Women's Reproductive Health Research
Career Development Center of Excellence

Center Objective

Administration

Mentors

Scholars

Contact Information

 

In 1998, the Department at UTMB was one of the first of a group of 12 departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology to receive funding for a Women’s Reproductive Health Research (WRHR) Career Development Center from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Office of Research on Women’s Health.

Based upon the progress we have made during the initial period, the NIH awarded continuation of funding for UTMB WRHR Center from 2004-2009. Again in 2009, this training grant was funded to continue training physician scientist through 2014.

 


WRHR Center Objective

Our key goal has been to expand our existing infrastructure to develop Ob/Gyn physician scientists capable of competing at the cutting edge of research relevant to women’s reproductive health. The program provides training in the laboratory of established, NIH-supported Mentors in both clinical and basic science research. We have maintained an excellent group of experienced Mentors, both from within the Department and from other departments, who collaborate with our faculty and train fellows and/or junior faculty developing research careers. Success of the program is measured by the ability of Scholars to become independent researchers, as measured by their ability to acquire NIH funding and to direct future research in women’s reproductive health. Our first group of Scholars is already beginning to serve as valuable role models for fellows and junior clinical faculty.

Through our people and resources, experience, and commitment to excellence, the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology is maintaining a first-class WRHR Center of Excellence at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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WRHR Administration

Principal Investigator
Gary D.V. Hankins, MD
Professor and Chairman, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Jennie Sealy Smith Distinguished Chair in Obstetrics & Gynecology
ghankins@utmb.edu

Program Director
Chandrasekhar Yallampalli, DVM, PhD
Distinguished Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Cell Biology
chyallam@utmb.edu

Administrative Coordinator
Elizabeth Powell
eapowell@utmb.edu

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WRHR Mentors

 

Mahmoud S. Ahmed, PhD

Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Graduate Faculty, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology

and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

 

Research Accomplishments

The focus of investigations in Dr. Ahmed’s laboratory is to understand the mechanisms underlying the role of human placenta in disposition of drugs used for treatment of the pregnant patient. The therapeutic areas of major interest are opiate agonists used for treatment of the opiate addict and hypoglycemic drugs used in treatment of gestational diabetes. The aims of the projects are: 1) To determine the kinetics of transplacental transfer of the drugs and their effects on placental physiology. 2) To understand the role of human placenta as a functional barrier that protects the fetus from xenobiotics by its metabolic enzymes and efflux transporters. Dr. Ahmed collaborates with other investigators on projects to develop new drugs for the treatment of HIV infections and antibodies for treatment of nicotine addiction during pregnancy. Since 1977, Dr. Ahmed’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, private organizations, and pharmaceutical companies.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Ahmed is developing new medications for treatment of the pregnant woman. Specifically:

1)      Determining the kinetics of transplacental transfer of new drugs and their effects on placental physiology.

2)      Understanding the role of human placenta as a functional barrier protecting the fetus from the effects of drugs, xenobiotics, and environmental toxins.

3)      Determining the role of human placental enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of estrogens in preterm delivery.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Ahmed’s research has been, and is, devoted to improving maternal and neonatal outcome by understanding the role, at the molecular level, of human placenta in fetal growth and development. He is working closely with Dr. Hankins with regard to placental research. Clearly, investigations of placental functions in determining the maternal and fetal wellbeing will fit well into the WRHR program.

 

Abbey B. Berenson, MD

Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics

Medical Director, Regional Maternal Child Health Program Clinics

Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Berenson is an established mentor and senior investigator. Her patient-oriented clinical research includes medical and behavioral issues related to women’s reproductive health. She has developed a national reputation for her work in hymen morphology from birth to eight, especially as it relates to physical evidence in cases of child sexual abuse. In addition to her significant work in contraceptive usage and effects, as well as related health behaviors in young women, she has mentored a number of faculty and postdoctoral fellows (MDs and PhDs).

Dr. Berenson’s earlier funded research on hymenal anatomy and development (M01RR000073) provided new information directly related to medical determination of sexual abuse in prepubertal girls. At the time she began these studies, little was known about the normal development of the hymen during the prepubertal years or how its appearance might change following sexual abuse. The topic had strong clinical significance because of the increased number of requests from lawyers and social workers for genital examinations to establish the experience of sexual abuse in young girls. She employed cross-sectional and longitudinal designs to demonstrate that hymenal findings previously assumed to be signs of abuse, such as bumps, ridges, lateral, or superior notches, may occur as normal congenital findings or as a result of developmental processes. Her findings also established that transhymenal openings normally vary within a wide range of diameters and that diameters increase with aging. NIH/NIMH funded a cross-sectional case control study (R01MH051698) that compared nonabused children between 3 and 8 years of age to those with a validated history of vaginal penetration. Rigorous methods were employed in this landmark study to demonstrate that physical findings alone should not be used to diagnose sexual abuse in young girls. These findings are cited frequently in sexual abuse literature as the standard in the field.

 

Concurrent with the hymen studies, Dr. Berenson conducted large-scale clinical studies in hormonal contraception, using cross-sectional surveys and multi-site longitudinal clinical trials. With funding from the Department of Defense and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, she examined 390 subjects for the differential effects of an injectable hormonal contraceptive and two formulations of oral contraception. Outcomes included dysmenorrhea, menstrual bleeding patterns, plasma lipid levels, and changes in bone mineral density. Young military women at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, were compared to a matched group of community women and a control group of barrier-contraceptors attending family planning clinics in Galveston. Findings demonstrated bone loss in those women choosing the injectable method and provided valuable information about choice of contraceptive method as a possible fracture risk in military women. These contraceptive studies became the foundation for a larger project supported by NIH/NICHD (R01HD039883).

