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MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Weight, fat and other body characteristics that may be factors in the relationship between disability and old age is the subject of a new $6.5 million study at the University of Tennessee-Memphis.

 Investigators at UT-Memphis led by Dr. Stephen Kritchevsky, an epidemiologist, will examine the role of weight, fat, bone and muscle in the age-related transition from independence to disability.

 Funding for the eight-year study was announced Tuesday by the National Institutes of Aging, which names the study “Health ABC” for “health and body changes.”

 Kritchevsky said one goal of the study is to identify factors which may help predict disability.

 “If we can identify predictors of disability, we can develop recommendations to delay and perhaps prevent the disability usually associated with growing older,” Kritchevsky said.

 Dr. Tamara Harris, chief of NIA’s geriatric epidemiology office, said unfavorable changes in muscle and fat may be a common pathway by which many diseases lead to disability in old age.

 “By understanding how these changes happen, we will be able to better target interventions to prevent disability before people become frail,” Harris said.

 UT-Memphis and the University of Pittsburg are serving as the only Health ABC clinical centers. The University of California-San Fransicso is the project’s data coordinating unit.

 Health ABC at UT-Memphis, using Shelby County Medicare enrollment information, will recruit 1,500 study participants. Pittsburg’s Health ABC will recruit another 1,500, for a total of 3,000. Participants will include an equal number of men and women and equal numbers of African-Americans and Caucasians.

 — Contact: Claire Lowry (901-448-4946)