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UK dean’s outstanding research recognized by the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) awarded its Population Research Prize for 2017 to Donna K. Arnett, dean of the UK College of Public Health and professor of epidemiology, “for insightful research successfully blending the basic molecular sciences with population studies to produce a highly relevant new understanding of major aspects of cardiovascular disease including risk prediction, hypertension and heart failure.”

Arnett received the prize during Sunday’s opening of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2017, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians, which was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The annual prize honors important studies of cardiovascular disease patterns in populations.

“Throughout her praise-worthy career, Dr. Arnett has worked to integrate molecular science with population studies, using her extensive training in both disciplines, to produce broadly relevant results for the health of the public,” said Dr. John Warner, president of the AHA.

“Her personal success is evident in both her publication record and her funding,” he noted. “She has published more than 500 peer-reviewed reports in high-impact journals in multiple fields, including seminal work she has led identifying genetic biomarkers and in risk prediction, hypertension, heart failure, imaging and methods development.”

Arnett also has played a key role in the development of the population research portfolio of the AHA, where she served as a bridge between the population and molecular research communities.

“Her many years of service have included time as a high-profile role model for population research during her presidency of this association, in 2012-2013,” Warner said.

An NIH-funded researcher for 20 years, Arnett studies genes related to hypertensive disorders and organ damage that results from hypertension. She has published more than 450 peer-reviewed papers and two books.


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How a Markey lab is helping stroke patients

When George Quintero first heard about a new clinical trial that could improve motor function in stroke patients, he knew he had to find a way to bring it to UK HealthCare.

Quintero, a research analyst for the UK Department of Neuroscience, first obtained a list of criteria to apply. The phase II trial required a physician with experience in frame-based surgery, which was easy for UK to fulfill: Dr. Craig van Horne, a neurosurgeon for the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute, has been performing this style of surgery on neurology patients for more than 20 years.

The second required element was a bit trickier. To be a treatment site for this innovative trial, the stroke team needed resources and buy-in from a stem cell lab with specific cell processing skills near the hospital.

“Originally, we thought we just needed a cell lab,” Quintero said. “We realized we didn’t have any experience in the sort of cell delivery we needed. My background is basic sciences and I have a plain cell lab, so it wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Finding the right lab

Quintero hunted for an appropriate lab across the city, beginning with UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS). He combed through the work of individual investigators, and then tried to identify facilities around town that would have the means and experience to carry out the specific stem cell work needed for the trial.

After running into several dead ends, he stumbled upon the idea of bone marrow transplants, which use stem cells collected from bone marrow to repopulate the blood after aggressive treatment for blood cancers. Quintero finally had a lead: Just across the street from KNI, the UK Markey Cancer Center’s Blood and Marrow Transplantation (BMT) Program performs upward of 100 bone marrow transplants for patients each year.

Quintero reached out to Dr. Gerhard Hildebrandt, division chief of Hematology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation at UK. Although the work required was unrelated to the usual duties of the stem cell lab, Quintero says Hildebrandt was on board with the project.

“He was very excited,” Quintero said. “He thought that sort of stem cell delivery for neurological diseases would be a really advantageous thing for UK to have. So he was an early supporter of us moving forward, and he got me in touch with the group at the cell lab.”

Working together to improve patient care

Tucked away on the second floor of Albert B. Chandler Hospital, the three staff members of UK’s stem cell lab – lab manager Rita Hill and medical technologists Martha Pat Kinney and Giovi Hidalgo – quietly and efficiently go about their work of preparing stem cells for bone marrow transplant patients at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Overseen by Dr. Roger Herzig, medical director of Markey’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, the lab processes stem cells for both autologous transplants – those using the patient’s own stem cells – and allogenic transplants, in which stem cells harvested from related or unrelated donors are used.

When presented the opportunity to help KNI participate in this trial, Herzig was immediately interested, having previously collaborated on other projects at UK HealthCare. Hill says the team wanted to help but had some initial reservations because of their already busy workload – to do the study, the Markey stem cell team would have to take on additional work outside of their usual service area.

“I first met Dr. Quintero and he gave us a protocol to look at, and wanted to know if we were interested,” Hill said. “We thought, ‘Yes.’ But there is a time constraint and with the BMT program rolling, we weren’t sure if we could really support it.”

