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University of Iowa News Release

June 15, 2005

Obermann Center Funds Studies Focused On Well-being Of Children, Families

Nine University of Iowa researchers have won grants from the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies for six projects studying children and families. These Center for Advanced Studies Spelman Rockefeller (CASSPR) Grants, which provide up to $9,000, are supported by the UI Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fund and by the UI Office of the Vice President for Research.

This year's recipients are: Lee Anna Clark, Grazyna Kochanska and Don Fowles, all from the Department of Psychology; James Hall of the Department of Pediatrics; Charmaine Kleiber and Debra Schutte of the College of Nursing; Kaaren Vargas of the College of Dentistry; Alexandre Vieira of the Department of Pediatrics; and Jerome Yankowitz of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Clark, Kohchanska and Fowles' project, "Predicting Adolescent Functioning from Early Childhood Temperament and Parental Caregiving Style," will extend two previous studies involving children and their mothers. The children who were first studied as infants and toddlers are currently 9-10 years old and 14-15 years old. The children's temperaments, their attachment styles to their mothers, their development of conscience/morality and maternal care giving styles were studied before. Now, the team will look at how some of those aspects change during adolescence and how they also influence an adolescent. For example, the researchers hope to clarify whether particular parenting styles are more or less effective in preventing adolescent internalizing (e.g., depression, anxiety) and externalizing (e.g., antisocial behavior) problems for toddlers of varying temperaments. Given that adolescence and young adulthood is the peak risk period for the development of internalizing and externalizing disorders, it is critical to ask whether or not those who are at risk can be predicted and whether prevention efforts could be instituted earlier in development.

Hall's project, "Connecting Substance Abuse and Violence among At-Risk Youth: An Assessment of a Hidden Problem," seeks to describe the relationship of substance abuse and violence among at-risk youth who receive services from the Adolescent Health & Resource Center, which is part of the Adolescent Medicine Program in the Department of Pediatrics. Although this relationship has been studied among adults, little is known about violence among 12- to 18-year olds who abuse substances. The main goal of the research is to develop evidence-based interventions for adults and adolescents who abuse substances. Research shows that substance abuse is not one monolithic disorder but varies by substance used and the characteristics of the user or abuser. Increased understanding of patterns of violence (both inflicted and perpetrated) in substance abuse treatment clientele could result in the development of violence prevention interventions in substance abuse settings.

Kleiber and Schutte will collaborate on a project, "Genetic Predictors of Pain in Children Undergoing Surgery of Idiopathic Scoliosis." Spinal surgery for treatment of idiopathic scoliosis is one of the most painful operations performed on children. Despite receiving appropriate doses of opioid medication, children frequently report severe pain levels during their hospital stays and can also develop chronic pain following surgery. Although research is already underway to discover why the usual post-operative pain medications do not alleviate pain for some of these children, further investigation is needed into how gene variants may interfere with opioid uptake or other pain pathways.

Vargas' project, "A Randomized, Prospective Study to Assess the Efficacy of Sodium Hypochlorite Pulpotomies in Primary Molars," will examine two approaches to treating caries, or decay, to children's primary teeth. Studies have shown that children affected with severe decay suffer from pain, failure to thrive and lack of sleep. Parents have also been shown to be affected due to loss of income from missed workdays and increase in familial stress. When caries progresses into the nerve of the tooth, the treatment of choice is pulpotomy, or baby root canal. In this study, ferric sulfate and sodium hypochlorite will be evaluated as pulpotomy medicaments in primary molars. Data obtained from the study will increase treatment options available to pediatric and general dentists for treatment of primary teeth with caries.

Vieira's project, "Accessing a Large Population to Study Genetics of Dental Caries," will look at another element of tooth decay: heredity. The study will focus on a population from the Philippines that presents high caries prevalence and is under almost no influence of other environmental factors, such as fluoride exposure or diet habit changes, both of which can prevent or contribute to caries. The 5 to 10 percent of the Filipino population who are caries-free are likely to present with protective genetic factors against caries. The ultimate aim of the study is to provide new insights for preventive strategies against caries that will benefit children up to 12 years of age.

Yankowitz's project is "Association of Haplotype Tagging Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (htSNPs) of Fms-like Tyrosine Kinase 1 with Susceptibility to Preeclampsia." Preeclampsia (PE) is a disease specific to pregnancy that can affect the entire body. It is characterized by increased blood pressure and leakage of protein into the urine. In severe cases, the woman can have seizures or serious blood disorders. PE affects 3 to 10 percent of all pregnancies in developed countries and accounts for 15 percent of maternal mortality in the U.S. The etiology of PE remains elusive, but recent studies suggest that several related molecules, including fms-like tyrosine kinase 1, may be involved. This study will provide vital information to the field of PE research by confirming association of a gene with clear pathophysiologic connection to angiogenesis to PE.

Many CASSPR grants are intended to support the early stages of research projects so that researchers can cull enough data to be competitive when seeking funds from external granting agencies like the National Institutes of Health and others. Jay Semel, director of the Obermann Center, said that since its inception the CASSPR program has resulted in numerous scholarly publications and almost $18 million in external grants.

In addition to supporting this year's research seed grants, the Obermann Center's Spelman Rockefeller funds will support an NSF conference, "Connectionist and Dynamic Systems Approaches to Development: On the Cusp of a New Grand Theory or Still Too Distributed?" organized by John Spencer, associate professor of Psychology, from June 19-22. The conference will examine two increasingly important theories of child development. For more information on the conference, see

Local community and professional groups who wish to invite CASSPR grant recipients to speak at their meetings about completed projects should contact the Obermann Center at 319-335-4034.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Writer: Jennifer New