The overall goal of the Pilot Project Core of the New Mexico Alcohol Research Center (NMARC) is to foster cross-disciplinary FASD research across campus and promote growth of the Center. The Core will provide a critical opportunity to develop new basic, translational and clinical fetal alcohol research projects that complement and broaden the NMARC's research program portfolio. Selected projects must fit within the context of the Center's three strategic objectives as well as build on the overall integration and sustainability of the Center's research activities. Pilot projects will be funded for up to 2 years. The goal of each pilot project is to obtain sufficient preliminary data to develop competitive research grant applications and aid in cultivating new investigators that will integrate into the center;pilot project funding from our P20 developmental center was instrumental for the success of several NIH grant applications by UNM investigators. This Core will primarily support new investigators that have yet to obtain substantial independent research support. A year prior to the end of the Pilot Projects that are funded initially, a call for additional Pilot Project proposals will be widely advertised within the scientific community at UNM and the Mind Research Network. These proposals will be evaluated by extramural reviewers for scientific merit and relevance to the strategic objectives of the Center. Subsequently, projects will be reviewed by the Steering Committee and recommendations for funding support will be made by the NMARC Program Advisory Committee. Funding for these newly approved projects would begin at the start of the third project year. Each project will have an Advisory Team composed of senior alcohol researchers with complementary scientific expertise to that of the pilot project PI. The Center Director and NMARC Steering Committee will monitor progress of all pilot projects. The Pilot Project Core will support three projects during the first two years. Pilot Project 1, co-directed by Drs. Steffen Brown and Ludmila Bakhireva is a human 3D ultrasound imaging/Doppler velocimetry study that will assess the impact of prenatal ethanol exposure on brain structure and fetal hemodynamics. Results of this study will test the utility of these imaging techniques in the early diagnosis of FASD. Pilot Project 2, directed by Dr. Jason Weick will examine the effect of ethanol on cellular composition and network behavior in developing cortical neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells. Pilot Project 3, directed by Dr. Erin Milligan, will examine whether fetal alcohol exposure increases spinal cytokines and glial (astrocytes and microglia) reactivity, and leukocyte extravasation in the adult leading to abnormal neural-immune interactions and neuropathic pain.
The pilot project core will support the development of new basic, translational and clinical fetal alcohol research projects. The goal of the pilot projects is to obtain sufficient preliminary data to develop competitive research grant applications and cultivate new investigators that will form part of the center.