Since its inception in 2006, OCTRI has supported thousands of studies and hundreds of investigators with funding, expertise and services. Our success stories are a testament to our impact and passion for the work, and we’re happy to share a few of them with you here.
In this interview with Melanie Gillingham, Ph.D., RD, she shares how the CTRC (Clinical and Translational Research Center) has supported her research. The excerpt is from the OHSU School of Medicine Three Questions series, which features OHSU School of Medicine faculty members talking about their work with the goal of getting to know them and different areas across the school. Melanie Gillingham, Ph.D., RD, is an associate professor of medical and molecular genetics. She is also Director of the Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition program.
What’s been the most interesting development in your area in the last two years?
My laboratory has been investigating novel treatments for patients with fatty acid oxidation disorders, inherited disorders that affect their ability to burn fat in food for energy. Patients suffer from recurrent episodes of severe muscle pain and rhabdomyolysis with or without cardiac involvement. Despite the devastating consequences of these diseases, no patient with a long-chain fatty acid oxidation disorder has developed insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. We have preliminary evidence that having a defect in the long-chain fatty acid oxidation pathway may in fact protect them from developing insulin resistance. If this is true, we may discover some key element of cellular metabolism that could help develop new approaches for treating insulin resistance.
What projects are you currently working on and are there opportunities for fellow faculty to participate?
Dr. Jon Purnell and I were recently awarded a multi-PI R01 to test if patients with long-chain fatty acid oxidation disorders are protected from developing insulin resistance. This is truly a collaborative project. My team from the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics will be recruiting subjects with a fatty acid oxidation disorder and age and sex matched controls. Dr. Purnell’s group and OCTRI’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) will be conducting hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamps to measure insulin sensitivity in vivo and muscle and fat biopsies to measure insulin sensitivity in vitro. Dr. Charles Roberts and Oleg Varlamov at the ONPRC will be measuring the insulin-signaling cascade in the biopsy samples. Changes in tissue lipid deposition will be measuring in the AIRC. We are very excited about this project. Ancillary studies from fellow faculty that look at additional aspects of metabolism in this unique population would be of interest.
What is the most important aspect of support that OHSU provides to you currently and how would you like this or other support to grow in the future?
One of the essential areas of support for human subjects research at OHSU has been the CTRC. The ability to have a research-focused nurse, bionutritionist and a unit dedicated to research makes complicated human studies such as this one possible. This could not be conducted on a regular hospital floor. In addition, the Advanced Imaging Research Center has been a very powerful tool to measure lipid deposition and metabolism in vivo. The Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics has been very supportive of all aspects of my research from office and lab space to admin support to great collaborators and colleagues.
OHSU inventors collaborate with local community on a better way to monitor medication levels
Monitoring medication levels for transplant patients is tricky – for one thing, it requires patients to visit laboratories for blood draws monthly, or even weekly. Amira Al-Uzri, M.D., Pediatric Nephrology, and her team (which includes Dennis Koop, Ph.D., Physiology & Pharmacology; and Andy Chitty, M.B.A., University Shared Resources) wanted to see if they could make life easier for these patients. They have developed a user-friendly dried blood-spot collection device that can be applied in-home to obtain an accurate and precise blood sample. The invention from Dr. Al-Uzri’s team will allow patients to collect accurate blood samples at home, replacing visits to the clinic, and will benefit those who require life-long therapeutic drug monitoring.
The technology’s development has required Dr. Al-Uzri and her team – which itself is a cross-disciplinary collaboration – to build an extensive collaboration across Oregon. For example, the Oregon Clinical &Translational Research Institute provided funding, mentoring, educational opportunities and project management through their Biomedical Innovation Program, leading to the creation of a product prototype and initial product testing. The device served as a case study for the University of Oregon’s Technology Entrepreneurship Program, receiving a comprehensive marketing plan as a result. It was also presented at the Oregon Bioscience Conference last September and was featured at the Med Tech Alliance on May 6, 2015. The OHSU Office of Proposals & Award Management negotiated the complex agreements related to the Biomedical Innovation Program grant. Simplexity Product Development, an engineering firm in Washington and California, aided in the research and development process and also provided capital for the prototype creation. The in-house patent team within the Technology Transfer & Business Development office at OHSU has written and filed a patent application on the invention. The resulting intellectual property is jointly owned with Simplexity Product Development and will be managed by OHSU. Lastly, Allegory Venture Partners provided the OHSU researchers guidance that may turn into a venture capital investment if the technology reaches market viability.
These partnerships play an important role in the development of inventions at OHSU. Outside collaborations can create positive working relationships among inventors, OHSU and local organizations that can ultimately create a stronger foundation for success. Dr. Al-Uzri and her team are currently looking for final set of collaborators to license the device and bring their efforts into the hands of patients.
Interactive exhibit won the 2015 SOPHE Technology Award
Let’s Get Healthy!, an interactive education and research exhibit available for use at area health fairs, isn’t just a hit with the public — it’s also critically acclaimed. In 2005, Let’s Get Healthy! won the Society for Public Health Education Technology Award.
Attendees of Let's Get Healthy! are invited to enroll as research participants so they can learn about the research process and the quality of their own diet and body composition. Participants can contribute their anonymous health information to a population database that researchers can use to the scientific relationships among diet, body composition, genetics and chronic disease.
Communities are invited to use the data to develop programs and write grants that support healthy living in the community. Schools can use the data to conduct scientific inquiry lessons with their students, allowing students to examine information like their own energy drink consumption using real, but completely anonymous, data. Visit the website to explore all of the summary data for yourself, and check out a brief video about the exhibit:
Let's Get Healthy! (originally titled Nutrition World) was created by OCTRI Community & Practice Research (CPR) program team member Jackie Shannon and others. The exhibit debuted at OMSI in summer 2007 and was hugely popular. More than 16,700 people have participated at 107 sites (including four states outside of Oregon), with an additional 700 participating in two longitudinal cohort studies. The project is funded by a NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), and from launch to success has continued to receive extensive OCTRI informatics and study coordinator support.
For more information about volunteering with Let’s Get Healthy!, upcoming events, requesting an event, funding and support for the program and much more, please see our website!
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