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Uncovering easily overlooked medical research at UC

by Dama Ewbank

Medical research with a UC connection is happening everywhere — not just on the Uptown Campus. At first glance, however, it doesn’t always look like research.

Many times, research happens in real-world settings through a more applied approach, which often leads to new technologies or inventions. Other times, research occurs when small changes, either desired or unforeseen, are made, and results are simply observed.

Regardless of how it happens, UC scientists are striving to improve health care and treatment through research in the community, in nearby neighborhoods and at the sites of our partners and affiliates. And we’re talking about research you never dreamed about.

Sky-high study

About 7 miles north of UC’s Uptown Campus, researchers with UC’s Institute for Military Medicine (IMM) are conducting “sky-high” research.

The installation of a research-grade altitude chamber on UC’s Reading Campus allows scientists to study the conditions of high altitude right here at ground level in Cincinnati. Weighing more than 5,000 pounds, the chamber can simulate conditions up to 25,000 feet above sea level.

Funding from the U.S. Air Force enables institute researchers to investigate the unique environment of aeromedical evacuation at high altitudes, including both low air pressure and low-oxygen content. Investigators are currently studying the effect of high altitude on traumatic brain injury, pneumonia and medical devices.

Clinic with an ‘at home’ feeling

When a construction project forced Dr. Jeffrey Schlaudecker’s dementia consultation clinic to relocate to a two-bedroom condominium within Maple Knoll Village, an assisted-living village, he saw a change in his patients. Once agitated during consultations, they now relaxed in the new space and sat calmly in the waiting area.

Schlaudecker, a UC assistant professor of geriatrics, credits the “homey” condominium, which includes a front porch, a fireplace with hearth, soft lamps and large windows, with reducing their anxiety.

He has published his findings about patient comfort and dementia care, but also UC geriatricians, fellows, residents, students and pharmacists hold clinic in a setting more matched to the needs of patients.

Wearable robotics

Patients with a spinal cord injury now have the chance to stand up and walk, thanks to a brand new device at UC Health’s Drake Center, the first facility in the region and the 20th in the world to offer the Ekso Bionics exo-skeleton device.

An anonymous donor, himself paraplegic, helped to bring the technology to the University of Cincinnati health system. Since its debut in late 2012, it serves as a catalyst for the development of a comprehensive neuro-recovery program at the UC Neuroscience Institute.

Drake Center also expects Ekso Bionics to be incorporated into rehabilitation research and teaching programs within UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences.

Takin’ it to the streets

Nursing doctoral student Georgann Kincer hopes her work at a fire training facility in Fairfield, Ohio, will reduce injury and deaths in the line of duty. With support from UC and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Kincer is using electrocardiogram (ECG) technology to record heart activity of firefighters during live burn scenarios.

Other vitals — such as blood pressure, temperature and balance — are being studied with the goal of using the data to help incident commanders and paramedics on the scene of fires better analyze firefighters’ health and predict potential injury or death.

On the whole, it’s research that’s impacting your family by making care more comfortable for age-related disease. And studies are being aimed at improving care and treatment for those whose jobs put them in harm’s way every day.

UC research is everywhere. You might not see it, but you need to know about it.

Dama Ewbank is assistant director of public relations for the Academic Health Center.