The fastest growing age group in the U.S. is adults 65 and older
which is projected to grow from the present 35 million to 85
million by 2050.1 The second
fastest growing age group is adults 45-64 born during the early
years of the baby boom (1946 through 1950) fueled by a 55% increase
in the 50-54 age range.2 The
chart below demonstrates the rise in the aging population over
the period between 2000 and 2050.3
of the United States, by Age: 2000 to 2050
Click on chart to view large scale version.
An aging population poses challenges for society while presenting
opportunities for scientists to explore technologies that will
improve the well-being of senior citizens. ATP, working in conjunction
with private industry, has funded the development of high risk
and innovative technologies that have the potential to improve
the lives of senior citizens, as well as the lives of people of
all age groups.
ATP funds high-risk
and innovative technologies through partnerships with the private
sector. The purpose of ATP is to strengthen the nation’s technological
foundation, which has long since been determined necessary for sustained
U.S. economic growth. ATP accomplishes it mission by providing federal
funds to support R&D projects
that would either not have been undertaken at all, or in a timely
fashion, due to the high technical risk
nature of the project. ATP projects have the potential to address
issues related to the aging of the U.S. population, including (i)
chronic disease; (ii) independent living devices; (iii) tissue engineering;
and (iv) organ transplantation.
Addressing Chronic Disease
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death among
Osiris Therapeutics Inc., Baltimore,
MD, has derived bone marrow from mesenchymal stem
cells (MSC), which have been shown in animal models to
enhance the repair of the area of ischemia. The cardiac
recovery of the MSC treated animals is significantly
improved compared to conventional therapy (in
- If successful, a cardiac patient will have stem cells
implanted within the heart tissue, which will heal without
350,000 coronary artery
bypass surgeries are performed each year in
the United States. This procedure may be enhanced by
the use of a small diameter vascular prosthesis made
from synthetic grafting materials. The new prosthesis
possesses long-term mechanical properties similar to
that of natural tissue.
Kensey Nash Corporation,
Exton, PA (in pre-clinical trials).
type of prosthesis is expected to replace the harvesting
of the patient's own saphenous vein from the leg,
thereby reducing patient trauma.
- Reduction in surgical time and medical costs are also
- Alzheimer's disease affects as many as 4.5 million
Americans. About 5 percent of men and women
between the ages of 65 and 74 have alzheimer's disease,
and nearly half of those age 85 and older may have the
disease. Alzheimer's disease is being addressed through
computer applications designed to monitor and remediate
cognitive decline in older adults by tracking a user's
interactions with computers in their homes.
Learning Company, Portland, OR (awarded
- Early detection of cognitive impairment could make a
significant difference in the ability to delay the onset
and effectively treat the disease.
- Early intervention is likely to provide significant health
benefits, cost savings, and independence to elders and
their family caregivers.
- Osteoporosis is a major health threat for 44 million
Americans, 68% of whom are women. The occurrence
of osteoporosis increases with age, yet few are aware
they have the disease and even fewer receive therapy.
Analysis of bone microarchitecture is expected to provide
more accurate detection and better management of patients
with the disease.
Imaging Therapeutics, Inc., Foster
City, CA (in clinical trials).
- Rapid, low-cost methods for accurately measuring bone
microarchitecture that enables widespread detection of
disease as well monitoring response to treatment.
- Arthritis affects
one in every two people over 65 years of age. Using
advanced imaging technologies to analyze magnetic resonance
joints, cartilage degeneration diagnoses within the joint
can be used to screen patients providing information
on treatments such as surgery or drugs and verifying
success of a particular therapy over time.
Therapeutics, Inc., Foster City, CA (in
three-dimensional visualizations of affected joints
offer physicians a more effective method of treating
Providing Independent Living
- ATP funding helps elders live more independently.
International, Inc., Minneapolis, MN (available
in late 2005).
- An automated system called Independent Lifestyle Assistant
(I.L.S.A.) will monitor the senior at home, noting activity
level and whether medications have been taken on schedule.
