pandemic, which is causing bone disease and osteoporosis in adults as well as increasing the risk of a range of diseases, including some cancers, tuberculosis, influenza, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and schizophrenia. About a third of all Americans are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, he says, and that the risk is higher for young children. It’s estimated that vitamin D deficiency affects nearly two billion people worldwide, making it, he says, one of the world’s leading medical problems.
Vitamin D regulates insulin production in the pancreas as well as in genes that control cell growth, and it helps the immune system, says Holick, who has been studying how skin makes vitamin D for more than 30 years. “Every tissue and cell has a vitamin D receptor. We estimate that as many as 2,000 genes—up to one-sixth of the total human genome—are directly or indirectly regulated by vitamin D.”
Holick’s zeal for the “sunshine vitamin,” which has earned him some detractors, has its roots in his early research as a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, which shed light, so to speak, on the elegant way that our bodies synthesize the vitamin in our skin during sun exposure. His research resulted in what he calls “the concept of sensible sun exposure” coexisting with protection from skin cancers and other damage. Recently he worked with a California-based software engineer to develop an app that he says “not only tells you how much Vitamin D you are producing anywhere at any time of the year, but also provides a warning when you’ve made enough Vitamin D and that further sun exposure can increase the risk of skin damage.”
“The major cause of the vitamin D deficiency epidemic is the lack of appreciation that sun exposure has been, and continues to be, the major source of the vitamin worldwide,” says Holick, who in his lecture will elaborate on his three-step strategy to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency.
The University Lecture was established in 1950 to honor faculty engaged in outstanding research and to offer an opportunity to hear a distinguished scholar discuss a favorite topic. All faculty members are invited each spring to nominate the subsequent year’s lecturer. University Lecturers from the previous five years act as the selection committee.
Michael Holick will give the 2013 University Lecture, titled The D-Lightful Vitamin D for Health, tonight, Wednesday, November 6, at 7 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave. Admission is free and open to the public.
This BU Today story was written by Susan Seligson. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have generated the first known disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from a patient with familial transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR). The findings, which are reported in Stem Cell Reports, may lead to new treatments for genetic diseases such as familial amyloidosis.
iPSCs are a form of stem cells that come from skin or blood cells reprogrammed into cells that have the ability to become any type of tissue in the body. ATTR is a lethal, autosomal dominant protein-folding disorder caused by one of more than 100 distinct mutations in the transthyretin (TTR) gene. In ATTR, protein secreted from the liver aggregates and forms fibrils in target organs, chiefly the heart and peripheral nervous system, highlighting the need for a model capable of duplicating the multisystem complexity of this clinically variable disease.
According to researchers using iPSC technology, cell lines can be established that are genetically identical to the individual from whom they are derived, allowing for disease modeling and development of novel therapeutics in the personalized genetic context of the patient from which they are made.
In this study, the researchers used the iPSC to generate liver cells that secrete the disease-specific mutant protein as well as cardiac and neuronal cells, the downstream target tissues of the disease. Upon exposure to the mutant protein, the heart and neuronal cells displayed signs of stress and an increased level of cell death as compared to those exposed to normal protein, thereby recreating essential aspects of the disease in vitro. Furthermore, small molecule stabilizers of the mutant protein that are being tested in clinical trials show efficacy in this model, validating this iPSC-based, patient-specific in vitro system as a platform for testing therapeutic strategies.
“Our work demonstrates that it is possible to model a complex, multisystem genetic disease in a relatively short space of time, using lineage-specified cells derived from patient stem cells,” explained George J. Murphy, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the section of Hematology and Oncology and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at BUSM and BMC.
“This is a major breakthrough that will facilitate testing novel targeted therapies that are being developed for ATTR amyloidosis,” said coauthor John Berk, MD, clinical director of the Amyloidosis Center at BUSM and BMC, where these rare diseases have been studied for more than 50 years. “Patients and families from all over the world who come to us for treatment may soon benefit from this research.”
Funding for the study was provided by the Amyloidosis Foundation, the Young Family Amyloid Research Fund and the Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Professor of Medicine, Physiology, and Biophysics at BU School of Medicine Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, will be delivering the 2013 University Lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 6 on the Charles River Campus. Dr. Holick will speak on The D-Lightful Vitamin D for Health.
Since 1950, the University Lecture has offered members of the BU community and the general public an opportunity to hear from distinguished faculty about the outstanding and often groundbreaking research and scholarship in which they are actively engaged.
University Lecturers represent a vast array of disciplines and research topics, yet share a common commitment to excellence in scholarly inquiry and discovery. The annual lecture provides an opportunity to highlight the work of a distinguished scholar and engages both the University community and the broader public in the vibrant intellectual life of Boston University.
Dr. Holick is Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at BU School of Medicine; Director of the General Clinical Research Unit; Director of the Bone Health Care Clinic; and Director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University Medical Center.