 

Aimed at examining the effects of hormonal contraception on bone mineral density (R01HD039883), this prospective clinical study (n = 687) compared changes in BMD over a 2-year interval experienced by women using DMPA or oral contraceptives containing 20 mg estradiol as compared with women not using hormonal contraception. Each of 3 cohorts were composed of 229 women aged 16 to 33 years of white, black, or Hispanic race/ethnicity. The primary outcomes (ie, BMD levels and biomarkers of bone metabolism) were analyzed to assess changes from baseline within each contraceptive group at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months as compared to changes observed among controls. Furthermore, the study provided information about the reversibility of potential adverse effects of hormonal contraception on BMD among those who discontinue their method by conducting a bone density test and measuring biomarkers at the point of discontinuation and at 6-month intervals from that point. This study was among the first to investigate the role of race/ethnicity and age in contraceptive-related BMD changes while accounting for behavioral correlates (ie, prior contraceptive use, nutritional intake, exercise habits, alcohol use, smoking) in a multivariate fashion. The resulting complex data base has resulted in 5 published manuscripts with several more in development or in press.

Dr. Berenson’s current work, supported by the Maternal Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA/MCHB R40MC066634), is aimed at improving adolescent adherence to hormonal contraception. Adolescent participants (n = 1,400) from 3 family planning clinics are being randomized to a clinic-based intervention, an intervention plus booster telephone calls, or usual care. Outcomes include the relative effectiveness of the 2  interventions as compared with usual care, unintended pregnancy rates, and STDs diagnosed during the study. Data is also collected on a number of health behaviors as well as level of health literacy and pregnancy intention.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Berenson’s future research will expand upon the multifactorial data gathered in the study of hormonal contraceptive effect on bone mineral density as well as the current study on contraceptive adherence. The additional data on health behaviors, social issues, and mental health status in reproductive-aged women will also generate much needed information for development of culturally competent practices of gynecological care among underserved women.

Dr. Berenson expanded research training opportunities for minority researchers by successfully obtaining diversity supplements for her ongoing contraceptive studies. These supplements supported Kevin McKinney, MD, an African American endocrinologist, and Laura Romo, PhD, a Latina psychologist. Subsequently, both recipients have advanced in academic rank and have obtained extramural funding. Dr. Berenson’s experience and success as a mentor has been recognized through a NIH Midcareer Investigator Award in Patient-Oriented Research (K24HD043659). The purpose of the K24 program is to provide support for clinician investigators, allowing them protected time to devote to patient-oriented research (POR) and to act as research mentors primarily for clinical residents, clinical fellows and/or junior clinical faculty. The award is in its second 5-year cycle of funding.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

As both a Mentor and Clinical Core Director, Dr. Berenson brings to the WRHR Career Development Center multiple possibilities for training obstetrician/gynecologists in patient-oriented research. WRHR trainees are assured a broad experience because of her extended internal activity at the divisional, departmental, and institutional levels, as well as external activity within regional sites.

 

As Director of UTMB’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health, Dr. Berenson anticipates a continuing synergestic relationship with the WRHR Career Development Center and its trainees. Both Centers share a number of faculty Mentors, as well as resources and training components. The direct connection between the two Centers affords WRHR trainees potential interaction with women’s health researchers from several disciplines.

 

As an Ob/Gyn faculty researcher, Dr. Berenson’s work on contraception and the hymen have contributed new information to traditional domains of pediatricians and gynecologists. Her interest in a broader range of women’s health issues, including family violence, substance use, dietary intake, and mental health, will continue to contribute to the needs of ob/gyns who are also providing primary care to a majority of women, especially those who are poor.

As Medical Director of the UTMB Regional Maternal Child Health clinics in southeast Texas, Dr. Berenson enjoys an ongoing collaborative relationship with the Clinic Director and staff. The more than 25 Title X clinics serve African American, Hispanic, Asian, and white women with low incomes. The sites are economically diverse, some with an industrial metropolitan base, while others are more rural or suburban in nature. This mix provides an ideal venue for investigation of lifestyle and contraceptive practices among underserved women. These clinics also contribute to the development of culturally competent researchers in reproductive health.

 

Gary D. V. Hankins, MD
Professor and Vice Chairman, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Chief, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Hankins is a highly productive clinical scientist with over one hundred refereed articles published. His most notable scientific contributions are in two primary areas. The first is clinical outcome studies. Dr. Hankins and his colleagues were pioneers regarding establishment of normative data for umbilical cord arterial and venous blood gas and acid base values and their meaning. They have further significantly contributed to our understanding of the correlation of the metabolic condition of the fetus to the electronic fetal heart rate patterns. This work led to his appointment as Chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Task Force on Neonatal Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy. The other area of notable clinical expertise of Dr. Hankins involves multiple facets of operative obstetrics, to include the sentinel series involving early repair of episiotomy dehiscence, emergency cerclage usage, and operative vaginal delivery. Another major strength is as an investigator in the area of large animal physiology studies. He has amassed substantial experience in a number of models to include the canine, Capra hircus, and Papio cyanocephalus. His expertise with the yellow baboon has resulted in his being named as an adjunct scientist at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, the largest primate center in North America. In canine and primate models, the pathophysiology of beta-sympathomimetic drug induced pulmonary edema was defined. The most comprehensive study of the acute effects of amniotic fluid embolism published to date are those of Hankins and his colleagues. Combined with a national registry of amniotic fluid embolism cases in humans and resulting reports, Hankins is one of two notable scientists investigating this lethal disease entity. He has additionally performed pharmacokinetic studies of AZT in the maternal-fetal primate model and evaluated contrast agents, again in the primate model, for their ability to further refine uteroplacental blood flow dynamics.

Dr. Hankins has achieved extramural funding for a number of projects. Having spent the bulk of his academic and professional career in the military, he achieved a number of successful grants for large animal studies from the Surgeon General’s office of the United States Air Force. He additionally received grants from pharmaceutical and device houses for large animal studies. Since coming to UTMB, Dr. Hankins has served as a site principal investigator on a number of multicenter and network NIH-sponsored studies that are ongoing at this time, including the OPRU and WRHR, as well as serving as co-investigator for the MFMU and several R01 awards.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Hankins is involved in an established and ongoing clinical database of amniotic fluid embolism patients. His work places emphasis on the clinical diagnosis of diabetes, hypertensive diseases, fetal growth abnormalities, prematurity, chorioamnionitis, multiple gestations, and intrauterine fetal clinics. Special emphasis for all of these diagnoses relates to the impact of maternal race and ethnicity. He is also involved in a prospectively maintained database of neonates with encephalopathy and evaluation of the antecedents of that encephalopathy and continues to work with developing medications for treating pregnant patients.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

All areas of research by Dr. Hankins relate to issues directly relevant to pregnant women and/or their fetuses. In many areas, initial information developed in animal models can then be tested in actual patients.

