Acute and critical care surgeon awarded $1.5 million NIH grant to study elderly patients after trauma or injury

Philip EfronPhilip A. Efron, M.D., FACS, FCCM, an associate professor at the UF College of Medicine and medical director for UF Health Shands Hospital’s surgical intensive care units, has been awarded an investigator-initiated research grant (R01) from the National Institutes of Health for his project titled, “Hematopoietic Stem Cell Dysfunction in the Elderly after Severe Injury.” This award is for $1.5 million over the course of five years.

Elderly individuals are known to have a dysfunctional response to inflammation, which can occur after trauma. This altered immune response contributes to their worsened outcomes as compared to younger individuals, Efron says. Although we have understood that injured elderly patients are much more susceptible to infection and the subsequent morbidity and mortality related to this for some time, the mechanisms behind these phenomena remain unclear. Efron proposes to examine the most basic progenitor cells (stem cells) that create bacteria-killing white blood cells. These white blood cells are known to not work properly in the elderly after injury or infection. With this grant, Efron hopes to determine why stem cells specifically create dysfunctional white blood cells after trauma.

“It is our intent to identify molecular and/or genetic pathways that can be manipulated to improve the elderly immune response to trauma and hopefully other inflammatory insults, such as those that occur as a result of infection or major surgery,” Efron said.