This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

October 10, 2022

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.

Levintow receives funding to study COVID-19 transmission in NC jails

Dr. Sara Levintow

Dr. Sara Levintow

Congratulations to Sara Levintow, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, who has received a K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This five-year grant will build Levintow’s expertise in studying infectious disease dynamics in populations involved in the criminal legal system.

Her proposed research will model SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in county jail populations in North Carolina and estimate the impacts of interventions on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.

Other faculty involved will include Kimberly Powers, PhD, David Rosen, MD, PhD, Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, PhD, Justin Lessler, PhD, and Jess Edwards, PhD.

Kahkoska receives funding for project to improve healthy longevity

Dr. Anna Kahkoska

Dr. Anna Kahkoska

Congratulations to Anna Kahkoska, MD, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition, on being named a recipient of the Catalyst Award from the National Academy of Medicine Healthy Longevity Global Competition. The Global Competition, along with its sister program the Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity, are part of a larger initiative to fuel a worldwide movement to help improve physical, mental, and social well-being for people as they age, known as the Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge. Unique to the Global Competition component, in particular, is the emphasis on bold, new ideas with the potential for big impact—in disease prevention, mobility, functionality, social connectedness, the biology of aging and more.

Kahkoska and her team, which includes Kristen Hassmiller Lich, PhD, Michael Kosorok, PhD, and John Batsis, MD, will lead a project titled “Systems-Aligned Precision Health for Longevity and Healthy Aging with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).” Their overarching hypothesis is that providing evidence-based diabetes technology to heterogenous, complex population of older adults with T1D demands new approaches that consider a breadth of and differences in individual-level needs for patient-oriented onboarding and effective use in daily life. They are proposing a new approach to tailored diabetes care that leverages precision health analytics, informed by systems thinking and stakeholder engagement, to match patients with the personalized resources or “bolstering” interventions that they need to learn to use technology for diabetes management, integrate it into daily life, and ultimately experience the clinical benefits.

Learn more.

Popkin urges FDA to adopt front-of-package warning labels

Dr. Barry Popkin

Dr. Barry Popkin

On Thursday, Sept. 29, Distinguished Professor Barry Popkin, PhD, testified at a special United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) public meeting in support of policies to improve the American diet and diet-related diseases. He joined six other consumer, research, government and industry representatives who were invited to comment before an Independent Expert Panel as part of an ongoing operational review of the FDA’s human foods program. Popkin’s comments focused on the high content of ultra-processed foods in the current American diet; the link between poor diet and non-communicable diseases, including obesity; and the global experience with regulatory options that can impact food purchases and encourage healthier choices. He provided evidence from Chile on the effectiveness of front-of-package warning labels, a policy that the current administration has prioritized in the Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

Learn more.

Baric co-authors study on therapy to reduce long COVID in mice

Distinguished Professor Ralph Baric is co-author on a study published recently in Science Translational Medicine that highlights the potential for drug therapy to reduce long COVID symptoms in mice. Fellow co-authors from UNC include Kenneth Dinnon, Sarah Leist and Lisa Gralinski.

A potential consequence of SARS-CoV-2 infection is long COVID, also called post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC). PASC can include chronic lung dysfunction among other symptoms, but the mechanisms driving PASC-associated pulmonary disease are unknown.

This study shows how mice infected with a mouse-adapted strain of SARS-CoV-2 characterize long-term damage in the lungs over time. Using histology and spatial transcriptomics, the authors observed the development of a profibrotic phenotype at later time points after infection; severity of lung damage could be ameliorated by early antifibrotic or antiviral drug treatment. These data support the use of mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 as a PASC model and suggest that antiviral and antifibrotic treatments could be an option to prevent or reduce PASC in humans.

Read the full study online.

UNC research team receives grant to study ovarian cancer

A research fellow group led by Associate Professor Caroline Thompson, PhD, recently received a two-year, $500,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deepen studies focusing on ovarian cancer — particularly among women of color.

An article recently published in The Daily Tar Heel highlights this upcoming research from a team of researchers — part of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) — who will investigate the factors contributing to the earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Learn more.

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