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Sunday, November 28, 2021

UCD research programs to receive $1.6 million

Research at the UC Davis School of Medicine will receive a boost in funding, thanks to a large grant provided by the federal government.

The $1.6 million grant was awarded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed by President Obama in February and is part of a joint effort with the National Institutes of Health to support university research.

The money will fund six different projects at the school, including research studies in prostate cancer, radiation poisoning, traumatic brain injury and viral infections in airway tissues.

“Sacramento is home to a world-class research facility and academic health center,” said Representative Doris O. Matsui (D-Sacramento) in a public statement. “I am pleased to announce additional Recovery Act funds that will allow students and researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine to continue their commitment to medical advances, breakthrough technologies and improved care that will benefit not just the people of Sacramento, but families across the country.”

A project studying alternative treatments for Parkinson’s Disease was awarded $615,000 in funding. The study is headed by Dr. Elizabeth Disbrow, a neurology professor at the School of Medicine.

Disbrow’s team will make use of brain imaging techniques to identify new therapeutic targets in the brain.

“If our team is successful, our research will have a significant impact on the daily motor functioning of individuals afflicted with Parkinson’s disease,” Disbrow said.

The money provided by the grant will fund the use of expensive brain imaging equipment and will also help provide the salaries for six student and scientist positions within the study.

“In addition to using an fMRI machine, our team is also using a piece of equipment called a Magnetoencephalography (MEG), which allows us to not only see where brain activity is occurring, but when it is occurring as well,” Disbrow said. “All of this equipment is extremely expensive and requires technicians and scientists who know how to use it properly, which helps to create jobs within our study.”

Another project, which will receive $350,000 in funding, is a study led by Dr. Robert Weiss. The project aims to bring about earlier detection of polycystic kidney disease (PKD). PKD is a genetic disease, characterized by the presence of fluid-filled cysts in both kidneys and can ultimately lead to kidney failure.

Although multiple detection methods for PKD currently exist, they are not very effective at identifying the disease early on, Weiss said in an e-mail interview.

“Imaging is used now [to detect PKD], but you often don’t see changes here until later than you would like to,” said Weiss. “You can also do genotyping on blood but this is expensive and also misses a lot of patients with false negatives.”

Weiss and his team are examining patients’ metabolic output in blood and urine samples. Their ultimate goal is to be able to detect early traces of the disease through these metabolic excretions.

“It hasn’t been possible yet to get a really reliable test because we really do not know in detail the cause of the disease,” Weiss said. “We know the mutations but are not sure of what these mutations do on a biochemical level. We are trying to figure this out by looking at metabolic changes which come about as a result of the mutations.”

The money provided by the federal grant will also allow the study to employ four new researchers in the Davis lab as well as a clinical coordinator.

 

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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