The second grant centers on Gao's pioneering use of MRI scans of infants' brains to help predict later cognitive development, based on growth rates of brain circuits. His grant will fund a pilot study to design and test protocols that potentially could be used to conduct a 10-year, nationwide study to assess the developmental and health effects of in utero exposure to opioids.
"As dangerous as the opioid epidemic is to the current U.S. population, we must remember that it also threatens to affect the next generation," said Sarah J. Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, professor and chair of Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "We have long known that in utero exposure to alcohol can negatively impact childhood development. We need to know more about the effects of opioids so that we can prepare effective, early interventions."
Gao's co-principal investigators on his grant are Kimberly D. Gregory, MD, MPH, vice chair of Women's Healthcare Quality and Performance Improvement in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecologyi; Charles Simmons, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics; and Scott P. Johnson, PhD, from UCLA. Co-investigators from Cedars-Sinai include Debiao Li, PhD, director of the Biomedical Imaging Research Institute; Suzanne Devkota, PhD; Marcio Diniz, PhD; Franklin Moser, MD; and Andre Rogatko, PhD, director of the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Research Center. Other co-investigators are Jennifer Silvers, PhD, from UCLA, and Ken Bachrach, PhD, from Tarzana Treatment Centers.
"It’s clear that a multi-pronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, who launched the initiative in early 2018. "This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis."
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases under award number 1UG3AR076573-01 and National Institute on Drug Abuse under award numbers 1R34DA050255-01 and 3R34DA050255-01S1.