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‘NIH in your state’: Wayne State’s ‘Pure Michigan’ research impacts health around the world

June 20, 2018

The National Institutes of Health’s two-month social media campaign, “NIH in Your State,” is an initiative focused on reminding the public about NIH’s impact on the health of citizens in each state through federally funded research. The state of Michigan is highlighted on June 18.

In fiscal year 2017, Wayne State University received $85 million in awards from the NIH to support its research efforts. Examples of NIH-funded research at Wayne State include:

Perinatology Research Branch
Wayne State University is home to the Perinatology Research Branch, a part of the Division of Intramural Research that conducts research to understand the mechanisms of disease for obstetrical complications and develop diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies to reduce infant and maternal death. Seminal contributions of the PRB in recent years include:

• The use of progesterone for the prevention of preterm birth in women with a short cervix, which can reduce the rate of preterm birth by 40 percent and save the U.S. health care system $500 million to $750 million annually.

• Identified the first biomarker for unexplained fetal death – a condition for which there was no biomarker or method of prevention in the third trimester. Through the work done in Detroit, a biomarker has been discovered that identifies 80 percent of late fetal deaths with a 10 percent false-positive rate based on a simple blood test. This may lead to better assessment, and a randomized clinical trial to prevent fetal death in patients at risk is being planned.

• Described the fetal inflammatory response syndrome, a condition that affects unborn babies of mothers with premature labor, and is akin to an adult systemic inflammatory response. This multi-systemic disorder can cause neuroinflammation and fetal cardiac dysfunction, and the finding is a major conceptual breakthrough in the understanding of prematurity, and why premature babies are at risk for cerebral palsy.

• Made pioneering advancements in fetal endoscopic surgery, such as the first case of twin arterial perfusion syndrome (New England Journal of Medicine), the first fetal cystoscopy (Lancet), laser ablation of posterior urethral valves (Lancet) and the development of a patch to treat the rupture of membranes after amniocentesis or surgical procedures (Lancet).

• Invented intelligent navigation sonography, and in particular, fetal intelligent navigation echocardiography, which can be used for the screening of congenital heart disease, the most frequent congenital anomaly by organ system, often undiagnosed before birth.

Strategies to Innovate EmeRgENcy Care Clinical Trials Network
The Wayne State University School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine is one of only 11 institutions in North America awarded the National Institutes of Health’s the Strategies to Innovate EmeRgENcy Care Clinical Trials Network, or SIREN designation. The collaboration executes pre-hospital and acute care clinical trials, recruits and retains difficult to reach emergency care patients and collaborates with investigators from major U.S. population centers, health care systems and academic environments. SIREN serves as the clinical recruitment arm for major acute care NIH and Department of Defense research trials. The network hubs select and provide oversight to satellite clinical sites, known as “spokes,” which facilitate access to even larger patient populations for enrollment in clinical trials. The primary spokes in the Wayne State University hub include the University of Michigan, Beaumont Health, the Henry Ford Health System, St. John Health System, Spectrum Health System and Vanderbilt University. Others spoke sites may join the Detroit hub in the future. Read more.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers discovered that the chemical glutamate plays a major role in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder. David Rosenberg, M.D., the Miriam L. Hamburger Endowed Chair of Child Psychiatry and professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, collaborated with researchers at the University of Michigan, Children’s Hospital of Michigan and University of Toronto/ Hospital for Sick Kids. This international team discovered that the chemical glutamate plays a key role in children with OCD, a debilitating neuropsychiatric condition that affects approximately 1 percent to 3 percent of the population worldwide. As many as 80 percent of all OCD cases begin in childhood and adolescence. In the study, children with OCD had abnormal glutamate levels in key brain regions that were reversible with effective treatment. Learn more.

Neonatal cooling study
Lowering an infant's body temperature to about 92 degrees Fahrenheit within the first six hours of life reduces the chances for disability and death among infants who failed to receive enough oxygen or blood to the brain during birth, a Wayne State University School of Medicine study found. The study led to the standard practice of cooling such infants to protect them immediately after birth. Learn more.

