The Research Rainmaker

Showcasing the top research news from around UTHSC

Video Library

An introduction to the Office of Scientific Writing, featuring Kyle Johnson Moore, PhD.

The Office of Scientific Writing

An introduction to the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute (TN-CTSI), presented by its Co-Directors, Dr. Karen Johnson and Dr. Michelle Martin.

 

TN-CTSI Intro

An overview of the Operational Strategic Plan for Research, presented by Steven R. Goodman, PhD, Vice Chancellor for Research

Operational Strategic Plan for Research

A brief introduction to the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2), presented by Dr. Steven Goodman, President & CEO of CTN2, and Phil Cestaro, Executive Director and Treasurer of CTN2.

The Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2)

Dr. Sam Dagogo-Jack, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism is also the Director of the Clinical Research Center at UTHSC. Here he gives an introduction and overview of the Clinical Research Center and its services. Dr. Dagogo-Jack is also the A.C. Mullins Endowed Chair in Translational Research and former president of the American Diabetes Association.

Introduction to the Clinical Research Center

Dr. Csaba Kovesdy, MD, FASN, is the Fred Hatch Professor of Medicine in the Department of Nephrology at UTHSC and the Chief of the Nephrology Center at the VA Medical Center. He is also the Director of UTHSC’s Office of Clinical Research, and here gives a brief overview of its function and the services it provides UTHSC researchers.

Intro to the Office of Clinical Research
Full Video Library

Ask the Expert

Q
Where should I go for help recruiting subjects for a clinical trial?
A
Most clinical investigators begin by reviewing the patient population in their practice group and other patients in the hospital database where they practice to identify potentially suitable subjects.  In addition, both the Office of Clinical Research and the TN-CTSI can help you. The Office of Clinical Research can provide PIs with research coordinator/s who can…... read more

News Stories

New CORNET Milestone Reached

The Office of Research is celebrating yet another CORNET hit, with a recent $1.15 million NIH award to Wei Li, PhD, UTHSC Distinguished Professor and director of the College of Pharmacy Drug Discovery Center, and Jianxiong Jiang, PhD, associate professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Neurobiology at UTHSC.

The two are principal investigators on a project titled “Targeting TRPC3 Channels for Epileptic Seizures.” Julio Cordero-Morales, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Physiology, is a co-investigator on the study, which is focused on developing a potential new drug target to treat epileptic seizures. The team has previously patented a selective TRPC3 inhibitor as a new druggable target for anti-seizure therapy. Their goal is to develop a lead TRPC3 inhibitor that is stable and safe, with favorable pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties. They will test its effectiveness in suppressing acute seizures, spontaneous recurrent seizures, and/or improving cognitive outcomes.

The grant is a significant milestone for the CORNET program, as it puts the total external dollars generated from CORNET-funded work over the $30 million mark.

The CORNETs (an acronym for Collaborative Research Network) were created by Dr. Steven Goodman in 2016 to give collaborative research teams the initial funding they need to collect data for larger studies. Dr. Li was a 2016 recipient of a CORNET award for a project titled “Selective Targeting of TRPC3 Ion Channel for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy”, a collaborative study with Catherine Kaczorowski, PhD, former UTHSC assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Kristen O’Connell, PhD, former UTHSC assistant professor in the Department of Physiology. Findings from that initial study were leveraged to develop this latest project, exemplifying the CORNET’s role in attracting large, external awards – and growing the bottom-line in UTHSC grants and contracts.

New Dates Announced For Global Scientific Conference Recruited to Memphis by UTHSC, TennIRM

The International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference (IEBMC), a major scientific conference being jointly hosted by University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine (TennIRM), has been rescheduled with an updated speaker lineup. Originally slated for October 8-10, 2021, the conference is now set to take place April 29-May 1, 2022 at the Central Station Hotel in downtown Memphis.

The decision to reschedule was made out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and well-being of conference participants and attendees. The annual event regularly attracts 250-300 attendees. As recently as early September, the virulence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Shelby County, and the resultant increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, were still a cause for concern.

