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Latest Issue of ‘Connective Issues’ Newsletter is Online

The December 2017 issue of the Connective Issues newsletter from the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL) is now available.

The topics in this issue include:

  • Why All the Kerfuffle About ResearchGate and SciHub?
  • HS/HSL Partners With the NIH All of Us Research Program
  • 3D-Print Your Holiday Ornaments!
  • HS/HSL Cancels Web of Science
  • Graphic Medicine Collection
  • Collection Realignment Process
  • Bioinformatics and Data Science Workstation
  • HS/HSL Maker Expo – March 6, 2018 – Save the Date!
  • UMB Entrepreneur Toolkit
  • Library Genie 2017 Survey Results
  • Collaborative Learning Room Now Available!
  • Gender Neutral Bathroom
  • “Unmasking the Trauma of War” Luncheon and Guest Speaker
Everly Brown Collaboration, Community Service, Education, People, Research, Technology, University LifeDecember 5, 20170 comments
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Engaging Hepatitis C Patients to Improve Research Methods

When I joined the School of Pharmacy in 2014, my primary focus was on teaching pharmacy management and developing research skills in the area of economic evaluation. As a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS), I enrolled in the PhD in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) program at the school to become a pharmacoeconomist and build cost-effectiveness studies. However, I enrolled into the program at a time when the culture in research was beginning to shift, primarily because of extraordinary PHSR professors who knew that researchers could do a much better job systematically including the patient voice in our work.

Evaluating cost-effectiveness of hepatitis C treatments

Like any other graduate student, I dove into the literature around the new treatments for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). With help from Julia Slejko, PhD, assistant professor in PHSR, and C. Daniel Mullins, PhD, professor and chair of PHSR, I developed my first cost-effectiveness study for HCV treatments, but I fell into the trap of focusing on traditional methods that did not include patients.1 Although it was good experience for me to gain while learning this field, I knew there was much more to do.

Engaging patients to improve methods

After submitting my economic model, I spoke informally with Susan dosReis, BSPharm, PhD, and Eleanor Perfetto, PhD, MS, both professors in PHSR, about the lack of patient input in all of the HCV cost-effectiveness studies that I had reviewed. Without hesitation, Perfetto smiled and said, “There is your next paper.” So, we went to work. We systematically reviewed economic studies for HCV treatments and found that the inclusion of the patient voice has been limited in this area, to say the least.2

Submission to PCORI: It takes a village

One of the key lessons that I’ve learned over the past year is that most good research proposals require a team effort, and all researchers are influenced by the company they keep. With several faculty in the department having success with their contract submissions to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) – facilitated, in part, by the creation of the PATIENTS Program – a culture of authentic, patient-centered research has weaved throughout the school.

I recently had an opportunity to become the director of operations with the PATIENTS team, where I learned firsthand what it meant to “continuously engage” patients in every step of the research process.3 The natural progression for me was to submit a Pipeline to Proposal (P2P) Tier A award to PCORI, which would fund the work necessary to build relationships with patients in the West Baltimore community where the School of Pharmacy is located. I pitched an idea to leverage the Community Engagement Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to work with underserved patients as advisors to our research to Shyamasundaran Kottilil, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and renowned HCV clinician and researcher at the School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology (IHV). He immediately came on board.

With the support of Kottilil; Ashley Valis, executive director for strategic initiatives and community engagement at UMB; and Mullins, as director of the PATIENTS Program, our proposal was created and, fortunately, won over the reviewers at PCORI.

Now the real work begins

In our P2P, we aim to engage underserved HCV patients to inform and improve comparative effectiveness research for HCV interventions. We also plan to develop a blog that will target patients and researchers to disseminate our work in a way that is meaningful to both audiences. We want to bring patients, clinicians, and researchers to the same table to discuss research questions related to HCV treatment that matter most to patients. This multi-stakeholder approach will help us develop another research proposal that might be of interest to funding agencies such as PCORI, the National Institutes of Health, or the Food and Drug Administration. We’re excited to get started and can’t wait to see how the results of our work might impact future studies.

Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA, assistant professor in PPS and PHSR graduate student


1 Mattingly TJ, Slejko JF, Mullins CD. Hepatitis C Treatment Regimens Are Cost-Effective: But Compared With What? Ann Pharmacother. 2017; online: July 1, 2017. doi:10.1177/1060028017722007.

2 Mattingly TJ, Perfetto EM, Johnson S. Engaging hepatitis C infected patients in cost-effectiveness analyses: A literature review. Hepatology. August 2017. doi:10.1002/hep.29482.

3 Mullins CD, Abdulhalim AM, Lavallee DC. Continuous Patient Engagement in Comparative Effectiveness Research. JAMA. 2012;307(15):1587-1588.

Joey Mattingly ResearchOctober 18, 20170 comments
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A Metabolic Pathway that Feeds Liver Cancer

A little-studied gene may explain how some liver cancer cells obtain the nutrition they need to proliferate, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. The results of this research were published as an Editors’ Pick in the Aug. 18 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Because they multiply quickly and spread throughout the body, cancer cells require more energy than normal cells. One approach to treating cancer, therefore, is targeting the pathways that cancer cells have adapted to meet these energy needs, thus “starving” the cancer. The laboratory of Hongbing Wang, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was interested in how this principle applied to cancers of the liver.

“The liver is one of the most busy, active organs in the body,” Wang said, so the healthy liver already needs a lot of energy. In addition, Wang said, liver cancer appears to be one of the few cancers of which incidences seem to be on the rise, possibly in association with the rise of metabolism-related conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

When looking for genes that might play important roles in the metabolism of healthy and cancerous liver cells, Wang and his colleagues became interested in a gene called SLC13A5, which produces a protein that transports citrate into cells. SLC13A5 is expressed mainly in the liver, but its role is relatively understudied.

“If you search for SLC13A5 in PubMed — I searched this morning — there are 54 publications, which is not a whole lot,” Wang said. Nearly half of these studies were published in the last two years. Research on SLC13A5 has focused on its role in obesity and diabetes; knocking out the SLC13A5 gene in mice prevents high-fat diet-induced obesity. If this gene plays a role in energy homeostasis and energy balance in the context of obesity, Wang reasoned, perhaps it could play a role in the energy requirements of liver cancer cells.

Zhihui Li, a postdoctoral fellow in Wang’s lab, performed experiments in which he used a technique called RNA interference to suppress (but not completely eliminate) the production of the SLC13A5 protein. He carried out these experiments in cultures of two human hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines. Suppressing SLC13A5 resulted in liver cancer cells that did not die but had significantly slower growth and division. Similarly, when these cells were injected into mice, the cells in which SLC13A5 was suppressed formed barely discernable tumors compared to the unmanipulated cancer cells.

Wang hypothesizes that the extracellular citrate taken up by the SLC13A5 protein is required by the liver cancer cells for fatty acid synthesis. Because prostate cancer does not express SLC13A5, the growth of prostate cancer cells was unaffected by suppressing SLC13A5 expression. The fact that prostate cancer grew independently of the presence of SLC13A5 supports the idea that different cancers use different methods to meet their high energy requirements.

Wang points out that the current findings are preliminary and that comparing SLC13A5 activity in healthy and cancerous human liver tissue will be necessary before studies of this pathway as a cancer drug target should be contemplated. But understanding the involvement of the citrate transport pathway in the growth of liver cancer marks a step forward in understanding energy use in cancer.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Read the paper.

About the Journal of Biological Chemistry

JBC is a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes research “motivated by biology, enabled by chemistry” across all areas of biochemistry and molecular biology.

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The society’s student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information, the ASBMB website.

Alexandra Mushegian Research, UMB NewsAugust 25, 20170 comments
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Research Professor Wins Entrepreneurial Award

In 2007, Hanping Feng, PhD, then a research assistant professor at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, decided to transition from basic research to translational research. “I wanted to do something that had a direct impact on human health,” he says.