- I.L.S.A. uses a variety of sensors and wireless communications
devices located throughout the home that offer telephone
or wireless web reminders to take medication. The system
maintains privacy and secure communication, and it can
alert a third party, such as a caretaker, when assistance
may be required.
transdermal patches offer a painless,
precisely controlled, and timed administration of any drug,
including pills and injectibles.
Life Sciences, Inc., Los Gatos, CA (in
- Wearable transdermal patches offer more accurate and
improved compliance due to ease of use and reduced frequency
of administration, which is particularly beneficial to
patients that suffer from memory impairment and provides:
- Enhanced therapeutic effect by maintaining steady
levels of drug in the blood.
- Elimination of undesirable side effects that result
from erratic dosage taking.
- Orthopedic injuries including cartilage,
knee joint and tendon, are being repaired using synthetic
bioabsorbable polymers. As the population ages, major clinical
issues have emerged for orthopedic and cardiovascular disease
and trauma that cannot be properly addressed with the currently
used material base.
Integra Life Sciences Corp ., Plainsboro,
NJ (in commercialization).
- Polymeric implant materials are being designed for use in
tissue regeneration with a focus on orthopedic applications.
The new polymers are degradable without generating excessive
amounts of acidic by-products, thus improving biocompatibility
and utility in a wide range of medical implants.
Improving Health through Tissue Engineering and Organ
cells, a key part of the body’s immune
tailored to fight specific diseases.
Woburn, MA (in prototype).
tissue engineering to manufacture an “artificial
thymus” bioreactor to generate large quantities
of T lymphocytes or T cells in the laboratory. The thymus
is a glandlike structure, which is the site for T cell
development in the body.
T cells, which play a key role in the body’s
immune system, can be used for the research and development
of cellular products and services to treat cancer, prevent
viral and bacterial infections, and reconstitute the
- Bed Sores can be treated using tissue-engineered
products. A major obstacle to the use of skin substitutes
has been the ability to effectively preserve and transport
samples. Traditional cryogenic preservation techniques induce
Stratatech Corporation, Madison, WI (in
- An ice-free freezing process called vitrification, followed
by drying may enable room-temperature preservation and
shipping of living cells, tissues, and tissue-engineered
- Extended shelf life of tissue-engineered products will
enable storage at the point of care and expand applications
to unhealable diabetic foot ulcers, burns, and large
- Each year over 1 million Americans suffer from damaged
cardiovascular tissue or heart attacks.
Although most survive the heart attack, they are at risk
of developing many complications that may severely limit
their lifestyle and incur significant healthcare expenses. Damaged
cardiovascular tissue can be repaired
by use of a “scaffold” made from biomaterials
using a patient's own cells.
Tepha, Inc., Cambridge,
MA (in animal testing).
- Tissue engineered materials can restore defective cardiovascular
tissues which, over time, are expected to be completely
absorbed by the body.
- Living tissue replacement could potentially have life-long
- In 2003, there were 25,467 organ transplants performed
in the United States. Once a risky medical procedure, organ
transplantation has become commonplace. But, there remains
a risk of organ rejection, as well as a growing shortage of
organs from human donors.
Revivicor Inc., (formerly
PPL Therapeutics), Blacksburg, VA (in pre-clinical
- The use of pig organs and tissues is a promising solution
for overcoming significant obstacles from organ rejection
and for addressing the current shortage of organs.
- Revivicor has
developed genetically altered pigs, with a specific
gene inactivated, that prevents hyperacute rejection of
the transplanted tissue
1 “ Baby
Boom Brought Biggest Increases Among People 45-to-54 Years Old,” Economics
and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. October 3,
The People: Aging in the United States,” Yvonne
J. Gist and Lisa I. Hetzel, U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000
Special Reports, CENSR-19, December 2004..
Population of the United States, by Age and Sex:2000 to 2050,” U.S.
Census Bureau, 2004.
Factsheet 1.B4 (March 2005 by Richard Spivack)