UCSD leads nationwide tech project in pharmacogenomics

Depending on one’s genetic markup, individuals respond differently to different medications, which impacts drug effectiveness, safety and side affects. The study of these individual genetic differences (known as pharmacogenomics) is such a fast-moving field that there is currently a gap between healthcare providers’ knowledge and the expectations of patients regarding pharmacogenomics testing.

To address the issue, UCSD’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will collaborate with the American Pharmacists Association, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in a nationwide pharmacogenomics educational campaign to more than 100,000 pharmacy practitioners and students. The project is supported by more than $1 million in funding for three years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reprogramming cells

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have identified a combination of small molecules that significantly improve the reprogramming of adult cells into “pluripotent” stem cells capable of differentiating into many cell types. The discovery offers a new method using chemistry, instead of genetic manipulation, to generate stem cells from fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are an abundant cell type easily accessible from various tissues, including skin. The study is published in the journal “Cell Stem Cell.”

Hospital on a chip

With a $1.6-million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, a nanoengineering professor at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering will lead a project to create a “field hospital on a chip” that soldiers can wear on the battlefield.

The goal is an automated sense-and-treat system to continuously monitor a soldier’s sweat, tears or blood for biomarkers that signal common battlefield injuries such as trauma, shock, brain injury or fatigue. Once a battlefield injury is detected, the system would automatically administer medication, thus beginning treatment well before the soldier reaches a field hospital.