Research News & Grants
Section compiled by Carole Walker
Improving Geriatric Care
The project is designed to strengthen an understaffed geriatric workforce by preparing healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines to address the healthcare needs of a rapidly growing, culturally and ethnically diverse population that is living longer and has an increased prevalence of chronic conditions. Project objectives include:
- Improving the training of health professionals in geriatrics, and developing and disseminating curricula relating to the treatment of health problems of the elderly, including dementia, delirium, depression, pressure ulcers and incontinence. Training on geriatric issues will be provided at Kennedy Health Systems (KHS) and RBMC.
- Developing curriculum on management of challenging behaviors and implementing pilot
projects in five nursing homes to reduce inappropriate mental health referrals to psychiatric Crisis Centers, thus improving quality of care and clinical outcomes.
- Training faculty to provide instruction in geriatrics and cultural competence and improve
communication to overcome challenges posed by health literacy through an annual 32-hour Interdisciplinary Faculty Development Program in Health Literacy.
- Supporting continuing education of health professionals who provide geriatric care through: development of six downloadable “geripods” (mini-podcasts) on diabetes, nutrition, hypertension, medications, depression, and health literacy; an annual statewide geriatrics conference; Geriatric Grand Rounds at RBMC and KHS; two training programs on health literacy and chronic disease delivered in collaboration with the New Jersey Area Health Education Center (AHEC); and expansion of interdisciplinary clinical training experiences in geriatrics.
- Evaluating the success of the programs will include baseline and pre- and post-intervention assessments, Web-based surveys, and use of standard assessment tools. Program-developed instruments will be used to measure primary (completion rates), secondary (results attributable to training), and tertiary outcomes (changes in patient health status).
Researchers Explore New Anti-Tuberculosis Chemotherapy
Globally, more than two million persons die of tuberculosis each year, and about a third of the world’s population is infected with the causative agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” says Drlica. “While tuberculosis is curable when multiple antibiotics are used, the treatment period is long (often six months or more), which contributes to emergence of bacterial resistance because maintaining patient compliance to therapy is difficult.”
Biologists believe that upon infection a portion of the pathogen
population enters a dormant “sleeping” state in which the bacteria are not readily killed by antibiotics. Drlica’s group has a model system in which mycobacteria growing in the laboratory can be “put to sleep” and later
“awakened.” This system is being used to study the ability of new derivatives of a drug class called fluoroquinolones to kill M. tuberculosis in its dormant state.
Fluoroquinolones, which include drugs such as ciprofloxacin, are
important because bacterial resistance has eroded the usefulness of many other anti-tuberculosis agents, often leaving fluoroquinolones as agents of last resort. In studies with other bacteria, Drlica and colleagues learned that
fluoroquinolones act by breaking bacterial chromosomes, thereby causing rapid bacterial death. They are now synthesizing new fluoroquinolones that may break the chromosomes of dormant M. tuberculosis. Such agents could shorten chemotherapy treatment time for tuberculosis and help relieve the growing problem of drug resistance.
New Technologies to Reduce the Cost of Sequencing Human Genomes
It is inevitable that personalized medicine, based on genomic analyses and sequencing, will play a dominant role in modern diagnosis and therapy,” says Mandecki, noting that the federal government actively supports genomic technologies.
The highlight of this intense interest is the NIH’s $1,000 Genome Initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of sequencing the human genome to $1,000. It is believed that at this price point, genomic sequencing will be accessible to many people in the U.S.
The main purpose of the group’s grant is to modify key components of the ribosome, the translation system that cells use to build proteins on messenger RNA templates, to read out the sequence of nucleotide building blocks along that message. Any DNA molecule can be converted to such a message. By sequencing the messenger RNA, the sequence of the DNA itself could be determined. Proof of the principle will be obtained in the first three years of the project.
The approach takes advantage of a vast amount of knowledge accumulated in the field of protein biosynthesis on the ribosome, as well as key developments in
nano-technology and fluorescence microscopy. The long-term objective is to lay the
foundation for an instrumentation system for gene analyses, assays and reagents.
Mandecki’s collaborators are Drs. Emanuel Goldman and Hieronim Jakubowski of UMDNJ; Drs. Barry Cooperman and Yale Goldman of the University of Pennsylvania;
Drs. Julian Borejdo, Ignacy Gryczynski and Zygmunt Gryczynski of the University of North Texas Health Science Center; and Dr. Patrick Watson of Alcatel-Lucent.