 

Tatiana N Nanovskaya, DDS, PhD
Assistant Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology,
Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

The main area of interest of Dr. Nanovskaya is to understand the mechanisms underlying the role of human placenta in the disposition of drugs used for treatment of the pregnant patient. Dr Nanovskaya is an young researcher who for the last decades has been investigated the transfer of the drugs across human placenta and their effect on placental viability and functional parameters; the role of placental metabolic and efflux enzymes in the drug disposition during pregnancy. She established the technique of dually perfused human placental lobule that has been used to obtained data on transplacental transfer of drugs across term and preterm placentas. She is working closely with Dr. Ahmed who has been her mentor for postdoctor training.  Dr. Nanovskaya’s research has been supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Nanovskaya is involved in research that focuses on the development of animal model to study drug disposition during pregnancy. The baboon has been chosen as an animal model due to anatomical, morphological and functional similarity of their placenta and intrauterine development of fetus to humans.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

All areas of research by Dr. Nanovskaya relate to issues directly relevant to pregnant women and their fetus. In many areas, initial information obtained from in vitro investigations and from animal models can then be extrapolated and tested in actual patients.

 

George R. Saade, MD

Professor and Chief, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. George Saade was born in 1960 in Paris, France, and joined our Department in December, 1995. He received his M.D. from the American University of Beirut, then completed an OB/GYN residency at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland followed by a fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Before joining UTMB, Dr. Saade was a faculty member in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as Pharmacology at Baylor College of Medicine. He is currently a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the director of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Division, as well as the Chief of Obstetrics. He is also a member of the Cell Biology Program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Saade has been very active and productive in research. He has more than 200 articles published in peer-reviewed journals. He has edited or authored several books and book chapters. He is an elected member of a number of prestigious societies including the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Alpha Omega Alpha, the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, and the American Gynecologic and Obstetric Society. He has received numerous research awards including several excellence in research awards and an award for Outstanding Individual Contributor from the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, as well as President’s awards from the Society for Gynecologic Investigation. He is a reviewer for more than 20 prestigious journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the FASEB journal, PLoS, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, and Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy journals, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Perinatology journal. Dr. Saade has served on a number of national and international advisory committees, scientific review panels and study sections, including NIH, CDC, March of Dimes, Wellbeing/Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Health Research Council of New Zealand. He is currently the chairperson for the Endocrinology, Metabolism, Nutrition, and Reproductive Sciences Small Business Activities [SBIR/STTR] Special Emphasis Panel and for the NICHD Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Biology Subcommittee.

 

Dr. Saade is a unique individual because if his combined clinical and basic science research expertise. He is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine. His areas of interest include smooth muscle physiology as applied to vascular and myometrial function during pregnancy, as well as fetal medicine. His basic science research focuses on preterm labor and preeclampsia, the two most important causes of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity, as well as fetal programming of adult diseases. He was also the first to describe a novel treatment for twin-twin transfusion syndrome, a uniformly fatal condition if untreated.

 

Dr. Saade is currently the principal investigator on 2 NIH-funded clinical research networks, the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Units Network. He is also the co-investigator on several other NIH-funded grants, including one relating to fetal programming of adult vascular function. Dr. Saade is the director of the Perinatal Research Division, a large group of research staff, scientists, and students who are involved in several basic and clinical research studies. He is also the director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship Program, and a mentor for several postdoctoral fellows and PhD students. He is currently the mentor and committee chairperson for 4 PhD students at UTMB. He is the faculty director for the Maternal and Fetal Biology course in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He is an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Secretary Treasurer of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Saade’s research interests encompass a gamut of maternal and fetal conditions. His laboratory research efforts have focused on understanding myometrial contractility and cervical function in relation to labor, particularly preterm labor. This work involves in vitro as well as in vivo molecular and physiological experiments in animals and humans. Dr. Saade has also investigated the cardiovascular adaptations to pregnancy, and consequently the pathologic deviations, particularly preeclampsia. As an offshoot of the vascular expertise, he is currently involved in studying the fetal origin of adult diseases, also known as the Barker hypothesis. In addition to his laboratory research, Dr. Saade is very active in clinical research and trials. These include research into prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, in utero therapy for twin-twin transfusion syndrome and red cell alloimmunization, prediction and prevention of preterm birth, as well as the study of the scope and causes of stillbirth. The latter study is part of an NICHD-sponsored network of 5 centers in the US.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Saade will successfully mentor scholars in the WRHR program since all of his research is in women’s reproduction.  His involvement will be directly relevant to WRHR.

 

Tony Wen, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

During his fellowship training and early academic career at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, Texas), Dr. Wen developed a murine model evaluating prior infection versus prolonged prior infection on the effects of Chlamydia genital infection on intrauterine fetal demise and pregnancy rate. As a member of the Maternal Fetal Medicine division at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas), Dr. Wen participated with the research group of Drs. R. Shain and J. Piper in the area of Chlamydial infection and Group B streptococcus infection. Through his teaching and clinical research, he has developed a thorough knowledge and background in the field of Perinatal and Congenital Infection.  More recently, at the University of Texas Medical branch at Galveston, Dr. Wen has continued clinical research in the field of infectious disease, evaluating the effect of in utero exposure to Gentamicin during the third trimester on neonatal otoacoustic emissions and meta-analysis study on the timing of perioperative antibiotics for cesarean sections. Along with Drs. Saade and Ruddock, Dr. Wen presented “17 Alpha Hydroxyprogesterone (17P) Caproate as Adjunct Therapy for Preterm Labor” to the Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit. This protocol was approved by the MFMU Advisory board for future clinical trial. He also participated in Drs. Hankins’ and Saade’s studies: Pharmacokinetic of Medication During Pregnancy- GSK221149A for Preterm Labor Tocolysis; OPRU—Dicletin for Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy; and Relaxin Treatment for Pre-eclampsia.  As Maternal Fetal Medicine faculty at 3 different university institutions, Dr. Wen has served as a Mentor for 2 fellows in Maternal Fetal Medicine and 10 residents in Obstetrics-Gynecology on their research projects.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Wen will continue to work closely with Maternal Fetal Medicine fellows, Ob-Gyn residents and Certified Nurse Midwives on clinical research on database projects in the field gestational diabetes, infectious disease and labor complications.  The Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit will offer much opportunity for further analysis of their clinical trials in the field of obstetrics.  Dr. Wen will be collaborating with the basic scientists in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to investigate into the area of fetal origin in immunological diseases in animal model- asthma, cytokine changes associated with maternal antibiotic exposure and maternal infection.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

All of Dr. Wen’s past and current research activities relate to pregnancy, infection, and treatment of obstetric complications.

