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Dr. Pradeep Marri is a computational biologist at the University of Arizona who is focused on evolutionary influences on the genome, including genome structure in eukaryotes, horizontal gene transmission in prokaryotes, and gene loss/gain. Dr. Marri developed a novel research proposal to characterize the microbiome of upper respiratory fluid in asthmatic vs. non-asthmatic children. This research would set the stage for future studies exploring how airborne environmental agents impact this critical determinant of respiratory health. IHS support was critical to Dr. Marri, who had never participated in a human subjects-based study. IHS Co-Director Martinez worked with Dr. Marri to identify suitable patient samples for this project as well as consulting on the disease characteristics of the study subjects. Dr. Marri’s project illustrates several objectives of IHS in building translational research at SWEHSC: supporting a young investigator in his first human study through collaborative sharing of expertise with an experienced SWEHSC physician-scientist.
Dr. Betsy Dokken, NP, Ph.D. is a clinician scientist who was awarded a pilot project to study the epigenetic landscape associated with dietary obesogens such as bisphenol-A. This project benefited from CIR assistance in the integration of genome-wide epigenetic analysis from Dr. George Watts in the SWEHSC Genomics Facility Core. Project design and analysis plans included input from the Statistics/Bioinformatics Resource. As data from this project become available, the SBR will assist in data analysis, bioinformatic interpretation of the data, and manuscript or grant preliminary data preparation.
IHS Co-Director Dr. Walter Klimecki identified an intriguing, strong association between body mass index (BMI) and the production of urinary monomethylarsonic acid (MMA) in a population of arsenic-exposed individuals in Mexico that he recruited and sampled. MMA is important because its relative amount in urine is a replicated biomarker of arsenic-associated disease risk in exposed populations. Aiming to replicate this association to add robustness, Dr. Klimecki identified two suitable populations from epidemiology studies led by IHS members Dr. Robin Harris (Human Studies Resource) and Dr. Zhao Chen (HSR leader). Analyses of the pooled population from three studies was made possible by consultation with Dr. Billheimer and Dr. Lu, who worked with the group to pool information across studies, while guarding against the introduction of artifacts. A manuscript reporting this (now replicated and more robust) observation is now in press (2). While IHS has a strong focus on assisting junior investigators in translational research, this project demonstrates how the IHS effectively catalyzes collaborations among experienced translational investigators as well.
SWEHSC investigator Dr. Nathan Cherrington studies the role of environmental factors such as liver disease in the metabolism and elimination of xenobiotics. Dr. Cherrington has an extensive record of productive research, publications and funding built on work in experimental models that include rodent models and tissue culture. Dr. Cherrington conducted a small scale clinical research study based on observations of xenobiotic (acetaminophen, APAP) metabolism in steatohepatitis. This study was conducted using pediatric patients seen at the Arizona Health Sciences Center, and utilized Statistics/Bioinformatics Resource support. With the assistance of the SBR, data from this study were used to establish the validity of plasma and urine levels of APAP-Gluc as a biomarker capable of distinguishing patients with the more severe forms of the disease; a process which has recently been licensed for clinical development.