A key aspect of the IU School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program is the interdisciplinary and complementary research interests, divided into a total of seven themes, of training faculty. IU School of Medicine has developed a Strategic Research Initiative with IU Health to grow strategic areas of thematic research. Additionally, IU School of Medicine is building a Precision Health infrastructure that includes brick and mortar, high-end equipment and administrative infrastructure and reaches across all of these themes to ensure exceptional and personalized patient care. Both the Strategic Research Initiative and the Precision Health infrastructure lean heavily on IU School of Medicine partners at Purdue BME to ensure that medical devices, imaging modalities and state-of-the-art materials are incorporated into next-generation therapeutics. In recognition of the efforts at IU School of Medicine and Purdue, Medical Scientist Training Program faculty are aligned with seven distinct themes that represent the strengths of the program’s research training.
The number of investigators studying musculoskeletal disorders at IU School of Medicine has steadily grown over the past 20 years, and they are distributed across the IU School of Medicine and Purdue campuses. Dr. Lynda Bonewald is the director of the newly established Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health. The focus areas around which research teams of basic, translational and clinical researchers are built include 1) trauma, regeneration, rehabilitation, 2) genetic diseases and precision medicine, 3) mechanobiology 4) musculoskeletal cancer and 5) pediatric musculoskeletal disease. The Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health serves as a springboard to launch innovative, multidisciplinary, cross-collaborative approaches to musculoskeletal disease. A focus area is investigations into the mechanisms responsible for increased fragility and susceptibility to fracture of diabetic bone.
Immunology and Microbiology
IU School of Medicine researchers have a broad interest in understanding the molecular basis of infectious disease, immunity to infection, immune-mediated inflammation and pulmonary dysfunction. Researchers at IU School of Medicine have pioneered understanding of the molecular components of allergic inflammation and developed new techniques for assessing airway function in infants. Moreover, there is a strong history in training physician-scientists in this area. The Asthma and Allergic Diseases Research Program is an inter-departmental consortium focused on regulation of inflammation at mucosal surfaces. The research efforts of Medical Scientist Training Program faculty also include basic immunology areas such as T helper cell differentiation, CD1- and MR1-mediated antigen presentation and innate immune signaling. The infectious disease program spans bacterial and viral agents and has a particular focus on sexually transmitted diseases.
Neuroscience research and training has a distinguished history at IU School of Medicine, where researchers discovered glycine as a neurotransmitter, performed both the basic science and translational studies that led to the approval of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs, Prozac), and utilized the genetics factors underlying alcohol addiction using the alcohol preferring and non-preferring rat model system as part of an NIH-supported Alcohol Research Center. Investigators at the school celebrate other achievements; they identified genetic and pathologic substrates for neurodegenerative diseases as part of an NIH-supported Alzheimer’s Disease Center and recently established an NIH-supported animal model center for Alzheimer’s disease. The Paul and Carol Stark Neurosciences Research Institute combines neuroscience-focused clinical departments and neuroscience research labs to focus on four areas of research strengths, including Traumatic Brain Injury/Spinal Cord Injury (TBI/SCI), Neurodegeneration, Addiction and Pain/Anxiety/Affective Disorders.
Diabetes and Metabolism
Diabetes researchers at IU School of Medicinedeveloped the Zucker fatty diabetic rat, and they’ve played critical roles in measuring and quantifying insulin antibodies in the worldwide human insulin clinical trials. These investigators have also made pioneering strides in the relationship between chromatin structure of β cell genes and insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes. The Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at IU School of Medicine is one of only 16 NIH-funded diabetes research centers in the United States. The Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases emphasizes four areas of research strengths that include Islet Biology, Molecular Basis of Metabolism, Complications of Diabetes (including eye, kidney, and cardiovascular), Nutrition and Physiology of Obesity, and Clinical Outcomes Research.
Cardiovascular and Kidney Disease
The cardiovascular diseases program at IU School of Medicine capitalizes on institutional strengths in translational cardiovascular and kidney research. This program provides a fundamental and highly integrative systems-based research experience for pre-doctoral student training in discovering the underlying mechanisms responsible for the pathologic interplay between cardiovascular and kidney disease. A key component of this unique program is the established translational bench-to-bedside research that includes studies in human patients, large animal (swine) models of disease, and novel genetic rodent models that are supported by cutting-edge experimental and imaging modalities, including PET-CT, intravital multiphoton microscopy, 3-dimensional imaging. Areas of emphasis include vascular reactivity; atherogenesis; the regulation of cardiovascular function; genetic basis of cardiac development, heart disease and cardioprotection; and mechanisms of acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease. Investigators within this program have long-standing interest in elucidating mechanisms responsible for cardiovascular and renal complications of obesity and diabetes.
The Simon Cancer Center is an IU School of Medicine institutional strength, where physician scientists and scientists work on the molecular basis of cancer, identification of biomarkers, and the development of new animal models to test novel molecules and therapies developed by cancer center members. Key research strengths include childhood and adult hematologic malignancies, breast and pancreatic cancer, neurofibromatosis, metastatic disease and development of immune-based therapies. The Simon Cancer Center is also home to several investigators developing bioinformatics tools to better understand the etiology of cancers, consequences of therapeutic interventions and the development of individualized therapies.
Biomedical Engineering (BME)
Purdue biomedical engineering investigators developed the first energy-efficient implantable cardiac defibrillator, described a xenogeneic biomaterial scaffold for the repair and regeneration of human tissues, and invented an acoustic-guidance system for endotracheal tubes that has recently been FDA-approved. Biomedical Engineering faculty research areas are broad and include biomaterials and tissue engineering, biomedical imaging and optics, bio-nanotechnology and biosensors, neural engineering, and orthopedic biomechanics and implants.