 

Helen Wu, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology


 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Wu is committed her research to health disparity issues in vulnerable populations such as low-income women and prison populations. She has been awarded as PI on multiple NIDA grants on substance abuse in hard-to-reach populations. She is well trained in instrument selection and assessment. Currently, she has been conducting her research in several women’s centers where many women are on probation and have a criminal justice history.

 

Dr. Wu has demonstrated innovation and creativity in managing large multi-site studies conducted over large geographical areas by designing a web-based data tracking and management system that has been widely implemented in other NIH-funded multi-site and multi-center clinical trials at UTMB. This system efficiently tracks study subjects and generates real-time quality assurance reports. At present, Dr. Wu is part of a panel of leaders in basic, clinical, and epidemiological research that is establishing a forum where new research and current issues in stress and addiction are explored. This translational collaboration will have a significant impact on both prevention and treatment in the field of addiction. Dr. Wu has also conducted healthcare research in correctional settings. A decade ago, she and a team of researchers initiated the first seroprevalence study for HIV and HCV among newly incarcerated offenders in the TDCJ.

 

 Furthermore, Dr. Wu plays a leadership role in research activities at UTMB as a member of Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the General Clinical Research Center Advisory Committee. She is a member of the Center for Addition Research at UTMB. She has published book chapters on substance abuse and is published in many peer-reviewed journals such as Addictive Behaviors, American Journal on Addictions, Journal of Addictive Diseases, Substance Use and Misuse, Annual of Epidemiology, and Preventive Medicine. In addition to her scientific achievements, she is also well connected in the community and serves on the boards of directors for and collaborates with many community agencies (eg, Gulf Coast Center and the Alcohol/Drug Abuse Women’s Center in Galveston, Santa Maria in Houston, Franklin House in Beaumont, and Triangle AIDS Foundation in Beaumont).

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Wu plans to continue her research on stress and health in young, low income women. She is committed to developing assessment tools and invention strategies for clinical use to reduce risk behaviors and improve health among women of reproductive ages.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

All areas of research by Dr. Wu relate to issues directly relevant to women, thus, providing information of value to obstetrician/gynecologists who are planning a research career. Dr. Wu’s investigations offer an opportunity for an exposure to health issues that have been found to impact areas of reproductive health. Knowledge of these issues may improve an ob/gyn’s provision of care to women from lower income levels as well as those with histories of substance use or abuse.

 

Chandrasekhar Yallampalli, DVM, PhD
(Research Director; Director, Cell Biology & Physiology Core)
Professor, Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Cell Biology & Neurosciences

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Yallampalli’s research interests have focused on four major areas: 1) the role of nitric oxide (NO), calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and adrenomedullin (AM) in uterine physiology and in bone mineral metabolism; 2) the role of CGRP and AM in vascular adaptations during pregnancy; 3) the role of NO in the regulation of uteroplacental infection and fetal growth; and 4) fetal programming of adult diseases. His original studies demonstrating the role of the NO system in the uterus in maintaining uterine quiescence during pregnancy has stimulated major interests in this area. His laboratory, using various pharmacological, biochemical, and molecular biological methods and in vivo manipulations, demonstrated that NO is generated in the uterus and both NO generation and its effects on relaxation of the uterus are substantially increased during pregnancy and decreased at term. These studies by Dr. Yallampalli have provided fundamental understanding on the involvement of NO systems in the uterine quiescence during pregnancy. Subsequent in vivo studies by Dr. Yallampalli demonstrated that inhibition of NO synthesis, together with reduced progesterone action, leads to preterm labor and delivery and that NO donors can prevent preterm labor induced by prostaglandin F2a in rats. These studies provide a functional role for NO in maintaining uterine quiescence during pregnancy. In addition, Dr. Yallampalli’s studies have demonstrated that exogenously administered NO donors can reverse loss in bone density and that beneficial effects of estradiol on the bone appeared to be mediated through the NO system, providing a novel mechanism for estradiol action in this tissue.

 

Dr. Yallampalli’s studies are fundamental in developing an in vivo animal model for studies on preeclampsia in humans. Using this model, a variety of agents was screened for their effectiveness in reversing signs of preeclampsia. One of the peptides that Dr. Yallampalli tested was calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP not only reversed the hypertension, but also the fetal effects in those animals in which hypertension was induced. These studies of Dr. Yallampalli demonstrate that CGRP plays a compensatory vasodilator role during pregnancy and that the vasodilator effects of CGRP are regulated by progesterone, providing a novel mechanism for blood pressure regulation by steroid hormones in the female. In addition, Dr. Yallampalli, in collaboration with Dr. Yuan-Lin Dong, has demonstrated that the umbilical and placental chorionic vessel vasorelaxation to CGRP is compromised in preeclamptic patients.

