The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following Collaborative Health Sciences Program grant in 2007:

A Comprehensive Approach to Insomnia

Ruth Benca, MD, PhD, Psychiatry
Award: $299,654 over two years

This proposal brings together expertise in sleep medicine, neuroscience and epidemiology to create a translational research program for insomnia. A key objective is to develop an evidence-based behavioral treatment model.

There are two general aims: Aim 1 will test the hypothesis that insomnia occurs as a result of abnormalities in slow wave sleep, leading to a better understanding of the causes as well as improved diagnosis. Aim 2 will assess the epidemiology of insomnia and behavioral treatment efficacy using the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. This aim will address health policy through a better understanding of the public health impact of insomnia and define a model for community health interventions for health care providers in Wisconsin.

Vitamin D Inadequacy: Documentation in Rural Populations and Evaluation of Correction by Food Supplementation

Neil Binkley, MD, Medicine
Award: $300,000 over three years

Vitamin D inadequacy is extremely common and is associated with musculoskeletal disease (osteoporosis, rickets and falls) and with increased risk of infections, multiple sclerosis and cancer. The goals are:

  • To define the regional prevalence
  • To investigate underlying mechanisms
  • To evaluate potential unappreciated consequences
  • To identify effective means for correcting Vitamin D inadequacy

Though daily use of supplements should be effective in optimizing Vitamin D status, long-term adherence with daily Vitamin D supplementation is only about 50%. Two scenarios will be explored: (1) Vitamin D supplementation of food, not the inadequate "fortification" currently utilized, is a potential solution. (2) Individuals of varying age and ethnicity require different amounts of Vitamin D to achieve optimal status.

Linking Aging, Resveratrol and Sirtuins

John Denu, PhD, Biomolecular Chemistry
Award: $300,000 over two years

Caloric restriction is a well-established method of extending lifespan and promoting healthy aging among diverse organisms, including non-human primates. Growing evidence suggests that the same mechanism is operative in humans; however, the molecular basis for this phenomenon is unknown. Recent articles in both scientific journals and the mainstream press have strongly implicated a novel group of conserved proteins, sitruins, in mediating the health benefits of caloric restriction.

Resveratrol, a plant compound found at high levels in wine and known to harbor a variety of cardiovascular and neurological health benefits, was reported to be an activator of sirtuin enzymes. This study will explore the molecular basis for the health benefits of caloric restriction and resveratrol, providing new insights into healthy aging modulated by diet.

Individualized Stroma-Targeting Therapy in Breast Cancer

Andreas Friedl, MD, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Award: $300,000 over three years

In 2006, an estimated 4,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Wisconsin (213,000 in the US). Despite progress in diagnosis and treatment, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Wisconsin women, underscoring the need for a better understanding of breast cancer biology and for more effective therapies.

Cancer tissue is composed of tumor cells and the tumor bed or stroma. It is becoming clear that stroma cells actively participate in tumor growth and progression. Connective tissue cells called fibroblasts constitute the largest proportion of tumor stroma cells in breast cancer. Fibroblasts undergo dramatic reversible and irreversible alterations in the environment of breast carcinomas.

Since altered stromal fibroblasts contribute to cancer growth and progression, it is expected that returning them to a normal biological function will benefit the breast cancer patient. The goal is to develop patient-specific therapeutic strategies aimed at normalizing breast cancer stroma.

Wisconsin Infectious Disease Drug Discovery

Bruce Klein, MD, Pediatrics
Award: $300,000 over three years

Infectious disease is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. A growing number of highly resistant microbes threaten to worsen this problem. Hospitals have become breeding grounds for strains of multi-drug resistant bacteria and fungi. These threats are brought into sharp relief by the lack of new antibiotics as the development of new drugs has slowed to a crawl in favor of more lucrative products.

To address the public health crisis of infection due to antibiotic resistant germs, this project will create an anti-infective drug discovery program to develop new drug therapies. The goal will be to identify novel compounds with antimicrobial activity against the organisms that are major clinical problems for vulnerable patients.

Improving Cardiovascular Risk Prediction Using Hand-Held Carotid Ultrasonography

James Stein, MD, Medicine
Award: $286,297 over two years

The UW Atherosclerosis Imaging Research Program has developed a new technology to screen for early stages of atherosclerosis and to identify adults at risk for cardiovascular disease. Because one-third of first cardiovascular events are fatal, there is great need for a safe and noninvasive way to identify asymptomatic patients with increased cardiovascular risk.

Rather than relying only on risk factors, this project teaches community-based health care providers from five medical practices in Wisconsin to use ultrasound to directly image the cause of cardiovascular events — the atherosclerosis itself.

Healthy People / Healthy Systems: The OPTIMISE Model

Bennett Vogelman, MD, Medicine
Award: $299,726 over three years

OPTIMISE: Outcomes of Patients and Trainees in a Model of Industrial & Systems Engineering.

The Internal Medicine Residency Program will use an established industrial and systems engineering model in healthcare to evaluate and redesign medical resident learning and patient care with four specific aims:

  • To improve the prevention, diagnosis and management of chronic disease to improve patient outcomes
  • To improve patient safety through a quality improvement project to standardize communication
  • To improve medical resident performance and quality of work life
  • To maximize evidence-based practice. This program aligns medical education with the national quality agenda and will directly transform the training of future Wisconsin physicians by changing the focus from the process of education to the outcome of the learners

  • Read the outcome report (pdf)