Physiologists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine integrate molecular, cellular and systems biology to discover how life works. Our department has especially strong traditions in cardiovascular-renal biology, neuroscience and reproductive biology.
Our graduate students, post- doctoral fellows and faculty are working to unravel mysteries in the following areas:
- signaling in heart and vascular smooth muscle
- brain development
- muscle contraction
- cellular communication
- hormone action
- learning and memory
- salt and water balance
- synaptic transmission
We are helping to uncover the causes and mechanisms of human disease, including Alzheimer's, cancer, epilepsy, heart failure, hypertension, infertility, muscular dystrophy and stroke.
We invite you to join us and make exploration and discovery your life's work.
Faculty Profile: Scott Thompson, PhD
A Perfect Ten: Grant Success is Within Our Reach
On June 27th, 2014 Dr. Robert Bloch of the physiology department, was notified that his R21 grant application had not only been well received by the NIH, but had scored a perfect 10 impact rating upon review. Ecstatic, he rattled off congratulatory notes to all personnel involved and left for the weekend with an excitement rarely witnessed within the halls of HSF I. Why such enthusiasm? It’s no secret that the economic climate in recent years has adversely affected funding for scientific research and that competition for those limited funds is at its peak. As young scientists we are regularly reminded of how tenuous our funding may be and we are often encouraged to seek alternative opportunities outside of academic research. Dr. Bloch’s story provides a shining example that, while it does not come easy, grant success is still within our reach.
The R21 grant is an NIH award for exploratory and developmental research. Its goal is to fund projects that are in the early and conceptual stages of development. Applications are reviewed for scientific and technical merit and the impact score is based on 5 major areas: significance, investigator, innovation, approach, and environment.
Dr. Bloch’s proposal involves using a novel xenografting approach to study a complex form of muscular dystrophy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, or FSHD. To date, the molecular pathophysiology of FSHD has been poorly understood owing to the fact that the causal genetic disregulation is not reproducible in animal models. Instead, Dr. Bloch is now funded to develop and optimize a technique in which he engrafts immortalized human myogenic precursor cells, previously isolated from FSHD patients and unaffected relatives, into the tibialis anterior compartment of a mouse hindlimb. Using firefly luciferase luminometry he is able to track the success of the xenografted muscle over the course of several weeks. He proposes to vary many of the experimental conditions to ultimately produce a fully mature and functional human tibialis anterior muscle within the mouse hindlimb. He then plans to use his optimized approach to assay the pathophysiology of the FSHD muscle and perform therapeutic testing in ways that are not possible using current models.
A maximal impact score does not mean that the proposal was initially accepted wholly without question. Dr. Bloch received no less than 20 comments from the four reviewers, each of which he was able to address upon resubmission. So then, what is the recipe for this grant’s success? The compelling nature of the problem combined with the novelty of Dr. Bloch’s approach, his encouraging preliminary data, his positive responses to the reviewers’ concerns, and the potential for groundbreaking therapeutic outcomes all contributed to his grant receiving an impact rating of 10. With his hard work and dedication Dr. Bloch has given us a rare and inspiring tale of R21 funding.
Dr. Bloch would like to thank the members of his laboratory and everyone who collaborated to make this grant a success.