Recent studies have demonstrated that adrenomedullin and Intermedin are also potent vasodilator peptides during pregnancy and play a role in vascular adaptations.  Additionally, both these peptides appeared to be necessary for normal placental function and fetal growth as their antagonists have been shown to reduce fetal growth. Dr. Yallampalli’s studies have shown gender-specific differences in vascular reactivity and hypertension induced in the adult offspring of low protein fed mothers.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Yallampalli’s future research will focus on the hormonal and pregnancy regulation of uterine CGRP, AM and Intermedin systems in the maintenance of uterine quiescence and initiation of labor. This effort will include molecular studies on the regulation of CGRP receptor components of family peptides as well as second messenger expressions in the uterus. In the studies on the role of CGRP family peptides in regulating vascular functions in the female and during pregnancy, he is focused on the molecular mechanisms involved in the gene regulation and receptors for CGRP peptides in various vascular beds. In addition, these studies will also include measurements of systemic and regional hemodynamics and their regulation by steroid hormones and CGRP. Another area of current interest is to determine the role and the mechanism of CGRP family peptide involvement in fetal growth restriction and placental function. Finally mechanisms through which NO plays a role as a host defense to restrict infection in the uterus is an area of recent focus in Dr. Yallampalli’s research.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

This laboratory has made major contributions to our knowledge on understanding the role of the NO system, CGRP, AM, and Intermedin in uterine and vascular tissues in the female and during pregnancy. In addition, we have strong research ongoing in the areas of nitric oxide regulation of CD55 and infection and on the mechanisms involved in the programming of adult diseases in the offspring born to the mothers receiving low protein diet. These studies continue to be funded by the NIH (1994–present). Several MD and PhD postdoctoral and pre-doctoral fellows have been trained in this laboratory. With several ongoing innovative research projects, this laboratory offers an excellent opportunity for training young faculty interested in the regulation of uterine and vascular functions and the role of steroid hormones in these regulatory processes as well as host defense mechanisms in controlling uterine infections.

  

Wlodzimierz Bujalowski

Professor, Sealy Center for Structural Biology

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Bujalowski is a professor in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His area of research focus is on structure-function relationships in protein-nucleic acid interactions in solutions. He has authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications and invited speaker at various institutions and meetings. He is consistently funded from NIH over the past 15 years. He has served on numerous committees both at local and national levels.

 

Relevance to WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Bujalowski is an expert in protein-nucleic and interactions, DNA replications, repair recombination thermodymanics and kinetics of nucleic acid and protein stability. He would be an excellent mentor candidate for our WRHR scholars who would be interested in these mechanistic areas of investigations.

 

Jean L. Freeman, PhD

Professor, Departments of Preventive Medicine &

Community Health (Epidemiology/Biostatistics and

Internal Medicine (geriatrics)

Senior Fellow, Sealy Center on Aging

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Freeman has designed and directed studies in health services research for over 25 years. Early in her career she worked with Robert Fetter and John Thompson on the development and refinement of the Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) used nationally for hospital reimbursement. She then spent 7 years working with John Wennberg and his colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School on studies demonstrating large geographic variations in the utilization and outcomes of hospital care. Since arriving at UTMB in 1992, her work has focused on the use of administrative datasets (Medicare claims and tumor registry data) to assess the use, quality and outcomes of cancer care in women nationally and the mechanisms underlying the delivery of quality care. Over the past 10 years, she has had funding from the Department of Defense and the National Cancer Institute to examine the use and outcomes of mammography services in older women. Dr. Freeman is also Director of the Health Services Research in Underserved Populations Program, developed with a grant she had from 2001–2008 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Freeman recently received an NCI RO1 to examine late effects of radiation in older women previously diagnosed with gynecologic cancers. Through this research she will develop approaches to identify late effects of radiation therapy with population based health care data. These approaches will then be used in future studies to monitor effects of cancer therapies among older cancer survivors. She plans to use information from her research to develop individual “Survivorship Plans” – tailored to the survivor’s personal characteristics s and when she was treated – with recommended follow-up care.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Since 1992, Dr. Freeman’s research has investigated factors related to the health and health care of older women. She has served as Principal Investigator or co-investigator on grants to examine the use and outcomes of cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and surveillance services. This research utilizes a database created by the National Cancer Institute that contains tumor registry data from the SEER registries merged with Medicare claims data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of interest is the effectiveness of cancer screening and the extent to which older women are receiving appropriate care for cancer. Also of interest is how this affects health outcomes, such as cancer mortality and survival. A major aim of this research is to investigate whether the disparities in cancer mortality and survival observed in older minority and economically disadvantaged populations can be explained by their lower use of screening, appropriate therapy and effective surveillance.

 

Mark R. Hellmich, PhD

Associate Professor, Departments of Surgery and
Neuroscience and Cell Biology

 

Research Accomplishments

Our laboratory has made major contributions to understanding the role of peptide hormones and their cognate receptor in human cancer development and progression. Dr. Hellmich found a novel receptor splice variant that is expressed in human cancers and has characterized the molecular signal transduction pathways by which peptide hormones regulate tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis.  He is also investigating the role of Ca2+ homeostasis in the regulation of cellular proliferation and apoptosis.  These studies continue to be funded by the NIH (until April 2010).

 

Future Research Interests

My future research will focus on defining the role of peptide hormones and their cognate receptors in carcinogenesis in the female reproductive tract.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Several MD postdoctoral and predoctoral students have been trained in the laboratory. With several ongoing innovative research projects, this laboratory offers an excellent opportunity for training young faculty interested in defining the molecular mechanisms by which peptide hormones regulate carcinogenesis and angiogenesis. Dr. Hellmich is serving as mentor for two Gynecologic Oncology Fellows [Candice Nelson, MD (Bombesin stimulates pro-angiogenic gene expression in ES-2 ovarian cancer cells) and Lyuba Levine, MD (Gastrin releasing peptides and endometrial cancer)] and one BIRCWH Scholar [Celia Chao, MD (Significance of stromal elements, such as fibroblasts, in the tumor microenvironment)].

 

Alex Kurosky, PhD

Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Faculty of the School of Medicine

Faculty of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Proteomics Center

Director, Biomolecular Resource Facility

 

Research Accomplishments

Alexander Kurosky, PhD has over 30 years experience in the areas of protein structure, function, and genetics. His experience includes significant technology development and implementation related to proteins. He is currently Director of the UTMB Biomolecular Resource Facility (BRF) and the NHLBI Proteomics Center. His major area of research focus has been proteolytic enzyme structure and function, proprotein processing enzymes, and proteomic technologies, especially related to airway inflammation. He is a Professor in the Department of Human Biological Chemistry and Genetics (~60 faculty), and was its Vice-Chairman for a 3-year rotating term. He is also an Associate Member of the UTMB Sealy Center for Structural Biology, a Member of the UTMB NIEHS Center in Environmental Toxicology and the Sealy Center for Environmental Health and Medicine, and was also the Associate Director for Basic Research and Shared Resources in UTMB’s NCI Cancer Center (1982–1987).

