Program Tracks

The overall goal is to recruit, retain and accelerate independence of a pool of early investigators in both basic translational and clinical translational research using a highly integrative approach that draws upon the diverse perspectives of established investigators in Medicine, Pediatrics, Pathology and Surgery focused on research across the lifespan. Two tracks are proposed to achieve a cross-disciplinary portfolio that capitalizes on the existing infrastructure of research preceptors: the basic translational track and the clinical translational track. The PICTOR alliance proposes the integration of these two tracks early on to engage resident-investigators (RIs) regarding the benefits of learning from diverse domains. Initial immersion focuses on brief concentrated coursework that provides exposure to broad-based fundamental areas of life sciences with potential applications for the basic translational track or biostatistics for the clinical translational track, followed by tailored methodology training to individuals within their respective tracks. Technical and cognitive skills building are directly applied to a specific research question under the guidance of a research preceptor. Cross-departmental partnerships will be established to promote collaboration and create an individualized mentorship team for each RI that leverages the diversity of skill sets and HLBS research across the four departments. The cross-disciplinary collaboration also occurs at the organizational level, and supervision of the mentored experience is provided across the four participating departments to assess research competencies and milestones for RIs. As learning is a continuous pursuit throughout a career, PICTOR will include self-reflection, peer observation, and team building opportunities for RIs to promote resilience and capacity for continued growth and allowing for a ‘safe space’ for critical analysis, guided peer teaching, discussions and mentoring across the disciplines.

HLBS Basic Translational track

Progress in medicine is becoming increasingly dependent on innovations at the molecular level. With the advent of next-generation sequencing, increasing computational power, and development of precise gene editing tools to name a few, opportunities for linking basic biology to clinical medicine has never been greater. PICTOR proposes to match highly motivated and well-qualified RIs with research preceptors engaged in investigator-initiated fundamental discovery science broadly relevant to the NHLBI strategic vision. These include studies of what constitutes healthy and resilient response to injury, underlying pathogenic mechanisms that characterize heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders, and the creation of novel diagnostics and therapies that address HLBS disorders.


Potential Research Areas
Cardiovascular Research

  • Pathobiological mechanisms important to the onset and progression of cardiovascular disease, such as the role of autophagy in segmental vascular pathology of rare human diseases
  • Development of organ fibrosis
  • Role of sonic hedgehog and Wnt ligands in organ fibrosis
  • miRNAs in regulating multiple target gene networks in pulmonary hypertension and computational repurposing of chemotherapies for pulmonary hypertension
  • Mechanisms of G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling-mediated vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction
  • Cardiomyocyte regeneration
  • SIV/HIV translocation and residual immune activation and inflammation in the development of HIV-related hypercoagulability and cardiovascular co-morbidities
  • Matrix biology and mesenchymal-epithelial interactions in wound repair that have counterparts in lung fibrosis and post-injury/MI cardiac
Lung/Sleep Research

  • Pulmonary research investigating mechanisms of host protection and resilience in pathogen-induced lung injury
  • Pathobiological mechanisms underlying onset and progression of autoimmune-based interstitial lung diseases and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Role of aging in telomere-induced lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis and COPD
  • Host determinants of human metapneumovirus and pathogenesis
  • SIV-TB co-infection
  • Host response to influenza and bacterial co-infection
  • Role of receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) in airway inflammation
  • Mitochondrial biology in health, aging and cardiopulmonary disease
  • Mechanisms of impaired sleep and breathing following myocardial infarction
Blood Research

  • Molecular hematology, sickle cell disease, and endothelial biology research related to novel therapies for pulmonary vascular dysfunctions
  • Inflammasome activation during trauma-hemorrhagic shock
  • Engineering biologic topography into prosthetic vascular grafts that prevents platelet adhesion and thrombus formation
  • Mechanistic studies examining targeted therapy against platelet dysfunction after trauma
  • Role of erythroid DAMP molecules in the pathogenesis of vascular injury in sepsis

HLBS Clinical Translational track

Answers to compelling questions about human biology and disease pathogenesis can be realized through study of rare diseases, clinical cohorts, and populations across the lifespan. PICTOR can match RIs with research preceptors who are clinician scientists at the interface of HLBS diseases. RIs will have the opportunity to pursue studies ranging from investigating factors that account for differences in health among populations, identifying factors that account for individual differences in pathobiology and in responses to treatments, and optimizing clinical research to improve health and reduce disease. These and other patient-oriented studies promote translation to practice with the goal of improving health and treatment of disease across the lifespan.


Potential Research Areas

Cardiovascular Research

  • Targeted delivery of RNA-based therapeutics by ultrasound
  • Genomic analysis of enhanced response to heart failure therapy in African-Americans
  • Cardiac rehabilitation for older adults
  • Chronic co-morbidities in HIV infection
  • Aging, viral coinfections, human genetics, and immunopathogenesis
  • Behavioral studies to improve upon clinical decision making during cardiovascular interventions

Lung/Sleep Research

  • HIV-associated lung diseases and the microbiome
  • inflammatory and autoimmune biomarkers in COPD-related comorbidities
  • Disease pathogenesis in interstitial lung diseases, such as sarcoidosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Genetic or epigenetic mechanisms underlying treatment resistance in underserved and minority group children
  • Epidemiological studies in the areas of comparative effectiveness of processes of patient care, prolonged critical illness, respiratory failure, sepsis, and multiple organ dysfunction
  • Impact of poor sleep on inflammation and the adenosine signaling pathway in HIV infection

Blood Research

  • Von Willebrand Disease
  • Whole blood resuscitation in the prehospital setting with the goals of reducing morbidity and mortality attributable to hemorrhagic shock post-injury
  • Evaluation of neurovascular determinants of cognitive function in adults
  • Proteomic analysis of plasma to unravel new mechanisms contributing to complications of sickle cell disease and to the development of red blood cells in the bone marrow
  • Mechanisms of inflammation and nociception in sickle cell disease

Relationship between basic translational and clinical translational tracks

Although these two tracks are distinct in terms of focus, they cross-fertilize one another and are highly interactive and collaborative. PICTOR envisions training of individual RIs similarly by fostering team building, and equipping the RI with targeted skill sets. The training promotes creativity and scientific growth by engaging diversity of thought and critical analysis to ultimately accelerate translation across the spectrum from basic/pre-clinical to clinical medicine.