Basic and Translational Research

Basic and Translational Research
Vibha Lama, MD, MS

“The best lesson of COVID-19 may be the impact of its urgency on research. If we could mobilize this type of urgency for some other diseases, we’d be able to accelerate the pace of developing life-saving therapies and other discoveries. The impact of COVID-19 on research has been fascinating. It really brought the world’s attention back to our work. So many take for granted how important research is for both medicine and humanity.” - Vibha Lama, MD, MSLearn more about Dr. Lama.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, all of our research labs closed except for very essential activities. They started slowly ramping back up in June 2020 with new protocols in place. While these efforts have been successful at safely getting our teams back to their research, it has been a setback for many. On the other end of the spectrum, it also inspired many investigators to pursue new ideas to address COVID-19 and conduct research work in a shorter amount of time.

In addition to the COVID-19 protocols put in place, research work was also affected by the impact COVID-19 had on families. There were many parents who had to stay at home to help their children with remote school or care for a loved one who was ill. One of our goals is to look at how we can help our investigators gain back some of the time and productivity they lost during the pandemic. 

Another goal for this year is to build more collaborative research teams. At Michigan Medicine, we have so many researchers who are doing cutting-edge work in different areas who may not know about each other’s work. We would like to encourage more of these individuals to get team funding and work collectively on projects to promote more impactful research.

One avenue for researchers to interact and see what others are working on is the Department of Internal Medicine Annual Research Symposium. We held a successful virtual symposium in May 2021, with a record number of abstract submissions and thematic mini-symposia featuring researchers across divisions and research arenas.

In 2021, we introduced a new thematic multi-speaker format research conference which will be held quarterly called “Internal Medicine Research Rounds.” This disease-based discovery science forum will allow us to populate ideas across divisions, increase interaction among investigators, and hopefully lead to new collaborations across basic science departments.

Researchers Zero in on Therapeutic Target for Aggressive Uterine Cancer

Caitlin O’Connor, PhD and Goutham Narla, MD, PhD find a class of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that can effectively stop a highly aggressive type of uterine cancer in its tracks. Read more.

Investigating the Relationship Between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and C. Diff

Vincent Young, MD, PhD and team find that inflammation and changes in the gut microbiota associated with IBD promote Clostridioides difficile intestinal colonization, even without antibiotics. Read more.

Breakthrough in Using CRISPR-Cas9 to Target Fat Cells

Ormond MacDougald, PhD; Alan Rupp, PhD; and colleagues describe a breakthrough using CRISPR-Cas9 in the study of brown adipose tissue. Read more.

Drug Made from Pig Intestine Helps Escape the “Trap” of Clot-Causing Immune Response

Jason Knight, MD, PhD and team find that the drug defibrotide suppressed neutrophils from releasing NETs and also reduced downstream blood-clotting. Read more.

Androgen Hormones May Exacerbate Sex Differences in COVID-19 Outcomes

Nitin Kumar, PhD and Santhi Ganesh, MD explore the role of hormones in the COVID-19 vascular damage that’s generally worse in men than in women. Read more.