 

Dr. Kurosky received his Ph.D in biochemistry/protein chemistry from the University of Toronto, and his postdoctoral training in molecular genetics at UTMB. He has been the PI or a co-PI on over 20 NIH and NSF grants, and PI on five instrumentation grants. He has some 240 published articles and abstracts. He provides training, consulting, and collaborative interaction to faculty requiring expertise in protein chemistry on a regular basis. Internationally recognized, in the last 5 years he has conducted analyses of characterized proteins for investigators from some 76 institutions around the world. He has also worked with biotechnology companies (Applied Biosystems) in instrument development, and has ß-tested biotechnology equipment. In summary, Dr. Kurosky has a demonstrated track record of leading crossdisciplinary groups of researchers.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Kurosky’s present and future research interests focuses primarily on the development of proteomic technologies to study biological processes, especially airway inflammation and  eosinophil biology. Other future research activities will include how peptide and protein hormones are synthesized, processed, packaged into secretory vesicles, and routed to target sites of action. Additional research interests focus on general aspects of protein structure, function, and genetics.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

The NHLBI Proteomics Center and the Biomolecular Resource Facility, under the direction of Dr. Kurosky, will provide trainees an excellent in-depth opportunity to gain knowledge relating to protein expression, genetics and structure function relationships. In particular, the Proteomics Center will provide trainees advanced technological capabilities to investigate biological processes in a global and discovery fashion, heretofore unattainable. Furthermore, the above facilities have trained staff whose expertise will additionally benefit trainees.

  

Bruce Luxon

Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Director of Bioinformatics Program

 

Research Accomplishments

Bruce A. Luxon is the founding Director of UTMB’s Bioinformatics Program and Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is a faculty member in UTMB’s Institute for Translational and Clinical Research, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, a senior scientist in the Sealy Centers for Molecular Medicine, Cancer Cell Biology, Vaccine Development, and Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics (past deputy director), member of the National Center for Chemical and Biodefense (UT Austin), faculty in the W.M. Keck Center for Interdisciplinary Bioscience Training, and on the executive committee of the GCC for Bioinformatics. He is co-director of the Joint Center for Personal Biomedical Informatics shared between UTMB and the UTHSC-Houston SHIS and is an Adjoint Professor in the UTHSC-H Center for Clinical and Translation Sciences.  Dr. Luxon is one of eight faculty appointed to the UT System Working Group to prepare a multi-institutional, state-wide proposal for the infrastructure needs in Texas for computational biology in cancer and related research that will best administer the $3 billion Texas research fund in this critical research area.  He is also the director of informatics for several NIH-funded centers at UTMB including the NHLBI Proteomics Center, NIEHS Center for Environmental Toxicology, and NIAID Biodefense Proteomics Collaboratory.  Dr. Luxon has been co-I on a very large number of NIH, DoD, and CDC-funded projects that incorporate the informatics, systems biology, and structural biology of cancer, HCV, diabetes, cell signaling, innate immunity and inflammation and he has authored or coauthored >145 publications and patents.  He has >30 years’ experience in computational chemistry, structural biology and systems biology, with >35 years’ experience in computer systems management, relational database management systems, computer networks, and programming.  Dr. Luxon has authored several large-scale relational database projects including a manufacturing and QA/QC RDBMS that successfully satisfied a military specification, and he is the principal author of UTMB’s Oracle-based genomics LIMS and our LC/MS proteomics and metabolomics LIMS. 

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Luxon is the founding director of the UTMB Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. With the availability of the state of the art technology and bioinformatics in Dr. Luxon’s laboratories, he will be an excellent mentor candidate for our WRHR scholars.

 

Sankar Mitra, Ph.D.

Professor and Vice Chair

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Senior Scientist, Sealy Center for Molecular Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Mitra is internationally recognized for his many novel and pioneering contributions over several decades in the area of genome damage, its repair and consequences of damage including mutations and altered cellular signaling.  His laboratory discovered several key repair genes in bacteria and mammals including humans followed by their cloning and characterization of the repair proteins.  Dr. Mitra and his associates published more than 200 original research articles and reviews in top level peer reviewed journals.  Dr. Mitra serves on editorial boards of several journals including J. Biological Chemistry, Mechanisms of Aging& Development, Anticancer Research, J. Radiation Research (Tokyo), Molecules & Cells (Seoul).  He has received many honors, including Fellowship of AAAS, and invitation to present lectures at many national and international conferences.  Dr. Mitra has been serving in various review panels of the National Cancer Institute, National institute for Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute on Aging and study sections of NIH Center for Scientific review.

 

Dr. Mitra’s current research is focused on endogenous and induced oxidative stress, its genotoxic and regulatory consequences in cells.  This research enterprise is supported by 3 NIH R01 grants and Program Project grants, one each from NIA and NCI.  These grants have been renewed multiple times and would be submitted for renewal in 2-3 years.  Specifically, the studies in the lab range from the mechanisms of repair of oxidative damage in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, repair modulation during cellular differentiation, aging-dependent modulation of repair capacity yon one hand to oxidative stress-activated signaling to promote cellular defense.

 

The research program is primarily basic in nature but could be adapted to elucidation of various disease processes.  The expertise of Dr. Mitra’ s group is in molecular approaches including cloning, recombinant protein expression and purification, transient and stable ectopic expression of proteins  under tight regulation in transfected cells, and these tools could be exploited in various research projects in the WRHR program.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Mitra’s future research focus includes unraveling the molecular bases for induced oxidative stress and inflammation in various pathologies, involvement of mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum therein and possible contribution of genotoxicity.  Oxidative stress and inflammation underlie most if not all pathological processes although the molecular mechanism may be disease-specific.  He should be able to provide advisory help and suggestion to investigators in WRHR studying specific cellular processes and diseases.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Mitra may not be directly involved in OB-GYN related research but would be able to provide suggestions and assistance to individual faculty members involved in molecular approaches.

