The integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV) has awarded funding of up to $50,000 to four multi-institutional research projects through the Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program. By providing seed grant funding to support early phase research projects, the program is intended to accelerate joint discovery and the application of translational medical research.

The following teams composed of physicians, researchers, and engineers at the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, and Inova Health System were awarded up to $50,000 in funding.

  • New intelligent virtual coach to help surgeons-in-training prepare for minimally invasive procedures.
    Before attempting a laparoscopic procedure in the operating room, surgeons-in-training spend hours practicing skills and doing simulation exercises. The iTHRIV seed grant funding will help a team composed of Nathan Lau, an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech; Laura Barnes, an associate professor of engineering systems and environment at the University of Virginia; Sarah Parker, a research assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research institute and senior director of the Carilion Clinic Center for Simulation, Research and Patient Safety; and Shawn Safford, chief of pediatric surgery at Carilion Clinic; develop a device that integrates eye-tracking technology and machine learning to provide feedback to surgeons during laparoscopic surgery simulations. The virtual coach device is intended to help surgeons improve their minimally invasive surgery skills with less time spent in simulations, which could lead to reduced operating time, better patient outcomes, and enhanced training and implementation of leading-edge surgical techniques as they emerge.

  • Enhanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques to improve ultrasound treatments for movement disorders.
    Essential tremor is a debilitating movement disorder that does not readily respond to medication, but transcranial-focused ultrasounds offer immediate and minimally-invasive relief. This research, led by Craig Meyer, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, and Eli Vlaisavljevich, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, aims to improve the use of magnetic resonance imaging to identify the targeted region and monitor the effects of treatment during ultrasound procedures.

  • Genetic mutation linked to swelling disorders could improve understanding of vascular disorders, diagnosis, and treatment.
    Led by Clint Miller, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and Natalie Hauser, a physician at the Inova Health System, this research will address a potentially life-threatening set of disorders characterized by recurrent swelling called hereditary angioedema. The team has identified a new genetic mutation associated with hereditary angioedema and will investigate the effects of this mutation on blood-vessel function, which could lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of the disease as well as other vascular and heart diseases.

  • Gut bacteria analysis could prevent side effects, liver injury in premature babies receiving nutrition intravenously.
    Parenteral nutrition is a lifesaving intervention in premature infants, but it can also be associated with liver injury. The project team, led by Suchitra Hourigan, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Inova Health, and Sean Moore, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, recently discovered that differences in gut bacteria could put an infant at risk of developing liver injury. The project aims to develop tools that will predict the risk of liver failure from information on an infant’s own microbiome, setting the stage to prevent this complication in high-risk infants.

iTHRIV is a cross-state translational research institute supported by a five-year, $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Partnering institutions include Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, the University of Virginia, and Inova Health System.

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