Researchers Receive First USA CORNET Award

By ChaseYavondaC

The research duo — Kane of UAMS and Hamre of UTHSC — will receive $50,000 for a one-year study on the impact of alcohol on fetal brain development. Each institution will provide half of the funding.

“This is a collaboration between two experienced investigators trying to understand how genetic makeup influences fetal brain development in the presence of alcohol,” said Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., UAMS vice chancellor for research. “Each investigator brings a different perspective to the research question and we hope this will ultimately lead to a joint application for extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health.”

The UTHSC/UAMS USA CORNET (Collaborative Research Network) Award in Substance Abuse was established this year and announced to some 70-plus UAMS and UTHSC substance abuse researchers at a June symposium in Little Rock. The idea came from meetings between Cornett and Steve Goodman, Ph.D., UTHSC vice chancellor for research, which revealed a need in both states for more substance abuse research.

“This UTHSC/UAMS USA CORNET award in substance abuse and addiction is our first CORNET with another academic institution,” said Goodman. “This is an example of how the combined expertise of two investigators can be brought to bear upon an important societal problem, with the CORNET Award being the catalyst for a new scientific partnership.”

Kane, a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, said the UTHSC/UAMS USA CORNET Award in Substance Abuse allowed her and Hamre an opportunity to develop ground-breaking research, a collaboration they had only recently been discussing. The researchers hope this study will provide the preliminary data needed to apply for a larger research grant in the near future.

“We want to discover why and how a woman’s consumption of alcohol while pregnant leads to an array of deficits in cognitive function in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” said Kane.

Each researcher brings an important expertise to the project — Kane on how alcohol affects the neuro-immune system and Hamre on the impact of genetics in identifying the susceptibility to alcohol in a fetal brain.

“Both of these affect the development of our brain,” said Hamre, an assistant professor in the UTHSC Neurosciences Institute’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. “We are looking at the roles genetics play as well as inflammation in the developing fetal brain.”

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders include a variety of serious issues, including small head size, learning disabilities, vision and hearing problems, low body weight and poor coordination in children whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. Currently, there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption for pregnant mothers that will not damage a developing fetus’s brain.

UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.