Dr. Joseph McClay Presents on the Path to Personalized Treatment

The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research at VCU recently sponsored a Discovery Dialogue presentation led by Joseph McClay, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science. McClay’s seminar, titled “Discovery of genetic predictors for central nervous system drug response: the path to personalized treatment,” focused on  personalized medicine and the process of mapping and characterizing genes for antipsychotic drug response.

McClay, who has a background in human genetics and has worked in the field of psychiatric drugs for the the last decade, shared a story of Hippocrates of Kos, also known as Hippocrates II. Hippocrates, a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles, was the first to suggest that there is a “great difference in the constitution of individuals,” and expanded the idea even further to highlight the value in making “changes in drugging or in regimen to suit the individual conditions of age, season, physique and disease.”

This notion of individual treatment with the acknowledgement that people may react differently to drugs based off their individual conditions and genetic makeup continues today.

The application of drugs in psychiatry is still relatively new compared to the history of medicine. Until the late 1940’s there were no effective drug treatments for psychiatric disorders. McClay went on to discuss the issues associated with drug treatment in psychiatry, which includes variation in efficacy and side effects, long lag times when observing responses for many drugs, and diagnostic uncertainty, among others. 

“When attempting to understand the genetics of drug response, you must look at two parallels goals: understanding the mechanics of drug response, and personalizing the right drug at first presentation,” said McClay. “Doing so will improve efficacy and reduce side effects.” 

First image up top: Joseph McClay, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science

CCTR Hosts Seminar to Explore Gambling Concerns in Fantasy Sports

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The C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) held a Discovery Dialogue on Monday, May 9 at the Main Hospital’s Learning Center.  Brendan Dwyer, Ph.D., director of research and distance learning for the VCU Center for Sport Leadership, led the presentation titled, “Exploring Gambling Concerns in Fantasy Sports Participation.”

Dwyer has studied fantasy sports behavior for nine years. One of the first individuals to research the subject back in 2007, he watched fantasy sports participation take off with the growth of the internet. 

It is estimated that in 2007, 19.4 million people in the United States and Canada were playing fantasy sports. That number grew to 56.8 million people in 2015 [source].  

“I like to think of fantasy sports as a competitive form of book club,” Dwyer said. “Some people take it seriously and read the books, others don’t, but just like in book clubs, people seek fantasy sports for social interaction, entertainment and escape.”

The concern, Dwyer notes, is that unlike in book clubs there is a financial aspect to fantasy sports that can lead to problem gambling, especially in daily fantasy sport games where there are multiple opportunities to play. In 2006, the United States Congress passed a legislation called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) which regulates online gambling, but an exemption for fantasy sports led by the National Football League (NFL) was established.

With the estimated total market impact of fantasy sports to be around $4.6 billion, the NFL has skin in the game tied to brand-building and increased sports consumption. In 2006 the NFL was able to successfully argue that fantasy sports was not a form of gambling because months can pass before any money is exchanged and fantasy sports involves more skill than chance. 

Today, because of the passing of the UIGEA, it is up to the individual states to make decisions regarding fantasy sports and whether they violate state gaming prohibitions.

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First image up top: Brendan Dwyer, Ph.D., director of research and distance learning for the VCU Center for Sport Leadership

Dr. Jamie Sturgill Leads Discovery Dialogue on New Pathways to Controlling Asthma

11x16 Brandbar HeaderJamie Sturgill, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of Biobehavioral Laboratory Services for the VCU School of Nursing, led a Discovery Dialogues presentation in the Main Hospital’s Learning Center on Monday, April 11 to a mixed audience of VCU researchers, health care professionals and staff.

In her presentation titled, “A Breath of Fresh Air – Discovering New Pathways to Control Asthma,” Sturgill reviewed the immune response in allergic asthma, such as airway hyperreactivity, eosinophil infiltration, and mucus hypersecretion, in addition to the current treatment options. 

“At this time there is no way to prevent asthma, only control or treat it,” Sturgill said. “This is largely due to the fact that asthma is a large umbrella term and it’s difficult to characterize every type of allergy people have.”

The residents of Richmond, Virginia experience, first hand, the adverse side effects of spring allergies. Last year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s yearly Asthma Capitals report listed Richmond as the second most challenging city to live in with asthma.

Sturgill explains this as Richmond being a ‘perfect storm’ for asthma triggers and cited diesel exhaust from Interstate 64 and Interstate 95, mold in the James River, a large population of dust mites due to the city’s hot and humid temperature, and an urban environment as just a few of the contributing factors.

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First image up top: Jamie Sturgill, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of Biobehavioral Laboratory Services for the VCU School of Nursing

Dr. Youngmi Kim Presents on Anti-Poverty Policies and Programs

11x16 Brandbar HeaderThe C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) at VCU recently held a new Discovery Dialogues seminar at the Main Hospital’s Learning Center.

Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU School of Social Work, led the presentation titled, “Discovering Innovative Anti-Poverty Policies and Programs.”

“The United States is one of the richest countries, yet we also have a high population of poor citizens compared to other developed countries,” said Kim. “It’s important to look at the social safety nets we have in place and critically analyze what is and isn’t working.”  

Poverty diagramAccording to the United States Census Bureau, the official poverty rate of the U.S. population in 2014 was 14.8 percent (46.7 million people). This rate reflects a fourth consistent year that the number of people in poverty at the national level has not statistically differed from the previous year’s estimates [source].                  

Kim pointed to a number of contributing factors that make up the poverty rate, including education, employment, disability, rates of income versus consumption, and opportunities in the community.   

In addition to reviewing the asset-building programs and policies in place by the U.S. government, Kim discussed the differences between asset poverty and income poverty. She identified inadvertent negative side effects of some asset-building policies and pointed out that poor populations do not always have the same support nor incentives for asset accumulation, especially when faced with the threat of losing other benefits, such as welfare and Medicaid. 

“There is more and more research being done that really focuses on helping poorer populations save for the future,” said Kim. “We are learning how to better motivate and educate people to not only save for themselves, but also for their children’s future.”

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First image up top: Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU School of Social Work

Dr. Rebecca Heise Leads Seminar on Regenerating the Damaged Lung

Rebecca L. Heise, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering for the VCU School of Engineering, led a Discovery Dialogues presentation sponsored by the VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Her presentation titled, “Discovering Ways to Regenerate the Damaged Lung,” took place on Monday, Dec. 14 at Main Hospital’s Learning Center.

Heise became personally invested in researching a cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) when her mother was diagnosed with it seven years ago.

“My mother always says, ‘We need to work faster, Rebecca,'” Heise said. “So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

In her presentation, Heise shared that almost 15 million Americans report being diagnosed with COPD. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause in most of these cases. There is currently no perfect treatment for the disease outside of a lung transplant, for which most COPD patients are not ideal candidates. Doctors most often suggest patients self-monitor their smoking habits, use an inhaler, inhale steroids or consider oxygen therapy.

Heise is attempting to address these challenges by developing a thermosensitive extracellular matrix (ECM) hydrogel from decellularized lung tissue. By molding ECM and mesenchamal stem cell (MSC) in the lung, Heise has witnessed an increase in cell attachment which may address treatment challenges in the lung and ultimately lead to regeneration.

CCTR will host its next Discovery Dialogues seminar on Monday, Jan. 11 from noon – 1 p.m. Youngmi Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor for the VCU School of Social Work, will present on, “Discovering Innovative Anti-Poverty Policies and Programs.” Please email Pam Dillon (pmdillon@vcu.edu) for more information.

 

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First image up top: Rebecca L. Heise, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering for VCU School of Engineering