The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following Collaborative Health Sciences Program grant in 2008:

Patient-specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Models for Human Disease

Timothy Kamp, MD, PhD, Medicine
Award: $499,993 over three years

Co-principal investigators Kamp and James Thomson PhD, anatomy, and a team of co-investigators will create patient and disease-specific induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines. The iPS cells are similar to embryonic stem cells in their ability to differentiate into essentially any cell type in the body, but iPS cells can be generated from fibroblasts obtained from a simple skin biopsy.

Researchers will obtain skin biopsies from patients with a wide range of genetic diseases from sickle cell anemia to inherited heart arrhythmias. The iPS cells harboring the specific genetic defect will then be differentiated into the cell types of interest and provide a model for human disease that can be studied in the laboratory to advance basic understanding of the disease and potentially develop new treatment approaches.

Wisconsin Children's Lead Levels and Educational Outcomes

Marty Kanarek PhD, MPH, Population Health Sciences
Award: $500,000 over three years

Childhood lead poisoning has long been known as a major public health issue; the link between environmental lead and children's IQ deficits is well established. Lead poisoning is of particular concern in Wisconsin: It is estimated that elevations in blood lead for children in the state are more than twice the national average.

The levels of lead poisoning commonly seen in the state are not widely associated with serious health problems, but may be linked to cognitive and behavioral problems that affect children's school experience and performance. The study proposes to examine the relation between early childhood lead poisoning and educational achievement in elementary school.

Data from the Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will be linked to children's scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. This cooperative study, developed by the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, will serve as the foundation of studies to examine the role of environmental exposures on the various aspects of childhood development and well-being.

Closing the Gap on Pediatric Health Disparities: Discerning the Causes and Consequences of Iron Deficiency in Infancy

Pamela Kling, MD, Pediatrics
Award: $500,000 over three years

About 5,000 Wisconsin infants become iron-deficient yearly. Although iron treatment is relatively straightforward and resolves the anemia, there may also be permanent issues. One problem is an irreversible defect in brain development. Another is that tissue iron depletion predisposes the infant to long-term risk for high blood pressure or heart disease in adulthood.

The hypothesis of this research proposal is that iron deficiency in toddlers often has its roots before birth, can be predicted at birth by new screening methods and predisposes the child to long-term alteration of gene expression. The researchers will study whether certain risk factors during pregnancy or tests of iron status at birth predict the development of iron deficiency as an infant. They will also examine whether genes involved in both red blood cell production and blood pressure regulation are altered by the presence of iron deficiency in the first year of life.

This partnership team brings together clinical and basic researchers and joins an existing screening program run by the State Maternal and Child Health Department. Newborn screening for iron status could be a cost-effective and minimally invasive public health strategy that prevents iron deficiency and improves both cognitive and health outcomes.

Reducing Infant Mortality Disparities in Wisconsin

Gloria Sarto, MD, PhD, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Award: $500,000 over three years

A new alliance called the Infant Mortality Collaborative (IMC) will investigate the determinants of the improved birth outcomes that have occurred over the past several years within the African-American community in Dane County. In the second stage, we will direct the lessons learned toward improving birth outcomes in the African-American community in Racine and other areas of Wisconsin where the infant mortality rates are inordinately high.

The Infant Mortality Collaborative will engage people within the local African-American community as partners. By bringing together the diverse strengths of the community and multiple government and academic partners, the IMC aims to reduce infant mortality in Wisconsin. This program is a collaborative effort of UW School of Medicine and Public Health faculty, and those from the School of Social Work, the Lafollette School of Public Affairs, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Public Health of Madison and Dane County and the City of Racine Health Department.

Menominee Smoking Cessation Clinical Trial

Stevens Smith, PhD, Medicine
Award: $499,591 over three years

American Indians smoke at a much higher rate — 32 percent nationally and 39 percent in Wisconsin — compared with the overall population rate of 20 percent. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death, but very little research has addressed how to help American Indians to quit smoking. As a group, they suffer higher rates of smoking-related illnesses than other racial and ethnic groups.

Dr. Stevens Smith and collaborators at the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, University of Wiscoinsin-Milwaukee and the UW Carbone Cancer Center will test a new smoking cessation treatment tailored for American Indian smokers versus a standard treatment. The enhanced treatment is designed to be respectful of the sacred, traditional use of noncommercial tobacco (e.g., used in prayers, blessings and offerings) while helping American Indian smokers quit the use of commercial tobacco (i.e., cigarettes) that is harmful and addictive.

This new study will recruit 150 smokers through the Menominee Tribal Clinic in Keshena and offer free smoking cessation medication as well as cessation counseling (either the standard treatment or the enhanced treatment that is tailored to be culturally appropriate). The goal is to learn how best to help American Indian people quit smoking, in order to reduce smoking-related illness in their community.