Research Briefs

Oct 19, 2016, 10:12 AM by User Not Found
Dr. Elena Volpi, director of UTMB’s Sealy Center on Aging, received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging for a five-year project that will identify the mechanisms that can accelerate loss of muscle size, strength and physical function in older adults with Type 2 diabetes and those who have been hospitalized. About one-third of older Americans have Type 2 diabetes, and about one-third of the hospitalizations in the U.S. involve persons older than 65. Volpi’s project will study how diabetes and inactivity impact muscle growth and loss in older adults. “Loss of strength and muscle is an important problem of aging that decreases physical functioning and independence. Research projects such as this one funded by the NIA will help develop knowledge to identify targets for treatments that can delay or slow the progression of functional loss in seniors,” Volpi said. The studies will be performed in UTMB’s Institute for Translational Sciences clinical research center with support from the UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center.

Jeff Temple, PhD, psychologist and associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has received a $3.07 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based healthy relationship and violence prevention program. The study, to be conducted in Houston-area middle schools, will allow for a rigorous evaluation of a new and enhanced version of “Fourth R,” a program previously shown to be effective in reducing risky behaviors among high school students. “Middle school is a critically important time period characterized by rapid psychological, social and physiological changes,” said Temple. “It is an ideal time to implement this program. We can teach skills that are important in healthy peer and romantic relationships including respect, equality, supportiveness, warmth and autonomy at a time when they are likely to be receptive to the content but are not yet engaging in high levels of risky behaviors.”

Alan Barrett, PhD, professor of Pathology, laid out what is needed to quickly develop a safe and effective vaccine for Zika in the new edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Certainly, a vaccine needs to be completed and deemed safe for people as quickly as possible. However, this is no small feat—researchers need to determine if the vaccine has different effects on males and females, how to design the vaccine to be effective in one or just a few doses and be safe for everyone, especially pregnant women and children. Developing a vaccine during an epidemic is more challenging because time is of the essence. It generally takes about 10 years from the time a potential vaccine is first designed in a laboratory to reach the doctor’s office. Accelerating the production process for a Zika vaccine may require several early development activities to occur at the same time as testing on volunteers. “Taken together, developing, licensing and distributing a vaccine capable of affecting the current epidemic will require seamless coordination among developers, regulatory agencies, the World Health Organization and national health authorities, along with solid funding from governments and funding agencies,” said Barrett.

Compiled from press releases written by Donna Ramirez, Christopher Smith Gonzalez and Kurt Koopmann. Find out more at