A Focus on Selected Research
Two faculty members from the UCSF Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care - Benjamin Houseman, MD, PhD and Jeffrey Sall, MD, PhD - have received five-year KO8 grants for their translational research projects. The KO8 is a prestigious Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health that provides support and protected time for a supervised research project.
Sall’s award will continue a program developed along with his primary mentor, Phil Bickler that studies the effects of anesthetics on neural development in young children. The project is part of a growing group of studies that indicate anesthesia may have negative, long-term effects on the brains of children, particularly in the hippocampus, which plays a role in behavioral and learning deficits.
“The work has implications for pediatric anesthesia, particularly for children under the age of two as well as for those in utero,“ says Sall.
The group will study the effects of various anesthetics on cultured hippocampal cells and live rats to test both prevailing theory - that cell death in young animals occurs due to anesthesia - as well as competing theories. The most prominent among the competing theories are that anesthesia has a direct effect on how neural stem cells proliferate and differentiate, as well as on how they form synapses and make connections.
Houseman: Inhibiting Timing of PI3K Pathway
Houseman’s study examines the body’s inflammatory response to injury in an effort to understand whether inhibiting that response can deliver clinical benefits under certain circumstances. He is particularly interested in understanding inflammation in the wake of trauma, heart attack, and stroke.
Working with primary mentor, Kevan Shokat, PhD, chair of cellular and molecular pharmacology at UCSF, Houseman’s project aims to develop novel drugs that can fight inflammation after injury. He will focus on testing selective inhibitors of the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway using both in vitro and in vivo models.
“I particularly want to understand the timing of the PI3K pathway following injury,“ says Houseman. “Our working hypothesis is that inhibiting this pathway early after injury will be beneficial, while prolonged inhibition will be deleterious due to increased susceptibility to infection.“