Pilot project funding supports innovative research and encourages team science

CTSC newsletter Connections
Click on the photograph to read the Fall-Winter 20012 issue of the CTSC Connections newsletter. (pdf)

Posted Dec. 12, 2012

The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) Pilot Award Program sparks innovative and collaborative scientific investigations by supporting robust new research paradigms, technologies and tools, and by establishing partnerships that enhance team science.

The CTSC is pleased to announce the recipients of new pilot projects funded in partnership with Rosa B. Sherman Pediatric Research Awards, as well as the four research teams receiving the CTSC’s Highly Innovative Awards for 2012:

“Transition of Health Care for Youth with Special Health Care Needs Using EMR for Training Pediatric Residents,” Robin Hansen, professor of pediatrics.

Transition of health care from pediatric to adult-oriented health care systems for youth with special health-care needs is an important area that is usually not part of the pediatric residency curriculum. As more health systems move towards using electronic medical records (EMR), developing a simple, easy-to-use EMR template to address some of the key transition issues in a systematic way could save time, and improve efficiency, patient satisfaction and quality of care. The overall hypothesis is that resident training in transition planning and use of an EMR template will increase knowledge for both residents and families regarding this process and result in systematic improvements in quality of care provision as patients transitioning to adult-care services.

“Improving Speech Outcomes Through the Use of a Novel Game-Based Speech Therapy,” Travis Tollefson, associate professor of otolaryngology.

 Orofacial clefts, including cleft lip and cleft palate, are among the most common congenital anomalies. Children with orofacial clefts require multiple surgical procedures and long-term speech therapy. Although early intervention is associated with higher likelihood of success at attaining proper speech production, younger children have difficulty sustaining interaction with the therapist, comprehending tasks, and staying motivated to comply with therapy. This project aims to develop a novel method of speech-therapy delivery that is engaging, portable and applicable beyond the speech therapist’s office.

 “Mechanisms by Which Human Milk Peptides and N-Glycans Shape the Infant Intestinal Microbiota,” Mark Underwood, associate professor of pediatrics.

 Sepsis and necrotizing enterocolitis are the most common causes of mortality after the first two weeks of life in premature infants. Both of these complications are associated with the composition of the intestinal microbiota and are less common in premature infants who receive their mother’s milk. Previous studies at UC Davis have demonstrated that human milk oligosaccharides play an important prebiotic role in shaping the composition of the intestinal microbiota. In this study, similar methodologies are proposed to evaluate two minimally studied, bioactive human milk components: glycoprotein-associated N-glycans and peptides.

“Acylcarnitines and Inherited Disorders of Fatty Acid Oxidation: From Clinical Diagnostics to Active Players in Driving Inflammation and Myopathy,” Sean Adams, associate adjunct professor of nutrition at UC Davis and researcher at the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center.

Inborn errors of metabolism include disorders of fat combustion such as enzyme deficiencies that are associated with fatty acid utilization by mitochondria. In many of these diseases, patients do not display symptoms until the body experiences an additional stress such as an infection or illness, intense exercise or fasting. Under these conditions, the fatty acids increase in the bloodstream and overwhelm the body’s ability to utilize them. This proposal will test if metabolites associated with the perturbation of fat metabolism do not just mark disease, but actually participate in pathways of cell stress that are involved in deteriorating metabolic health in muscle.

“Inflammation, Genetic Risk Factor, and Cardiovascular Disease – New Insights from Studies in Nonhuman Primates,” Enkhmaa Byambaa, assistant adjunct professor of endocrinology.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of mortality worldwide and, in the U.S. alone, more than 2,200 people die of CVD each day – an average of one death every 39 seconds. A high CVD risk remains despite appropriate therapeutic management of established risk factors, including LDL cholesterol, emphasizing the need to identify other contributing factors. Over the years, there has been increasing evidence for the causative role of lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), in CVD development, and screening for elevated Lp(a) has been recommended. Yet the underlying mechanisms for the atherogenic role of Lp(a) remains poorly understood. The goal of this project is to validate the suitability of the rhesus monkey as a model system for Lp(a) studies and to investigate the associations of inflammatory burden with Lp(a) and allele-specific apolipoprotein(a) levels.

“The Development of a Novel Drug Delivery System that Targets the Blood- Brain Barrier,” Angie Gelli, associate professor of pharmacology.

One hundred million Americans suffer from some type of devastating brain disorder. These disorders include cancer, infection (meningitis, encephalitis), neurological conditions (epilepsy, migraines) and neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS and Huntington’s disease). Treating any type of brain disease is extremely challenging because the blood-brain barrier (BBB) prevents most clinically relevant drugs from reaching the brain.The goal of this study is to develop an enabling technology that increases the permeability of the BBB to a new type of silicon nanoparticle that can carry a therapeutic payload and is biodegradable.

“Microglial Cells Regulate Development of the Prenatal Cortex Under Normal and Pathological Conditions,” Stephen Noctor, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

This study aims to understand the mechanisms that regulate prenatal development of the cerebral cortex under normal and pathological conditions. Specifically, studies will demonstrate that the immune system regulates cell genesis in the developing brain, which will develop new lines of investigation on pathological conditions such as schizophrenia and autism, in which immune system activation during gestation has been implicated.

Research that improves human health

The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) is a founding member of national consortium established in 2006 to re-engineer research processes so that innovative ideas can more quickly be evaluated and developed into new treatments that improve human health. Funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Science, the CTSC provides infrastructure support to foster translational research, promotes the training and career development of physicians and scientists, and catalyzes the development and sharing of innovative research methods and technologies, from streamlining data-sharing and multi-trial regulatory processes to patient recruitment and communication.

Visit https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/ctsc for more information.