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Faculty News

UAB enrolls nation’s first patient in Phase III drug trial for preeclampsia
UAB enrolls nation’s first patient in Phase III drug trial for preeclampsia
Best of 2014 2If successful, the PRESERVE-1 trial could be a significant clinical breakthrough in the treatment of the condition by prolonging pregnancy and improving outcomes.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has enrolled the first patient in the United States in a Phase III clinical trial for a drug to treat preeclampsia in pregnant women that, if successful, would be a significant clinical breakthrough for reducing pre-term births and infant mortality.

ATryn®, or antithrombin recombinant, will be administered to treat preeclampsia in pregnant women during the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy as part of the PRESERVE-1 trial. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial will assess whether ATryn, produced by rEVO Biologics Inc., prolongs pregnancy in mothers with early-onset preeclampsia and reduces the high rates of perinatal mortality and disability it causes.

“Currently, when patients have preeclampsia, all we have to offer is delivery of the baby as the ultimate treatment,” said Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in UAB’s School of Medicine and a lead investigator for the trial. “If preeclampsia presents early in the pregnancy, it has serious implications for both mother and baby. For the target group, women in their 24th to 28th week of pregnancy, this could be a substantial advance in the treatment of preeclampsia and significantly improve outcomes for mother and baby.”

Preeclampsia is a complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to another organ system, often the kidneys, that usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had previously been normal. Even a slight rise in blood pressure may signal preeclampsia, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious — even fatal — complications for mother and baby.

UAB Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists, located in the UAB Women and Infants Center, is one of the nation’s most advanced and one of only 14 centers nationwide to participate in the NIH-sponsored Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, which has helped produce groundbreaking achievements in high-risk pregnancy research. Specialists — available 24 hours a day — have access to treatments that often are not available elsewhere. UAB is expected to be a leader in the PRESERVE-1 trial, which will enroll 120 women at centers around the country during the next 18 months.

atrynThe PRESERVE-1 trial will assess the efficacy, safety and pharmacokinetics of ATryn in addition to expectant management for the treatment of early onset preeclampsia. Efficacy will be assessed by comparing the difference in gestational age from the time of randomization into the trial until delivery of the baby in women given ATryn to those given placebo. Equally important, the effect of ATryn on neonatal clinical outcomes also will be assessed.

Preeclampsia occurs in approximately 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies and typically presents after the 20th week of pregnancy. The cause is unknown, but the number of cases is growing. The incidence of the disorder has increased by approximately 25 percent since 1987.

In preeclampsia, abnormal development of blood vessels from the uterus to the placenta may decrease the flow of blood, nutrients and oxygen from mother to baby, placing the baby at risk for prematurity and abnormal fetal growth. The lining of the blood vessels also experience inflammation that extends throughout the mother’s blood vessels and internal organs. As a result, high blood pressure, stroke, seizures and liver and kidney problems can occur.

The difficultly for physicians and patients is that most often there are no symptoms initially. Preeclampsia can be discovered as part of routine monitoring, but women need to watch for possible warning signs, including headaches, visual changes, upper abdominal pain, excessive weight gain and bleeding.

“As a physician faced with the difficult challenge of managing preeclampsia early in pregnancy, I see firsthand the significant need for new medicines to safely extend pregnancy and give a baby more time to develop in utero,” Tita said. “PRESERVE-1 is an important Phase III trial to assess the potential benefits of ATryn in a clear area of unmet medical need.”

Physicians and health professionals can refer patients by calling UAB Medical Information Service via Telephone, a 24-hour service, at 205-934-6478 or 1-800-UAB-MIST.

UAB will showcase new way to secure mobile devices at DHS conference
UAB will showcase new way to secure mobile devices at DHS conference
Computer and Information Sciences researchers introduce a secure framework for protecting users while employing apps accessing location information.

hassanUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham researchers, led by Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences will demonstrate their technology for secure location provenance for mobile devices at the 2014 Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Showcase in Washington, D.C., this week.

This project was funded by a $583,000 grant from DHS to Hasan and his team in the UAB Secure and Trustworthy Computing Lab, or SECRETLab. The project resulted in several conference and journal publications, plus the creation of software libraries and applications for mobile phones and the Google Glass and Google Watch wearable platforms.

