Research Programs and Centers

Over 120 pediatric researchers with expertise and experience that span the breadth of medical disciplines comprise ACRI’s roster of investigators who work to fulfill its mission to improve children’s health, development, and well-being through high-quality research. Someof our major research programs are described below.

Access to Healthy Foods Research Group

The mission of the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group is to build evidence, capacity, and support for an equitable food system that fosters the health and wellness of children, families, and communities in Arkansas. The work of the ATHF Research Group focuses on the development, delivery, and evaluation of individual and environmental-level interventions such as farm to school, school and community gardens, and support for increased local and healthy food production, distribution, and consumption. 

Acetaminophen Toxicity Laboratory

Acetaminophen, the most commonly drug used in the treatment of pain and fever worldwide, is a major cause of acute liver failure in the US. Although generally considered safe when used in manufacturer recommended doses, acetaminophen at excessive doses can result in fatal liver injury. Current diagnosis of acetaminophen toxicity is measurement of blood levels of acetaminophen within 24 hours of overdose. Published findings from ACHRI’s Acetaminophen Toxicity Research Laboratory show that acetaminophen adducts are present for up to 12 days following large overdoses in children and adults broadening the diagnostic window. Under funds from a Small Business Technology Transfer award by NIH, our investigators are developing approaches for the measurement of adducts that could be widely used in hospitals.

Arkansas Center for Advancing Pediatric Therapeutics

The Arkansas Center for Advancing Pediatric Therapeutics (ArCAPT) was formed to enable the participation of diverse groups of infants, children and adolescents in expertly designed, innovative clinical trials of the highest quality and scientific value. We will leverage our unique patient base, intellectual capital and established inter-institutional resources to enhance pediatric clinical trials funded by the NIH and other supported research. Our established clinical trial enterprise and cadre of senior pediatric clinical investigators will enable us to explore the impact and intersection of ontogeny, environmental exposure and disease in four high priority areas: upper and lower airway disease; obesity; neurodevelopment and pre-, peri- and postnatal development. ArCAPT will improve the health of children of Arkansas and beyond by systematically addressing the unique health challenges of IDeA state populations. To learn more about Ar CAPT, CLICK HERE

Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center

The Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center is currently one of six national human nutrition centers funded through the United States Department of Agriculture. This center focuses specifically on diet and nutritional status of human development, using state-of-the-art procedures, equipment and facilities to determine how dietary factors and nutrition can affect brain development, learning, and attention span, as well as how early dietary intervention can prevent diseases of development and aging.

Asthma and Respiratory Disorders Research Program

The Asthma and Respiratory Disorders Research Program was established to address the growing problem of asthma morbidity among children.  In addition to strong clinical services in asthma and allergic disease, this program provides novel research approaches to addressing pathogenesis of disease, exploring new treatment modalities through clinical trials and translational research, and improving education and healthcare delivery through community-based health outcomes research.  The Lung Cell Biology Laboratory, through its collaborative NIH funding and multi-disciplinary investigative team, employs novel human model systems to investigate disease pathogenesis and explore potential targets for novel therapies.  The NIH-funded rural health asthma program, RADAR (Reducing Asthma Disparities in Arkansas), utilizes state-of-the-art technology including telehealth and mobile application systems to target high-risk, under-served populations through its innovative rural healthcare delivery research.

Autism Research Program

At ACHRI, leaders in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are conducting basic, clinical, and translational research to help children affected by ASDs and their families. Their research works towards a deeper understanding of the psychological, behavioral, and physiological mechanisms that cause ASD and prevent recovery. Current research projects include measuring the impact of oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and environmental stressors on ASD. The clinical program incorporates investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored clinical trials, development of an autism clinical diagnosis and care system, and collaborations with neurologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, geneticists, and others. Together, these efforts will improve the development of novel behavioral and medical therapies to accelerate and optimize recovery of children diagnosed with ASD and develop strategies for preventing ASD from developing in high-risk children.

Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

The Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention seeks to reduce the prevalence of birth defects in Arkansas and the nation and to reduce the economic, social, and psychological impact of birth defects at a state and national level. To accomplish this goal, the Center conducts research on the etiology and prevention of birth defects through the successful completion of high-caliber epidemiologic studies. In addition, the Center is establishing a Genomic Research Laboratory Core that will support the Center in its epidemiologic research. These resources will include high-throughput genotyping, mutation and polymorphism detection, physical mapping, sequencing and expression analysis.

Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention

Building on 20 years of research investigating strategies for preventing and reducing childhood obesity, Dr. Judith Weber, Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine, UAMS, received a $9.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a center for the study of childhood obesity located at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute. Called the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention (CCOP), it is one of the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), the first of its kind to be located at ACRI. In its first five years, a COBRE focuses on developing research infrastructure and providing junior investigators with formal mentoring and research project funding to help them acquire preliminary data to successfully compete for independent research grant support in the specific thematic area. Following the initial five-year award period, COBRE grants can be renewed for an additional two five-year periods for another $15 million.  To learn more about the CCOP, CLICK HERE.

Center for Translational Pediatric Research

The Center for Translational Pediatric Research (CTPR) seeks to investigate how pediatric diseases develop from a systems biology and mechanistic approach, with the ultimate goal of identifying the intersections of disease and development, which will produce targets for therapeutic intervention and the development of new treatments. Systems biology is an integrated approach examining all events within cells, tissues, and organisms that lead to a particular outcome. By applying a systems biology approach to the study of pediatric diseases, the CTPR hopes to expand existing knowledge of pediatric disease development and contribute to new therapeutic targets. The long term goal of the CTPR is to build an innovative, multi-disciplinary pediatric research center that utilizes cutting-edge systems biology technologies and state-of-the-art translational research to study pediatric diseases.  To learn more about the CTPR, CLICK HERE.

Environmental Exposure Research Program

An environmental exposure research program aimed at diminishing the impact of pollutants on human health and the environment was initiated using funds from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI), the major research component of the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000. The program, established at the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, fostered key collaborations across the state and nation with researchers at institutions including Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The research team is examining how exposure to common environmental toxicants triggers autoimmune disease and how developmental or early life exposure to certain chemicals can increase risk of adult disease. 

Food Allergy Research Program

The Food Allergy Research Program at ACHRI has a long history of excellence in clinical and translational research for more than two decades.  During the past 15 years the food allergy research program has focused on developing novel therapeutics for children and adults with food allergy through innovative, multi-center studies within the NIH/NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research and the NIH/NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network, as well as through research funded through private foundation grants and industry-sponsored clinical trials.  This collaborative work has resulted in significant progress toward effective immunotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of food allergy.  This multi-disciplinary team of investigators has also established the Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders Clinic and Research Program with the key mission to improve care, diagnostic capabilities and treatment for children with eosinophilic esophagitis through integrated network studies and the use of novel model systems. 

Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit

In 1993, ACHRI was selected to house one of the first Pediatric Pharmacology Research Units (PPRU) funded by the NIH. These centers were established in response to concerns that many medications commonly used to treat a variety of childhood illnesses have not undergone carefully controlled clinical trials to establish dosing, safety, and effectiveness in children. The PPRU Network partners with the pharmaceutical industry and other investigators nationally and locally to generate dosing, safety, and efficacy data for the use of drugs in children. ACHRI’s PPRU is a collaborative effort with numerous pediatric investigators from the following specialties: neurology, critical care medicine, pulmonary, infectious disease, nephrology, cardiology, neonatology, and general pediatrics.