August 20, 2009

UAMS Receives $10 Million Grant to Continue Successful Center for Translational Neuroscience

LITTLE ROCK – A more than $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will support a research program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) that has already produced new medical treatments, yielded basic science discoveries and improved the campus’ research capabilities.
 
The UAMS Center for Translational Neuroscience recently received a five-year, $10.3 million grant to continue its work. The grant, through the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program at the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, is intended to provide the infrastructure to develop nationally recognized centers of research excellence.

The UAMS center is led by Edgar Garcia-Rill, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences of the UAMS College of Medicine. It is designed to help clinician and basic scientists become more competitive for federal research grants. Since 2004 when $7.5 million was awarded to develop the center, it has generated more than $13 million in new research grants for UAMS scientists, helped recruit five new faculty members, produced more than 130 research articles in scientific journals and established six new research facilities at UAMS. 

“We are extremely honored to receive funding that will support the center for another five years,” Garcia-Rill said “We generated three new treatments and a major breakthrough in one field of research during the first round of funding. We look forward to even more impressive accomplishments in the years ahead.”

Projects supported during the past five years produced a novel potential treatment for tinnitus – or ringing in the ears; a new use for an existing drug that relieves the excessive reflexes induced by spinal cord injury; and an effective new treatment for a common side effect of a stroke, spatial neglect. 

In addition, Garcia-Rill’s work discovered a new mechanism for sleep-wake control that could lead to development of a new class of anesthetics and stimulants.

Also original funding for the UAMS center allowed creation of “cores” or facilities for research administration, human and animal electrophysiology, imaging analysis, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and molecular biology. The center also established a Community Based Research and Education Core Facility that supports the neonatal program “PedsPLACE,” which links 15 neonatal intensive care units around Arkansas for telemedicine and distance health.

“Historically, neuroscience has been an area of research strength at UAMS and this grant renewal allows us to build upon this strength by funding neuroscience faculty recruitment, providing research support to existing faculty and by allowing expansion of core facilities,” said Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., UAMS vice chancellor for research. “Since our center is one of the few funded by the COBRE program that focuses on translational science – that is translating scientific discoveries into new medical treatments – its goals complement those of the new UAMS Center for Clinical  and Translational Research, giving us more momentum for quickly bringing basic science discoveries into clinical practice.”

Additionally, the center has recently received two supplemental grants totaling more than $560,000 from the federal stimulus program. One supplement will upgrade research facilities and the other will help establish a telemedicine program for emergency departments throughout the state.

The new research projects supported by the grant renewal include a potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, a new strategy for dealing with relapse to methamphetamine abuse, a study on the long-term effects of neonatal pain due to low birth weight, research on the role of leptin – a protein hormone – in obesity and sleep and a new therapy for tobacco dependence.

“This grant program is extremely competitive and I believe this renewal is a credit to the high quality of research being done by Dr. Garcia-Rill and his colleagues in the Center for Translational Neuroscience,” said Gwen Childs, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UAMS Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences. “The productivity of our center in terms of additional funding and scientific publications has exceeded that of most other centers around the country that are funded by this program. I am convinced that this exceptional productivity was an important factor that led to the decision to renew our funding.”

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com.