BU-CTSI Fall 2017 Pilot Awardees

Monday, March 5, 2018
Provided by: Boston University Clinical & Translational Science Institute | Source: CTSI

Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (BU-CTSI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the Fall 2017 Integrated Pilot Grant Program. Each awardee received $20,000 in funding. The CTSI would like to recognize the faculty who reviewed the applicants and offer our sincere thanks for their time and efforts. The purpose of the Integrated Pilot Grant Award mechanism is to stimulate scientific discovery in all areas of basic or translational research related to the prevention, diagnosis, and management of human disease.

Congratulations to:

Borba, Christina, PhD, MPH
The grant is a collaboration between BUSM’s Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Michael Paasche-Orlow from BUSM’s Department of Medicine (General Internal Medicine), and the Institute of Urban Health Research at Northeastern University. The pilot grant builds upon the previous work of the NIMH funded grant (PI: Lincoln) which examined the prevalence and meaning of limited literacy in the lives of people with SMI for which BMC served as a study site. This new pilot grant will support the development of an adult basic education intervention that addresses limited literacy among BMC patients using outpatient mental health services. They will also assess the feasibility of an innovative, peer-informed reading group with the goal of improving engagement in treatment and community inclusion for individuals with SMI.

Colby, Aaron, PhD
We are developing a dissolvable hydrogel wound dressing for second degree burns. First responders and caregivers will be able to use this dressing in both emergency settings and for long-term care in burn clinics. Application is easy: the dressing is applied as a thick, viscous liquid onto large and/or complex surface areas (e.g., fingers/toes) and cross-linked in place. Removal is painless: the dressing is dissolved on-demand by applying a “removal” solution. The dressing adheres to skin, prevents infection, absorbs exudates and maintains a moist environment. The painless and non-traumatic dissolution of the dressing stands in contrast to all commercially available dressings, which are painful and time-consuming to remove.

Fetterman, Jessica, PhD
Current deep whole-genome sequencing provides the opportunity to advance our understanding of the links between mitochondrial genetics, mitochondrial function, and cardiovascular disease risk. The goal of this CTSI pilot study is to develop multiplex assays of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation complex activities and oxidative stress in biobanked samples from human participants. The methodology developed will allow for the evaluation of mitochondrial function in samples collected from large population studies, including cohorts within the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine program. Future proposals using this methodology will provide insight into the contribution of acquired mitochondrial DNA mutations to age-related cardiovascular disease and whether alterations in mitochondrial function mediate these effects. A greater understanding of the contribution of acquired mitochondrial genetic variation in cardiovascular disease will provide insights that could be utilized in personalized medicine to identify individuals for specific pharmaceutical targets and lifestyle changes aimed at altering mitochondrial metabolism and downstream signaling processes.

Kolachalama, Vijaya, PhD
Vijaya B. Kolachalama, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Section of Computational Biomedicine, is a translational scientist with a laboratory focused on developing machine learning and image processing algorithms for disease assessment and designing software technologies to assist therapeutic development and clinical decision-making. He is also the course director and primary instructor of Machine Learning for Biomedical Applications, taught within the Graduate Medical Sciences program at BUSM. In collaboration with Dr. Rhoda Au, who is the Director of Neuropsychology at the Framingham Heart Study, he plans to use the CTSI funding to validate predictive models of cognitive status that they have developed using deep learning algorithms applied on human MRI brain images.

Kressin, Nancy, PhD
Dense breast (DB) tissue poses a small increased risk of breast cancer (BC), and reduces the sensitivity of mammography by impeding radiologists’ ability to accurately read the image, as DB tissue looks similar to cancer on a mammogram. Scientific evidence is insufficient to guide supplemental screening decisions solely on the basis of breast density. Yet, dense breast notification (DBN) legislation in 30 US states now requires informing women about breast density when they receive mammogram results. To understand the impact of DBNs on a representative and diverse sample of women, we will conduct a pilot cross-sectional observational national telephone survey study of mammography age-eligible women (40-74) who received a mammogram in the prior 2 years (N=400). We will compare women in DBN states to women in non-DBN states on self-reported outcomes (responses, behavioral plans), and examine how effects vary with characteristics of the DBN itself (literacy level) and women’s race/ethnicity and educational level, comparing women living in states with and without DBNs.

