UTMB-CET: Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core
The overall goal of the Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core (IHSFC) is to facilitate both patient-oriented and population-based research within the UTMB-CET. The IHFSC will promote the strategic goals of the UTMB-CET by focusing on important problems in environmental health, supporting translational initiatives for existing research projects, and fostering new multidisciplinary activities of the Collaborative Research Teams (CRTs). Translational research is a bi-directional process that seeks to convert important basic science and population-based discoveries into measurable improvements in human health. The infrastructure of the IHSFC that supports this process consists of five internal modules (Facilities) with extensive interdigitation among them, and with UTMB's Institute for Translational Sciences, home of the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award (CTSA). This infrastructure will facilitate public health research including epidemiology and intervention studies through: 1) Translational project study design and early steps of implementing these studies, 2) Design of community-based research and assisting in identifying community partners with access to exposed and control populations who have a demonstrated interest in participating in research, 3) Access to a centralized facility for assessing environmental exposures to small-molecule pollutants and identifying biomarkers for these exposures and their biological consequences, and 4) Research database development and biostatstical and bioinformatic analyses of results.
The objectives of the IHSFC are to:
Provide the infrastructure to assist UTMB-CET members in designing and conducting experiments and research projects that extend their environmental science programs into studies of human health and disease, by providing:
- Advice concerning the feasibility, ethics, IRB requirements and identification of clinical collaborators for translational clinical research projects
- Access to a study coordinator who is experienced in both the administrative and clinical aspects of sample procurement
- Access to a centralized biorepository for sample preparation, logging and storage in collaboration with the CTSA
- Support for biostatistical aspects of study design and analysis, including power analysis, customized data management systems to facilitate the acquisition, organization and analysis, advanced modeling of the data derived from individual clinical subjects, epidemiological surveys and community initiated projects
- Bioinformatic support for collection, analysis and interpretation of large data sets
- Analytical support for identifying and quantifying small molecule contaminants in human and experimental animal tissues and fluids to assure the relevance of exposure of biological systems to environmental agents and to identify biomarkers of these exposures and their pathologic consequences
In addition, the IHSFC provides faculty development and practical training in the areas of expertise represented in the five Facilities to the faculty involved in CRTs and Pilot Projects, as well as other investigators in the UTMB-CET requiring the IHSFC resources.
Translational Research Facility
The general objective of the Translational Research Facility (TRF) is to provide a centralized resource that will receive, evaluate and facilitate the requests for assistance in designing or performing translational studies in the UTMB-CET. It is anticipated that such requests will come from members of established CRTs, from Center investigators who are not currently organized in a CRT but have interest in conducting studies (mostly pilot projects) that are related to environmental problems and involve patient-oriented research, or from Center investigators who are interested in identifying available human samples collected in the UTMB centralized biorepository to test a relevant biological question in an initial pilot/feasibility manner.
Community-Based Research Facility
The UTMB-CET has a demonstrated track record of carrying out community-based and community-based participatory research (CBPR), which utilizes the Community Outreach and Education Core (COEC) to facilitate research partnerships and to bidirectionally disseminate environmental health information. By employing the COEC as its translational arm, the UTMB-CET has a long-standing history of translating scientific research findings to effect evidence-based policy change at the level of local government and industry, as well as leveraging study findings to directly impact public health. The activities of the Community-Based Research Facility in the IHSFC will continue our tradition of excellence in developing community partnerships with the UTMB-CET, while expanding the resources and efforts to the research components of these partnerships.
To maximize opportunities for translational research, the IHSFC fosters extensive interactions between and among the Core's leadership, the CRTs, Pilot Project recipients, and the community. This realignment enables collaborations among UTMB-CET scientists engaged in population-based studies, clinical research, exposure assessment and biomarker development research. It also provides investigators direct assistance with study design and methods, bioinformatics, biostatistics, and research navigation. The objectives of the Community-Based Research Facility are to:
- Provide the infrastructure to enable the Center's CRTs and Pilot Project holders to initiate and carry out community-based and community-based participatory research projects
- Represent community interests to prospective UTMB-CET research partners in existing or new CRTs and Pilot Project recipients
- Serve as a liaison for the IHFSC to the COEC and its diverse and extensive Stakeholder Advisory Board
Exposure Assessment and Biomarker Development Facility
The Exposure Assessment and Biomarker Development Facility (EABDF) was established in 2006 to provide high-quality, cost-effective analysis of small molecules and development of biomarkers of exposure to and toxicity of small organic contaminants as they apply to human disease(s). The objectives of the EABDF are to provide consultation and technical support, as well as training for the development of analytical methods to identify and quantify low molecular weight environmental pollutants using mass spectrometric and nuclear magnetic resonance capabilities. The EABDF closely interfaces with the Bioinformatics Facility to expedite the analyses of large data sets generated for the metabolic profiling. These services are available to UTMB-CET investigators and their trainees. The EABDF provides this state-of-the-art analysis at a reduced cost by sharing the resources, including key equipment and technical expertise.
The Bioinformatics Facility is a key resource within the IHSFC forming an extensive interlocking relationship with the other Facilities in this Core, thereby improving the communications and efficiency of the IHSFC in supporting the needs of UTMB-CET research teams by:
- Planning clinical experiments and development and access to the central biorepository
- Supporting Community-based environmental studies
- Providing analytical support for identifying and quantifying exposure of biological systems to environmental agents and to identify biomarkers (including metabolomics perturbations) of these exposures and their health consequences
- Providing bioinformatics support for the collection and management of very large data sets and their subsequent analysis and interpretation
- Computational support for all aspects of study design and analysis
- Education and practical training activities
The overall goal of this facility is to strengthen biostatistical support for UTMB-CET investigators, particularly within the CRTs and Pilot Project program. As an integrated and multidisciplinary service, the Biostatistics Facility will educate and support investigators, trainees, and research teams in appropriate design, analysis and interpretation of data related to translational research. The major approach is to provide project-specific mentoring, support and feedback to both new and established investigators during development of study protocols and supporting documentation, including sample size, detailed biostatistical analysis plans, and database design and implementation. The Biostatistics Facility offers the investigators an accessible suite of integrated expertise and services to optimize effective and efficient analysis of research results.
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