The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging: OPEN for Business

Luigi Ferrucci

Luigi FERRUCCI,
Scientific Director,
Office of the Scientific Director (OSD)
.

Eleanor Simonsick

Eleanor SIMONSICK,
Co-Director, BLSA/Epidemiologist,
Longitudinal Studies Section (LSS)
.

*Editor’s Note: NIA is pleased to announce Dr. Congratulations to Simonsick on her recent appointment as Co-Director of BLSA.

The NIA’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), America’s longest continuous study of aging, is approaching its 65th anniversary and is more important than ever! Far from retiring, this study is thriving and evolving in many ways. Below are some important updates:

OPEN to data sharing

The BLSA is a globally recognized data source for studying the aging process over the course of a lifetime. This fall, BLSA researchers will introduce a new data sharing component as part of the ongoing implementation of the NIH Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data principles. This “OPEN” data includes:

  • Open: Publicly available anonymized data, shared with participants’ consent. Access is typically through externally curated data resource centers such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Data Initiative and the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network/Laboratory of Neuro Imaging.
  • Permitted: Widespread data with consent of participants. Available to in-house BLSA researchers as well as requesting institutions through approved analysis plans with completed data agreements and Institutional Review Board approval.
  • Instructed: Data shared by the team that is associated with a specific initiative and/or supported by targeted means and/or is experimental in nature that may be approved after appropriate review and release of core documents.
  • Not shared: Data containing personal identifiers and not intended for research purposes.

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

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 joined forces to design and conduct two telephone surveys. This was done not only to track BLSA participants’ experiences with COVID and to safely maintain contact during quarantine, but also to gather 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 levels of personal mastery—an enduring personality trait of believing in one’s ability to control important things in their lives—showed the lowest negative effects of COVID-related limitations. You can read a comprehensive overview of these results online.

A published new paradigm for aging research

BLSA scientists recently released a new global aging index that is highly indicative of changes in health, physical and cognitive functioning. This new measurement combines long-term trends in physiological assessments divided 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 regulation and temperature) and neurodegeneration/neuroplasticity (how well the brain forms and reorganizes connections as a result of learning or in adapting to injury or disease). BLSA researchers aim to use this new metric as a reference gold standard to identify novel biological mechanisms of aging that could be targeted for healthy aging interventions. View a summary of this work.

Contact us to get in touch with us

We are full of energy to keep BLSA moving and excited for what the years to come will bring! If you have a question or would like to collaborate, please visit blsa.nih.gov or leave a comment below.

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