The conference is also sponsored by the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine and its journal, Experimental Biology and Medicine, and is supported by industry and foundation partners. Steve Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC, is chairing the conference planning committee and was instrumental in bringing the event to Memphis.

“Every year this international conference is on a topic of great interest to the global scientific community,” Dr. Goodman said. “This year, the topic is regenerative medicine, and the creation and rapid growth of TennIRM was an important factor in bringing the IEBMC to Memphis.”

Memphis is the first stateside location the global conference has chosen in its eight-year history.

Along with the new dates, a revised list of speakers was announced, which include Arnold I. Caplan, PhD, director of the Skeletal Research Center and professor of Biology at Case Western Reserve University, as the new keynote. “We have an outstanding slate of speakers highlighted by our keynote lecturer, Dr. Arnie Caplan. Dr. Caplan is the researcher who discovered mesenchymal stem cells and is a leader in the field,” Dr. Goodman said.

CORNET Symposia Return this Fall

The Office of Research’s CORNET symposia are returning this fall.

Based on the ideals of cross-disciplinary team science, the CORNET Awards were created to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team research. CORNET Awards Symposia are held to honor award teams and provide award recipients an opportunity to present their findings and share their discoveries.

A variety of collaborations, including internal, regional, and global, comprise the most recent award teams. These awardees will be presenting their findings virtually, over the course of three symposia scheduled for October 29, November 18, and December 10. The December 10 session is earmarked for the UTHSC/University of Memphis SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 CORNETs, awarded in August 2020. Dr. Steven Goodman, UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research and Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, UofM Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation, will co-chair the December event.

We are excited about the return of this event!  Please REGISTER NOW for the October Symposium!

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From UTHSC News

New Dates Announced For Global Scientific Conference Recruited to Memphis by UTHSC, TennIRM

The International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference (IEBMC), a major scientific conference being jointly hosted by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine (TennIRM), has been rescheduled with an updated speaker lineup. Originally slated for October 8-10, 2021, the conference is now set to take place April… Read More

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New Dates Announced For Global Scientific Conference Recruited to Memphis by UTHSC, TennIRM

The International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference (IEBMC), a major scientific conference being jointly hosted by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine (TennIRM), has been rescheduled with an updated speaker lineup. Originally slated for October 8-10, 2021, the conference is now set to take place April 29-May 1, 2022, at the Central Station Hotel in downtown Memphis.

The decision to reschedule was made out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and well-being of conference participants and attendees. The annual event regularly attracts 250-300 attendees. As recently as early September, the virulence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Shelby County, and the resultant increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, were still a cause for concern.

Dr. Steve Goodman

The conference is also sponsored by the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine and its journal, Experimental Biology and Medicine, and is supported by industry and foundation partners. Steve Goodman, PhD, vice chancellor for Research at UTHSC, is chairing the conference planning committee and was instrumental in bringing the event to Memphis.

“Every year, this international conference is on a topic of great interest to the global scientific community,” Dr. Goodman said. “This year, the topic is regenerative medicine, and the creation and rapid growth of TennIRM was an important factor in bringing the IEBMC to Memphis.”

Memphis is the first stateside location the global conference has chosen in its eight-year history.

Along with the new dates, a revised list of speakers was announced, which includes Arnold I. Caplan, PhD, director of the Skeletal Research Center and professor of Biology at Case Western Reserve University, as the new keynote. “We have an outstanding slate of speakers highlighted by our keynote lecturer, Dr. Arnie Caplan. Dr. Caplan is the researcher who discovered mesenchymal stem cells and is a leader in the field,” Dr. Goodman said.

Thought leaders from around the globe in the area of regenerative medicine will present as plenary speakers, addressing a wide spectrum of basic, translational and clinical research topics during five plenary sessions: Stem Cell Biology, Organoids, Organs on a Chip, Regenerative Medicine and the Cardiovascular System, and Regenerative Medicine and the Nervous System. The plenary speaker lineup includes participants from leading research institutions across the United States and globally, the FDA Office of Tissues and Advanced Therapies, and local speakers from UTHSC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The conference, which provides an opportunity for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to present their work to international experts, also extended the deadline for poster session abstract submittals to January 2022.