Using Gene Transcription to Fight Infectious Diseases
Replication of the genome and its transcription are vital processes for all living
organisms. DNA replication results in an exact copy of the genome that allows cells to divide and propagate. DNA transcription results in the making of messenger RNA molecules, which code for proteins and enzymes. This laboratory investigates the enzymology of DNA replication and transcription by dissecting the reactions into
individual steps that provide information about the dynamics of these processes, using methods such as rapid kinetics, and various fluorescence-based and structural tools.
“Transcription is a key process at which gene expression is regulated,” Patel explains. “By choosing enzymatically tractable systems, my lab is able to study the complex mechanisms of transcription in great detail, which will eventually lead to a predictive and quantitative model of transcription.”
The basic mechanism of transcription and replication is conserved from virus to humans. For example, research on single-subunit RNA polymerases can be applied to developing methods for managing infectious diseases and those related to
mitochondrial defects, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s diseases.
Other enzymes being studied are helicases. Genomes of most organisms are
double stranded and need to be separated into their component single strands before they can be replicated. Helicases are nanomotors that use the energy from ATP hydrolysis to move unidirectionally and separate the strands of DNA. They play a central role in initiating replication and in driving the replication to completion. The integrity of genetic information is dependent on the action of helicases, since mutations in helicases are manifested in a variety of diseases, including xeroderma pigmentosum, and Cockayne’s, Bloom’s and Werner’s syndromes.
The lab is also studying viruses encoding their own helicases (such as the
hepatitis C virus), with the goal of using them as targets for antiviral therapy. The lab has developed the T7 polymerase system as a paradigm to understand the basis of
diseases caused by mutations in the enzymes of mitochondria. Future applications include designing nanomachines for transporting materials such as sensors in the cell.
Responses to Goal Blockage
in Infants and Children
Parents quickly learn whether their baby has a “temper,” especially when things don’t go as expected. Some babies express their frustration by becoming active and appearing angry. Others become more passive or even sad. According to the researchers, individual differences in emotional styles emerge as early as four to six months.
At the Institute’s baby lab, infants learn to turn on a musical slide show by pulling a
ribbon. Researchers observe their emotional responses when the slide show is unexpectedly turned off, blocking their access to the learned goal. Results from the first study showed that infants’ frustrated emotions could be characterized in one of two ways: Babies who appear angry actively try to get the slide show back on. Their heart rates increase, but despite being emotional, they are not stressed. Cortisol, a stress hormone measured in saliva, remains stable despite their emotional behavior. Another smaller group of babies exhibits predominantly sad facial expressions and a decreased heart rate. They tend to stop pulling the ribbon and show increased cortisol response, suggesting that they are more stressed by goal blockage.
The grant will enable the researchers to examine two different questions. First, they hope to understand whether these early active and passive emotional/behavioral styles are linked to emotional difficulties later on, such as learned helplessness, as well as to positive traits of mastery, persistence and impulse control. Secondly, they are looking for the origins of these emotional styles in the early interaction of physiological organization and maternal child interaction.
$3.1 Million for Study of Temporomandibular Disorder Pain
Raphael, who is the principal investigator of the five-year study, is associate professor and director of research in the Department of Psychiatry at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and associate professor of diagnostic sciences at UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School. She is conducting the study with researchers David Sirois, PhD, DMD, from New York University’s College of Dentistry and Ana Krieger, MD, from NYU’s School of Medicine.
The multi-phase study will enroll 180 participants — 120 with TMD and 60 controls. They will spend two nights at NYU’s Sleep Disorders Center so the investigators can assess whether teeth grinding and clenching (called bruxism) during sleep is a primary cause of this pain syndrome. In addition, the researchers will study several other suspected causes of TMD: daytime jaw clenching related to stress; a state called central sensitization that produces an exaggerated central nervous system response to painful stimuli; and predisposing genetic factors.
TMD — the most common cause of facial pain after toothache — varies in its intensity and duration, but often persists for long periods of time. Without scientifically based guidelines for treatment, interventions often fail. According to Raphael: “Our analysis of subgroups of people with different combinations of these possible risk factors will lead to a better understanding of the underlying causes of TMD pain so that targeted treatments can be developed.”
