The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) partnership between Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Carilion Clinic, and Inova Health System has awarded $200,000 in funding to four research projects through the Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program.

Multi-institutional teams of scientists, physicians, and engineers, each awarded up to $50,000 in funding, will explore new machine learning approaches to cancer cell recognition, shoulder surgery recovery recommendations, a potential new treatment for depression, and what triggers an inflammatory throat disease.

Locally, the CTSA partners administer the grants through the Integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV). The awarded pilot projects include:

Could focused ultrasound procedures help treat depression?
Depression is among the most prevalent and debilitating psychiatric illnesses and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Researchers led by Sarah Clinton, an associate professor and associate director for Virginia Tech’s School of Neuroscience, and Wynn Legon, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, are studying if focused ultrasound techniques can be used to treat depression.

When can patients safely drive after rotator cuff surgery?
Despite more than 450,000 rotator cuff repairs being performed in the U.S. every year, the recommended recovery window before a patient can safely operate a vehicle is still unclear. Peter Apel, an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Carilion Clinic, and Miguel Perez, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and director of the Center for Data Reduction and Analysis Support at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, are studying pre- and post-operation driving fitness to develop safer return-to-drive recommendations.

Developing a new approach to cancer cell recognition
Combining machine learning and electrophysiology, this new tumor cell recognition technique could one day help physicians pick the most effective chemotherapy regimen. The research team includes Nathan Swami, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia; Todd Bauer, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Virginia; and Eva Schmelz, an associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise.

Studying what causes painful esophagus inflammation
Led by Irving “Coy” Allen, an associate professor at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and Emily McGowan, an assistant professor of medicine at UVA Health, this project will address an allergic disease known as eosinophilic esophagitis, which causes pain and difficulty swallowing. 

Awarded a $23 million CTSA grant from the National Institutes of Health earlier this year, iTHRIV is a cross-state translational research institute. Partner sites include Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, Carilion Clinic, and Inova Health System.

The institute combines the expertise of biomedical researchers and data scientists to create infrastructure and investigator resources for using data to improve health across the Commonwealth of Virginia. iTHRIV is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, through award number UL1TR003015.

Read the article on the Virginia Tech News website.