The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging: OPEN for Business

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Luigi FERRUCCI,
Scientific Director,
Office of the Scientific Director (OSD)
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Eleanor Simonsick

*Editor’s Note: The NIA is pleased to congratulate Dr. Simonsick on her recent appointment as co-director of the BLSA.

The NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), the longest continuous study of aging in the United States, is approaching its 65th anniversary and it’s more vital than ever! Far from retirement, this study is flourishing and evolving in many ways. Here are some key updates:

OPEN for data sharing

The BLSA is a world-renowned data resource for studying the aging process across the lifespan. This fall, BLSA researchers will launch a new data sharing component that is part of the ongoing implementation of the NIH Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) Data Principles. This “OPEN” data includes:

  • Open: Anonymized data publicly available, with participant consent to share. Generally accessible through externally organized data resource centers such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Data Initiative and the Global Alzheimer’s Association’s Interactive Network/Neuroimaging Laboratory.
  • Authorized : Data shared widely with consent of participants. Available to internal BLSA researchers as well as requesting institutions through approved analysis plans with executed data agreements and institutional review board approval.
  • Entrusts : Data shared by the team that is related to a specific initiative and/or supported by targeted funds and/or of an experimental nature, which may be authorized after adequate verification and publication of basic articles.
  • Not shared : Data with personal identifiers and not intended for research purposes.

Visit the BLSA website for more information on how to request to use our data.

BLSA response to COVID

When the BLSA Clinic site closed in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, BLSA investigators, clinical staff, and IT staff partnered to develop and administer two telephone surveys. This was done not only to track BLSA participants’ experiences with COVID and maintain safe contact during quarantine, but also to collect data on previously overlooked past life experiences and health-related conditions. Fortunately, few participants contracted COVID, but all experienced social, behavioral and/or psychological effects ranging from severely negative to generally positive. Participants with high personal mastery—an enduring personality trait of belief in one’s ability to control the important things in their lives—demonstrated the least negative impact of COVID-related restrictions. You can read a full review of these results online.

A new published paradigm for aging research

BLSA scientists recently published a new global index of aging that is highly predictive of changes in health as well as physical and cognitive function. This new measure combines long-term trends in physiological assessments organized into four domains: body composition, energetics (metabolic measures of how the body uses, processes and stores fuel), homeostasis (a healthy steady state in the body for vital processes like insulin and temperature regulation) and neurodegeneration/neuroplasticity (how the brain forms and reorganizes connections as a result of learning or adapting to injury or sickness). BLSA researchers aim to use this new metric as a gold standard for identifying new biological mechanisms of aging that could be targeted for healthy aging interventions. See a synopsis of this work.

Contact us to contact us

We are fired up to drive the BLSA forward and can’t wait to see what the years to come have in store for us! If you have a question or would like to collaborate, please visit blsa.nih.gov or leave a comment below.

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