Award Supports ADHD Research
The five-year, $2,353,923 grant for “Mechanisms of Pesticide-Induced Neurobehavioral Deficits: Relevance to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)” will support his research into pesticide exposure as a potential risk factor for ADHD in children. ADHD is estimated to affect 8 to 12 percent of school-aged children worldwide and can be a lifelong problem, with as many as 60 percent of those affected having symptoms that continue into adulthood. Although genetic factors have considerable influence in ADHD, no single gene has been linked to a significant percentage of cases, suggesting that environmental factors or
gene-environment interactions may contribute to its etiology or clinical manifestation. “The behavioral dysfunction observed in children with ADHD has been linked to disruption of catecholamine systems in the brain, particularly the dopamine system,” says Richardson. “Thus, environmental toxicants that affect the proper development of the dopamine system may contribute to ADHD.”
Recent data from the researcher’s laboratory have demonstrated that the offspring of mice exposed during pregnancy to a commonly used pesticide exhibit symptoms similar to those observed in children with ADHD. “Our current research focuses on expanding this observation with the goal of using these mice as a novel animal model of ADHD that could be used to gain insight into the pathological mechanisms of ADHD,” he explains. “The
identification of molecular targets responsible for the behavioral effects observed in these mice may also provide information on the neurochemical substrates of behaviors associated with ADHD and lead to the development of new therapeutic agents for treatment. Finally, we are
conducting research to determine whether pesticide exposure may be a risk factor for ADHD in humans.”
Collaborators in the study include Stuart Shalat, ScD, an associate professor at RWJMS and EOHSI, Thomas Rugino, MD, child neurologist at Children’s Specialized Hospitals, and Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD, now at the University of Rochester Medical School.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded a $1,011,076 grant to support the school’s New Jersey Center for Public Health Preparedness. This is the fourth consecutive year that the CDC has provided the funding.
Cristine Delnevo, PhD, MPH, ‘93, associate professor, Health Education and Behavioral Science (HEBS), received a $1,065,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services for the final year of a three-year contract to evaluate the State’s Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program.
Audrey Gotsch, DrPH, CHES, Mitchel Rosen, MS, and Barbara Read, PhD, awarded $2,199,159 for year three of a five-year, $11,068,742 grant from the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences for “Worker Health and Safety Training Cooperative Agreement.”
“Demographic Reflections on the Aging of the Baby Boom and its Implications for Health Care” by Vicki Freedman, PhD, professor, Health Systems and Policy, in Social Structures: Demographic Changes and the Well-Being of Older Persons (Social Impact on Aging Series): 2007: Pages 80-90.
Deborah Storm, PhD, research program manager, Carolyn Burr, EdD, RN, senior education
specialist, and Eunice Casey, MIA, MPH, program manager
Botswana, presented a “Training of Trainers” session related to the stress management and team building manuals newly created for the Botswana Workplace Wellness Program for Health Workers in Gaborone, Botswana.
Cheryl Holly, EdD, RN, professor and director, New Jersey Center for Evidence-Based Practice, presented “Needs of the Intensive Care Unit Family: A Qualitative Review,” at the Joanna Briggs Institute International Convention in Adelaide, South Australia.
Ann Curley, PhD, RN, assistant professor, appointed to the
editorial board of Journal of Community Health Nursing and to the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) Manual Revision Task Force.
Gloria McNeal, PhD, APRN, FAAN, associate dean and professor, appointed chair of the 21st Annual Scientific Conference Planning Committee for the 2008
international program of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, Inc.
“Ovarian Cancer: This ‘Silent Killer’ Does Make Noise” by Annie Fife, BSN, student, MSN Program, in Clinician Reviews Vol. 17(9):
“Who is the Family: Family and Decision-Making” by Susan Salmond, EdD, RN, interim dean, in Decision-Making in Nursing: Thoughtful Approaches for Practice. Jones and Bartlett, Chapter 6, 2008.
School of Health Related Professions
“Collaboration for Food Assistance When Resources are Limited” by Riva Touger-Decker, PhD, professor, and Marissa Ciorciari, BS, instructor, both in Nutritional Sciences, in Positive Communication 12(3):1,2,11. 2007.
“The Bits and Bytes to Advanced Graduate Degree Programs” by Diane Rigassio Radler, PhD, assistant professor, and Riva Touger-Decker, PhD, professor, both in Nutritional Sciences, in Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 22(6):647-652. 2007.
“Cues to Move: A Review of the Use of External Cues to Facilitate Gait Rehabilitation in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” by co-authors Joni Handler, DPT, clinical assistant professor, Rehabilitation and Movement Sciences, K. Vona, J. Talty, M. Mejia, S. Ravelo, and T. Barge, in PT 2007: The Annual Conference and Exposition of the APTA, Summer 2007.
