Within the context of the OAIC’s overall mission, the Pilot and Exploratory Studies Core (PESC) aims to provide catalytic support – seed funding, core support, and mentorship – for innovative pilot research projects that generate data on the mechanisms of FPT action to facilitate more definitive mechanistic studies, feasibility data to guide efficacy trials, hypothesis generating or proof-of-concept exploratory studies and retrospective analysis of existing epidemiologic data that inform FPT interventions.



Monty Montano, PhD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School

  • Principal Investigator
  • Scientific Director, Boston Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center

Monty Montano PhD is a Principal Investigator at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Muscle and Aging Interventions at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Montano received a Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University School of Medicine and did his postdoctoral work at the Harvard School of Public Health. He conducts international translational research on aging, musculoskeletal regeneration, and chronic HIV infection. Dr. Montano is the principal investigator of an NIH-sponsored 5-year study to comprehensively evaluate physical function and muscle maintenance in older individuals with HIV infection on effective therapy compared to age-matched uninfected individuals.  Dr. Montano is a chartered member of the National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review and he is the author of a book on translational medicine entitled, “Translational Biology in Medicine: Models from Aging, Muscle Regeneration and Infection.”

Representative Papers

Atypical Skeletal Muscle Profiles in HIV+ Asymptomatic Middle-Aged Adults.
Biomarker signatures of aging.
BET bromodomain inhibition as a novel strategy for reactivation of HIV-1.
Premature expression of a muscle fibrosis axis in chronic HIV infection.
Age and Sex Distributions of Age-Related Biomarker Values in Healthy Older Adults from the Long Life Family Study.


Kiel Douglas

Douglas P. Kiel, MD
Marcus Institute for Aging Research
Hebrew SeniorLife
Harvard Medical School

  • Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Director, Musculoskeletal Research Center, Hebrew SeniorLife
  • Associate Member, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Download Dr. Kiel’s biosketch

Dr. Kiel’s research focuses on the epidemiology of osteoporosis and related fractures, including lifestyle factors, biomarkers, and genetic factors.  He is also interested in sarcopenia and its consequences, including falls and disability.  He also has conducted multiple clinical trials targeting the musculoskeletal system.  He leads the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, and serves in leadership roles for many organizations including the NIH, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, National Osteoporosis Foundation, and the Joint Commission.

Current PESC Trainees

Neppl, Ronald L.

Ronald L. Neppl, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Training/Education: Dr. Neppl received his B.S. and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. He then worked in industry for a few years before returning to academia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in Biophysics, where under the mentorship of Drs. Andrew and Avril Somlyo, he studied signal transduction in vascular smooth muscle. For his postdoctoral research, he then joined the laboratory of Dr. Da-Zhi Wang at Boston Children’s Hospital where he focused on studying the roles of microRNAs and novel proteins that modulate the activity of the RNA Induced Silencing Complex in cardiac and skeletal muscle. He then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Kenneth Walsh and focused on long non-coding RNAs that modulate skeletal muscle growth processes before joining the faculty in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Research Interests: Our laboratory is focused on the molecular regulation of skeletal muscle homeostasis in health and disease. Our overarching goal is to understand how non-coding RNAs control the essential processes of myogenesis and hypertrophic growth, and how perturbations in these processes may lead to a disease state resulting in muscle atrophy. Using traditional biochemical and molecular biology techniques, in vivo and in vitro model systems, ChIP-seq, as well as next generation RNA sequencing, we seek to understand the molecular and biological roles these non-coding RNAs play in regulating the age-dependent changes in gene expression underlying the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength associated with advancing age.

Research Project (PESC): Loss of a lncRNA exacerbates aging associated functional decline of skeletal muscle.

Sahni, Shivani

Shivani Sahni, PhD, MS

  • Director, Nutrition Program and Associate Scientist, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School

Training/Education: Dr. Sahni received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Nutritional Epidemiology from Tufts University School of Nutrition, Boston. During her doctoral work Dr. Sahni determined the role of dietary antioxidants upon age-related osteoporosis and consequent fractures in older men and women from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. She then completed her post-doctoral fellowship in nutrition and musculoskeletal aging at the Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Sahni also holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Dietetics from Delhi University, India.

Research Interests: Dr. Sahni is a Nutritional Epidemiologist interested in determining the role of nutritional factors in the prevention of chronic diseases of aging. She is specifically interested in determining the role of diet and nutrition in age-related osteoporosis, sarcopenia, frailty, and loss of physical function.

Research Project (PESC): Mediterranean diet, related antioxidants and frailty.

Singh, Ranjan

Rajan Singh, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine
  • Research Scientist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Training /Education: Dr. Singh received his M.S in Biochemistry from Kolkata University and PhD in Molecular Biology from Jadavpur University. He joined UCLA School of Medicine for his post-doctoral training in specific areas of hormonal regulation of cell metabolism and signal transduction pathways related to cell fate determination.

Research Interests: Dr. Singh has long standing interest and research experience in specific areas of androgen biology and aging research. For last 16 years of his independent career, Dr. Singh has been interested in delineating the molecular mechanism of androgen action on muscle and fat mass. His initial research work led to the identification of follistatin (Fst) as a novel target of androgen action via activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, and subsequent identification of anabolic pathways that are differentially responsive to testosterone action in muscle and prostate tissues. His laboratory also identified a novel role of follistatin in regulating brown adipose metabolism and currently focused on investigating the cellular targets of follistatin responsible for the regulation of lipid and energy homeostasis, and determine the molecular mechanisms that participate in the pro-browning and anti-atherogenic properties of follistatin.

Research Project (PESC): Mechanistic basis of differential regulation of polyamine pathway by testosterone in the prostate and androgen-responsive skeletal muscle.

Previous PESC Trainees


Donato Rivas, PhD

  • Scientist II and Adjunct Instructor

Training/Education: PhD in Biomedical Science (Bioenergetics)

Research Interests: The role of substrates on cellular signaling pathways controlling skeletal muscle metabolism and growth; and how nutrition, aging and exercise contribute to alterations in skeletal muscle energy homeostasis.

Research Project (REC or PESC): Circulating microRNA as novel predictors of skeletal muscle anabolic response in aged humans.


Dae Kim, MD, MPH, ScD

  • Assistant Professor of Medicine

Training/Education: Dr. Kim received his M.D. from the Yonsei University College of Medicine before attending John Hopkins School of Public Health to receive his M.P.H. in Epidemiology. He then performed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Internal Medicine, as well as a Fellowship at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Geriatric Medicine. Most Recently, Dr. Kim has received a Sc.D. from Harvard School of Public Health.

Research Interests: Improving clinical and functional outcomes of aging populations through judicious use of drugs and interventions.

Research Project (REC or PESC): Home-based exercise in patients underoing AVR.


Bradley Manor, PhD

  • Director, “Mobility and Brain Function” Research Program, Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Training/Education: Dr. Manor received his B.S in Kinesiology as well as his M.S in Biomechanics from the University of Toledo. He later attended Lousiana State University where he received a Ph.D. in Biomechanics. Dr. Manor also performed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with a focus on Gerontology.

Research Interests: He is trained in the neural control and rehabilitation of human movement and conducts research aimed at alleviating the burden of balance decline and falls in older adults.