Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

In September 1989, the University of Michigan established the nation's first Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC). The OAICs are also known as "Pepper Centers", named to honor the late Senator Claude D. Pepper who championed the effort to create these centers of excellence.

Today, U-M is one of 15 National Institute on Aging-designated Pepper Centers in the country. The overall goals of the U-M Pepper Center is to increase scientific knowledge that allows older adults to maintain or restore their independence, and to train future academic leaders in geriatrics. Drawing on the large base of research underway in the fields of geriatrics and gerontology at the University of Michigan, the U-M Pepper Center fosters collaborative, multidisciplinary research to integrate basic science, clinical science, and health services research relevant to the health care problems of older adults.

Specific Aims

  • To support research that will improve understanding of how metabolic factors and inflammation interact with age-related diseases and comorbidities to determine key health outcomes related to mobility and functional status.
  • To support translational research on the interaction of metabolic factors and inflammation with age-related diseases and comorbidities to improve health outcomes related to mobility and functional status.
  • To provide Resource Cores that support and assist investigator-initiated projects related to the U-M Pepper Center’s research focus.
  • Through its Research Education Core (REC), to strengthen the U-M environment for training of future academic leaders in geriatrics and aging who can conduct research related to the U-M Pepper Center’s research focus.
  • Through its Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC), to attract U-M junior faculty, as well as selected senior faculty not previously involved in aging research, to develop new research projects related to the U-M Pepper Center’s research focus.

Research Operating Committee

Research Cores

The U-M Pepper Center is made up of seven research cores which are directed by U-M experts in geriatrics and gerontology and are designed to enhance and support the Center's research activities.

Biomechanics Core

The Biomechanics Core provides an array of techniques and equipment for the precise experimental quantification of physical functioning of healthy and frail older adults in order to investigate attributes of the aging phenotype. It also supplies support for theoretical investigations in the form of computer simulation models to analyze the elements of those functional abilities and to establish the major determinants of abilities to perform motor acts in an effective manner. The Biomechanics Core is physically based in the Biomechanics Research Laboratory and the Mobility Research Center.

Physical disabilities are epidemic in older adults. Whatever the underlying pathologies, these disabilities express themselves in biomechanical terms: reduced muscular strengths and rates of developing strengths, limited ranges and speeds of motion, reduced afferent feedback, inappropriate body segment coordination patterns, difficulty with balance and fall arrests, and even impaired pelvic floor and continence system function.

The Biomechanics Core will contribute to the development of academic leaders in geriatrics by helping interested faculty and their fellows to analyze a range of geriatric problems through biomechanical research techniques. It will train them through directed study involving background reviews, hypothesis generation, interdisciplinary pilot research projects, and data analysis and interpretation to examine issues adversely affecting the physical abilities of older adults.

Core Director: James Ashton-Miller, PhD
Core Co-Director: Neil Alexander, MD, MS

Core Facility for Aged Rodents

The Core Facility for Aged Rodents (CFAR) has been a major feature of the U-M Pepper Center since its inception in 1989. CFAR serves the needs of Pepper Center investigators through three specific aims:

  • Provide advice to all OAIC investigators, from student through faculty levels, in the use of rodents for research into the biology of aging and its role in late life disease.
  • Support specialized colonies of mice particularly well suited for research on the biology of aging and its relationship to late-life disease. These include genetically heterogeneous mice of the UM-HET3 stock, calorically restricted UM-HET3 mice mice of the long-lived Snell dwarf (dw/dw) stock, carrying the Pit1 dw mutation. Mice from these colonies will be provided to faculty members working on Pilot Studies Exploratory Core (PESC) and Research Career Development Core (RCDC) research projects, as well as to Geriatrics Center faculty members who wish to conduct pilot studies on mouse aging supported by other sources of NIA funds.
  • Provide funds to support the development of new animal models for specific purposes.

Core Director: Richard Miller, MD, PhD

Design, Data, and Biostatistics Core

The Design, Data, and Biostatistics Core (DDBC) provides technical support and training of investigators developing or performing intervention and other geriatric research projects examining the aging phenotype and outcomes research. It will also develop new instruments, methodologies, and data archives to enable future studies. Therefore, the DDBC addresses both techniques for appropriate design and execution of current experiments and sets the foundation for future research studies. The DDBC focuses on the needs of OAIC investigators, especially junior investigators, by assisting in the design of intervention experiments, and the collection, maintenance, analysis, and interpretation of their data.

Core Director: Andrzej Galecki, MD, PhD
Core Co-Director: Julie Bynum, MD, MPH

Human Subjects and Assessment Core

The Human Subjects and Assessment Core (HSAC) supports activities involving human subjects. It has four specific aims:

  • Establish, maintain, and facilitate access to human subjects and related data sets.
  • Expand, promote and facilitate access to minority human subjects through collaborative linkages with the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology (WSU IoG).
  • Provide selected efficient physical health measures, which will complement our existing collection of self-reported health, health care utilization, and psychosocial measures in subject selection.
  • Provide training and consultation to investigators on issues related to (a) recruitment and retention of human subjects and (b) measurement of quality of life and psychosocial factors closely linked with aging phenotype.

Core Director: Raymond Yung, MB, ChB
Core Co-Director: Kenneth Langa, MD, PhD

Leadership and Administrative Core

A well-defined and effective Leadership/Administrative Core that oversees and supports the activities of the Claude D. Pepper OAIC is established at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center. The community advisory committee coordinates and oversees all aspects of the OAIC.

Community Advisory Board Members

  • Maria Abrahamsen
  • Faye Askew-King
  • Morgan Edwards
  • Walid Gammouh
  • Edna Jackson-Gray, PhD
  • Pat Lunden
  • James S. Marks, MD, MPH
  • Fran Weinstein

Core Leaders:

Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC)

The goal of the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core is to provide support for studies that will develop and test new research ideas of high relevance to the Center's overall theme, which is to improve understanding of how metabolic factors and inflammation interact with age-related diseases and comorbidities to determine key health outcomes related to mobility and functional status. To achieve this goal, the PESC will fund pilot research studies over a wide range of disciplines, ranging from basic genetics and physiology through behavioral and health services research.

Core Director: Lona Mody, MD, MSc
Core Co-Director: Donovan Maust, MD, MS

Research Education Core (REC)

The Research Education Core (REC), a component of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), is funded by the National Institute on Aging. The primary goal of the REC is to recruit, select, support, mentor, and train junior faculty to become independent investigators in aging-related research and academic leaders in geriatrics and gerontology within their respective disciplines.

The REC focuses on stimulating the translation between basic and clinical research across the spectrum of its training activities, including the annual research education core retreat. To this end, it serves a critical function in supporting the overall OAIC focus, by training the next generation of investigators whose research will lead to an improved understanding of the predictors and modulators of the aging phenotype.

Core Director: Neil Alexander, MD, MS
Core Co-Director: Lillian Min, MD, MSHS