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UF's work on NIH "glue grant" expands to clinical studies

The University of Florida College of Medicine and its affiliate hospital Shands at UF will serve as a clinical study site through a national research consortium aiming to uncover the biological reasons why burn and traumatic injury patients often have dramatically different outcomes.

UF researchers have already been collaborating on data analysis with the national group of scientists, who are united by a 10 -year, $75 million "Glue Grant" from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Glue Grants bring together scientists from diverse fields - in this case surgery, critical care medicine, genomics, bioinformatics, immunology, engineering, and computational biology - to solve problems in biomedical science that no single laboratory could address.

The new designation expands UF's role in the large-scale research study, which is striving to find ways of predicting which patients are likely to develop complications. Funded by a four-year nearly $1.1 million grant, UF will begin enrolling patients this month.

"This is the first program to attempt to solve the life-threatening problem of inflammation following major trauma or burn injury," said UF Acute Care Surgery Director Larry C. Martin, M.D., who is a co-principal investigator.

The Glue Grant funds studies of patients with severe injuries who still have the potential to survive their trauma, said co-principal investigator David W. Mozingo, M.D., a professor of surgery and anesthesiology and director of the Shands at UF Burn Center. Mozingo will coordinate the burn segment of the study and Martin, along with UF Trauma Medical Director Lawrence Lottenberg, M.D., will coordinate the trauma section.

Lyle L. Moldawer, Ph.D., a professor and vice chairman of research for the department of surgery, said most trauma and burn patients do well after injury and have a normal recovery. But a significant number of patients fail to recover or suffer complications for reasons the doctors don't fully understand.

UF acute care surgeons will evaluate genetic and molecular markers as well as epidemiological data to help predict which patients might develop complications and the role inflammation may play. That may help physicians better determine how best to treat these patients early on, Mozingo said.

Inflammation is part of normal healing when people are severely burned or injured, but in some patients, it can be fatal, increasing the risk of infection and causing multiple organ failure. Learning how and why inflammation becomes harmful will help doctors more accurately predict how each injured patient will fare.

Researchers at UF and Shands at UF will annually enroll up to 50 patients whose injuries are severe enough to lead to possible complications yet not so severe they are unlikely to survive.

Since the study started in 2001, UF has been one of five analytical sites collecting and processing blood and tissue samples under the direction of Moldawer and Henry V. Baker, Ph.D., a professor and interim chairman of molecular genetics and microbiology. During the first five years, more than 1,500 burn and trauma patients participated nationally.

Moldawer said the addition of UF as a clinical research site is a recognition of the progress the department of surgery and Shands at UF have made in moving to a Level 1 trauma center, as well as the high quality of trauma and burn research being conducted at the university.

The overall program grant has been renewed through 2011 with the goal of understanding markers that predict patient outcomes, identifying new areas for research and determining targets for drug and other interventions. For more information visit www.gluegrant.org.

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