Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Biomarkers / 11.11.2021 Interview with: Joshua D. Grill, PhD Professor, Psychiatry & Human Behavior School of Medicine Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior School of Biological Sciences University of California, Irvine What is the background for this study? Response: Alzheimer’s disease is a major public health challenge. More than 6 million Americans have the disease, which causes cognitive problems and eventual dependence on others for daily function. Scientists understand that the disease begins in the brain years before memory and other thinking problems begin and the AHEAD Study aims to intervene in this window of time, to see if a drug that targets these brain changes can delay or prevent symptoms of the disease.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Ophthalmology / 23.10.2020 Interview with: Steven Grieco, PhD Postdoctoral Scholar Xu Lab, UCI What is the background for this study? Response: In recent years the drug ketamine, which has been used safely as a dissociative anaesthetic for decades, has gained widespread interest in the field of psychiatry for its use as an antidepressant at low doses. In 2019 the FDA finally approved a nasal spray that delivers ketamine to patients with untreatable clinical depression.  Now, such patients go to the appropriate clinical setting and receive ketamine treatments, though this is not required daily for an effective outcome. In fact, studies have found that a single low dose ketamine treatment can result in beneficial improvements in mood that last for several days or even weeks. This suggests that ketamine treatment induces significant neural plasticity in the brain. Since the mechanisms governing this ketamine-mediated neural plasticity were not known, our group studied this using the visual cortex as a model tissue. The visual cortex has perhaps the most well-characterized patterns of neural plasticity in the brain to date, and is an excellent arena in which to test hypotheses about the mechanisms of neural plasticity. In fact, the classical antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac), which induces neural plasticity only after long-term chronic treatment, has been studied extensivley in the visual cortex as well. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Lipids / 02.04.2020 Interview with: Nathan D. Wong, PhD, FACC, FAHA, FNLA Professor and Director Heart Disease Prevention Program Division of Cardiology, University of California, Irvine What is the background for this study? Response: Many higher risk persons, despite guideline-recommended therapy such as statins, still suffer from cardiovascular disease events. There are few therapies available to reduce this persistent risk. The REDUCE-IT trial led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston researchers originally published in November of 2018 was landmark in showing for the first time a highly purified, stable, prescription fish oil product, icosapent ethyl (an EPA only compound marketed as Vascepa®) if given to high risk persons with either cardiovascular disease or diabetes and two or more risk factors who were on statin therapy and had elevated triglyceride levels, achieved an unprecedented 25 percent reduction in the risk of time to first cardiovascular disease events. Given that many persons often experience multiple cardiovascular events, a follow-up analysis showed that TOTAL cardiovascular events were reduced by 30 percent.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Epilepsy, Nutrition / 23.07.2019 Interview with: Geoffrey W. Abbott PhD Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Bioelectricity Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of California What is the background for this study? Response: The main focus of my laboratory is the study of potassium ion channels - proteins that coordinate electrical activity in all organisms. When human potassium channels do not function properly, it can result in pathologically discordant electrical activity, and diseases such as cardiac arrhythmia, myotonia, and epilepsy - depending on whether the affected potassium channel is in the heart, skeletal muscle or brain, for example. T here are existing drugs that directly regulate ion channels for therapeutic benefits, including one - retigabine - that opens neuronal potassium channels in the KCNQ family, to treat epilepsy. Retigabine causes side effects including turning the skin blue, and was withdrawn from clinical use in 2017. Retigabine may make a comeback because a form of epilepsy was recently discovered, arising from mutations in the KCNQ2 gene, that is associated with severe developmental delay and seizures. In my lab, we are interested in discovering new therapeutic agents that might more safely fix dysfunction in KCNQ2 and other potassium channels. We turned to plants as a possible source of compounds. We are interested both in explaining the underlying mechanism of traditional botanical medicines, and also discovering unanticipated therapeutic chemicals synthesized naturally by plants.  (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, JAMA, Social Issues / 06.01.2019 Interview with: Rebecca R. Thompson, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Scholar Department of Psychological Science University of California, Irvine What is the background for this study? Response: Our research team has been interested in how people respond to the repeated threat of disaster exposure for many years. We recently published a review of the literature on evacuation from natural disasters, and one of our main findings was that there have been no studies that include assessments of individuals’ intentions, perceptions, and psychological states assessed prior to an approaching storm’s landfall – all prior research has been retrospective, and recall is undoubtedly biased and unreliable.  Our goal in undertaking this study was to fill this hole in the literature. We sought to assess individuals' responses to Hurricane Irma in the days leading up to and immediately after its landfall in the State of Florida. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, HPV, PLoS, Sexual Health / 09.10.2018 Interview with: Brandon Brown, MPH, PhD Associate Professor Center for Healthy Communities Department of Social Medicine, Population and Public Health UCR School of Medicine Riverside, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: The authors have been working in Lima, Peru on HIV-related projects for over 17 years. This particular study arose out of interest from our main community collaborator and the only gay men’s health NGO in Lima, Epicentro Salud ( The NGO noticed that one of the main health issues among their clients was genital warts. When we learned this, we applied for funding through the Merck Investigator Initiated Studies Program to conduct a study examining the link between genital warts and incident HIV infection. Although most studies have shown a general link between HPV and HIV co-infection, our findings illustrate the strong relationship between individual HPV types and HIV infection. Specifically, individuals in our study with any HPV type, more than one HPV type, or high-risk HPV were more likely to acquire HIV. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA / 21.08.2018 Interview with: Mehraneh Dorna Jafari, MD Assistant Professor Associate Program Director Colon and Rectal Surgery UC Irvine Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Financial ties between medical and surgical device companies and clinicians are very common. It has been shown that up to 94% of physicians in the United States receive a form of benefit from an external company. When we evaluate published works, it is important to assess the integrity and academic credentials of the authors. In 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established the Open Payments Database to house industrial payments’ information and increase transparency into the reporting of payments. In our study, we found that in only 37% of their relevant 2016 publications were the Conflict of Interests declared by the authors. (more…)