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2021 Research News

09/08/21 Jeffrey Schelling, MD, receives $3.4 million NIH award to study mechanisms leading to diabetes-induced kidney failure

Jeffrey Schelling, MD, Director of the Division of Nephrology of the Department of Medicine, was awarded a $3.4 million NIH grant entitled "Mechanisms of Tubular Atrophy." More than 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from diabetes. Despite implementation of treatments to lower blood sugar and blood pressure, diabetes is still the responsible cause in half of the patients with end stage kidney disease. Dr. Jeff Schelling has been awarded an NIH R01 grant to explore the molecular mechanisms that lead to diabetes-induced kidney failure. 

The Schelling lab has been investigating the role of fat accumulation in kidney tubule cells. The NIH grant aims to determine whether inhibition of fat uptake by kidney tubules and/or sequestration of existing fat within tubules, halts the progression of diabetic kidney disease. 

Dr. Schelling is Professor of Medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

09/08/21 Spinal Cord Injury System receives $2.3 million grant

The Northeast Ohio Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) program was recently renewed as one of only 14 federally designated Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Model Systems Centers in the nation. This designation comes with a $2.3 million grant over five years from the National Institutes on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). MetroHealth's spinal cord injury program is the only one in Ohio to receive the designation.

NIDILRR awards SCI Model Systems Center grants to institutions that are national leaders in medical research and patient care. It continues to put MetroHealth on the map as a nationally recognized leader in SCI care and research.

The NORSCIS is operated with Case Western Reserve University. The program is led by Kim Anderson, PhD, and James Wilson, DO, faculty in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and the MetroHealth Center for Rehabilitation Research.

"For more than a half century, MetroHealth has been Northeast Ohio's leader in care for individuals with spinal cord injury," said John Chae, MD, MetroHealth Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation "We provide the highest level of comprehensive specialty services to patients with spinal cord injury, from the point of injury through rehabilitation and into the community as they regain quality of life."

MetroHealth's Rehabilitation Institute was recently recognized by U.S News & World Report as #24 in the nation and #1 in Ohio for the care of patients recovering from complex conditions such as SCI, stroke, traumatic brain injury and critical burns. Last year, Newsweek designated the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute as one of our nation's best rehabilitation hospitals.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) program at MetroHealth is focused on generating new knowledge to improve the lives of individuals with traumatic SCI. We accomplish this through research and treatment, drawing on more than 20 years' experience as a Level 1 Adult Trauma Center.

NORSCIS provides a comprehensive continuum of care for individuals with SCI that includes emergency medical services, acute care services, acute medical rehabilitation services, and post-acute services; conducts high quality research that is targeted at reducing the health burden of SCI by generating evidence-based interventions; and contributes significant numbers of under-represented minorities to the National SCI Database.

The site-specific research project will test the feasibility of early administration of gabapentin (a drug used to control seizures and pain) to enhance neurologic recovery. This multi-disciplinary grant includes co-investigators Drs. Christina Oleson (PM&R), Michael Kelly (Neurological Surgery), Nimitt Patel (Trauma), and Douglas Gunzler (Population Health). 

Dr. Anderson is a Professor of PM&R and Dr. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of PM&R at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. 

07/21/21 Dr. Kilgore awarded $2.6 million NIH grant to develop an implanted device to measure health status

Kevin Kilgore, PhDKevin Kilgore, PhD, staff scientist in the departments of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), was awarded a $2.6M, 4-year grant from National Institutes of Health. The goal of the project is to develop an implanted device that can measure health status and predict disease states. 

The proposed implanted device, called the "Lifeline", measures parameters such as body temperature, photoplethysmogram, electrocardiogram, audio, and acceleration. Taken together, these measures may be able to predict the early onset of autonomic dysreflexia (specific to spinal cord injury (SCI)), pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and pulmonary embolism. These comorbidities are among the top causes of death in SCI. Early treatment may prevent them from progressing to life-threatening conditions. The Lifeline device will be incorporated into an existing modular implant system that Dr. Kilgore's team has previously developed, called the "Networked Neuroprosthesis."

