Research Update

November 2018

Clinical Study Participation Increases at ACRI 

ACRI researchers are conducting a wider variety of studies offering patients and their families further opportunities to join in clinical research.

The number of participants in pediatric clinical research at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute has steadily increased over the past few years. The number of new clinical studies ACRI has initiated has increased annually, and for 2018, ACRI is on track to surpass previous years with over 60 new studies added.

In response to the expanding areas of research at ACRI, the Institute has boosted its outreach to families throughout the state to raise awareness of the importance of clinical research and to express the need for continued participation in this valuable work. Led by a new full-time recruiting coordinator, recruiting activities, from health fairs to baseball games, have increased this year. These efforts have led interested families to register for ACRI’s clinical trials database and text service. Families are also learning more about high-quality clinical research led by our pediatric clinical researchers through ACRI’s website and social media.

ACRI researchers are conducting a wider variety of studies offering patients and their families further opportunities to join in clinical research. Recently, new research studies have begun regarding scoliosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell disease. These exciting new areas are in addition to ACRI’s clinical research programs in food allergy, asthma, and infectious disease. ACRI researchers are adding more studies than they are closing. This additional research also requires recruitment of more Arkansas families to join clinical studies.

Numbers of Clinical Research Participants from Arkansas Counties from 2016 -2018

The increase and variety in clinical research studies and the positive outreach directly to families are clear factors in developing an environment encouraging participation in clinical research. As a result, more than 750 patients are enrolled in current clinical studies from a pool of over 5,800 individuals from approximately 2,300 registered households. The appeal for clinical trial participants has been heard throughout the state. In fact, participants in clinical trials at ACRI come from 71 of 75 Arkansas counties. In addition, families from over 20 other states have joined clinical studies at ACRI.

Find Out About Opportunities to Participate in Research

Information on currently enrolling clinical studies at ACRI is available at ACH's Clinical Trials Webpage. Interested families can voluntarily join ACRI’s Research Registry at to be contacted about pediatric clinical research. To receive Text Alerts about currently enrolling clinical research studies, interested persons can text RESEARCH to 411247 (message and data rates may apply; terms and conditions at

Highlights from the Arkansas Vascular Biology Program

Gresham Richter, MD, is an Arkansas Children's physician, researcher, and director of the Arkansas Vascular Biology Program.

Dr. Gresham Richter, Director of the Arkansas Vascular Biology Program, a research center dedicated to investigating normal and abnormal vascular development, at ACRI announced two publications of note from the group and their collaborators.
First, the Journal of Biophotonics selected a review, “Current status, pitfalls and future directions in the diagnosis and therapy of lymphatic malformation,” from the group as an Editor’s Choice article. The recognition also includes open access to the article. The authors discuss methods to bolster the assessment of the microvasculature of lymphatic malformations. These tools include photoacoustics, low-toxicity nanoparticles, and optical clearing as approaches to overcome existing challenges in the examination of lymphatic channels in vivo. In addition, they discuss using photothermal scanning and flow cytometry in combination with photoacoustic techniques as a possible versatile tool for lymphatic-related clinical applications, potentially leading to a single diagnostic and therapeutic platform to overcome limitations in current imaging techniques and permit targeted theranostics of microcystic lymphatic malformations. Support for the publication included funding from the UAMS Translational Research Institute (1U54TR001629-01A1), National Science Foundation, Liam’s Land for Lymphatic Malformation Research, and Arkansas Biosciences Institute.
Published in Lymphatic Research and Biology, the research team further discusses gene expression differences among lymphatic malformations, which are subdivided into macrocystic and microcystic lesions based upon the predominant size of the cysts involved. The researchers discuss significant differences in clinical characteristics, treatment outcomes, and prognosis between macrocytic and microcytic disease suggesting variation in underlying biologic and genetic influences. They found that although microcystic and macrocystic pediatric lymphatic malformations are histologically and physiologically similar, they may occur under the influence of vastly different biological pathways and mechanisms of action. Support for this publication came from Liam’s Land for Lymphatic Malformation Research and the Center for Translational Pediatric Research (P20GM121293) at ACRI. 

  • Sun RW, Tuchin VV, Zharov VP, Galanzha EI, Richter GT. Current status, pitfalls and future directions in the diagnosis and therapy of lymphatic malformation. J Biophotonics. 2018 Aug;11(8):e201700124. 
  • Gomez-Acevedo H, Dornhoffer JR, Stone A, Dai Y, Richter GT. Gene expression differences in pediatric lymphatic malformations: size really matters. Lymphat Res Biol. 2018 Aug;16(4):347-52.

Researcher Spotlight:  Stewart MacLeod, PhD

Dr. Stewart MacLeod is the Director of the CTPR (Center for Translational Pediatric Research) Genomics Core at ACRI. The Genomics Core analyses biological samples to sequence DNA or RNA content in order to understand the role of the genome (the genes of a cell or organism) on the metabolic state of the cell or tissue. This technique is useful in determining if a medication or other treatment is effective, thereby allowing a researcher to determine whether a drug is beneficial or not. Analysis of microbiome samples by sequencing provides insight into how bacteria in the gut may influence a number of conditions, including cancer or obesity. The laboratory techniques and instrumentation he uses today are vastly more advanced than when he first began his career 40 years ago.

Dr. MacLeod’s interest in science began in the eighth grade in Danvers, Massachusetts. His chemistry teacher enlivened the classroom with hands-on demonstrations, captivating the imaginations of him and his classmates. This interest led Dr. MacLeod to study chemistry and microbiology at the University of Massachusetts.

Recently, Dr. MacLeod spoke with science students at Central High School in Little Rock. He described to them the advancements in science and medicine over the lives of these teenagers. He told them that when he was their age, the structure of DNA was known, but when they were born, the Human Genome Program had just sequenced the human genome after more than a decade of work worldwide. Today, researchers know more about the functions of genes, significantly impacting the study of medicine and life sciences.