Lasser, Karen, MD
Hospital-based Patient Navigation to Promote Smoking Cessation: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. The goals of this project are: 1) To adapt a previously developed patient navigation primary care-based smoking cessation intervention into a scalable intervention delivered to hospitalized smokers at a large urban safety-net hospital and 2)To determine the acceptability and feasibility of the adapted patient navigation hospital-based smoking cessation intervention by pilot testing it among 25 smokers.

Lewis, Cara, PhD
Slight alterations in hip bone structure are an increasingly recognized cause of hip pain in young adults. However, new research conducted in motion capture labs indicates that individuals with hip pain also have altered movements that may further contribute to the symptoms. In this pilot project, we will be shifting this work to the clinic using a movement screen that can be completed quickly without expensive equipment. This work has the potential to redirect treatment for individuals with hip pain by identifying modifiable movement patterns which could be targeted by inexpensive and non-invasive therapeutic interventions.

Liu, Libin, PhD
How to elevate bioactive adiponectin level in circulation is of great interest for clinical therapy in diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, and others. Previously we identified a novel adipocyte specific redox regulatory protein called peroxiredoxin like 2A (PRXL2A, also named adiporedoxin, Adrx) that plays an important role on adipokine secretion. Unexpectedly we also found it is highly abundant in circulation. The preliminary data indicate PRXL2A expressing blood cells promote efficient high molecular weight (HMW) adiponectin assembly. In this project we propose to investigate the molecular details for this PRXL2A-dependent adiponectin oligomerization and its physiological relevant. The results from proposed studies may provide potentially therapeutic targets for specific increasing circulating HMW adiponectin levels through redox regulation.

McAneny, David, MD in collaboration with Drs. Chu and Haroon
In 2010, surgeons at the Boston Medical Center developed ICOUGH, a comprehensive protocol that has significantly reduced the likelihood of patients developing postoperative pulmonary complications. This program has been buttressed with numerous system-wide measures, including the recent addition of an ICOUGH smartphone application. This app maximizes the protocol’s acceptability (currently in English and Spanish) among patients and their families, promotes positive behavior changes, and increases satisfaction with hospital care in a way that optimizes nursing workflow. The aim of this phase of our investigation is to show proof-of concept, with the ultimate goal of conducting a larger, longer study that examines how the app influences specific outcomes (e.g., length of stay, unplanned intubation, postoperative pneumonia, and other adverse outcomes).

Monti, Stefano, PhD
We propose a highly focused pilot aimed at collecting and characterizing by single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) a set of primary head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC), stratified by ethnicity (Caucasian Americans [CA] vs. African Americans [AA]). The outcome of these experiments will help us elucidate the interplay between epithelial cells and immune infiltrate, with the ultimate goal of advancing treatment strategies based on immune checkpoint therapy. Additionally, the stratification with respect to ethnicity will allow us to investigate differences in cell type composition, and it directly addresses questions of high relevance to the BUSM patient population.
This is work conducted in close collaboration w/ Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska @GSDM, the director of the Flow Cytometry Core Dr. Jennifer Snyder- Cappione, and the co-directors of the Single Cell Sequencing Core Drs. Yuriy Alekseyev and Josh Campbell.

Snyder-Cappione, Jennifer, PhD & Rawad, Elias MD
This pilot project seeks to determine the combinations of immune parameters that correlate with frailty in older patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and matched healthy controls. PLSDA and similar algorithmic analysis platforms of collected immune and geriatric assessment data will be used to determine potential synergistic relationships between immune aging, frailty, and NSCLC onset.

Spencer, Andrea, MD
A Novel Lay Health Worker Intervention to Engage Families in ADHD Care. The purpose of the study is to develop and pilot test a family-centered, lay health worker-delivered intervention designed to increase parent self efficacy in order to improve engagement in care for children with ADHD. The intervention will be adapted using a mixed methods approach and then  tested with both English and Spanish-speaking families.

Zhong, Xuemei, MD
IgG antibodies have been the dominant antibody used in immunotherapy of cancer to target tumor associated antigens (TAA) or check point biomarkers. In the past decade, however, more and more evidence has begun to emerge, suggesting that naturally occurring IgM antibodies (nIgM) are what our immune system ordinarily designed to handle damaged or cancerous cells. Dr. Xuemei Zhong’s lab (Med Campus) in collaboration with Dr. Joyce Wong’s lab (CRC Campus) has been awarded the CTSI pilot grant to develop a novel rapid isolation method to isolate and clone nIgM-producing cancer fighting B cells from human tissue.

All publications resulting from the utilization of CTSI resources are required to credit the CTSI grant by including the NIH Funding acknowledgement and must comply with NIH Public Access Policy.