For registration information or to submit an abstract, visit the event website, iebmc.org. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Contact Greg Harris, senior director of Development, UT Research Foundation, at gharri28@uthsc.edu.

The Complete List of Speakers:

Opening Keynote: Arnold I. Caplan, PhD, Case Western Reserve University

Session 1, Stem Cell Biology: Jian Feng, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo; Daniel Garry, MD, PhD, University of Minnesota; Hannele Ruohola-Baker, University of Washington; Shannon McKinney-Freeman, PhD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Session 2, Organoids: Antonio Santos, PhD, Stanford University; Munemasa Mori, MD, PhD, Columbia University; Gábor Tigyi, MD, PhD, DSc, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Session 3, Organs on a Chip: John Wikswo, PhD, Vanderbilt University; Megan McCain, PhD, University of Southern California; Hyun Jung Kim, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Peter Loskill, PhD, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB

Session 4, Regenerative Medicine and the Cardiovascular System: Robert Schwartz, PhD, University of Houston; W. Keith Jones, Loyola University Chicago; Y. James Kang, PhD, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Session 5, Regenerative Medicine and the Nervous System: Agnes Luo, PhD, University of Cincinnati; Guoli Ming, MD, PhD, University of Pennsylvania; Cindi Morshead, PhD, the University of Toronto

Closing presentation: Sung Kyung, PhD, FDA Office of Tissues and Advanced Therapies

 

Ataga Leading $3 Million AI Study For Predicting Kidney Function Decline in Sickle Cell Patients

Kenneth Ataga, MD, Director of the Center for Sickle Cell Disease at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), was recently awarded $3.2 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for a project that enlists artificial intelligence in the fight against sickle cell disease. Santosh Saraf, MD, associate professor in the Department… Read More

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Ataga Leading $3 Million AI Study For Predicting Kidney Function Decline in Sickle Cell Patients

Kenneth Ataga, MD, Director of the Center for Sickle Cell Disease at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), was recently awarded $3.2 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for a project that enlists artificial intelligence in the fight against sickle cell disease. Santosh Saraf, MD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a co-PI on the grant.

Individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) often suffer from multiple complications that put them at increased risk of death. One of the most prevalent of these is kidney disease. There are few treatments options available for SCD-related kidney disease, none of which have been rigorously tested to prove long-term benefits.

Intervention to slow kidney function decline and reduce mortality hinges on early identification of SCD patients at high-risk for kidney disease. Dr. Ataga was the senior author of a recent report, published in eJHaem in January 2021, that showed machine learning models are able to predict rapid decline of kidney function in patients with SCD.

With this award, Dr. Ataga is building on the findings to conduct a prospective, multicenter study assessing how well machine learning models can accurately predict progression of chronic kidney disease in individuals with sickle cell anemia.

“We are grateful to the NIH for this award,” he said. “This award will allow us to use machine learning techniques to build a predictive model for progression of chronic kidney disease in adults with SCD. Early identification of these patients is necessary to modify known risk factors and initiate targeted therapies in hopes of increasing their life expectancy.”

Co-investigators on the award include Bob Davis, MD, MPH, founding director of the UTHSC Center for Biomedical Informatics and the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair in Biomedical Informatics; Fatma Gunturkun, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the UTHSC Center for Biomedical Informatics, Department of Pediatrics; Ugochi Ogu, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and medical director of the Diggs-Kraus Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Regional One Health; and Laila Elsherif, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and member of the UTHSC Center for Sickle Cell Disease.

Dr. Ataga’s project is titled “Predicting Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease in Sickle Cell Anemia Using Machine Learning Models (PREMIER).” It is funded for five years.

Research Team Awarded $3 Million to Study Weight Loss, Bone Frailty Link in Diabetics

Two researchers in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have received a $3 million award from the National Institute on Aging to study why bones become more frail and prone to fracture in diabetics who achieve long-term weight loss. Qi Zhao, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology, and Karen… Read More

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Research Team Awarded $3 Million to Study Weight Loss, Bone Frailty Link in Diabetics

Qi Zhao, MD, PhD

Two researchers in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have received a $3 million award from the National Institute on Aging to study why bones become more frail and prone to fracture in diabetics who achieve long-term weight loss. Qi Zhao, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology, and Karen Johnson, MD, MPH, department chair and the Endowed Professor of Women’s Health, are the principal investigators on the study.