For the trial to work, the stem cell team would have to work closely with Quintero and van Horne to ensure seamless patient care. The lab would receive genetically modified stem cells from the pharmaceutical company, process the cells for implantation per trial protocol, and deliver them to Quintero. Once he signed off, van Horne would initiate the procedure by drilling a small hole into the patient’s skull and injecting the stem cells into the brain. Because most of the patients in the trial would be traveling long distances just for this procedure, it was essential to have the process streamlined and efficient from start to finish.

“An idea is pretty easy to have and say, ‘Let’s do this!'” van Horne said. “But when you realize all the work that has to go into these things, it’s phenomenal.”

First, scheduling was key. Hill says Quintero and van Horne were willing to be flexible on the timing of when they could bring in patients, and they worked out a schedule that wouldn’t conflict with their normal duties for Markey.

Secondly, Hill and her team looked closely at the protocol, and noted some small elements of the process that could be improved. After several conversations, the company sponsoring the trial even adopted Hill’s suggestions and implemented them at other trial sites nationwide.

“One of the advantages of having Rita is that she has a lot of expertise in managing cell labs and the requirements of cell processing,” Quintero said. “She sort of gave some direction that the study needed, and the study welcomed that because they wanted the input from individuals to make the project better.”

Culture of collaboration

This recent trial is yet another example of what van Horne describes as “the proliferation of collaborative culture to solve human problems” across UK’s academic and healthcare campuses.

“One of the things that I think is unique about UK is there’s really a culture of collaboration,” van Horne said. “I’ve previously been in other institutions where that culture doesn’t exist… It’s not, ‘This is too much, we just can’t do this,’ but ‘Oh, that’s a great idea, let’s figure out a way to make that work.’ And everybody stepped up and pitched in and made it happen.”

“This kind of collaboration is what keeps making the research and the medicine new,” Herzig said. “And that’s what keeps me coming back to work.”

It’s not the first time the stem cell lab has stepped up to help other across the medical campus. They’ve previously assisted with stem cell research in nephrology and cardiology. Participating in these outside projects has helped the team learn more about what properties stem cells possess aside from the ability to reconstitute blood, which may prove useful in future endeavors.

“Part of the academic mission is collaboration; that allows us to tackle problems that individually we can’t do,” Herzig said. “You never know what technique you have today that you’ll be able to transfer to a different situation tomorrow. The things that we’re learning from this are probably going to be helpful in other future projects.”

Hill and her team spend most of their working time in the lab, but they do personally deliver stem cells to the bone marrow transplant patients who are preparing to undergo their infusions, giving them a brief encounter with the person who will be benefiting from their work. In addition to simply “enjoying the science” of this new project, Hill says the idea of helping even more patients provides some extra personal motivation.

“Who knows, you could have a family member or loved one later on who suffers from a stroke, and this trial could benefit them in the future,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to help?”


Next steps:

  • Researchers are working hard to identify new treatments and strategies to improve health, but they need healthy participants and those with medical conditions to participate in clinical studies. Find out how you can participate in clinical research at UK HealthCare.
  • At the UK Comprehensive Stroke Center, we offer treatment, prevention and rehabilitation services for stroke patients. Learn more about our program.
Kip Guy malaria research

Listen: College of Pharmacy dean discusses fighting Kentucky health disparities with practical research

UK College of Pharmacy Dean Kip Guy’s research focuses on drug discovery and development for neglected diseases, particularly those that affect pediatric patients. Coming to UK from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, much of his work has focused on fighting malaria, a major killer of children, as well as pediatric cancers including ependymoma, leukemia and medulloblastoma.

Though it was initially the “neat solutions” that attracted him to the field, he quickly learned that not even science provides easy black-and-white answers. While researchers may have expectations of how an experiment may play out, they often learn more from the failures than if it had unfolded as planned.

“You’ve put in all this time and effort because your model told you ‘X’ was going to happen, and then you run the experiment and what you wind up with is something completely different,” he said. “These are the moments in science that are the most fun. It’s when you break your own model and learn something fundamentally new.”

As his research projects grew larger and more intensive over the years, Guy was looking specifically for a place where he could take a larger administrative role and begin mentoring the next generation of scientists. Guy says he found “a perfect storm” in the University of Kentucky, a place known nationally for its research excellence, top-ranked College of Pharmacy and local population in need of therapeutic intervention for a variety of serious health disparities.