Rebecca Reed, DMD, assistant professor, Community Health,
provided oral health education to 100 children on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. Students from the Class of 2009 who participated are: Obianuju Mbamalu, Tricia Quartey, Simone Ellis, Erginio Fernandez, Christine Guanlao and Lola John-Roberts.
Jill York, DDS, MSA, associate professor, Community Health, and director for the Statewide Network, awarded a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Health Resource Services Administration for the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging to support fellowship training for health professionals who plan to teach geriatric medicine, geriatric dentistry or geriatric behavior and mental health, in collaboration with NJDS.
“Minimally Invasive Guided Bone Regeneration” by Eli Eliav, DMD, PhD, associate professor, Diagnostic Sciences, and Kfir E, Kfir V, and Kaluski E, in Journal of Oral Implantology, 33(4): 205-210, 2007.
Terrie Ginsberg, DO, NJISA, presented "Sexuality in the Aging” at the American Osteopathic Association’s 112th Annual Convention and Scientific Seminar, San Diego.
Gary Goldberg, PhD, Molecular Biology, presented “Src utilizes Cas to block gap junctional communication mediated by connexin43,” with Y. Shen, P.R. Kushial, X. Li, H. Ichikawa, and A.P. Moreno, at the International Gap Junction Conference, Denmark.
“Urinary Incontinence in Older Men,” by Anita Chopra, MD, NJISA, and M. Srulevich, DO, in Clinical Geriatrics, 2007: Vol. 15.
“Research Funding at Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine: 15 Years of Growth,” by Thomas Cavalieri, DO, interim dean, M.B. Clearfield, P. Smith-Barbaro, V.J. Guillory, D.L. Wood, G. F. Sharp and M.B. Hahn, in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2007: Vol.11.
“Self-reported Depression in Mothers of Sexually Abused Children,” by Esther Deblinger, PhD, CARES Institute, Robert Steer, EdD, Psychiatry, A.P. Mannarino and J.A. Cohen, in Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, Vol. 29, Sept. 2007.
Carolyn Bekes, MD, professor of medicine, selected to receive the 2008 “Courage to Lead Award.” She is one of only three recipients of the award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
Jianjie Ma, PhD, University Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, a five-year $1,904,875 grant for his study, “Bi-Directional Calcium Signaling in Striated Muscles.”
Kiran Madura, PhD, professor of biochemistry, awarded a $500,000 commitment from Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC, to advance research in the non-invasive diagnosis of breast cancer. Dr. Madura is the founder and chief scientific officer of CellXplore, Inc.
“Resumption of Sexual Activity after Plastic Surgery: Current Practice and Recommendations” and “Dermabond Skin Closures for Bilateral Reduction Mammaplasties: A Review of 255 Consecutive Cases” by co-author Gregory Borah, MD, professor of surgery and chief, division of plastic surgery, in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 2007.
“A Rapid and Efficient PCR-Based Mutagenesis Method Applicable to Cell Physiology Study” by Jae-kyun Ko, PhD, was ranked 21st among the 50 most frequently read articles in the American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology. The paper was published in the journal’s June 1, 2005 issue, pages 1273-1278.
Peter Carmel, MD, D. Med, chair and professor, Neurological Surgery, named the 2008 Elsberg Lecturer from the New York Society for Neurosurgery. He will also receive the 2009 Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Chicago.
Pranela Rameshwar, MD, professor, Medicine, issued a U.S. Patent for Amino Terminal Substance P Compositions and Methods.
Stephen Vatner, MD, chair, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine, issued a U.S. Patent for Mst1 Modulation of Apoptosis in Cardiac tissue and Modulators of Mst1 for Treatment and Prevention of Cardiac Disease.
Shuishu Wang, PhD, a faculty partner, Public Health Research Institute, awarded a five-year, $1,422,720 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for “Structural and Functional Studies of a PhoP-PhoR Two-Component System.”
Roger Howell, PhD, professor, Radiology, and Ronaldo Ferraris, PhD, professor, Pharmacology and Physiology, awarded a two-year, $870,739 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for “Protection Against Radiation-induced Damage to Intestinal Nutrient Transport.”
“Acupuncture for Chronic Shoulder Pain in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury - A Small-Scale Clinical Trial” by Trevor Dyson-Hudson, MD, assistant professor, PM&R; Peter Kadar, CA, DiplAc, DOM; Michael LaFountaine, MEd, ATC/L; Racine Emmons, MA; Steven Kirshblum, MD, professor; David Tulsky, MD, associate professor; and Eugene Komaroff, PhD, associate professor, all of PM&R, in Arch Phys Med Rehabil, Vol 88, 2007, 1276-1283.