 

Clarence J. Peters

John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Tropical and Emerging Virology

Professor, Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Pathology

Director for Biodefense, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Peters is John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Tropical and Emerging Virology and Director for Biodefense and Professor in Microbiology and Immunology. He has a distinguished career with numerous positions held at a variety of institutions over the past 40 years. He has authored over 360 peer-reviewed publications, numerous book chapters and reviews.

 

Dr. Peters' research focuses on the pathogenesis and epidemiology of viral hemorrhagic fevers and other emerging viral infections. Most of the current work in the laboratory deals with Bunyaviridae (phleboviruses such as Rift Valley fever); Arenaviridae (Lassa fever, South American hemorrhagic fevers) and SARS CoV. Dr. Peters' lab is working on the phylogeny of phleboviruses (Rift Valley Fever), reassortment of their tripartite genomes, and their pathogenicity. He is developing alphavirus replicon-vectored Rift Valley fever vaccines for use in livestock and humans. Arenavirus research concentrates on the effects of infection on cellular function, particularly those molecular interactions related to vascular permeability. SARS-CoV work includes antiviral drug development, model charaterization, and interfeon interactions. Dr. Peters' laboratory is transitioning to higher hazard viral hemorrhagic fevers and will develop projects on other viruses such as tick-borne flaviviruses, highly virulent avian influenza strains, and Nipah virus, a new, highly virulent paramyxovirus.

 

Demonstrated Record of Mentoring   

Dr Peters has mentored 5 postdoctoral fellows, 7 PhD students and 3 medical students.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Peters is a world renowned virologist and authority on the pathogenesis and epidemiology of a variety of viral infections. To date, he has mentored one of our present WRHR scholars, Dr. Regan Theiler, in her studies on the placental viral infections. He will continue in that capacity in the future.

 

Randall Urban, MD

Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Chair of Internal Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Urban is directing four major research projects.  He has an NIH grant to study the effects of IGF-I on steroidogenesis and potential implications for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). He has another NIH grant assessing the effects of testosterone administration on muscle metabolism in older men and women.  He has foundation funding to support studies in umbilical cord blood stem cells to transform these cells into insulin producing cells as a possible treatment for type 1 diabetes.  The fourth project has Department of Defense and foundation funding to study the effects of traumatic brain on pituitary function with a focus on growth hormone deficiency. 

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Urban is planning to expand the stem work and work in steroidogenesis. 

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. Urban’s research on steroidogenesis, testosterone replacement in older women, and stem cell research are all directly relevant to women’s health issues.

  

Cheryl S. Watson, PhD

Professor, Department of Human Biological Chemistry & Genetics

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. Watson has been a pioneer and leader in the field of nongenomic actions of estrogens. For example, her 1995 FASEB Journal paper has now been cited 322 times and 14 other of her articles have been cited between 50 and 149 times (Science Citation Index). She was the first chair of the 1999 FASEB Summer Conference on Membrane Steroid Receptors, and has participated in the organization of each subsequent meeting. She frequently chairs sessions on this topic at national and international meetings, as well as reviewing grants and manuscripts. She has also written invited reviews and edited a book on this topic.

 

Dr. Watson’s work has focused on the identification of a membrane form of estrogen receptors (ERs a and ß) and their correlation with the ability of cells to respond to estrogens via membrane-initiated signaling cascades. A novel membrane form of the ERα (mERα) in pituitary tumor cells modulates the rapid secretion of prolactin (within minutes). In breast cancer cells liganding of this receptor leads to rapid cAMP and kinase responses that control cell number. In neuronal cells, activation of mERα leads to reversal of neurotransmitter transporter functions, and mERß inhibits this response. These receptors are probably responsible for many rapid actions of estrogens in cells of both reproductive and non-reproductive tissues, and in neuronal cells affecting gender/sex-biased behavioral responses. Dr. Watson uses a wide range of experimental approaches for identifying these membrane forms of nuclear receptors (immunocytochemistry, fluorescence and confocal microscopy, impeded ligand binding, siRNA knockdowns) and deciphering their signaling cascades. Multiple ERa antibodies have been used to identify mERα, block or trigger estrogen-mediated responses, and select sub-populations of cells enriched or depleted for the mERα for functional studies. Quantitative measurement, regulation, and structure-activity ligand selectivity studies of mERs have now been applied to various cell models. Activities of environmental estrogens via these receptors, and their possible roles in a variety of human diseases of endocrine disruption are a major recent focus. She also studies the ability of phytoestrogens to signal via these mechanisms, and their possible utility as safe estrogen replacement therapeutics. Her collaborative interactions involve the study of other membrane steroid receptors (glucocorticoid receptors), and the use and development of selective ligands of the monoamine receptors and transporters in the treatment of drug addiction.

 

Future Research Interests

Dr. Watson’s future studies will continue the study of how environmental estrogen actions may disrupt normal estrogenic signaling and thus reproductive functioning. The basic mechanisms of estrogen action, including the cessation of estrogen stimulation after menopause, and actions via endogenous estrogen metabolites, estrogenic pharmaceuticals, phytoestrogens, and environmental estrogenic mimics are relevant to a variety of diseases in women including osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and depression.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Of Dr. Watson’s 82 publications, 45 deal directly with the actions of estrogens and progestins via their receptors. Other work has dealt with the mechanisms and receptors for other members of the steroid receptor gene family (for androgens, glucocorticoids, Vitamin D). The experimental model systems utilized in her work have often been those representative of female reproductive systems or gender-biased diseases (breast cancer, estrogen receptors in pituitary and adrenal tumors, and hormonally influenced brain regions). Dr. Watson is a member of four interdisciplinary graduate programs (Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Toxicology, and Neuroscience), the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Women’s Health, and is on the Internal Advisory Board for the UTMB Center for Addiction Research.

