Pilot Research Program > 2005 Programs
Development and Pilot Evaluation of Non-Invasive System for the Detection of Stage 1 Pressure Ulcers in Darkly Pigmented Skin
Investigator: Majd Alwan, Medical Automation Research Center, Dept. of Pathology
Project Summary: The pressure sores problem is common in long-term care and is well known in older adults, people with disabilities, and bed-ridden patients. Detecting pressure ulcers early is difficult, especially in people with darker skin tones. Treating pressure ulcers in stages greater than 1 is difficult, costly and may result in the patient's death. The specific aim of the proposed project is to assess alternative imaging-based methods of detecting reactive hyperemia associated with Stage 1 pressure ulcers in persons with high melanin concentrations (dark skin). The long-term goal is to develop a low cost detection device having high specificity and sensitivity for use by non-technical staff in skilled nursing facilities (SNF). In this project, the detection performance of imaging devices operating in the visible, near infrared, mid-wave infrared, and long wave infrared, will be compared against a small sample of individuals selected on the basis of skin color (apparent melanin levels).
Mitochondrial Gene Replacement Therapy
Investigator: James Bennett, Depts. of Neurology and Psychiatric Medicine
Project Summary: Although there are undoubtedly many factors contributing to the aging process, recent work has shown that damage to the DNA housed in mitochondria plays a major role. Because mitochondria are the site of oxygen metabolism in cells, their DNA is exposed to much more damage from oxygen free radicals than is the DNA in the nucleus where our chromosomes are stored. As we age, this oxygen damaged mitochondrial DNA is less and less effective in providing proteins essential for mitochondria to make energy, and many of our energy-requiring tissues such as brain and muscle become impaired. Recently scientists from Sweden showed that if mice were created that spontaneously damaged their mitochondrial DNA, these mice quickly aged and died early with many tissue abnormalities typical of old age. This study demonstrated conclusively that excessive mitochondrial DNA damage leading to mitochondrial gene mutations could cause aging. At UVA we have developed a novel technology that allows the removal of damaged mitochondrial DNA and its replacement with healthy mitochondrial DNA. This technology is active both in cultured cells and after injection into animals. In this proposal we will develop this technology as a treatment for diseases of aging. We will first optimize the use of this technology in nerve cells in culture, then we will apply the technology to replace mitochondrial genes in mice and rats. If successful, we will work with the FDA to begin development of this therapy for use in human diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer's disease, heart failure and muscle wasting.
Quantitation of Age-Related Changes in Cerebral Water Content
Investigator: Jack Knight-Scott, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Project Summary: The goal of this project is to test a new method for separating the contributions of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and brain tissue water in the human brain. Changes in brain tissue water are often an early indicator of pathology in many disease processes in the brain, but these changes may also be an effect of the normal aging process. These differences are often obscured by increasing contributions from CSF with aging. In this project we will test the accuracy and precision of our method and validate its use for studying age-dependent changes in brain tissue water content in the elderly.
Calorie Restriction-Mediated Life Span Extension in Yeast
Investigator: Jeffrey S. Smith, Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Project Summary: Calorie restriction (CR) is an effective and reproducible intervention for increasing life span and preventing age-related diseases in a wide variety of species, including mammals. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this effect are poorly understood. CR-mediated life span extension also works in several experimental model organisms, including budding yeast. This research project aims to utilize a simple yeast model of CR to rapidly identify novel longevity genes and genetic pathways that contribute to the beneficial life span effects of this dietary regimen. Characterization of these genes and pathways in yeast will help determine whether they are potential targets for anti-aging therapeutics in mammals.