“It’s an incredible place, with amazing faculty and a long, rich and successful history of positively affecting clinical practice and the research world. It’s about being in a place where I can work the way I want to work, with the kind of people who are here, and focusing on problems that are really serving unmet needs.”

“We’re not just about working in the lab or the clinic,” Guy said. “We’re also about living in this community and doing well by it.”

In this podcast, Guy shares his own research, his major goals for the College of Pharmacy, and how pharmacy researchers are addressing the opioid epidemic.


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UK collaboration working to provide more effective treatment for lung cancer

Newly published findings from UK faculty reveal a novel cell signaling interaction that may prevent a key step in lung cancer progression.

Kentucky continues to lead the nation in incidence and death rates from lung cancer, and the UK College of Pharmacy is committed to reducing these numbers.

Lung cancers are often diagnosed in later stages, with very few treatment options available. Patients often develop a resistance to a targeted therapy, resulting in a need for a variety of therapies that can be administered in stages or coupled together.

A collaboration between the UK College of Pharmacy and the Department of Statistics in the UK College of Arts and Sciences is working to address this problem. The project is the work of Madeline Krentz Gober, a recent graduate of the UK College of Pharmacy’s graduate program in the lab of pharmacy faculty member Penni Black. Staff scientist James Collard and UK College of Arts and Sciences faculty member Katherine Thompson also contributed to the findings.

Previous work from the group established that a collection of microRNAs – small RNA that plays a role in regulating biological process like growth and proliferation – could predict sensitivity of non-small cell lung cancer cells to erlotinib, a drug that is effective in treating lung cancer in certain patients.

Further investigation into this collection of microRNA genes revealed a previously unknown relationship between the role of transforming growth factor TGFβ in initiating metastasis and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling non-small cell lung cancers.

Essentially, microRNA molecules that alter TGFβ activity may prevent a key step in metastasis for cancer progression known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and this interaction may also require the activity of EGFR, perhaps unappreciated in the initiation of metastasis.

“Getting the right drugs in the right patients is critical to improving cancer outcomes,” said Jill Kolesar, co-director of the Molecular Tumor Board at the UK Markey Cancer Center. “Dr. Black’s work is an important step in predicting which patients benefit most from erlotinib treatment.”

Ongoing work in Professor Black’s lab seeks to uncover biomarkers of response and toxicity to new immunotherapeutic agents used in the fight against lung cancer.


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UK researchers awarded NIH grant to fight drug abuse in rural Kentucky counties

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded the UK Center for Health Services Research (CHSR) funding to study the adoption of syringe exchange programs in rural communities in the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

Rates of opioid use disorder and injection drug use have risen significantly in Kentucky, especially in rural communities. The serious health consequences of injection drug use include the spread of both hepatitis C and HIV. Kentucky is home to eight of the 10 counties in the nation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as most vulnerable to an outbreak of HIV.

CHSR’s focus on community efforts to end health disparities in underserved areas aligned closely with the NIH funding opportunity to examine drug use interventions.

The two-year National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study is designed to reach vulnerable injection-drug users in Clark, Knox and Pike counties. The goal is to understand the many barriers that drug users face in accessing syringe exchange programs and to identify priority intervention targets.

The project’s principal investigator, Hilary Surratt, associate professor in the UK College of Medicine, is working closely with the Clark, Knox and Pike county health departments to gather data from drug users, health department staff, treatment providers and law enforcement.

This data will inform changes to policies and practices of syringe exchange programs and develop prevention strategies to enhance access and utilization of these programs in rural areas.


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UK researcher working to prevent concussions in jockeys

It’s the fifth race on a beautiful, sunny day at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington and the jockeys are on their mounts up in the gates. The bell rings and the horses spring forward, looking for the perfect spot from which to make their charge. At the second turn, the No. 8 horse stumbles and recovers, but its jockey tumbles to the dirt. He sits for a few seconds, dazed, but then leaps to his feet and scrambles to safety.

Injuries are frequent among jockeys. During a recent interview, one jockey listed a jaw-dropping succession of injuries: two broken collarbones, a fractured wrist, broken ribs, a fractured spine and several occasions when he “got his bell rung.” These athletes get back to their jobs as quickly as possible – and potentially before they’re completely healed. That’s because, unlike other professional sports which offer guaranteed contracts to their players, horse racing operates on a “pay-to-play” model:  jockeys don’t get paid unless they’re riding.

