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Class 4. Research Methods in Gerontology.docx

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Vanessa Taler

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Research Methods in Gerontology How Do we Study Aging  Human studies longitudinal or cross-sectional  Animal research most common species: rats, mice, drosophila  in vitro research Human Studies  Studies of aging using human subjects can be either: cross-sectional (comparing younger & older adults), or longitudinal (following people over time) Some Disadvantages  The aging process is very heterogeneous across individuals that is, people age at different rates e.g., two 80-year-olds may be at different stages of the aging process or have different patterns of aging  The aging process is very heterogeneous within individuals That is, some systems in the body age age faster than others within the same person e.g., your heart may look great but your bones may be in bad shape  It is difficult to follow a person from birth to death because of:  cost  attrition (loss) of subjects due to unwillingness to participate, illness or death  ethical considerations  effects of age, race, ethnicity, sex, SES, health, disease and disability status  Ethical considerations are greater with human subjects than in animal or in vitro research some experimental approaches are unethical in humans, but are (considered) acceptable in other types of research some approaches need to be tested first in animals/in vitro before being extended to humans (e.g., gene therapy)  There are many confounding variables with humans that are difficult to control for, e.g.: race/ethnicity sex or gender socioeconomic status health, disease and disability status Consideration in Animal Research  Specificity: The model must exhibit the trait of interest  Generalizeability/transferability: The results observed in the chosen model must be applicable to other species  Feasibility: The availability, cost, and convenience of the model must be reasonable Why do we Use Animals  Can build models and perform studies that we cannot do in humans  Aging process is much faster How Do we Choose a Species  Depends on the question we want to ask  We select a species that has a particular feature that we are interested in, often in exaggerated form  examples: genetics in mice opossums (different aging rates in island & mainland opo
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