Dr. Kilgore is the P. Hunter Peckham and George J. Picha Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Dept. of Orthopaedics and PM&R, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). His co-investigators include Niloy Bhadra, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. PM&R, CWRU; Michael Fu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept. Electrical, Computer & Systems Engineering and PM&R, CWRU; Pedram Mohseni, PhD, Professor of Electrical, Computer, & Systems Engineering, CWRU; Laleh Najafizadeh, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Rutgers University; and Brian Smith, BScHons, Director of Implant Development, Biomedical Engineering, CWRU.

03/01/21 MetroHealth Forms Its Center for Cancer Research

MetroHealth has formed a new cancer research team to improve outcomes for all patients. The team, which is backed by millions of dollars in support and grants and dozens of research assistants, will also focus on ending the racial, ethnic, social, and economic inequities that impact cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The MetroHealth Center for Cancer Research team includes:

  • Bingcheng Wang, PhD, Director of the Division of Cancer Biology in the Department of Medicine and Director of Basic Sciences in the MetroHealth Research Institute, has assembled an impressive team of cancer researchers who are bringing cutting-edge care to The MetroHealth System and its hundreds of thousands of patients.
  • William Tse, MD, is training blood cells to become cancer-killing CAR T cells so patients can beat cancer without the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Khalid Sossey-Alaoui, PhD, is working to understand why triple-negative breast cancer occurs much more often in African-American women so he can help end the dreaded disease.
  • Zhisan Wang, MD, PhD, is searching for the biological signal in patients’ bodies that tell doctors lung cancer is there – long before it becomes deadly.

“We’re doing this for the patients we serve, to ensure that they have the latest advances in cancer care and that they are able to participate in cutting-edge clinical trials in cancer care," says Bernard Boulanger, MD, MetroHealth Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer. Clinical trials give patients access to newly discovered medical testing and treatments before they’re available to the public. 

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01/29/21 Drs. Bolen and Caron Receive $4.1 Million Award to Expand Ohio Cardiovascular Heart Collaborative

Shari BolenAleece CaronShari Bolen, MD, Director of the MetroHealth Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), and Aleece Caron, PhD, Co-Director of Education for the MetroHealth PHRI were awarded a 4-year, $4.1 million grant from The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) entitled "Achieving Outstanding Cardiovascular Health for All Ohioans: a Statewide Cardiovascular Health Collaborative (Cardio-OH). 

The goal of the grant is to improve cardiovascular health and reduce cardiovascular health disparities for all Ohioans. They will work with primary care teams, patients and families, and statewide partners to develop a heart-healthy intervention program that primary care clinics in Ohio can use to improve care and reduce disparities for patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and who smoke. 

Drs. Bolen and Caron are Associate Professors of Medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. 

1/26/21 Ash Sehgal inaugural Director of Research and Evaluation for I4HOPE

Ashwini Sehgal, MDDr. Ashwini (Ash) Sehgal will be the inaugural Director of Research and Evaluation for the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ in the Population Health Innovation Institute (PHII) at The MetroHealth System. 

The mission of the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ is to identify and help eliminate barriers to optimal individual and community health and well-being through improving social influencers of health and addressing the root causes of health disparities in the Northeast Ohio region.  In this new role, Dr. Sehgal will foster the missions of the PHII and the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) to generate new knowledge, inform and target health and health care improvement initiatives, and conduct program evaluation to improve the health and health equity of the communities we serve.

He will continue to serve as co-director with Dr. Daryl Thornton for the Center for Reducing Health Disparities within PHRI while supporting enhanced collaboration between PHRI and PHII.

01/25/21 Bingcheng Wang, PhD Appointed Director of Basic Sciences

Bingcheng WangBingcheng Wang, PhD, Director of the Division of Cancer Biology within the Department of Medicine, was appointed MetroHealth Research Institute Director of Basic Sciences, effective January 4, 2021. As Director, Dr. Wang will further develop basic and translational sciences research at The MetroHealth System (MHS) and guide its continued growth in alignment with System mission and vision.

Dr. Wang received his PhD in Toxicology and Oncology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where his innovative research on breast cancer led to the award of one of the first three US biotechnology patents. Dr. Wang joined La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation for postdoctoral training where he honed his skills in small peptide-based cancer therapeutics. He joined MetroHealth and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine in 1997. 