A decade later, he hasn’t changed his mind. Now a professor in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), he is a co-founder of Fzata, Inc., an antibody technology startup company, which in June was named “Best Life Sciences Company” at the Maryland Incubator Company of the Year awards ceremony. Now in its 16th year, the honor is presented annually by a committee of regional leaders and early-stage investors in recognition of promising fledgling technology companies in Maryland.

Feng’s research is focused on the development of novel diagnostics, vaccines, and antibody-based immunotherapies for Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). More than 29,000 deaths in the United States are caused annually by antibiotic-resistant C. difficile; globally the infection is considered an urgent public health threat.

“It’s a huge problem particularly in westernized countries,” says Feng. “It develops frequently in hospitals where antibiotics are administered. Patients expose spores and then develop an infection. The problem is that currently there’s no prevention nor good treatment strategy.”

Feng’s team has developed a highly innovative and multi-specific antitoxin antibody that has been shown to be effective in neutralizing both clostridial toxins and blocking the disease. Based on this research, Feng and FZata team is developing two candidate drug products: an intravenous, fully humanized, tetra-specific, antibody product (FZ001) designed to treat ongoing infection and to prevent recurrence, and an oral, probiotic, yeast product (FZ002) that secretes the antitoxin at the site of infection.

Both drug candidates have been evaluated in animal models of human infection and reveal superior efficacy against the infection than competitors.

In 2015, Feng and co-founder Zhiyong Yang, PhD, a former research scientist, formed FZata to fast track drug candidates by creating a viable pathway toward clinical trials, and ultimately commercial production. “There’s a big gap between University bench work and clinical study for biologics,” Feng says. “The process is expensive and the large pharmaceutical companies don’t want to invest at an early stage because it’s risky.”

The early success of Fzata gives Feng hope that his model can be successful. “We’ve been able to get support because it’s innovative, and it’s centered on a major public health issue.”

Since 2011, when he came to UMSOD from Tufts University, Feng’s research has been supported by 14 grants or contracts totaling $15 million. Most recently, FZata received a $5.6 million National Institutes of Health grant to enable development of lead therapeutics against CDI.

Scott Hesel Bulletin Board, Contests, People, Research, TechnologyJuly 24, 20170 comments
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public health roundtable

Exploring Careers in Public Health Pharmacy

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Inside SOP, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.

Can you imagine yourself working as a pharmacist in a prison, on a Native American reservation, or in a housing facility for immigrants seeking asylum within the United States? These are just some of the interesting career options discussed during the Public Health Roundtable sponsored by the School of Pharmacy’s Student Government Association (SGA) and Student Section of the Maryland Public Health Association (SMdPHA) in May.

A Chance to Gain New Insights

The Public Health Roundtable is an event that students look forward to each spring. In fact, in recent years, the School has had at least one graduating Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student enter the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) as a commissioned officer. This year, more than 30 students and eight officers from the PHS participated in the successful program held at the School of Pharmacy’s satellite campus at the Universities at Shady Grove.

The PHS officers, many of whom were graduates of the School, shared their career trajectory, described their unique experiences serving in the Corps, and provided advice about future career opportunities in the fields of pharmacy and public health. Among other topics, students had the opportunity to learn about careers in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Indian Health Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

An Enjoyable Evening for All

Students from the Baltimore and Shady Grove campuses alike enjoyed this year’s experience, and are looking forward to planning next year’s event. Feedback from PHS officers was also very positive, with two officers offering the following kind words:

“The Public Health Roundtable was a great experience, and I found it incredibly inspiring to hear about where the students would like their professional careers to go. Best of luck to everyone and thank you again for the opportunity,” said LCDR Christine Corser, PharmD, RAC, health science policy analyst in the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion at the FDA.

“Thank you kindly for the opportunity. It was my pleasure to attend this lovely event and speak with students,” added LT Zakiya Chambers, PharmD, MPH, BCPS, recruitment specialist for the Office of the Surgeon General.

The School of Pharmacy continues to be committed to introducing students to opportunities in public health pharmacy, and looks forward to supporting more SMdPHA events in the future.

