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The Mood Disorders Translational Research Center | Pain Research Group | STRONG STAR Consortium for PTSD Research | Research Group on Drug and Alcohol Abuse | STRF Neuroscience Group
The Mood Disorders Translational Research Center was formed in 2008, and crystallized the following year around the funding of an ARRA P30 Center Grant for Faculty Recruitment in Translational Neuroscience that brought two new faculty members into the HSC Neuroscience community, in Pharmacology and Psychiatry. The purpose of the MDTRC is to promote translational collaborations in mood disorders research, with emphases on neuroimmune signaling, prefrontal cognitive function, and investigation of novel therapeutic mechanisms. Comprised of 16 principal investigators and members of their research teams, the group meets biweekly to discuss ongoing projects, recent advances in the field, approaches to modeling dimensions of psychiatric illness in animals, testing mechanistic hypotheses about etiology and treatment in patients, and developing concrete strategies for advancing fundable collaborative research projects. The members of the MDTRC also currently mentor 4 K-award trainees at various levels, from successful revision and resubmission of proposals to their transition into independent PI status. In 2012, members of the MDTRC submitted 8 collaborative translational pilot projects and full proposals, to both internal funding mechanisms as well as NIH, NARSAD, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Department of Defense/CDMRP.
The Pain Group consists of seven collaborative research labs in the Medical and Dental Schools. Several important factors contribute to our scientific environment–thereby increasing the probability of research success– including: 1) physical proximity–our lab are contiguous with one another, greatly facilitating collaborative research interactions; 2) the Dental School has designated Pain Research as an officially recognized major thematic area and provides our group with institutional support; 3) for ~10 years, we have held a weekly pain journal club involving all of our labs comprising ~40 members, including PIs, PhD and dual-degree students, post-doctoral fellows and residents, providing a strong opportunity for continued development and interactions; and 4) four of our labs hold combined weekly lab meetings, permitting rapid feedback and fostering new collaborations among ongoing projects. Evidence for this synergy is well documented by our pain faculty serving as co-authors on papers and co-investigators on grants. The primary area of emphasis is on mechanisms regulating function of peripheral nociceptors. Primary methods range from molecular, biochemical, electrophysiologic, and behavioral preclinical studies to biochemical, genetic and efficacy clinical trials.
The South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, or STRONG STAR, is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research consortium funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program to develop and evaluate the most effective early interventions possible for detection, prevention, and treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in active-duty military personnel and recently discharged veterans. Under the leadership of the UTHSCSA and based in South-Central Texas, the STRONG STAR Consortium brings together more than 100 researchers and clinicians conducting a broad array of clinical, exploratory, and preclinical trials to assess novel delivery methods of evidence-based PTSD treatments specially adapted to meet the unique needs of the military population. Simultaneously, the Consortium is striving to learn more about the causes of PTSD; the influence of comorbid physical and psychological ailments; and the interaction of cognitivebehavioral therapies and pharmacologic treatments. Ultimately, the Consortium is focused on reducing the suffering of our nation’s wounded warriors, to help our returning warfighters to continue living healthy, productive lives and to prevent the development of chronic PTSD in a new generation of war veterans. Visit the STRONG STAR web site.
The 18 principal investigators involved in drug and alcohol abuse research represent 4 departments and, collectively, are responsible for 28 grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIAAA and NIDA), including a T32 training grant from NIDA. The preclinical pharmacology group includes investigators and trainees from the Departments of Pharmacology, Physiology and Psychiatry. These highly collaborative researchers investigate a wide range of topics in the area of drug and alcohol abuse using a variety of species, techniques, and procedures. Currently funded projects investigate opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants, nicotine, THC, and alcohol in experiments using mice, rats, pigeons, and other models. Regular group activities include twice weekly joint laboratory meetings; a twice monthly Addiction Journal Club; and a once monthly Addiction Seminar Series. Pre and post-doctoral trainees attend monthly “chalk talks” presented by scientists from UTHSCSA and elsewhere as well as weekly seminars, grand rounds, and journal clubs.
The South Texas Research Facility is a new, state of the art facility housing modern research laboratories organized in an “open lab” modular format, designed to easily adapt to the needs of highly collaborative, multi-disciplinary and thematically-focused biomedical research groups. The STRF Neuroscience group is currently comprised of 10 existing independent research labs, with plans and capacity for new recruitment, and occupies approximately 20,000 sq ft of new laboratory space. A major collaborative research theme of the STRF Neuroscience group focuses on molecular and cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration and functional pathology following brain injury, both in the context of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as in trauma, stroke, and epilepsy. Approaches ranging from human neurosurgery and genetics, to single ion channel electrophysiology, to mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases and stroke, to optical imaging and biophysics, and many more, are applied in a uniquely integrative, collaborative and translational body of complementary research projects.
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