To explain the impact of this knowledge, he described a newborn that began having seizures days after birth. Using knowledge of the genome and today’s technology, an analysis of the baby’s genes was conducted in a day’s time and revealed a variant associated with a seizure disorder related to Vitamin B6 deficiency. The healthcare team was able to treat the child and resolve the seizures, and with continued treatment, the baby will grow and have a normal life. An analysis in the past may have taken 2 weeks at a minimum and perhaps too late for a positive outcome for the baby.

Dr. MacLeod notes that the advancements in the laboratory generate an enormous amount of data for scientists to review. He suggested to the Central High students that those with an interest in mathematics and computer science consider study and careers in biostatistics and bioinformatics. Biostatisticians integrate statistics with biology, and bioinformaticians incorporate computer science and information technology with molecular biology. These are growing fields that require more talented graduates to conduct research in the areas of biology, medicine, and public health.

At the Genomics Core, Dr. MacLeod provides sample analysis for approximately 30 researchers annually. These researchers are at ACRI and at UAMS and other colleges and universities throughout the state. As not all researchers can afford the very expensive instrumentation, equipment, and staff to analyze these samples, the Genomics Core provides an efficient means to advance medical research at Arkansas Children’s and beyond.

Researcher Spotlight: Eugenia Carvalho, Ph.D., MSc

Dr. Eugenia Carvalho is an Instructor in the Department of Geriatrics of UAMS and a Project Leader of the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention (P20GM109096) at ACRI. She has been at ACRI since 2013, first as a Visiting Scientist and later as an Instructor.

The research priority of Dr. Carvalho is on the role of the adipocyte as an endocrine and inflammatory organ as it actively secretes biomarkers implicated in chronic diseases, such as insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes. Physical activity, nutrition, or medications/drugs can easily modulate adipose tissue, and the interaction between adipocytes and other organs is particularly important in populations at risk for the development of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases, including children.

Dr. Carvalho’s project at the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention (CCOP) will examine the underlying metabolism and physiology of obesity in children to identify new markers to target therapies for children who face the highest risk for obesity. It will be the first study to evaluate obese pre-pubertal children to find metabolic parameters to better understand the pathophysiology behind obesity and insulin resistance in children. The research aims to determine whether the proposed markers can be useful in predicting type 2 diabetes development. Her CCOP mentor is Dr. Robert Wolfe, Professor of Geriatrics at UAMS.

As obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, Dr. Carvalho’s work is relevant in understanding the implications of the excess adiposity from a very young age and its effects on the physiological changes and mechanisms that may lead to insulin resistance and even diabetes at an early age. Her research is innovative in that the use of newly developed technologies make it possible to evaluate oxidative capacity by high-resolution respirometry in cells and tissues and that very few studies have applied this technology to studies of obese children. “The main goal is to understand how the energy and metabolism of circulating blood cells can give us information on the health status of an individual already at an early age,” said Dr. Carvalho, “It would be very valuable if this could be translated into the clinic.”

President's Choice Publications

The following articles were selected as this month's feature publications.

  • Miklavcic JJ, Badger TM, Bowlin AK, Matazel KS, Cleves MA, LeRoith T, Saraf MK, Chintapalli SV, Piccolo BD, Shankar K, Yeruva L.  Human Breast-Milk Feeding Enhances the Humoral and Cell-Mediated Immune Response in Neonatal Piglets.  J Nutr. 2018 Nov 1;148(11):1860-1870. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxy170.

  • Kennedy JL, Kurten RC, McCullough S, Panettieri RA Jr, Koziol-White C, Jones SM, Caid K, Gill PS, Roberts D, Jaeschke H, McGill MR, James L.  Acetaminophen is both bronchodilatory and bronchoprotective in human precision cut lung slice airways.  Xenobiotica. 2018 Oct 17:1-29. doi: 10.1080/00498254.2018.1536814. 

Recent Grant Activity

Extramural Grant Awards

Principal Investigator Agency Project Title Project Period Total Funding
Aline Andres NIH/U of Kansas Medical Center Growth and adiposity in newborns: the influence of prenatal DHA supplementation 8/2018-6/2023 $43,187
Umesh Wankhade NIH/U of Utah Biological signatures of blueberry derived microbial metabolites 9/2018-8/2021 $93,152


Proposal Submissions

PI Agency Project Title Project Period Total Funding
Ashely Acheson NIH Binge drinking and adolescent neurodevelopment: translational miniature pig model 7/2019-6/2021 $435,485
Kartik Shankar NIH/U of Nebraska Obesity Factors that Regulate Placental Lipid Metabolism 7/2019-6/2024 $111,827
Laxmi Yeruva NIH Extracellular vesicles miRNA cargo induces inflammation during chlamydial infection (R21) 7/2019-6/2021 $422,424
Nirmala Parajuli DOD Novel role of heat shock protein (Hsp) 72 during renal cold-storage and transplantation 5/2019-10/2020 $200,000
Sree Vamsee Chintapalli NIH Mapping the oxygen exit pathways for myoglobin bound to lipids and lipid derivatives 7/2019-6/2021 $427,186
Xiawei Ou NIH Effects of maternal obesity and inflammation on offspring brain development 7/2019-6/2024 $3,767,647

Clinical Trial Activity

Principal Investigator


Project Description

Project Period

Total Funding

Ronald Sanders


Tracheal intubations

8/1/18 - 1/31/2020


 Kevin Bielamowicz



8/1/18 -


Vikki Stefans



9/1/2018 -


Shelley Crary

NIH/All Children's


9/1/2018 -


Paula Grigorian

NIH/Salus University


9/1/2018 -



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