Department awarded NIH grants

By Jenelle Grewell

Several studies in the Department of Anesthesiology have received NIH grants. These studies cover a wide-range of topics and showcase the variety and scope of research in our department.

Jerod Denton, PhD, was awarded a four-year NIH grant for his study on whether inhibitory drugs that act specifically on Kir6.1/SUR2B are an effective therapy for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in newborns. This study is in collaboration with Elaine Shelton, PhD, in Pediatrics, who studies molecular mechanisms that underlie PDA in newborns.

Denton explained that Shelton found genes encoding ATP-regulated potassium channel comprising Kir6.1 pore forming subunit and regulatory SUR2B subunit, which belong to the inward rectifier potassium (kir) channel family that Denton’s lab studies, are overexpressed and enriched in DA tissue. The study will be conducted by carrying a high throughput screen of 100,000 compounds from the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology Library for Kir6.1/SUR2B, optimizing lead compounds with chemistry through the collaboration with Craig Lindsley, PhD. Shelton will then use those optimized compounds to determine if they correct PDA in mouse models. By the time the study is over, Denton said he hopes to be in the position to move optimized compounds into advanced preclinical animal models of PDA and eventually clinical trials.

Christopher Hughes, MD, was awarded a five-year NIH grant for his study on whether physical and cognitive training prior to, during, and after hospitalization will improve the long-term cognitive and disability outcomes in elderly surgical patients. Elderly surgical patients are at an extremely high-risk for cognitive and function decline after hospitalization. Individual interventions such as anesthesia and sedation strategies, mobilization, and rehabilitation have exhibited limited success in reducing this decline.

“We wanted a program to be pragmatic and scalable to a large number of patients,” Hughes explained. He said the cognitive training needs to target areas where deficits are seen after hospitalization, such as attention and executive function. As for physical training, Hughes said the training needs to be able to be performed safely at home, work the core and extremities, and feature some aerobic training. Also, the difficulty level must be easily increased or decreased depending on the patient’s fitness level.

The assessment for cognition will use the Computerized Neurocognitive Assessment Vital Signs platform at baseline both 3 months and 12 months after surgery. As for physical function assessment, daily activities and instrumental activities will be examined, in addition to depression and pain questionnaires. ◆