Concussion dangers

While broken bones are nearly impossible to miss, concussions are a subtle but potentially more dangerous injury. Concussions – a brain injury caused by whiplash or other blow to the head – are notoriously difficult to diagnose, and symptoms are transient but can last several days or even weeks.

Repeated concussions have a cumulative effect. A recent study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, determined that 110 of 111 autopsied brains donated to science by former NFL players showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head and believed to be responsible for later cognitive impairment, depression and/or aggression. At this time there is no data to document the incidence of CTE among jockeys, although anecdotal evidence exists; for example, the effects of Gwen Jocson’s repeated concussions forced her retirement from racing in 1999.

During the healing process after a concussion, victims can experience headaches, memory loss, balance issues, sleep disturbances and/or disorientation. According to UK College of Health Sciences researcher Carl Mattacola, PhD, ATC, that’s a dangerous state to be in if you’re trying to pilot a 1,000-pound horse around a track at 30 miles per hour. That’s why he’s developed a clinical and research interest in helping jockeys.

Developing a safety protocol

Historically, Mattacola says, attention for the jockeys has been secondary to the equine athlete. But as the awareness of the dangers of concussion has risen, all corners of the racing industry – the tracks, the horse owners, and the jockeys themselves – have come together to assess the situation and lay the groundwork for a new model. And that process has its origins in Kentucky, born of a partnership between the Jockeys’ Guild, the Jockey Club, and the UK College of Health Sciences, among others. This is the second year of a pilot project to gather baseline cognitive data on every jockey racing in Kentucky. Mattacola spearheads the project, and starting with Keeneland’s Fall Meet this month, baseline cognitive and neuromuscular testing was mandatory for every mount.

Mattacola explains that most major professional sports – the NFL, the NHL, FIFA – have concussion protocols that guide decisions about when a player is healthy enough to return to play, but it’s difficult to copy their model exactly because each state – and sometimes each individual track – operates under different set of rules, so return to ride protocols aren’t consistent.

“Our group wants to create change in how we manage and assess concussions in horse racing, so we’re beginning local and we hope to use that data to develop a protocol that can be transferred to other states,” he says.

To illustrate how the data he’s collecting would be useful, Mattacola uses blood pressure as a metaphor.

“If we know what your blood pressure is this year and you come back and that changes, we can try to determine the underlying factors or the underlying mechanisms that contributed to that change,” he said. “Similarly, the baseline assessment provides additional information to the health care provider when a jockey falls, which can help him/her make a decision about whether to suspect a concussion.”

Establishing a strong rapport

Jockeys’ Guild National Manager Terry Meyocks said that the Equine Jockey/Rider Injury Prevention Initiative is a logical extension of the Jockey Health Information System (JHIS), a database that stores jockeys’ medical histories for access by racetrack medical personnel in the event of an injury.

“Our job is to protect jockeys by making sure that they operate in a safe racing environment,” Meyocks said. “As the issue of concussions has come to the forefront, we’ve made it a priority to educate our jockeys and find ways to protect them, which is in everybody’s best interest.”

At the Jockey’s Quarters on Keeneland’s opening day, the Clerk of Scales sends a jockey to Carolina Quintana, a certified athletic trainer and a doctoral student from the UK College of Health Sciences, who administers the SCAT-5 assessment tool, which gathers injury history and data related to cognitive and neuromuscular performance. Then the jockey completes several simple tasks, such as counting backward by threes and standing on one foot.

The jockey acts a bit sheepish as his friends look on in amusement, but this testing, which will be entered into his JHIS record, will be invaluable should he suffer a head injury.

There was not instant buy-in among jockeys, however, who were concerned that the project might affect their livelihood. But Mattacola and Quintana quickly won them over in a series of meetings as the pilot project took shape.

“We – but especially Carolina – have established a strong rapport with the jockeys and they now recognize that we are not here for any other reason than to help them. If they were to be injured, we would have the data to make a healthy decision on their behalf,” he said.