Dr. Wang is an internationally-renowned cancer biologist who has many publications in top journals including Cancer Cell, Nature Cell Biology and Science Signaling. His laboratory focuses on how a group of essential cell surface communication molecules called receptor tyrosine kinases controls malignant behavior of cancer cells. His team has made multiple contributions to the field. His laboratory has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), DoD and a number of private foundations. He served as a program leader in the National Cancer Institute-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer for 10 years, first leading the Genitourinary Program and then the Molecular Oncology Program. Nationally he is a regular reviewer for many of the top journals and served for over 20 years on study sections of NIH, DoD, ACS and other agencies and foundations.

Dr. Wang has been the inaugural Director of the Division of Cancer Biology in the Department of Medicine since 2014. Under the new strategic vision of research at MetroHealth, Dr. Wang had a major role in the successful recruitment of four new basic and translational cancer researchers, all of whom are nationally recognized and talented investigators with prestigious grants from NIH.

Dr. Wang is currently Professor in the Department of Medicine at CWRU and holds the John A. and Josephine B. Wootton Endowed Chair in Research. He also holds appointments in Departments of Pharmacology and Physiology and Biophysics and is a member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

1/18/21 MetroHealth Part of One of Eight Multi-center Sites Funded by NIH to Uncover Risk Factors for COVID-19 Related Inflammatory Syndromes in Children

The MetroHealth System’s Population Health Research Institute’s Center for Clinical Informatics Research and Education is part of one of eight multi-center NIH R61 grants awarded to investigate COVID-19 in the pediatric population.

David Kaelber, MD, is site PI for MetroHealth on the grant entitled “COVID-19 Network of Networks Expanding Clinical and Translational approaches to Predict Severe Illness in Children (CONNECT to Predict Sick Children)”.

The primary goal of the grant is to develop robust predictive models in pediatric patients to predict who is likely and not likely to develop severe COVID-19 illness (short-term and long-term).

Because COVID-19 appears relatively rare in children and severe short-term and long-term COVID-19 related illnesses are even rarer in children, large databases will be needed to develop these robust predictive models.

MetroHealth’s primary role will be in providing access to and consultative expertise in using large electronic health record derived data sets including: Cosmos, IBM Watson Health Explorys, and TriNetX.

Each of these large data sets now contains data on over 70 million patients, of which 10-20 million are pediatric patients.

1/12/21 PHRI Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine faculty Awarded Three-Year $4.1 Million Grant

In January 2021, the PHRI Center for Health Care Research and Policy and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine faculty were awarded a three-year $4.1 million grant from The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality led by Drs. Shari Bolen and Aleece Caron to expand a statewide Ohio cardiovascular health collaborative (Cardi-OH).

This grant brings together leaders at The MetroHealth System, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, and three regional health improvement collaboratives (The Health Collaborative, The Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus, and Better Health Partnership) across the state along with many other state professional organizations, payers, community organizations, and other partners to improve cardiovascular health and reduce cardiovascular health disparities for all Ohioans.

To do this, they will work with primary care teams, patients and families to develop a heart healthy intervention that primary care clinics in Ohio can use to improve care and reduce disparities for patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and who smoke.

1/12/21 Dr. Aleece Caron Awarded $450,000 Grant

In November 2020, PHRI faculty member Dr. Aleece Caron was awarded a $450,000 grant from Project ECHO via the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network.

This grant will provide training to 118 congregant living facilities in Ohio on critical and timely topics to decrease the risk of nursing home prevalence and spread of COVID-19. To do this, we assembled a team of clinicians and local experts in nursing home administration, infectious disease, geriatrics, and quality improvement to provide a 16-week training program.

We are currently offering four 90-minute sessions each week led by MetroHealth faculty including Drs. James Campbell, Eileen Seeholzer, Ann Avery, Patricia Campbell, Lorella Luezas Shamakian, and Tiffany Leake, APRN. In addition, this grant creates a rapid response framework to provide urgent, immediate technical assistance, resources, and guidance to nursing homes that experience outbreaks and other emergencies.