Weight loss is critical to overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes for improving cardiovascular health and quality of life. But it also puts them at increased risk of bone loss and fracture. The link between the two is still largely unknown, but may be key to protecting bone health during intentional weight loss.

The goal of Dr. Zhao and Dr. Johnson is to identify the metabolomic changes occurring during intentional weight loss in type 2 diabetics that might cause increased fracture risk. They are building on findings from the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Study, a multicenter, randomized clinical trial examining the effects of sustained weight loss through reduced calorie consumption and increased physical activity in volunteers with type 2 diabetes. Dr. Johnson was the principal investigator for the Memphis site, and has continuously followed participants of the original trial through an observational study, and through an extension study.

Karen Johnson, MD, MPH

Findings from the Look AHEAD trial showed an intensive lifestyle intervention for weight loss was associated with 39% increased frailty fracture risk. Bone mineral density scans in a subgroup showed participants were also at increased risk for bone loss.

This new study will use a state-of-the-art liquid chromatography mass spectrometry-based metabolomics approach to examine blood samples from 4,659 Look AHEAD participants. These participants had blood samples collected at both baseline and one-year visits and had a median follow-up of 11.3 years for fracture outcomes. Among those, 1,274 participants also had bone mineral density scans at both baseline and year one.

The team will examine the effects of intensive lifestyle intervention on changes in metabolomic profiles from baseline to year one. Once these metabolomic changes are identified, they will examine whether increased fracture risk is associated with these changes, and whether changes in bone density, quality, and strength are co-occurring. They will also work to discover whether baseline metabolomic profiles modify the effect of intensive lifestyle intervention on fracture risk.

“We are looking forward to identifying potential mechanisms for why the Look AHEAD participants lost bone when they lost weight to see if we can identify ways to prevent this loss and prevent fractures,” Dr. Johnson said.

The study will yield comprehensive insights into the biological mechanisms underlying the increased bone frailty caused by intensive lifestyle intervention. These findings will fuel future discoveries of molecular targets for blocking the detrimental effects of intentional weight loss on bone health. It will also provide new biomarkers for predicting fracture risk and for personalizing/optimizing lifestyle intervention for reducing weight in overweight diabetics.

“The completion of the project will be a collaborative effort of a multidisciplinary team with expertise in clinical trials, molecular and genetic epidemiology, biostatistics, bioinformatics, analytical and synthetic chemistry,” Dr. Zhao said. “We are very excited about this award and hope our study will contribute to the precision prevention of fracture among overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes when they try to lose weight.”

The project, titled “Intensive Lifestyle Intervention, Metabolomics, and Risk of Frailty Fracture in Overweight or Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes,” is being funded for five years.

UTHSC’s Neil Hayes, MD, Funded to Continue Research  Related to The Cancer Genome Atlas

Neil Hayes, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Cancer Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, is one of two principal investigators for a $1.8 million grant that extends the work of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a groundbreaking multisite project to understand cancer at its molecular level through genome sequencing and… Read More

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UTHSC’s Neil Hayes, MD, Funded to Continue Research  Related to The Cancer Genome Atlas

Dr. Neil Hayes is a co-principal on a $1.8 million grant to continue working on research related to the TCGA.
Dr. Neil Hayes is a co-principal on a $1.8 million grant to continue research related to The Cancer Genome Atlas. He said researchers are building on the knowledge from The Cancer Genome Atlas “to explain why some patients respond to cancer treatments and others do not.”

Neil Hayes, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Cancer Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, is one of two principal investigators for a $1.8 million grant that extends the work of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a groundbreaking multisite project to understand cancer at its molecular level through genome sequencing and extensive data analysis.

The grant from the National Cancer Institute, which extends over five years, is a computational grant to continue to analyze the genetics of cancers, with many of the cases coming from patients treated in some of the most-important recent clinical trials, Dr. Hayes said. In this way, the new project advances the research beyond identification toward understanding interactions of cancer genetics and therapeutics, as measured through the samples.