Location-reporting services permit mobile devices to access various services based on the physical location of the users. Path-critical applications, such as supply-chain verification, require secure location proofs and secure chronological ordering of the proofs. It can be a significant challenge for users to prove their presence and the path of travel in a privacy-protected and secure manner.

Hasan’s team at SECRETLab is introducing WORAL, a secure, collusion-resistant, asserted and verifiable decentralized framework for location provenance. WORAL is a complete, ready-to-deploy framework for generating witness-oriented, asserted and privacy-protected location provenance records. An externally authorized auditor can later verify the proofs and their order. WORAL has been developed for use in low-resource devices. The framework features an Android mobile app to request location proofs and manage the provenance records. The app allows profile management and automatically syncs the settings with the server. Users can easily export proofs with personal privacy settings.

The UAB researchers also provided a Google Glass and Google Watch extension for WORAL users. The users, location authorities and auditors also are provided with an easy-to-use and fully featured Web-based interface for account management.

The developed technology will be demonstrated to the public during the DHS showcase this week.

Hasan is also affiliated with the Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensic Research.

Harper to serve on VA National Academic Affiliations Council
Harper to serve on VA National Academic Affiliations Council
School of Nursing dean receives second appointment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014.

doreen harperBy: Jennifer Lollar

Doreen C. Harper, Ph.D., Dean and Fay B. Ireland Chair in Nursing of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, has been appointed to serve a two-year term on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Academic Affiliations Council by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald.

The NAAC will provide a forum for joint planning and coordination between VA and the nation’s health professions schools and universities. The council will advise Secretary McDonald and Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for Health, on ways to further enhance what has become the largest public-private partnership in VA history and a cornerstone of American health professions education.

This is Harper’s second Department of Veterans Affairs appointment in 2014. Earlier this year she was selected for a two-year appointment on the Veterans Affairs Special Medical Advisory Group. As a member of that federal advisory committee, Harper provides advice to the secretary of Veterans Affairs and the undersecretary for Health on matters relating to the care and treatment of veterans and other matters pertinent to the operations of the Veterans Health Administration.

The UAB School of Nursing has significant ties to the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans health care and offers or participates in a number of programs geared toward veterans and their families:

  • The Birmingham VA Medical Center and UAB School of Nursing are partners in the VA Nursing Academic Partnerships in Graduate Education, the only one of its kind. Created with a five-year grant from the Veterans Health Administration to the Birmingham VAMC, the program will put 48 new psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners into the VA workforce during the next five years.
  • The school also has partnered with the Birmingham VAMC on a residency program to put more mental health nurse practitioners into the VA pipeline. The program, created by a three-year pilot grant from the Veterans Health Administration Office of Academic Affiliation to the Birmingham VAMC, is one of only four in the country.
  • The School of Nursing joined the ranks of hundreds of nursing schools and organizations in April 2012 in pledging support to the Joining Forces campaign and is dedicated to educating nursing students on post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other unique health care needs of veterans and their families.
  • The School of Nursing has a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop a program, Veterans Career Advancement in Nursing, to help veterans with military medical experience more easily transition into the nursing profession.
  • A DVD developed by the School of Nursing and the Birmingham VAMC contains three clinically relevant mental health scenarios for nurses that simulate issues on a typical VA medical-surgical floor. The DVD, accompanied by a guidebook and information necessary for obtaining 1.0 CEU, is used by VA medical centers nationwide.
  • Through UAB’s role as one of eight VA National Quality Scholars Program sites in the United States, School of Nursing Professor Pat Patrician, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, and School of Medicine Professor Carlos Estrada, M.D., M.S., are senior scholars for the Birmingham VAMC site. VAQS promotes leadership in quality-improvement research and emphasizes interprofessional learning. The program offers fellowships to pre- and post-doctoral nurses and physicians. 
  • The UAB School of Nursing offers “Caring for America’s Heroes,” a distance-accessible elective course to improve understanding of veterans’ health issues and the Veterans Health Administration that can be applied to the care of veterans across a variety of settings.
  • Working together, the school and the Birmingham VAMC have developed and use clinical simulation scenarios to highlight the unique health care needs of veterans. The scenarios include burn, gunshot wound, automobile accident and OB simulations. The benefits of simulation training include practicing and making mistakes in a risk-free environment and identifying sources of error in care processes prior to practice.


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