Pilot Grants Propel Quests for Cures
Funding encourages collaboration among medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering and agriculture
For the thousands of children with the brittle bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta, traditional wisdom says that staying sedentary is a safer bet than frolicking on the playground. But Charlotte Phillips' research, funded by a new pilot grant from the University of Missouri Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, might soon provide safer exercise options for children with this disease.
"Kids who exercise can gain 10 percent to 40 percent more bone mass during their key growth spurt than kids who don't exercise," said Phillips, PhD, an associate professor of biochemistry and child health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "We want to help kids with osteogenesis imperfecta strengthen their bones and muscles but not hit the point where they fracture. It's a delicate balance."
The Institute recognized Phillips and six of her fellow 2010 pilot grant award recipients during an announcement Monday, August 16, 2010, in the medical school.
"The awards support research displaying potential to be highly competitive for external funding," said Jamal Ibdah, MD, PhD, the institute's director and senior associate dean for research at MU's medical school. "Recipients of this year's nearly $200,000 in pilot award funding include faculty members and students from MU's School of Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering, and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources."
"Translating lab discovery to clinical treatments requires time and money, so these pilot grants serve as stepping stones for MU researchers," Ibdah said. "Our hope is that this funding will allow them to more rapidly transform their findings and reach patients with treatments and cures."
Phillips is testing different exercise regimens in a mouse model to determine which types of exercise – non-weight bearing activities such as swimming, and weight-bearing ones such as treadmill running or wheel running – are most beneficial for those with either mild and moderate or more severe osteogenesis imperfecta. For her, the pilot award means being able to extend her NIH-funded study to allow more extensive investigation of different exercise protocols to more rapidly define which exercise approaches might be most beneficial for younger patients.
"This study will also provide us with insight into how bone responds to exercise," Phillips said. "If the NIH sees preliminary data that shows the bone's positive response to exercise, it will be much more likely to provide additional funding."
Pilot grants are awarded to projects that display scientific excellence; are relevant to clinical and translational science; demonstrate interdisciplinary or collaborative participation; and show evidence of innovation and transformational potential. Since 2008, the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science has provided the funding awards to medical students, graduate students, and postdoctoral trainees for the pursuit of educationalresearch projects, as well as to faculty members for the support of new research programs. The 2010 recipients and their funding awards, selected through a peer-review process, are:
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Laura Gerding, APR