Dr. Hayes, division chief of Hematology and Oncology and assistant dean for Cancer Research in the College of Medicine at UTHSC, shares co-principal investigator duties with Katherine A. Hoadley, PhD, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The total funding for the project is split equally between the two universities.

“This is the most-recent version of cancer genomics projects directly descended from TCGA,” said Dr. Hayes, who was one of the investigators on The Cancer Genome Atlas, which began in 2006 and formally ended in 2018. A flagship team science effort of the National Institutes of Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute, The Cancer Genome Atlas has published findings identifying genomic changes or mutations in cells of 33 types of cancer by analyzing more than 20,000 specimens. Researchers from a dozen or more institutions across the country built a network to complete the project, and have published their findings in more than 200 papers in prestigious scientific journals.

Dr. Hayes, the Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology at UTHSC, was a leader of a site at the University of North Carolina that conducted the sequencing of RNA, which controls abnormal genetic expressions in cancer cells. He was recruited to UTHSC in 2017. More than 15 years after his original work on the TCGA, he remains enthusiastic about the continued potential of cancer genomics in patient health.

“In the beginning, we were really out in the wilderness as far as the cancer genome,” Dr. Hayes said. “We were describing all kinds of abnormalities in human tissues that had transformed from normal to cancer. In many ways, it was a process of generating a list of all the ways in which a normal cell could go wrong. With more-recent versions of TCGA, including the one we were just awarded, we have more of an opportunity to take the lessons of the last 15 years and see how each of those abnormalities explains why some patients respond to cancer treatments and others do not.”

 

Yan Cui and Team Are Innovating Artificial Intelligence Approach to Address Biomedical Data Inequality

Yan Cui, PhD, associate professor in the UTHSC Department of Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics, recently received a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a study titled “Algorithm-based prevention and reduction of cancer health disparity arising from data inequality.” Dr. Cui’s project aims to prevent and reduce health disparities caused by ethnically-biased data in cancer-related… Read More

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Yan Cui and Team Are Innovating Artificial Intelligence Approach to Address Biomedical Data Inequality

Yan Cui, PhD, associate professor in the UTHSC Department of Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics, recently received a $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a study titled “Algorithm-based prevention and reduction of cancer health disparity arising from data inequality.”

Dr. Cui’s project aims to prevent and reduce health disparities caused by ethnically-biased data in cancer-related genomic and clinical omics studies. His objective is to establish a new machine learning paradigm for use with multiethnic clinical omics data.

For nearly 20 years, scientists have been using genome-wide association studies, known as GWAS, and clinical omics studies to detect the molecular basis of diseases. But statistics show that over 80% percent of data used in GWAS come from people of predominantly European descent.

As artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly applied to biomedical research and clinical decisions, this European-centric skew is set to exacerbate long-standing disparities in health. With less than 20% of genomic samples coming from people of non-European descent, underrepresented populations are at a severe disadvantage in data-driven, algorithm-based biomedical research and health care.

“Biomedical data-disadvantage has become a significant health risk for the vast majority of the world’s population,” Dr. Cui said. “AI-powered precision medicine is set to be less precise for the data-disadvantaged populations including all the ethnic minority groups in the U.S. We are committed to addressing the health disparities arising from data inequality.”

The project is innovative in the type of machine learning technique it will use. Multiethnic machine learning normally uses mixture learning and independent learning schemes. Dr. Cui’s project will instead be using a transfer learning process.

Transfer learning works much the same way as human learning.  When faced with a new task, instead of starting the learning process from scratch, the algorithm leverages patterns learned from solving a related task. This approach greatly reduces the resources and amount of data required for developing new models.

Using large-scale cancer clinical omics data and genotype-phenotype data, Dr. Cui’s lab will examine how and to what extent transfer learning improves machine learning on data-disadvantaged cohorts. In tandem with this, the team aims to create an open resource system for unbiased multiethnic machine learning to prevent or reduce new health disparities.

