Terra Sigillata

Do you live near Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, or Southern Denmark/Rostock, Germany and have at least two relatives (or yourself) over the age of 80? The US National Institutes of Health has funded researchers interested in recruiting you and family members to find out the secrets of longevity. (see full press release below the fold)

We’re a little too late in the Pharmboy family, but I am certain that 84-year-old PharmGranny would say that it was the constant stream of good Polish vodka that allowed her to live with a BMI over 40 and an average blood pressure of 190/140. The late 96-year-old PharmPopPop would claim it was a steady diet of Phillies cigars and working over 30 years in a New Jersey chemical manufacturing plant that helped him ward off Alzheimer’s until his early 90s. Even the late nearly-97-year-old PharmGram, who lived around the corner from said chemical factory, would claim it was a steady diet of potatoes and walking to buy her groceries every other day into her late 80s. (When she was lamenting her need for cornea transplants around 92 or so, she was complaining and asking “why me?” until I told her that corneas are rarely good for more than 90 years at a shot.)

I am certain that my blog bud Orac has similar stories from his Lithuanian and Polish heritage.

I love this stuff – rather than focus on what kills us, I’ve always been interested in what allows some of us to live so well. I’ve got a good colleague in the obesity field who is considered a renegade because he is studying why some people stay lean despite their consumption of fats and carbohydrates, as opposed to the bulk of his colleagues (pun intended) who study what predisposes one to obesity and type II diabetes.

Frankly, I think we have as much to learn from what allows us to do so well despite all dietary and environmental threats to health. More glass-full than glass-empty, eh?

Here’s the full press release – for my blog buds interested in learning or writing more, there are e-mail addresses and phone numbers at the end of the press release for contacts at each institution. I’m supposed to be on vacation.

NIH-FUNDED STUDY SEEKS LONG-LIVED FAMILIES TO HELP DISCOVER SECRETS OF LONG AND HEALTHY LIFE

Long, healthy life tends to run in some families, and researchers on a project supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) want to learn more about the factors that contribute to it. The Long Life Family Study (LLFS), developed by the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA), is now recruiting families to participate in this study.

This study will be conducted by researchers at three sites in the United States and one in Denmark. Potential U.S. participants will be recruited from areas close to the LLFS study centers at Columbia University in New York City, the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University. Potential Danish participants will be recruited by researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, using information from the Danish National Population Registry. Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Louis will act as the Data Management and Coordinating Center.

LLFS researchers are seeking a large number of families with several long-lived members for this study and are particularly interested in hearing from families with at least two living members aged 80 years or older and their living children who reside near the study site locations of Pittsburgh, Boston or New York. Trained clinical staff members will meet with study participants to ask questions about their family and health history and conduct some performance and physical assessments.
Study participants will also be asked for a small blood sample to obtain genetic information to help determine the role that genes might play in long healthy survival, in addition to many other factors.

“Other studies have indicated that longevity tends to run in families.
The planned LFFS is designed to determine the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to longevity and to the ability to escape diseases normally associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, stroke and heart disease,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., NIA director.

Winifred K. Rossi, deputy director of NIA’s Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Program and the NIA program official for the five-year, $18 million project said, “Families are often very proud of their long-lived relatives. This study will provide the opportunity for long-lived families to share information about their lives that contributes to their long and healthy survival. The knowledge gained from these families can help us understand what makes them unique and can lead to scientific insights to help other people improve the length of time they spend in good health.” The scientific results of the study will be made public once the information obtained is analyzed, said Rossi. The privacy of study participants and their information will be carefully protected, she emphasized.

The study’s lead investigators, prominent in longevity and genetic research, are:

– Thomas Perls, M.D., Ph.D., director of the New England Centenarian Study and Associate Professor of Medicine, Geriatrics Section, Department of Medicine, Boston University, Boston;

– Richard Mayeux, M.D., Gertrude H. Sergievsky Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Columbia University and director of the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center and the co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, New York;

– Anne B. Newman, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh;

– James W. Vaupel, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and director of the Program on Population, Policy and Aging at the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina;

– Kaare Christensen, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology, Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark and senior research scientist at the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina and,

– Michael A. Province, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics and Biostatistics, and Director of the Division of Statistical Genomics in the Genome Sciences Center of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Interested parties should call the local LLFS recruitment offices at the following numbers:

– Boston University: 1-888-333-6327

– University of Pittsburgh: 1-800-872-3653

– Columbia University: 1-800-304-4317

Editor’s note – Reporters who wish to interview Long Life Family Study investigators at the local study sites should contact:

– Gina Digravio, 617-638-8491 or gina.digravio@bmc.org, for Boston University;

– Elizabeth Streich, 212-305-6535 or eas2125@columbia.edu, for Columbia University; or

– Jim Swyers, 412-647-3555 or swyersjp@upmc.edu, for the University of Pittsburgh.

Comments

  1. #1 Shelley Batts
    July 11, 2006

    Hmmm, wish that I could take part. All my 4 of grandparents are still alive and ~80, and one great-grandparent still alive at 97. No smokers, though, and they all drank fresh orange juice like it was going out of style (they’re all orange growers in Florida).

  2. #2 Roger
    July 11, 2006

    I’d love to participate, but most of my over 80 relatives are in Colorado. 7 of 9 siblings in my mother’s generation are living with the youngest being 67. He was born after the oldest had moved out. The two who have died can’t really be said to have died of old age. Medical problems from scarlet fever and a car accident don’t count as death from old age do they? If my mother’s family is any guide, then longevity does run in family.

  3. #3 Honeybee
    July 11, 2006

    I’m of Polish heritage too and the women in my family tend to live very long lives. I had a great aunt who reached 104. Not sure I have any current relatives in their 80s though.