Robert Beardsley Education, University Life, USGAJune 14, 20170 comments
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Center for Vaccine Development

Volunteers Needed for Reproductive Health Study

In conjunction with the National Institutes of Health, the University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development is currently conducting a research study to collect samples to test an investigational rapid laboratory test to screen for two common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. We are in need of healthy, male and female volunteers, ages 18 – 49 for participation in this research study. The research study involves one 30-60 minute visit for which you will be compensated $75 for your time. If you are interested in learning more, please contact the Recruiting Office at the Center for Vaccine Development at 410-706-6156 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Jennifer Courneya Bulletin Board, Community Service, Education, People, Research, University LifeMarch 2, 20170 comments
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Krantz and Das

Dentistry-led Anthrax Study in Prestiguous Journal

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry’s research team achieved an unprecedented breakthrough with the acceptance of a recent manuscript into the publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). ‌

This manuscript, “Peptide and Proton Driven Allosteric Clamps Catalyze Anthrax Toxin Translocation across Membranes,” is the first such paper to be accepted into this prestigious journal in the history of UMSOD. The paper was co-authored by Bryan Krantz, PhD, associate professor, and Debasis Das, PhD, a postdoctorate fellow, both in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis (pictured).

The primary focus of the research centered on the components of the anthrax toxin protein. The anthrax toxin contains three components. One component forms a channel – or pore – in the cell membrane. The other component goes through that pore into the cell. Once that second component (referred to as the ‘substrate’) makes it into the cell, it carries out reactions that disrupts the cell’s functions.

Working from a foundation provided by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Das and Krantz discovered evidence that this translocation mechanism is under allosteric control. Allosteric regulation is a process wherein proteins transmit the effect of binding at one site to another, often at a location other than the enzyme’s active site. In the case of the Anthrax toxin, when the pore part of the protein binds, the substrate part that is disrupting the cell binds tighter as well, despite being at a different location.

“This tells us how the anthrax pore functions,” said Krantz, “there are huge implications because this is an entirely new way of thinking about the translocation mechanism.”

Previously, there had been no documented evidence showing that the mechanism of translation carried out by the pore protein was under allosteric control. The importance of this discovery is a major reason why the manuscript was accepted into PNAS, according to Krantz.

“This is a landmark discovery that may find its way into textbooks,” said Patrik Bavoil, PhD, professor and chair in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, “this is a model for how all proteins, not just the anthrax toxin, translocate across membranes.”

This accomplishment caps off a successful two months for UMSOD research efforts. On May 29, Vineet Dhar, PhD, in the Department of Pediatrics won the Paul P. Taylor award from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) for his paper evaluating the evidence of effectiveness of interventions for Early Childhood Carries (ECC).

For Krantz and Das, the next steps will include additional research into their discovery through grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

Scott Hesel ResearchJuly 22, 20160 comments
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Shakespeare Exhibit at HS/HSL

Shakespeare Exhibit Now at HS/HSL

An exhibition developed and produced by the Exhibition Program at the National Library of Medicine and the Folger Shakespeare Library will be displayed in the HS/HSL Weise Gallery now through May 14, 2016.

“And there’s the humor of it”: Shakespeare and the Four Humors explores the role played by the four humors in several of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays through beautiful imagery and rare books from both the National Library of Medicine and the Folger Shakespeare Library, and examines more modern interpretations of the four humors in contemporary medicine.

Ryan HarrisBulletin Board, Education, People, Research, UMB News, University LifeApril 7, 20161 comment
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White Coat Ceremony Welcomes Pharmacy Class of 2019

Family and friends joined faculty, staff, and alumni of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy on Sept. 11 to watch as the more than 160 members of the Class of 2019 donned a pharmacist’s white coat for the first time at the School’s White Coat Ceremony. A tradition in which schools of pharmacy across the country participate each year, this annual ceremony marks students’ entry into the profession as student pharmacists.