Neil Hayes, MD, MPH, assistant dean for Cancer Reesearch in the UTHSC College of Medicine and director of the UTHSC Center for Cancer Research, and Athena Starlard-Davenport, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Genetics, Genomics, and Informatics, are co-Investigators on the grant. Yan Gao, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Cui, is a machine learning expert in the team. A pilot study for this project, funded by the UT Center for Integrative and Translational Genomics and UTHSC Office of Research, has been published in Nature Communications.

TN-CTSI Awards Pilot Project Funding To Two UTHSC Researchers

The Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute (TN-CTSI) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has announced the latest round of grant recipients from its Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program. Two UTHSC researchers were each awarded $30,000 for a one-year period. The winners and their projects are: Karen J. Derefinko, associate professor,… Read More

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TN-CTSI Awards Pilot Project Funding To Two UTHSC Researchers

The Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute (TN-CTSI) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has announced the latest round of grant recipients from its Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program. Two UTHSC researchers were each awarded $30,000 for a one-year period. The winners and their projects are:

Dr. Karen Derefinko
  • Karen J. Derefinko, associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine, for her project “Opioid reduction for total knee replacement patients.” This study is a randomized clinical trial examining safe, non-narcotic pain relief strategies for patients age 18 and over following total knee replacement surgery. It is a collaboration between UTHSC Departments of Preventive Medicine, Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, and Campbell Clinic Orthopedics. The results of this project could lead to alternative treatment practices at orthopedic surgery centers nationwide.
Dr. Keiichi Sumida
  • Keiichi Sumida, MD, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the Division of Nephrology in the College of Medicine, and Canan Kuscu, PhD, professor, Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, for their project “Circulating small non-coding RNA profiles for premature cardiovascular death in hemodialysis patients.” This is a case-control study to profile novel epigenetic regulators (circulating-small non-coding RNAs) of cardiovascular disease in hemodialysis patients. The project will help identify potential new biomarkers for cardiovascular death in patients with end-stage renal disease and will pave the way for future larger studies to develop target-driven therapeutics.

The Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program aims to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team-based research led by UTHSC faculty members as principal investigators. The program provides seed funding for projects across the translational science continuum, from basic science to dissemination and implementation research.

“The TN-CTSI aims to bring evidence-based interventions and practices to community and clinical settings to improve human health,” Michelle Martin, PhD, co-director of the institute, said. “We are excited to expand our research portfolio to include these two projects and advance the mission we have for our institute.” Dr. Martin is also a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and founding director of the Center for Innovation in Health Equity Research.

“The two projects funded are addressing important health problems in our community and will add to our knowledge of how to prevent disease and promote health,” said Karen Johnson, MD, MPH, TN-CTSI co-director and endowed professor in Women’s Health and chair of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC.

This is the third cohort of TN-CTSI pilot award recipients. To date, the program has awarded a total of $135,000 to seven UTHSC researchers since its 2018 founding.

The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine Gains International Reach With New Partnership

An institute led by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is gaining international reach, thanks to a new partnership with a worldwide interdisciplinary network. The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine (TennIRM) has combined forces with the Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF) in an informal partnership to promote their common interest in stem cell therapeutics and… Read More

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The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine Gains International Reach With New Partnership

An institute led by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is gaining international reach, thanks to a new partnership with a worldwide interdisciplinary network.

The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine is partnering with the  Regenerative Medicine Foundation to promote their interests in stem cell therapeutics and regenerative medicine.

The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine (TennIRM) has combined forces with the Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF) in an informal partnership to promote their common interest in stem cell therapeutics and regenerative medicine.

TennIRM was recently invited to become a member of The Regenerative Medicine Foundation, a comprehensive global network uniting the world’s leading researchers; medical centers; universities; labs; businesses; funders; policymakers; experts in law, regulation and ethics; medical philanthropies; and patient organizations. Membership in the non-profit foundation afforded UTHSC and TennIRM the opportunity to present at the foundation’s annual event, the World Stem Cell Summit, in June.

