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Marshall Klaus Perinatal Research Awards

Klaus Awardees Research Projects

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Section on Perinatal Pediatrics, and Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute initiated the Marshall Klaus Perinatal Research Awards with the goal of enhancing and supporting development of research skills among physicians training in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. These awards provide partial support intended to assist fellows in initiating or completing research projects. Grants of $5,000/year are available.

Klaus Awards 2013

Alain Chin Cuna MD

Mentor: Namasivayam Ambalavanan, MD
University of Alabama

DNA methylation changes in lung samples of infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Dr. Cuna's research focuses on lung development and Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD). Under the mentorship of Dr. Namasivayam Ambalavanan, he has developed an interest in understanding the role of epigenetics, particularly DNA methylation, in the pathogenesis of BPD. His research project involves isolating DNA for genome wide DNA methylation analysis from formalin fixed paraffin embedded lung tissue samples. By comparing lung samples of preterm infants who died with BPD (study group) versus term and preterm stillbirths (control group), Dr. Cuna will be able to identify epigenetically regulated genes important in the arrest of lung development seen in BPD. Selected candidate genes will then undergo validation using immunohistochemistry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction in a mouse model of hyperoxia-induced BPD. Knowledge obtained from this research project may have great relevance as epigenetic modifications can be prevented, blocked, or reversed, potentially allowing for formulation of novel therapeutic and preventative strategies against BPD.

Jonathan Davies, MD

Mentor: Michael Blackburn, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine

Adenosine signaling in bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Evaluating the role of the adenosine signaling pathway in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Adenosine has been recognized to play an integral role in controlling the inflammatory response in many acute and chronic lung diseases, however its role in the development of BPD has not been studied. Dr. Davies' hypothesis is that lung injury caused by the respiratory support of premature neonates leads to elevated levels of adenosine that promote pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis, disrupt normal alveolar development, and contribute to the development of BPD.  Using a hyperoxic mouse model of BPD along with genetically modified animals and pharmaceutical agents that modulate the adenosine signaling pathway, Dr. Davies and his mentor, Dr. Blackburn, are able to explore the role that adenosine plays and its specific effects on each receptor in this disease process. A better understanding of this pathway may lead to the identification of pharmaceutical targets for the prevention and treatment of BPD in premature neonates.

Ben Mackowiak, MD

Mentor: Charles Hong, MD

Acid-sensing G-protein coupled receptors and their role in the neonatal pulmonary vasculature

Dr. Makowiak's research centers on cardiopulmonary physiology and disease such as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).  The goal of the proposed project is to investigate acid-sensing G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their role in regulating neonatal pulmonary vascular tone. Specifically, the plan is to characterize the expression of the known acid-sensing GPCRs (OGR1, GPR4, TDAG8, and G2A) in the fetal and neonatal mouse lung. Dr. Makowiak also will study the signaling mechanism of OGR1 in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells using a small molecule agonist and antagonist of OGR1.  Finally, Dr. Makowiak and his mentor, Dr. Hong, will test the effect of the OGR1 agonist and antagonist on piglet pulmonary arterial vascular tone.  Investigators hope that this project will help illuminate some of the mechanisms involved in the development of PPHN, a disease that may be precipitated by acidosis. 

Erica Mandell, MD

Mentor: Steven Abman, MD
University of Colorado

Vitamin D Attenuates Lung Injury and Improves Survival in Infant Rats after Antenatal Endotoxin Exposure

Chorioamnionitis contributes to the pathogenesis of BPD. Vitamin D has immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, but whether vitamin D can improve neonatal survival, preserve lung vascular and alveolar growth and prevent endothelial injury after exposure to antenatal inflammation is unknown.

The overall goal of Dr. Mandell's project is to determine whether vitamin D treatment could improve survival and preserve lung growth after antenatal exposure to endotoxin. The study explores the effects of vitamin D in both in vivo and in vitro models of inflammation. In an in vivo model Dr. Mandell uses fetal rodent intra-amniotic injections of endotoxin with co-administration of vitamin D and examine neonatal survival, lung morphometrics and structure both at delivery and at 14 days of life. For the in vitro model Dr. Mandell uses fetal pulmonary artery endothelial cells and alveolar epithelial type two cells in growth assays and tube formation assays to study the effects of vitamin D at the cellular level when exposed to co-administration of endotoxin and vitamin D. Her hypothesis speculates that vitamin D therapy may preserve lung growth through enhancement of endothelial and ATII cell function and growth in experimental chorioamnionitis.

Reina Mayor, MD

Mentors: Deborah Clegg, PhD; Rashmin Savani MD
University of Texas Southwest

In utero exposure to maternal high fat diet increases fetal lung inflammation impairing lung development

The goal of the proposed project is to test the hypothesis that in utero exposure to high fat diet during fetal development has a direct impact on fetal lung inflammation, vascularization, and structure. Western diets containing high fat (HFD) are associated with maternal obesity and a pro-inflammatory state.  We hypothesize that the maternal HFD induces maternal and fetal lung inflammation and therefore impairs fetal lung development. 

Nicole Yamada, MD

Mentor: Louis Halamek, MD

Determination of the rate of common deviations from the NRP algorithm and evaluation of focused strategies for remediation

Effective strategies for optimizing human performance during resuscitation (and thus clinical outcomes) are highly relevant to the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) and its emphasis on behavioral skills. This prospective, randomized controlled study will generate novel objective data on the frequency and types of errors made during simulated neonatal resuscitation, as well as the ability of healthcare professionals (HCP’s) to adhere to the NRP algorithm during complex, intense resuscitations. Two-person teams of HCP’s will be randomized to the control group or the intervention group. Teams in both groups will perform two complex, simulated neonatal resuscitations at the Center for Advanced Pediatric & Perinatal Education (CAPE) at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The intervention group will participate in communication training between the first and second resuscitation scenarios. The training will focus on the components of effective communication and will consist of self-study/self-assessment and simulation-based learning sessions. Deviations from the NRP algorithm will be tallied for all teams, and total number and types of errors committed in the second scenario will be compared between the control group and the intervention group.

How to apply for the 2014 Marshall Klaus Research Awards»

2014 Marshall Klaus Research Award application»

Past Marshall Klaus Research Awardees»

Complete List of Awardees and Mentors »

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