“The White Coat Ceremony is an opportunity for faculty, staff, and alumni at the School of Pharmacy to welcome and congratulate you, our new first year students, on the journey you are beginning and to validate your presence among us as student pharmacists and as future colleagues,” said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the School, as she addressed the students. “The white coat represents your past and current leadership endeavors and achievements, as well as your commitment to provide the best care to your future patients. Wear it with pride and remember your responsibility to provide honest and accurate information to those in your care.”

Serving the Community

Sitting in the audience, Diamond Melendez reflected on her journey to reach this special day. Melendez, who was born and raised in the Bronx, recalled watching her mother sacrifice, working long hours to provide for her and her siblings. “My mother did the best that she could to support our family, and I always looked up to her as the strongest role model in my life. However, in her opinion, people survive in this country by entering the workforce as soon as possible and paying their bills – not necessarily by spending years in school. I wanted so much more than that,” she says.

Having visited the local pharmacist on numerous occasions with her grandmother, a native of Puerto Rico for whom she often served as a translator, Melendez began to admire the relationships that pharmacists built with their patients and the impact that they had on their daily lives. “Those visits helped me to see just how much the pharmacist influenced my grandmother’s life and health. I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to help others, and pharmacy seemed like the perfect fit,” she adds.

Although Melendez dreamed about becoming a pharmacist, her mother did not have the financial resources to support her educational pursuits. Despite working 40 hours each week at a fast food restaurant to save for her education, she doubted that she could afford to go to college.

“Fortunately, my manager helped me to believe otherwise,” recalls Melendez. “She purchased all of the materials that I needed to begin school and helped me regain my hope for a more promising future. It was not financially easy to complete my undergraduate degree, but I did it.”

The next hurdle that Melendez encountered was applying to pharmacy schools. Fortunately, while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Winthrop University in South Carolina, she was accepted into the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, a program designed to prepare first generation, low income, and underrepresented college students to be successful in graduate programs. The program provided funding that allowed her to visit the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she met JuliAna Brammer, MBA, director of admissions, records, and registration for the School of Pharmacy, at one of its career fairs.

“Ms. Brammer and her colleagues were very kind and welcoming, and that motivated me to conduct additional research on the School to see if it might be a good fit for me,” says Melendez. “Although I applied to many different pharmacy schools across the country, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy was my top choice. When I was told that I had been accepted into the School’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program, I cried. I knew that realizing my dream was now possible – that I could be someone who makes a difference in the lives of other people by serving my community in the same way that the pharmacist from my hometown served people like my grandmother.”


The theme for this year’s White Coat Ceremony was professionalism, and Melendez intently listened as Eddington continued her remarks, highlighting the importance of this critical concept.

“Professionalism encompasses a variety of characteristics, including altruism, duty, honor, integrity, and respect,” she said. “I emphasize this concept today because it is the cornerstone of who we are as pharmacists. Once you embrace professionalism, you truly become a student pharmacist.”

Remarks from guest speaker Rear Admiral Pamela Schweitzer, PharmD, BCACP, assistant surgeon general and chief professional officer for pharmacy with the U.S. Public Health Service, continued the theme. Schweitzer shared stories from her career that highlighted the importance of professionalism in team-based health care settings and emphasized the need for students to develop cultural competency, understanding that their goal should always be to provide the best possible care for their patients.

“As pharmacists, you will play a key role in the health care team and professionalism will be essential,” said Schweitzer. “Today’s White Coat Ceremony marks a significant milestone in your professional life. Whenever you wear that white coat, it will inspire confidence and trust among your patients and peers. I encourage you to embrace your new responsibilities with eagerness, inquisitiveness, and anticipation, and use your time at the School to hone your knowledge, skills, and talents to become among the best and most respected members of this noble profession.”

After crossing the stage to don their white coats and sign the Student Honor Code, Melendez and her classmates recited the School’s Pledge of Professionalism, committing themselves to building and reinforcing a professional identity founded on integrity, ethical behavior, and honor.