The summit, now in its 16th year, is the most inclusive and expansive interdisciplinary, networking, and partnering meeting in the stem cell science and regenerative medicine field. It has been an educational and networking focal point for scientists, business leaders, regulators, policymakers, patient advocates, economic development officers, experts in law and ethics, and visionaries from around the world since 2003. The summit provides multiple forums to discuss the impacts of current research and future opportunities that promise to accelerate the translation of cell-based therapeutics for patients.

UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research Steve Goodman, PhD, moderated a featured session on the “Hot Topics and Future Trends” track at the virtual event. The session introduced to the RMF community the cutting-edge work in 3D bioprinting of stem cell-derived tissues being done by TennIRM’s research groups, and an introduction to the entity that will be handling its clinical trials, the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2). The hour-long presentation titled, “Discover Tennessee! Stem Cell Therapeutics and Regenerative Medicine: from Basic Research to Clinical Trials. The Tennessee Institute of Regenerative Medicine and CTN2 Story,” also afforded CTN2 the opportunity to solicit study proposals and inquiries for stem cell and regenerative medicine trials from sponsors and investigators in the RMF community.

Joining Dr. Goodman as presenters were three UTHSC representatives:

  • Gabor Tigyi, MD, PhD, executive director, TennIRM, and Harriett Van Vleet Chair in Oncology Research; Harriet Van Vleet Endowed Professor
  • James Kang, PhD, chief scientist, TennIRM and professor, UTHSC College of Graduate Health Sciences
  • Phil Cestaro, executive director and treasurer of CTN2 and associate vice chancellor for Research and Business Development

“It is a pleasure for TennIRM and CTN2 to join forces with RMF toward our common goal of improving the health of the global community based on stem cell therapeutics and regenerative medicine,” Dr. Goodman said. “These will be major drivers of the practice of medicine and economic development for the remainder of the 21st Century and beyond.”

In addition to contributing this featured session, TennIRM also supported the event as a Gold Sponsor.

RMF is supporting a major event TennIRM recruited to Memphis this year, the 8th Annual International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference. RMF has become the latest sponsor of the 2021 meeting, which this year is focused on regenerative medicine. The conference, slated for October 8-10, is an annual event of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. Bringing thought leaders from around the globe to present as keynote and plenary speakers, the event is recognized as a premier international scientific meeting. The society selected Memphis as the first stateside location of its 8-year-old conference in recognition of TennIRM’s potential as a hub of biomedical innovation in the regenerative medicine field.

RMF is sponsoring the conference’s poster sessions, which will take place Friday evening, October 8. The foundation is also lending its clout in the form of increased exposure for the event among members of the regenerative medicine community at large.

“The World Stem Cell Summit was honored to showcase the Tennessee Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee, at the 16th World Stem Cell Summit,” said Bernard Siegel, JD, executive director of RMF and founder of the World Stem Cell Summit. “Now, the Regenerative Medicine Foundation is proud to add its support to the 8th International Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference in Memphis. Tennessee has clearly emerged as a model ‘go to’ hub for clinical trials, supply chain logistics and cellular medicine and tissue engineering research. A true national platform for all the curative technologies.”

Toni Whitaker Receives $3.1 Million For UTHSC’s LEND Program

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a University of Tennessee Health Science Center professor’s efforts to improve health outcomes in children with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. Toni Whitaker, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and division chief for Developmental Pediatrics in the UTHSC… Read More

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Toni Whitaker Receives $3.1 Million For UTHSC’s LEND Program

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a University of Tennessee Health Science Center professor’s efforts to improve health outcomes in children with, or at risk for, neurodevelopmental and related disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Toni Whitaker

Toni Whitaker, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and division chief for Developmental Pediatrics in the UTHSC College of Medicine, has received a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, a division of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, for the UTHSC Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program.

The UTHSC LEND program, one of 60 in a national network, provides interdisciplinary training to enhance the clinical expertise and leadership skills of professionals dedicated to caring for children with neurodevelopmental and other related developmental disabilities.

LEND programs improve the health of children who have, or are at risk for, neurodevelopmental or related disabilities by preparing trainees from a wide variety of professional disciplines to assume leadership roles and to ensure high levels of clinical competence. LEND program trainees participate in a variety of academic, clinical, leadership, and community experiences.

