BETHESDA, Md. -- Researchers from across the National Capital Region (NCR) gave an overview of their ongoing studies during the Fall 2013 Research Summit at Walter Reed Bethesda recently.
Army Captains (Doctors) Bradley Havins and Donald Chaffee present their ongoing research project concerning minimalist footwear during the Department of Research Programs Fall 2013 Research Summit on Oct. 29 at Walter Reed Bethesda.
Projects ranged from the physiological measures of traumatic brain injury (TBI) to assessing the safety and function of sensors implanted in the upper extremities of amputees for prosthetic control, all intent on improving health care for wounded warriors and others.
The research summit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) is held every fall and spring to present and discuss investigative work, as well as provide opportunities for collaboration among researchers, explained Army Lt. Col. Molly Klote, chief of the Department of Research Programs (DRP) at WRNMMC, which sponsors the summit.
“There’s a lot of research going on in the National Capital Region. We want to tap into it to make opportunities available to both researchers at this institution, and for external researchers to come in and see some of the work we’re doing in order to develop synergies and piggyback off of one another’s efforts,” Klote said.
“Our main mission is to advance research within this institution and within the NCR,” Klote continued. “We have great partnerships with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (FBCH) and the Joint Pathology Center.” She added there’s also a “state-of-the-art” biomedical research laboratory at WRNMMC, which enhances investigative efforts of Walter Reed Bethesda staff and collaborators.
Dr. Dominic Nathan kicked off the summit discussing his work with physiological measures of TBI and the Integrated Neuropsychiatric Assessment System (INAS). As a research biomedical engineer with the TBI Research Program in the Department of Military and Emergency Medicine at the Uniformed Services University (USU), Nathan oversees the data analysis procedures and all data handling for the program.
“The goal of [INAS] is not just to diagnose or identify individuals who have mild TBI, but also identify those individuals who are at risk of developing symptoms and later onset [of mild TBI],” Nathan said.
Another program involved in TBI research, the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM), is a collaborative effort between USU, the National Institutes of Health and WRNMMC. CNRM Director, Dr. Regina Armstrong, discussed the work of the program, which puts “special focus on military relevant injuries to maximize recovery.”
“We have more than 200 different projects ongoing or completed,” Armstrong said. She explained studies involve “diagnostic to recovery and repair” of TBI. She added because of the complexities of TBI, including the extent of injuries and predictors of who will fully recover and who will have chronic challenges, the CNRM is involved in the research of “novel treatments and regenerative strategies.” She explained the program is also working with the National Football League in TBI research with focus on prevention and treatment.
Dr. Sarah de la Motte, assistant research professor in the Injury Prevention Research Laboratory at USU, also discussed her work at the summit. The certified athletic trainer explained the lab’s research focuses on the prediction and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries for training and deployed troops. “Failure of physical resiliency” is how she defined musculoskeletal injury, and “every war fighter needs physical resiliency. We would like to prevent [its failure].”
“Musculoskeletal injury is the largest cause of lost duty and one of the most expensive problems that our war fighters face,” de la Motte said. “In 2010 alone, there were 1.6 million medical encounters [because of musculoskeletal injuries] each costing more than $100,000. Most of that is preventable, and we’re focused on things that we can look to change to prevent these kinds of injuries from happening.”
In line with that, Army Captains (Doctors) Bradley Havins and Donald Chaffee, third year family medicine residents at FBCH, gave an overview of their ongoing research concerning minimalist footwear in runners. Chaffee, an avid runner who has completed multiple marathons in minimalist shoes, explained the medical relevance of their study, saying, “In primary care for a lot of different conditions, we’re constantly telling our patients to be more active. Figuring out the best way for them to be more active and avoid injury is very important in our clinical study.”
Also at the summit, Army Capt. (Dr.) Matthew W. Miller gave an overview of the research he is co-investigating with a medical team that includes retired Army Col. (Dr.) Paul Pasquina, assessing “safety and functionality of implantable myoelectric sensors for upper extremity prosthetic control in transradial amputees.” He describes the research as “exciting and promising,” possibly capable of benefitting numerous wounded warriors.
Miller, a physical medicine physician, said major limb amputations as a result of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has exceeded 1,600, with 27 percent being below-the-knee amputations (transtibial), 29 percent transfemoral (above-the-knee), 17 percent upper extremity loss, and 26 percent multiple limb loss. He said one of the goals of their study is “optimizing” functions for those who suffer amputations. He added while Walter Reed Bethesda has “the most advanced prosthetic devices in the world, they can still be improved.”
Miller showed video of a wounded warrior with an implanted myoelectric sensor in his amputated limb who was able to control his prosthetic performing a series of accuracy tests, and able to pronate, supinate, flex and extend his fingers, and move his thumb.
“I’m thankful to have a young, motivated group of patients who are going to return to a high level of function, some in military service, and who are accepting of the technology,” Miller said. “They are really the ones pushing the envelope and allowing us to do these studies.”
Explaining another project, USU associate professor Dr. Teodor-D. Brumeanu, discussed his work with Dr. Sofia Casares focusing on development of fully human antibody-based vaccines.
Casares, an investigator at the Naval Medical Research Center/Walter Reed Army Institute of Research at Forest Glen, Md., and Brumeanu have generated humanized mouse models to develop a “human immune system,” with the rationale to overcome the limitation of pre-clinical animal models in vaccine study trials. The goal is for the “humanized mice” to develop “a fully functional human immune system able to respond upon immunization with human vaccines.”
In total, 12 presentations were reviewed at the fall research summit.
For more information concerning the Department of Research Programs at Walter Reed Bethesda, call Deborah Murphy at 301-295-8231 or email Deborah.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernard S. Little WRNMMC Public Affairs staff writer