Building on previous research

This is not Mattacola’s first foray into the jockeys’ world. In 2015, he conducted a series of tests to determine how well several equine helmet models protected wearers from repeated impacts, which helped inform guidelines for replacing helmets after a fall and prompted the Jockeys’ Guild to reinforce that all riders wear ASTM-approved helmets. His work on helmet safety lent him credibility with the jockeys as he nudged the concussion pilot study to fruition. “It’s impossible to eliminate all concussions in sports, but we’re obligated to do what we can to prevent it, to recognize it when it occurs, and to keep the jockey’s long-term health and safety first in mind,” he said.

His next great chapter may well be applying the resources of the UK Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI), a state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research center dedicated to improving athletes’ performance and preventing injuries, to helping the jockeys.

 


UK team aims to create software that predicts your heart’s future

Picture this: you’re battling heart failure and meeting with your doctor to discuss treatment. Before prescribing anything, the doctor pulls up a virtual model of your heart on her computer and “treats” it with several drugs. A few moments later, she can see how your heart is doing five years down the road.

Your doctor chooses the treatment with the best long-term outcome, and you live a longer and healthier life.

Two UK researchers are working to make this experience a reality for the 5.7 million adults in the U.S. with heart failure.

Combining physiology and engineering, UK researchers Kenneth Campbell and Jonathan Wenk are developing computer software to deliver better therapies for patients with life-threatening heart failure. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded the team a $3 million five-year grant to create a computer model of the heart that can be customized to individual patients and predict long-term results.

“If you gave a patient a drug, how would their heart beat in the next second? Folks are pretty good at predicting that, but we’re trying to predict how their heart will grow over months and years after taking a pill or having a genetic mutation,” said Campbell, associate professor of physiology and cardiovascular medicine.

Collaboration leads to innovation

The computer model would take MRI or genetic data of a patient and build a multiscale simulation of their heart, leading to more personalized treatment plans. The model could also serve as a screening tool for scientists and drug companies who are trying to develop new therapies.

“This model will have tremendous predictive power, meaning it will change and adapt in response to treatment or disease,” said Wenk, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and Gill Professor in Engineering. “For doctors, this is another tool that could guide them in their decision process.”

Only a handful of teams in the world are working in this area, and few are as collaborative. With Wenk’s engineering skills and proficiency in organ-level function and Campbell’s expertise in medicine and molecular-level function, they are among the first – if not the first – to incorporate the effects of genetic mutations into a model of the heart.

Understanding genetic heart conditions

The team, which includes collaborators at Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University, will specifically aim to better understand familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic mutation and the most frequently inherited heart defect that affects about 700,000 Americans.

“This is when the college sports athlete suddenly goes into cardiac arrest on the field with no warning,” Campbell said.

The defect often causes the heart to enlarge over time. The computer model will enable the researchers to test how and why certain genes are causing the heart to grow. And if they understand this, they will be able to intervene in that pathway and potentially reverse the abnormal growth.

The computer technique is virtually the same used for classic engineering applications, such as simulating a bridge or a car crash.

“Whether it’s a heart or a piece of steel, as long as we understand their governing equations, we can harness them to develop a better design,” Wenk said.

More powerful together

Both researchers say they can do more together than either can do by themselves, and UK offers a unique environment for collaboration and success.

Campbell works closely with clinicians at UK HealthCare and the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute, which is among the top 10 programs with the most heart transplants performed in the U.S. Wenk – in addition to working with physiologists and biophysicists – is the only engineering faculty member to hold a joint appointment in UK Department of Surgery, where he applies engineering concepts to surgical approaches.

With this project and others, the researchers are aiming to develop a top-tier computational cardiology team at UK – because if computers can be used to model better bridges, they can be used to model healthier hearts.


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Dr. Matthew Gentry

Video: UK scientist explains his unique path to studying disease

When UK researcher Matthew Gentry began his career studying the biology of plants, he didn’t realize he’d someday be pursuing a cure for a human disease.

“You have to be willing to go where the science takes you,” says Gentry, a professor in the UK College of Medicine.

In Gentry’s case, the journey began when he found that a certain plant protein behaved similarly to the human protein that plays a role in Lafora disease – a rare congenital neurodegenerative condition that causes severe epilepsy, loss of speech and muscle control, and dementia, eventually leading to death.

This discovery provided information that medical researchers around the world are using today to test potential therapies for this deadly disease.

The research was also a step toward the development of methods to modify starch, with applications in the manufacturing of products such as plastics, animal feed, glue and clothing.

