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Med school gets grant for skeletal research

An $11.1 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources will allow researchers from the Alpert Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital to work together to develop cures for skeletal diseases. The grant will partially fund the new Center of Biomedical Research Excellence - a multi-disciplinary project that will bring biologists, engineers and clinicians together.

"I think the grant is really going to provide an environment for researchers in different disciplines to come together on the same problem," said Professor of Medical Science Qian Chen, director of the COBRE project. "Before, all those researchers were in different (departments). This grant will provide money for expansion of the lab space so they can come together."

$5 million of the grant will go towards the renovations and expansions of the already existing research center located in the Coro West building, part of Rhode Island Hospital, in downtown Providence. New lab space will be constructed on the fourth floor of the building, where the orthopedics research laboratory is located. Chen expects that construction will begin soon and will take five years to complete.

The rest of the grant will go toward mentoring programs and advancing five specific projects for the school and hospital. Two of these projects will concentrate on skeletal development in childhood, another two on joint cartilage degeneration and adult skeletal diseases and the fifth on repairing and rebuilding cartilage joints.

These projects and increased space will provide more options for the hospital and for University graduate students, undergraduates and professors.

"Rhode Island Hospital is a teaching hospital for Brown faculty, so having been awarded this grant opens up a lot of opportunities to students who are interested in researching in the area," Chen.

Beyond the educational benefits the COBRE will offer Brown, the new center will also set in motion important medical possibilities.

"There is very little research in this area of skeletal disease and much still needs to be done," Chen said. "As people are living longer and longer, almost everyone will eventually get arthritis and there is currently no pharmaceutical drug to deal with it. This grant will be a huge help to fill that gap in research."

"The research undertaken with this funding has the potential to help many Rhode Islanders and others across the nation who live with some of life's most painful and debilitating joint diseases," said Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in an Oct. 29 University press release.

This is Rhode Island Hospital's second COBRE grant - the first was for cancer research in 2002 - and one of six COBRE grants in the state of Rhode Island.

"Being awarded the COBRE grant is helping to bring all the medical research work in the state together," Chen said. "We had a symposium in the Rhode Island convention center for all the COBRE grant winners and we are trying to work and communicate together - which will allow a more conducive environment for medical advancements."



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