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Research Briefs

Research Briefs

Translation Neuromuscular Disease Research

The Division’s goal is to advance understanding of the pathogenesis of neuromuscular disease with a focus on therapeutic development. The division is most advanced in developing treatment modalities for myasthenia gravis. In December, Yuefang Zhou’s work in collaboration with colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and Alexion Corporation appeared in the Journal of Immunology. The study demonstrated the efficacy of an antibody against the C5 component of complement in prevention and reversal of weakness produced by experimentally induced myasthenia gravis. Henry Soltys and Linda Kusner are collaborating in understanding the role of complement inhibitors in protection against myasthenia gravis and are working in collaboration with Varleigh Limited, a corporation in Jersey, to develop novel complement inhibitors. They also are working together to try to understand whether there is potential for complement in additional for the treatment of muscular dystrophy. Dr. Kusner also is evaluating the role of fibroblasts in supporting skeletal muscle, again with the thought that perhaps understanding trophic influences of fibroblasts could lead to therapeutic enhancement of impaired muscle function. The Division’s work could not be performed successfully without the assistance of Bendi Gong, Dan Liu, and Jessica Montresor-Lopez. It is the DNP’s plan to develop the Division further with the generous support of Saint Louis University as well as ongoing support from the National Institutes of Health, which totaled more than $1 million in the last year.

Psychosocial Processes Group Research

John Chibnall, PhD, and Raymond Tait, PhD, have spent most of the past few months working on several studies. A grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality involves evaluation of long-term outcomes of occupational low back injuries, especially focusing on disparities in outcomes associated with socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Data collection is complete for the investigation, with analyses and manuscripts to follow. A second study supported by the Na- Psychosocial Processes Group Research tional Institute of Mental Health examines factors that influence decision making at Institutional Review Boards. Data collection for that project is about to begin. Theodore Malmstrom, PhD, is working on interdisciplinary grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA). The NIA grant (African American Health) continues the longitudinal follow-up, years 8-10, of a population-based cohort of African Americans with the focus on investigating the timing, precursors, and consequences of disability and frailty in this population. Data collection is on-going (currently in year 8) for the study as are analyses and manuscripts based on data collected to date. The HRSA grant (Gateway Geriatric Education Center; SLU Geriatric Medicine) supports education and development activities and services for healthcare providers involved in the care of elderly patients. Dr. Malmstrom is working on the project evaluation plan, including producing assessment measures for primary, secondary, and tertiary outcomes. Aside from work on active grants, Drs. Chibnall, Malmstrom, and Taitcollaborated with Ani Acharya, MD, on a study that proposes innovative approaches to the assessment of pain and dysfunction in nursing home residents with advanced dementia. The latter study recently was submitted for review to the National Institute on Aging. Drs. Chibnall and Tait are currently working with Tom Geller, MD, on a study to examine the effects of pain on function and quality of life in pediatric neurofibromatosis patients. Dr. Chibnall continues to pursue research in assessment— including personality, clinical skills, mental status, and grief—in medical students, police officers, and patient populations (cancer, dementia). SLU collaborators include Robert Blaskiewicz, MD, of OB/GYN & Womens’ Health and Rebecca Dougherty, LCSW, of the Cancer Center. Dr. Malmstrom is currently working with Nina Tumosa, PhD, John Morley, MD and colleagues at SLU on studies to evaluate the reliability and validity of a brief screening instrument (Saint Louis University Mental Statue Exam) for detecting dementia.