African-American cancer study
Wayne State University and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute have launched the nation’s largest study of African-American cancer survivors to better understand disproportionately high incidence and mortality rates from cancer and its impact on this specific patient population. The study is funded with a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors, or Detroit ROCS, study will include 5,560 cancer survivors to better understand major factors affecting cancer progression, recurrence, mortality and quality of life in African-American cancer survivors. African-Americans continue to experience disproportionately higher cancer incidence rates than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. They are also diagnosed with more advanced-stage disease and experience higher cancer mortality rates than other groups. Learn more.

Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors
Funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH has established the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, or CURES, at Wayne State. CURES is situated in the heart of Detroit, with the goal of understanding the integrated health impacts of environmental exposures to complex chemical and non-chemical contaminants in Detroit’s urban landscape. CURES is focused on establishing a cleaner and healthier living and working environment in the city of Detroit and throughout the region. “Modern-era” diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes compromise the quality of life of residents living in an industrialized urban environment such as Detroit and are a consequence of dynamic interactions among an individual’s genetic and epigenetic make-up, nutritional status and environmental stressors, which affect key cellular networks causing disease. Learn more.

Researching hearing loss in Detroit firefighters
During responses to fires or other hazardous events, firefighters may be exposed to, inhale or ingest toxic gases, vapors or particles. In particular, exposure to heavy metals – such as lead and cadmium – is a major health issue with firefighters in postindustrial cities such as Detroit. Cadmium, a poisonous metal that has been used to electroplate materials to protect them from corrosion, was heavily used in the automobile industry and is a major source of contamination in Detroit. In addition, more than 90 percent of buildings in Detroit were built before 1980 and are likely to contain lead-based paints. One adverse health outcome associated with long-term environmental exposure to lead and cadmium is hearing loss. With the help of funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, Wayne State is researching gene-environment interactions to determine the association between environmental exposure to lead and cadmium and hearing loss in Detroit firefighters. The goal of the study is to apply knowledge from the study to human remediation studies in this vulnerable population, and identifying preventive measures that will protect firefighters and others from hearing loss caused by environmental exposure. Learn more.

Antibiotic resistance
Wayne State’s Department of Biological Sciences is using NIH funding to identify novel antibiotic targets that will open the door to new antibiotic treatments when bacteria have become difficult to treat or even resistant to current antibiotics. Learn more.

Bacterial endophthalmitis

An award from the National Eye Institute of the NIH is working to develop new ways to treat bacterial endophthalmitis – a severe inflammation of the interior of the eye caused by bacteria that enter the eye following trauma or surgery, particularly cataract surgery. The Wayne State team aims to identify novel pathways and new means to treat these blinding ocular infections by determining how cellular metabolism of immune cells impacts their ability to kill pathogens and mount protective immune responses to defend the eye from infection. Learn more.

Cystic Fibrosis
An award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH is aiding a team of researchers at Wayne State University in developing an immune-screening library derived from sarcoidosis tissue that can differentiate Cystic Fibrosis-specific antigens from healthy controls and lung cancer patients. Their creation of the T7 Phage Library may have utility in developing molecular therapy in addition to being useful in diagnostics and forecasting response to therapy for Cystic Fibrosis. Learn more.

Improving MRI contrast agents

An award from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the NIH is assisting researchers in Wayne State’s Department of Chemistry to develop innovative contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging that will fill a void in diagnostic medicine. The contrast agents will allow for earlier detection of traumatic brain injury, cancer, heart disease, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis that will aid research focused on treating these diseases. This will lead to higher success rates and better monitoring of therapeutic treatments, significantly advancing the nation’s capacity to protect and improve health. Learn more.

These are a sampling of the many research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health at Wayne State University. To learn more about research at Wayne State, visit research.wayne.edu.

150 years in the heart of Detroit
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