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Gail Besner, MD, receives RO1 grant to continue research on necrotizing enterocolitis

Gail Besner, MD, principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, has been awarded a 4-year RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her work on heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) and intestinal ischemia-reperfusion injury.

Dr. Besner, who holds the John E. Fisher Endowed Chair in Neonatal Research and is a Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, initially discovered HB-EGF in laboratory experiments with human white blood cells, and it was later found to be a member of the epidermal growth factor family of growth factors. This family of growth factors is important in regulating development and maintenance of various tissues.

Dr. Besner's research examines the ability of HB-EGF to treat and prevent various forms of intestinal injury including neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Primarily seen in premature infants, NEC is the most common and most serious gastrointestinal disorder among hospitalized preterm infants. It is also their leading cause of surgical death.

Recent data suggest that HB-EGF may not only serve to treat NEC, but may also improve intestinal function afterward. Based on her laboratory discoveries, approval has been received from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin using HB-EGF in human clinical trials.

"Dr. Besner has been conducting this outstanding research at Nationwide Children's Hospital for the last 20 years," said R. Lawrence Moss, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "This would be an impressive accomplishment for any researcher. For an individual who also manages a large clinical practice and directs a fellowship training program, the achievements are monumental. Dr. Besner's discoveries will positively influence the lives of babies with NEC around the world."

In addition to her role as a researcher in the Center for Perinatal Research, Dr. Besner also serves as the Program Director of the Pediatric Surgery Residency Training Program and as the Associate Burn Director at Nationwide Children's. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons Executive Committee of the Surgical Research Committee, and recently completed a 4-year term as a full-time member of the Surgery, Anesthesia and Trauma Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. The long range goal of Dr. Besner's work is the use of HB-EGF in the prophylactic and therapeutic treatment of neonates at high risk of developing NEC in order to prevent and treat this often devastating disease.

Contact: Erin Pope
Nationwide Children's Hospital

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