 

Clinton White

Paul R. Stalnaker Distinguished Professor and Director

Infectious Diseases Division

Department of Internal Medicine

 

Research Accomplishments

Dr. White completed his residency at the University of Washington and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Yale University.  He was on the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine from 1989-2006 and joined UTMB in 2007. He is a professor and director of Infectious Diseases Division in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. White has authored over 115 peer reviewed publications and 24 book chapters. Dr. White’s research has been continuously funded from NIH since 1995 and from the Industry as well. He is a member of numerous committees and task forces and is a recognized leader in the field of host-pathogen interface with a particular focus on the intestinal parasite cryptosporidium. His current and future interest include, role of host cells in parasite clearance and on immunoregulation on the host response to opportunistic pathogens in human subjects with rhetorical co-infections.

 

Relevance to the WRHR Career Development Center

Dr. White has specific clinical and research interest in the host-pathogen interface, both with a focus on the intestinal parasites and immunoregulation. He is the Director of the Division and because of his expertise in host defense mechanisms he will be a very attractive mentor candidate for WRHR scholars interested in host defense for reproductive tract and placental infections.

 

Julio F Mateus Nino, MD

 

Research Accomplishments

Julio was granted with the WRHR grant in November 2009. Since that time, he has been working on a research project on the use of exogenous vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to treat preeclampsia using a mouse model characterized by over expression of the soluble form of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR1), or sFlt-1. He sent two abstracts on this work to the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM). These abstracts were accepted for concurrent oral presentations at this meeting in January 2010. The corresponding manuscript was completed and currently is under revision by his advisory mentor. He expects to submit it for publication in the next few weeks. Other projects included two retrospective cohort studies on the clinical outcomes of pregnant women with cardiac arrhythmias and risk factors for massive postpartum hemorrhage. In the first project, he was the principal investigator and in the second he was a co-investigator. From these studies, four abstracts were prepared and accepted for poster presentations at the SMFM meeting and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) this year.  The manuscript for the arrhythmia study was submitted to a peer review journal, but was rejected. He is working on making the recommended changes and consequently he will resubmit it to another peer review journal.

 

His main research project is progressing as planned. He evaluated the vascular response to exogenous VEGF by measuring maternal arterial blood pressure response and in vitro vascular studies in the carotid artery in term pregnancies. The other aim of the study is to evaluate the mRNA expression of genes involved in hypoxia pathways in maternal kidney and placenta. The three selected genes are hypoxia inducible factor -1α (HIF1α), transforming growth factor- β3 (TGFβ3), and glial cell missing- 1 (GCM1). The real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) experiments were carried out and currently he is analyzing the data. The next step is to evaluate the long term effect of VEGF by measuring arterial blood pressure and in vitro vascular studies in the carotid artery of adult offspring born to treated dams. This part of the project is ongoing. All offspring belonging to each of the three treatment groups delivered 6, 4, and 2 weeks ago.

Julio is enrolled in the fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). He has met all requirements to graduate on June 18th 2010. Meanwhile, his PhD training on Clinical Sciences Investigation in the Preventive Medicine and Community Health program at UTMB is continuing.  He satisfactory completed all core courses and wrote the proposal for his thesis dissertation. Currently, his advisory committee his revising the proposal and after approval he will apply for candidacy this summer.  Other academic activities have included clinical training of medical students and OB/GYN residents. He gave two lectures to students and residents on preeclampsia and Rh isoimmunization this semester.

 

During these six months he published an article in a peer review journal.

Mateus J, Fox K, Jain, S, Jain SK, Cohen J, Latta R. Preterm premature rupture of membranes: clinical outcomes of late preterm infants.  Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2010;49 (1):60-5.

 

Regan Theiler, MD, PhD

 

Research Accomplishments

Regan has been supported by the WRHR grant since July of 2007.  In that time, she has generated data for two manuscripts, published two review articles, submitted two grant proposals, and mentored many trainees.  Regan serves as principal investigator for three IRB-approved translational research protocols and has one more currently under review.  Two of these protocols are authored by residents for whom she serves as a faculty mentor.  She has also supervised research projects of one undergraduate student and one medical student, training them in human subjects research and basic laboratory techniques. 

Regan has used her WRHR funds, along with departmental support, to establish an independent laboratory and to establish tissue culture techniques for growth of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) as well as placental and fetal membrane tissue explants.  She has demonstrated the ability of LCMV to replicate in term placental explants in vitro, as well as the ability of the virus to induce an innate immune response to this viral infection.  These data will be used to build a model for the study of viral replication in the placenta, as well as mechanisms of evasion of the immune response in this unique tissue. Parallel experiments using chroiocarcinoma and extravillous trophoblast cell lines to investigate trophoblast LCMV infection are also ongoing. 

A parallel line of inquiry has emerged from these initial experiments using LCMV.  The LCMV receptor, alpha-dystroglycan (α-DG), is a basement membrane binding protein that has not been previously studied in the placenta.  Preliminary data from Regan’s work demonstrate focal high-level expression of α-DG on the basal aspect of term syncytiotrophoblasts.  However, expression of α-DG in fetal membranes is highly variable, and a protocol is underway to determine clinical correlates of α-DG expression in the chorion.  Additional in vitro approaches are planned to investigate a possible role of α-DG in trophoblast invasion and basement membrane integrity. 

During her initial 18 months of WRHR support, Regan has generated preliminary data for two manuscripts (in preparation), submitted two independent grant proposals to the NIH, and authored two review articles: 

Theiler, R.N, Rasmussen, S.A., Treadwell, T., and Jamieson, D.J.  2008.  Emerging and zoonotic infections in women.  Infectious Disease Clinics of North America.  22: 755-772.

Ward, K., and Theiler, R.N.  2008.  Once-daily dosing of gentamicin in obstetrics and gynecology.  Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 51(3):498-506.

 

In 2008, Regan submitted two grant proposals to the NIH via the DP2 and R21 mechanisms.  Both were unscored, but she plans to resubmit the R21 application in the fall of 2009.  Initial reviewer feedback for this proposal’s hypothesis was enthusiastic, and we are optimistic that revisions of proposed methods and addition of more preliminary data will result in a favorable score during the next cycle.


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Contact Information for WRHR

For more information please e-mail or call Chandrasekhar Yallampalli, Program Director.

Phone Number: (409) 772-7592
E-mail: chyallam@utmb.edu

 

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