“Clinical and leadership experience in interdisciplinary settings with faculty who are dedicated to serving the needs of children and families is critical to creating well-trained health professionals with expertise in neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Our goal is to increase capacity in our community and beyond to provide excellent care for children with developmental delays and disabilities.”

The UTHSC LEND program, housed at the UTHSC Center on Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics, will serve trainees and professionals in the UTHSC Colleges of Medicine, Health Professions, Nursing, Graduate Health Sciences, and Dentistry. Students and collaborating faculty also partner with the LEND program from other UT campuses, including Knoxville and Chattanooga, and with other universities (such as the University of Memphis).

 

UTHSC Has Record-Breaking Year Securing $121 Million In Research Grants and Contract Awards

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Office of Research announced that annual research grant and contract awards for FY21, which ended June 30, total more than $121 million, a 20.6% increase from last year. The FY21 research award total is $121,700,667. Roughly half of these funds come from federal sources. The faculty of all… Read More

Posted on: | More from news.uthsc.edu: This Article | Research Articles | Research Announcements

UTHSC Has Record-Breaking Year Securing $121 Million In Research Grants and Contract Awards

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Office of Research announced that annual research grant and contract awards for FY21, which ended June 30, total more than $121 million, a 20.6% increase from last year.

Improved facilities, streamlined infrastructure, and a more supportive climate for research has resulted in major growth in research grants and contracts for the university.

The FY21 research award total is $121,700,667. Roughly half of these funds come from federal sources. The faculty of all six colleges and four campuses broke records in a number of categories, including grant proposal count by fiscal year and quarter. Additionally, the UTHSC College of Pharmacy moved up to Number 14 nationally among colleges and schools of pharmacy in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Year-over-year metrics show a total increase from $85 million in FY17 to today’s $121.7 million in research awards for the university. This represents a 43% growth in research grants and contracts in five years.

During this same period, UTHSC’s all-source, non-clinical grant and contract expenditures (sponsored programs, research, and education grants and contracts) were more than $300 million, showing strong growth in all grant and contract portfolios.

The infrastructure overhaul, accomplished by the UTHSC Office of Research and led by Vice Chancellor for Research Steven Goodman, PhD, as part of the five-year Operational Strategic Plan for Research written in 2016, allowed the UTHSC research enterprise to remain fully functional during the pandemic, despite the fact that the campuses were operating primarily remotely. Increased staffing, improved resources, and new streamlined and automated processes allowed researchers to successfully adapt and advance their projects, despite the physical restrictions in place on all campuses. Additionally, a part of the research strategic plan, the Office of Research’s Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) seed grant funding program is credited by the faculty as driving major collaborative grant efforts.

Many programs and faculty had exceptional performance over that period, which added to the growth in funding. A few recently include:

  • The UT Institute for the Study of Host Pathogen Systems (ISHPS) led by Colleen Jonsson, PhD, Van Fleet Endowed Professor and director of the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL), received a multiyear national grant for nearly $23 million in 2017.
  • The Tennessee Heart Health Network led by Jim Bailey, MD, Robert S. Pearce Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine and director of the Tennessee Population Health Consortium, received a $4.5 million multiyear grant in May from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
  • Sam Dagogo-Jack, MD, A.C. Mullins professor of medicine, director of the General Clinical Research Center, and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, along with Nawajes Mandal, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology, Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences, received $1.99 million in April from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for their work to advance understanding of the pathophysiology of prediabetes, diabetes, and related complications.
  • Jonathan H. Jaggar, PhD, Maury Bronstein Endowed Professor in the Department of Physiology, received a $2.3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in March for blood pressure research.
  • Francesca-Fang Liao, PhD, and Fu-Ming Zhou, PhD, both professors in the Department of Pharmacology, Addiction Science, and Toxicology, received $1.9 million in March from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study possible causes of dementia.

Since its launch in 2018, the Clinical Trials Network of Tennessee (CTN2) has brought more than 200 clinical trial opportunities, including three related to COVID-19,  to the university and the citizens of Tennessee, generating more than $10 million in awards to the university.

 

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