Some of the eternal questions of life - how and why we age, why some people age faster or live longer, and what can be done to fight the diseases and disabilities associated with old age - will be explored by distinguished scientists in a provocative Spring 2005 "Mini-Med School" cosponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Office of Science Education at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Smithsonian Associates.

The program called "Aging under the Microscope" will explore the basic science underlying the aging process. The six-week series is scheduled on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m., April 21-May 26, at a location to be announced on the Smithsonian campus in Washington D.C. General admission for the entire series is $57. To purchase tickets, phone 202-357-3030. Information is available at residentassociates/com/mini_med.asp.

Featured speakers include:

Steven Austad, Ph.D., a professor of structural and cellular biology at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, and author of Why We Age, kicks off the series on April 21 with an overview of the aging process and scientists' understanding of aging both in humans and animals. In addition, he will address some of the popular myths about "super-aged" individuals and longevity.

In the second session (April 28), Jill Carrington, Ph.D., Chief of the Biology of Aging's Systems Branch at the NIA, introduces participants to the inner world of the aging cell. She will explore the biochemical processes, including oxygen free radicals, protein crosslinking, heat shock proteins, and breakdowns in DNA repair mechanisms, that make our cells more susceptible to damage associated with aging. She will also discuss what is known about antioxidants and other biochemicals that may slow cellular aging.

In the third session (May 5), David Schlessinger, Ph.D, chief of the NIA's Laboratory of Genetics, discusses how genetics may influence the aging process. He will describe several genes in tiny roundworms called nematodes, fruit flies, and mice that seem to be related to longevity. Even single-celled yeast, one of nature's simplest organisms, may provide scientists with important genetic clues about human aging and longevity. He will also discuss the genetic basis of some aging-associated traits and diseases.

In session four (May 12), Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., an eminent neurologist who heads the NIA-supported Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Pittsburgh, focuses on what is known about normal aging of the brain and what gerontologists are learning about mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders common among older people.

At the fifth session (May 19), two leading researchers will share their insights on the aging body. Stephanie Studenski, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explores how our bodies change over time and how these changes influence aging of the immune system, heart and other vital organs and tissues. John Morley, MB, B.Ch., of Saint Louis University, explains some of the risks and benefits associated with use of hormonal replacement therapies being advocated by some as a way to alter aging.

In the final session (May 26), Judith A. Salerno, M.D., NIA Deputy Director, and a panel of senior scientists from the Institute will set their sights on the future. They will report on the federal government's $1 billion aging research program and will describe how recent advances in understanding aging are being used to develop interventions that could reduce the impact of many of age-related health problems, including heart disease and osteoporosis. They will also point out the challenges facing research on aging, among them, determining which potential interventions and therapies could help us all improve our chances for a healthy, independent late life. Salerno will moderate the panel which will feature NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Edward G. Lakatta, M.D., Chief of NIA's Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science, Evan Hadley MD, Associate Director of NIA's Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Program, and Neil Buckholtz, Ph.D., Chief of the NIA's Neuroscience and Neuropsychology of Aging Program Dementias of Aging Branch.

The NIA is one of 27 Institutes and Centers at the NIH. It leads the Federal Government effort conducting and supporting research on the biomedical and social and behavioral aspects of aging and the problems of older people. For more information on aging-related research and the NIA, please visit the NIA website at nia.nih. The public may also call for publications describing these efforts and offering health information for older people and their families at 1-800-222-2225, the toll-free number for the National Institute on Aging Information Center.

The Office of Science Education (OSE) at the NIH coordinates science education activities at the NIH and develops and sponsors science education projects in house. These programs serve elementary, secondary, and college students and teachers and the public. More information is available at

The Smithsonian Associates provides educational and cultural programs that highlight and complement the work of the Smithsonian Institution through a variety of formats including lectures, performances, courses and special events on the National Mall and across the country. More information is available at smithsonianassociates.

Contact: Jeannine Mjoseth
NIH/National Institute on Aging

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