E-health house calls, novel probiotics among new research funded at UC Davis Health System

Satya Dandekar © iStockphoto
Satya Dandekar is among the recipients of new research funding for addressing difficult challenges in health.

Posted Aug. 29, 2012 

UC Davis Health System faculty are among the principal investigators and collaborators awarded funding from the new Research Investments in Sciences and Engineering (RISE) program to conduct innovative, multidisciplinary research in areas of strategic importance to California, the nation and the world.

Established by the UC Davis Office of Research earlier this year, the program has awarded a total of $10 million to support 12 research projects over the next three years. Five projects are led by UC Davis Health System faculty.

"These grants are an example of recombinant innovation, bringing together established faculty and programs in new ways to generate solutions to many of society's most difficult challenges," said Fred Meyers, executive associate dean at the UC Davis School of Medicine. "Projects range from the need for new tools to help individuals with chronic diseases better manage their health to innovative tests and therapies for schizophrenia. The UC Davis awards will lead to new knowledge and technologies that will transform health and health care and create new opportunities for interprofessional research and education at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels."

  • Professor and Chair of Medical Microbiology and Immunology Satya Dandekar is leading research on Protecting the Fragile Intestine: Integrating Microbiota and Muscosal Health. The researchers will apply a novel combination of milk-derived oligosaccharides and a uniquely human Bifidobacterium species known to have anti-inflammatory effects on immune cells to repair and protect the intestine in critical clinical populations, including premature infants, HIV-infected adults with incomplete immune recovery, chemotherapy patients and individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. She is collaborating with Bruce German in the food science and technology department, Mark Underwood in pediatric neonatology, David Mills in the viticulture and enology department, Ralph deVere White from the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, Richard Pollard in infectious diseases and Thomas Prindiville in gastroenterology and hepatology.
  • Jay Han, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, is directing research to develop wireless sensor and mobile health (mHealth) technologies to empower individuals with chronic diseases. The project initially will focus on the use of smartphones to assess a patient's medical status, which has potential applications for conducting e-house calls and other interactions between patients and caregivers. The project will assess the technological barriers, usability, privacy and security issues, integration with electronic health records, large data-set storage and analysis methodologies, and policy issues, which lays the groundwork for broadening the use of mobile health technologies. Han, who is also medical director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS),  is collaborating with Prasant Mohapatra in the computer science department; Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances and director of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology; Lars Berglund, director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center; and Heather Young, founding dean of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
  • Kimberley McAllister, professor of neurology at the School of Medicine and of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the Center for Neuroscience, is leading studies investigating the neuroimmunological basis of schizophrenia. Dubbed I-CAN SZ, the project will test the idea that maternal infection during pregnancy contributes to the development of schizophrenia by altering immune molecules in the brains of offspring, which leads to changes in the way brain cells make connections. By discovering novel diagnostic tools and new therapies, the project aims to improve the lives of individuals with schizophrenia. Collaborators on the project include faculty from the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Psychology, Biomedical Engineering, Internal Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and the UC Davis MIND Institute.
  • Edward Pugh, a professor in the departments of physiology and membrane biology and of cell biology and human anatomy, is leading the UC Davis Eye-Pod project, which will employ novel adaptive optics imaging of single cells in the eyes of living animals under normal, pathogenic and regenerative conditions. Adaptive optics imaging will enable simultaneous, quantitative assessment of cellular morphology and many basic functions for use in testing stem cell and other therapeutic interventions in animal models of major diseases. Collaborators include Paul Fitzgerald, Nadean Brown, Marie Burns and Tom Glaser in the cell biology and human anatomy department; Jan Nolta from the Institute for Regenerative Cures; Susanna Park and Larry Hjelmeland from the UC Davis Health System Eye Center; Scott Simon in the biomedical engineering department; FitzRoy Curry in the physiology and membrane biology department; and Hwai-Jong Cheng and John Werner in neurobiology, physiology and behavior.
  •  Simon Cherry, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, is working to build the infrastructure and expertise for a UC Davis Center for Translational Molecular Imaging. The center will translate novel molecular imaging agents and new imaging devices for clinical research studies. The first project will take a novel molecular imaging agent validated in pre-clinical studies and perform the first clinical studies in humans to establish a translational pathway at UC Davis. It also will fund initial development for building a whole-body PET scanner with unprecedented sensitivity and body coverage that would represent an advanced imaging platform for new molecular imaging agent assessments. Co-investigators include Ramsey Badawi in the radiology department; Julie Sutcliffe in the internal medicine department; Jinyi Qi in the biomedical engineering department; Lars Berglund, director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science CenterAlice Tarantal in the pediatrics department; and Karen Kelly at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Other projects led by faculty with appointments on the UC Davis campus include collaborations with UC Davis Health System specialists.

  • Katherine Ferrara in the Department of Biomedical Engineering has established a Center for Content Rich Evaluation of Therapeutic Efficacy (cCRETE) to address the critical need for new screening tools for cancer therapeutics. The new center includes cancer biologists, pre-clinical pharmacologists, social scientists, bioinformatics experts and bioeningeers who are focused on developing and validating high-throughput biomarker assays for their therapeutic value against on invasive cancers, including bladder, colon, pancreas, lung, breast and glioblastomas. Collaborators include Ralph deVere White, director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center; Fredric Gorin in neurology; Clifford Tepper in the biochemistry and molecular medicine department; Graduate School of Management Dean Steven Currall; Bruce Hammock in the entomology department; Dawei Lin from the Genome Center; and Alexander Revzin in biomedical engineering.
  • Dermatology Professor Fu-Tong Liu also is collaborating with project leader Kwan Liu Ma in the computer science department to establish the UC Davis Center for Visualization. The project also includes faculty from the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Sociology, and Design as well as from the Institute of Transportation Studies.

Funding for the RISE program came from indirect costs generated by awards made to UC Davis under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. These research-related revenues were set aside by Chancellor Katehi for campus-wide reinvestment in research, consistent with the goals of the chancellor's Vision of Excellence, the university's strategic plan through 2020.

About UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community.

The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit healthsystem.ucdavis.edu.