The University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES) is designed to facilitate discovery and new understandings of environmental factors in disease initiation, progression, and outcomes as well as their community impacts and to advance the careers of scientists who are interested in tackling challenging environmental health questions.
A critical element to this endeavor is development of a well-equipped Integrative Health Sciences Facility Core (IHSFC) to facilitate and enable the development and conduct of translational studies based on the current environmental health research base and on emerging new scientific directions as well. The Center draws its theme in part from the challenges endemic to the disadvantaged rural population in southeastern Kentucky and the documented health disparities in this area of Appalachian Kentucky that have been linked to environmental factors.
The proposed IHSFC serves as the primary institutional access point to specifically facilitate environmentally related translational and clinical studies, providing the critical central infrastructure to enable transformation and expansion of a portfolio of projects focused on environmental health. The IHSFC offers investigators guidance, assistance, and operational support for multi-directional translational and clinical research development. To deliver this support effectively, the Core will also function as a model for integration of other UK-CARES core resources and of cooperating UK campus centers to meet the needs of Center investigators. Further, the IHSFC will leverage resources relevant to our target communities. Thus, this core provides critical linkages to other UK-CARES cores and has collaborative connections to relevant cooperating UK centers and their facilities: UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, NCI-designated Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, and the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health, which is located in the Kentucky River District to best serve the needs of the focus communities.
Participation by these four entities will facilitate priority access by UK-CARES members to such services as study design, regulatory support, data management and clinical informatics, subject recruitment and retention, specimen management, and cell and animal systems support. The central goal of the IHSFC is to enable progressive translational, clinical, and population-based research projects that address environmental health concerns in our region. We will achieve this goal via these specific aims: 1) provide support for collaborative and team-driven efforts among basic scientists, clinical researchers, community engagement experts, and public health researchers; 2) provide and manage resources to facilitate the progression of environmental health sciences from basic mechanistic and toxicological research to translational programs that improve public health and clinical practice in our affected communities; 3) facilitate ‘reverse-translational’ research activities by addressing community concerns or community-level study findings and developing programs to stimulate preclinical research activities.