He has made numerous contributions to the biochemistry, physiology, metabolism, and photobiology of vitamin D for human nutrition, among them, establishing global recommendations advising sunlight exposure as an integral source of vitamin D. He has also helped increase awareness regarding vitamin D deficiency pandemic, and its role in causing not only metabolic bone disease, and osteoporosis in adults, but increasing risk of children and adults developing preeclampsia, common deadly cancers, schizophrenia, infectious diseases including TB and influenza, autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Dr. Holick is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Association of Physicians. He has received numerous honors, including the General Clinical Research Centers Program Award for Excellence in Clinical Research from NIH, American College of Nutrition’s Communication Media Award, Best Docs in America, and the Linus Pauling Prize for Human Nutrition. He has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed publications, edited or co-edited 13 books, written The UV Advantage (2004) and The Vitamin D Solution (2010), and helped develop the dminder.info app.
2013 University Lecture
- Dr. Michael F. Holick
- The D-Lightful Vitamin D for Health
- Wednesday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m.
- Tsai Performance Center
- 685 Commonwealth Avenue
- Charles River Campus
Admission is free. The public is invited.
Boston Public Health Commission gives go-ahead
BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories will begin doing tuberculosis research at a higher biosafety level in the coming months, following approval of the work by the Boston Public Health Commission. The research will be transferred from another lab on the Medical Campus.
TB researchers Igor Kramnik, a School of Medicine professor of medicine and director of NEIDL’s Aerobiology Core, and James Galagan, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering and NEIDL associate director of systems biology, have also received approval from BU’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (ISB) to begin preparing for Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research at NEIDL. BSL-3 research at the lab was green-lighted by a federal court in September.
Kramnik says his research probes the “mechanisms of host susceptibility to tuberculosis, to determine how to prevent destructive lung inflammation caused by the pathogen.” He and his colleagues have managed to stem the disease’s lung lesions in mice, and they are now trying to figure out how to activate such protection in humans and prevent TB transmission by coughing.
“We’ll be able to start training in the new BSL-3 lab within a month,” says Kramnik. “We’ll start working with the pathogenic strain as soon as we are comfortable using the space.” Additional ISB review may be required before the BSL-3 work begins.
NEIDL associate director Ronald Corley, Medical Campus associate provost for research and a MED professor and chair of microbiology, says Boston is the only city he knows of that requires municipal health commission approval of BSL-3 research. The approval adds important external oversight to the high-containment laboratory, he says.
Kevin Tuohey, executive director for research compliance at BU and Boston Medical Center, says the Boston Public Health Commission’s review “is a comprehensive process that requires the submission of project-specific information and a variety of safety plans addressing biological safety, employee health, emergency response, security, transportation, training, and the maintenance of the laboratory space.” The submission of that information, he says, is followed by a commission inspection of labs and their procedures and equipment.
Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) research at NEIDL is not expected to begin until after the resolution of a state court case and approval by the Boston Public Health Commission and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lab was cleared two years ago for BioSafety Level 2 (BSL-2) research, which has included Dengue fever virus and some TB work using “surrogates” of human TB.
TB is “one of the areas of research we are planning to expand in NEIDL,” Corley says, “because it is one of the biggest health problems in the world, and it is also a disease that exists in Boston. There are more and more drug-resistant varieties that are emerging. It’s quite appropriate for NEIDL to be studying it.
This BU Today story was written by Rich Barlow. He can be reached at email@example.com.
People with longer life spans also are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer and other health problems, suggesting that longevity-prone families may be “an important resource to discover genetic and environmental factors” that keep people healthy longer, a study led by a BUSPH researcher has found.
The study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health, Epidemiology, found that compared to a control group, older subjects with family histories of longevity had lower risks for cancer, cardiovascular disease, severe dementia, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and stroke. The age at which 20 percent of the longevity-prone families had one or more age-related diseases was approximately 10 years later than the controls.
“The analyses . . . suggest that this aging cohort provides an important resource to discover genetic and environmental factors that promote prolonged health-span, in addition to longer life-span,” said the research team, headed by Paola Sebastiani, professor of biostatistics at BU School of Public Health.
Sebastiani and colleagues compared the “health-spans” of older-generation subjects of the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), who have family histories of longevity, to controls that have no family longevity, and to centenarians of the New England Centenarian Study. The LLFS is an ongoing study of longevity and healthy aging in 583 families and almost 5,000 family members demonstrating clustering for longevity. The median age of the subjects and their siblings at enrollment was 92 years, with an age range of 72–109 years.
The study found that the LLFS subjects’ overall disease-free survival was almost comparable to that of the NECS centenarians, with the exception of severe dementia, where the LLFS subjects demonstrated an even greater delay. Pulmonary disease was much less prevalent in the LLFS group and the centenarians, compared to the controls.
A similar pattern of delay in age-of-onset was observed for nearly all the age-related diseases included in the analyses.
“Perhaps members of these families age at slower rates and they have biological factors that impact upon both rate of aging and pathogeneses of age-related diseases,” the researchers wrote.
Sebastiani and her co-authors said future analyses that integrate genetic data with other risk factors will be needed to further explore “health-span.”
Co-authors on the study include: Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician and researcher at the BU School of Medicine and director of the New England Centenarian Study; and Fangui X. Sun of the BUSPH Department of Biostatistics.
Also contributing were researchers from the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University; the Department of Genetics at Washington University; the Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, at the University of Pittsburgh; and the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University.
Submitted by Lisa Chedekel