“I have faced a number of hardships in my journey to become a student pharmacist,” says Melendez. “I am the first person in my family to attend college, and there were times when I had no choice but to be self-reliant and push myself to succeed. However, those experiences have helped to mold me into a stronger, more compassionate person, and have allowed me to blaze a path for others who come after me. Receiving my white coat is not only a testament to my success, but also a representation of my commitment to care for patients to the best of my ability, as well as to share my knowledge and empathy with the individuals whom I encounter each day.”

Malissa CarrollABAE, Clinical Care, Education, People, UMB NewsSeptember 23, 20150 comments
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Influenza Vaccine

Experimental Avian Influenza Vaccine Study

Influenza causes 20,000 to 40,000 deaths each year in the U.S. So, you know it’s important to receive an updated influenza vaccine every year. Did you know that world health authorities are closely monitoring for new and emerging avian – “bird” – influenza viruses because of their pandemic potential? They could lead to the next pandemic if transmitted from human-to-human easily.

Avian Influenza Virus

In March 2013, China identified another new avian influenza virus, called A/H7N9. As of Sept. 3, there have been 454 human cases of A/H7N9, with an alarming 25 percent case fatality rate. Although cases are only associated with close contacts with live birds in China at this time, the situation is being monitored as this virus could lead to the next pandemic.

Influenza Vaccine Study

The Center for Vaccine Development (CVD), an organized research center of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is conducting an National Institutes of Health-sponsored study of an experimental A/H7N9 influenza vaccine.

This study will recruit healthy adults age 65 years and older. The study will require a commitment of approximately 18 months and you will receive three vaccinations. Compensation up to $975 will be provided.

If you are interested in learning more information about this study, log onto the U.S. government registry of all clinical trials and enter the trial identifier NCT02213354. You can also visit the CVD website for more information or call 410-706-6156 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wilbur ChenBulletin Board, Clinical Care, Research, University LifeNovember 7, 20140 comments
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Pharmacy’s Kane to Test New Biomarkers of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Maureen Kane, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) at the School of Pharmacy and co-director of the School’s Mass Spectrometry Center, has received a three-year, $75,849 National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) R15 grant subaward from the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy to use mass spectrometry to evaluate and measure the presence of biomarkers for exposure to alcohol during pregnancy in meconium – an infant’s first stool.

Her findings will determine if the biomarkers can reliably identify infants who were prenatally exposed to alcohol, as well as help other researchers determine how exposure to alcohol interacts with exposure to environmental heavy metals found in mine wastes to affect birth outcomes and development in children during the first year of life.

Increasing Opportunities to Collaborate

“This project is an excellent example of how the tools and expertise available through the School’s Mass Spectrometry Center have increased our opportunities to collaborate with researchers across the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and beyond,” says Kane. “Research that examines how prenatal alcohol exposure interacts with exposure to other environmental toxicants is limited. Using the Mass Spectrometry Center’s state-of-the-art instrumentation, we aim to quantify reliable biomarkers that will better detect an infant’s risk for neurodevelopmental delays among newborns who were not only affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol, but to other toxic substances in the environment as well.”

About the Study

For the study – “Interactive Effect of Environmental Exposures and Alcohol in the Navajo Birth Cohort” – Kane will use mass spectrometry to measure the presence of three biomarkers – any biological molecule found in an individual’s blood or bodily fluids and tissues that indicates the presence of disease, infection, or environmental exposure – in the meconium of more than 300 newborns from the Navajo Nation: fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), ethyl glucuronide (EtG), and ethyl sulfate (EtS).

Meconium, which consists of substances ingested while an infant was in utero, is routinely used in newborn screenings to determine whether he or she was exposed to illicit drugs. The study will be led by co-principal investigators Johnnye Lewis, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy and director of the Community Environmental Health Program, and Ludmila Bakhireva, MD, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the College of Pharmacy. The meconium samples will come from Lewis’s Navajo Birth Cohort Study.