On a molecular level, the overlap between plant and human biology is tremendous, Gentry explains.

“Not long ago, the prevailing thought was that you could either work to cure a disease or you could work to figure out how something [a plant, a cell] functions,” Gentry says. “We are now at the point where the two intersect.”

Gentry spends much of his time advocating for more science funding through his work with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The current funding landscape is such that scientists must spend more and more of their time writing grants, which takes them away from doing meaningful research, he explains.

He also hopes that more of this funding will support the types of basic research that shed light on cellular function and dysfunction.

“This type of research can have implications for many diseases, not just one,” he says. “We need to be careful not to silo all the research dollars for specific diseases because that sometimes doesn’t allow the best science to get done.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Dr. Gentry’s innovative research.


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UK is researching how a mobile application teaches patients diaphragmatic breathing, a technique which may alleviate muscle tension in victims of violence.

UK study looks to mobile app to help victims of abuse manage pain

Women who have suffered from sexual or physical abuse often have residual muscle tension and pain, a symptom of extended stress and activity within the body. Now, two UK researchers are studying how a smartphone app could help these women manage chronic pain.

Charles Carlson, the Robert H. and Anna B. Culton Endowed Professor in the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women, says a significant portion of the clinic’s female patients have suffered from sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives, which often results in tension throughout the body that can lead to pain.

Trauma often causes a prolonged state of increased sympathetic tone within the body,” Carlson said. “The chronic hypervigilance may be associated with scanning for danger around every corner. [This can lead] to a state of prolonged and unnecessary muscle tension and eventually, if unchecked, may contribute to muscle-based pain conditions such as myalgia. It is not surprising, therefore, that a significant number of our patients with chronic pain reported experience with physical or sexual abuse.”

Carlson, who is also a professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, and Matt Russell, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology, want to help patients learn to calm their hypervigilance through strategies that can manage the excessive activation of muscle-based pain. Their previous research shows that patients with chronic pain can find relief through self-regulation strategies that include slow-paced, diaphragmatic breathing – a form of relaxation training.

App teaches self-guided breathing

With the help of a smartphone app that teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing, the researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial at the UK Orofacial Pain Clinic, working with patients experiencing myalgia and other chronic pain in the head and neck regions.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a practice most people can learn, so Carlson and Russell are exploring whether patients can help manage their pain by learning to breathe diaphragmatically without the use of a professional therapist. By providing patients with a mobile application that teaches the diaphragmatic breathing approach, the team hypothesizes patients will learn to self-regulate their body’s sympathetic tone to manage their pain.

“We designed the smartphone application to teach patients the basics of paced, diaphragmatic breathing with audio directions only,” Russell said. “Then, we use a visual aid to help pace their breathing, an important piece of strengthening the parasympathetic response.”

The current project will examine the effectiveness of the smartphone health intervention to improve treatment outcomes above standard dental care. The participants recruited through the Orofacial Pain Clinic will receive either standard dental care alone, or standard dental care plus the mobile application on their iPhone/iPad or a provided iPod Touch. Patients using the application will track their daily breathing practices and pain levels, while those receiving standard dental care alone will track only their pain levels. All participants will complete weekly assessments, and at each clinic follow-up visit, participants’ progress will be monitored by collecting measures of their current self-regulation skills.

While a quick iTunes search can result in hundreds of apps that promote breathing strategies to treat various ailments, Carlson emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence.

“To our knowledge, there are no published studies empirically validating that these applications can deliver on their promises,” he said. “As clinical scientists, we believe that before we tell our patients our application will help, we need evidence from a scientific study.”


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UK scientist joins program that promotes diversity in research

Dr. Brittany Smalls, an assistant professor in the UK Center for Health Services Research, has been selected as a scholar in the 2017-18 Programs to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research Advanced Health Disparities Research Training program.

As a scholar for this program, Smalls will receive advanced training that facilitates successful team science and contributes to decreases in health disparities through research. This year-long mentoring experience will offer training that includes experiential skill development in grantsmanship, scientific writing strategies, epidemiological/bio-statistical methods and more.

The program was established to provide junior faculty from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research with opportunities to gain the knowledge and tools they need to carry out independent and meaningful research and advance their careers.

This initiative is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The institute provides global leadership for research, training and education programs to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung and blood diseases and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives.


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