A Unique Partnership Between Schools

“Because the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy affects a number of additional outcomes that we want to measure in the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, our research team knew that it would be important to support a project that would produce an independent measure of alcohol consumption,” says Lewis. “Dr. Kane’s knowledge of mass spectrometry and previous experience with biomarkers of prenatal exposure to alcohol will not only contribute to the goals of our project, but will also allow our team develop a control for co-exposures to help determine whether any interactions exist between alcohols and metals exposure.”

Improving Reproductive Health Outcomes

“This project represents a unique partnership between two schools of pharmacy and the tribal community,” adds Bakhireva. “Dr. Kane’s expertise in mass spectrometry will be crucial in helping us to accurately assess prenatal alcohol exposure in a study population that is largely underrepresented in research. Ultimately, our goal is to reduce health disparities and improve reproductive health outcomes among Native Americans.”

There are more than 1,000 abandoned uranium mine waste sites across the Navajo Nation, and more than 10,000 in the western United States. The Navajo Birth Cohort Study was launched in response to community members and the Navajo Nation’s concerns about how exposures to these heavy metal mixtures could affect the health of their children. “If successful, our findings could lead to earlier recognition of risk, which would allow for earlier interventions that could improve developmental outcomes for those children affected by these exposures,” says Kane.

Malissa CarrollCollaboration, Research, Technology, UMB NewsSeptember 12, 20140 comments
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Anne Rositch on HPV, Cancer Screening, and Prevention

The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) welcomes new faculty!

Among the largest basic sciences departments in the School of Medicine, EPH brings in more than 30 million dollars in National Institutes of Health funding.

And more than just the dollars brought in or the number of courses taught, EPH is a special place where successes are celebrated and faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to develop professionally.

Yimei WuClinical Care, Education, People, Research, UMB NewsMarch 5, 20140 comments
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Dubner Continues to Be a Leader in Pain Research

Nearly 50 years after beginning his scientific career, Ronald Dubner, PhD, DDS, professor in the Department of Neural and Pain Sciences, continues to be a leader in the field of pain research.

Dubner is currently working on a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded project to study the underlying mechanisms that are involved when acute pain transitions to chronic pain.

Developing a Deeper Understanding

His research has shown that when acute pain becomes chronic pain, changes take place in the central nervous system. The five-year project, which is funded through 2016, seeks to develop a deeper understanding of those central nervous system changes and discover ways to manage those processes.

“Pain is a multidimensional experience. These dimensions of pain involve a number of different components of the nervous system. The study of pain can lead to a greater understanding of the brain,” Dubner says.

Groundwork for Pain Research

For Dubner, pain research has been the central focus of his distinguished career. When he began working at the NIH in the 1960s, the field of pain research was practically nonexistent. Dubner’s studies of pain mechanisms and the nervous system helped lay the groundwork for the field of pain research.

He established the first interdisciplinary pain research team at the NIH in the early 1970s, which was a forerunner of the field of translational pain research.

Over the past 40 years, Dubner has authored more than 300 publications in the field of pain science and has received more than 46 awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Scientist of the Year award in 2011 from the American Association of Dental Research.

Since joining the School of Dentistry 18 years ago, Dubner has continued to be a pioneer in the field. His recent studies regarding the interaction between the immune and nervous systems explore key questions at the forefront of pain science.

He also has collaborated with his colleagues in the Department of Neural and Pain Sciences on the multicenter study Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA). The study seeks to identify potential risk factors that contribute to chronic pain in patients suffering from temporomandibular disorders (TMD).

Taking Advantage of New Advancements

Though he has researched pain for half a century, Dubner still finds the field exciting. He has embraced new advancements in research, such as intricate brain imaging techniques, molecular approaches to pain, and genetics.

Scientists have made huge breakthroughs since Dubner’s career began, but he says there is still a lot of work to be done. “The main methods that we use to control pain today are often inadequate and are approaches that have been available for decades, like aspirin and morphine-like drugs. We need to take advantage of the research knowledge that we have gained to develop new approaches to manage pain, particularly persistent, chronic pain,” Dubner states.

Adam ZewePeople, Research, UMB NewsFebruary 11, 20140 comments
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