OBGYN Presents Patient Care Model to Negate Opioid Abuse, High Medical Costs

Dr. Mikio A. Nihira

At the 2018 annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held last month in Austin, Texas, Dr. Mikio A. Nihira, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the UCR School of Medicine, reviewed the benefits of “enhanced recovery after surgery” (ERAS) — multimodal perioperative care pathways aimed at achieving early recovery following surgical procedures. Noting that ERAS may reduce patient costs and help mitigate the opioid crisis, he provided a framework to help build a pathway to these protocols.

“A strategy to address the post-surgical opioid problem and improve patient care is to use techniques like multimodal to minimize amount of opioids that we use to prevent opioid-associated adverse events,” Nihira said.

He stressed that ERAS succeeds when surgeons, pain management specialists, nurses, and others buy in to build a team approach.

More information about his presentation can be found here.

Iqbal Pittalwala

Early Animals Flourished in Bacterially Rich Marine Habitats

Kelden Pehr, a graduate student in Love’s research group, is first author of the paper.

Some of the earliest animals on Earth were soft-bodied ocean-dwellers that ranged in size from a few inches to several feet and were shaped like circular discs, tubes, or cushion-like bags.

While fossil impressions from the Ediacaran Era — 635 to 541 million years ago — reveal their existence, little is known about this fascinating group of animal-like creatures, which preceded more complex animals with skeletons.

In a paper published Friday, May 4, in Nature Communications, UCR researchers used biomarkers in ancient rocks to learn more about the environmental conditions and food sources that sustained this group of animals, called the Ediacara Biota. Led by Gordon Love, a professor of biogeochemistry, the team studied molecular fossils, known as lipid biomarkers, made by the ancient biological communities and preserved within sedimentary rocks that contain early animal fossils. The communities they studied lived off the coast of the ancient continent Baltica — encompassing modern day Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States — between 560 to 540 million years ago.

Love said the Ediacara Biota lived in nutrient-poor regions of the sea on the continental shelf, an extension of land under the ocean that results in relatively shallow water. Despite this oligotrophic environment, the researchers found there were sufficient nutrients and organic debris for feeding sustained by bacterial primary production and dissolved organic matter.

The team also observed a dearth of sponge biomarkers, suggesting possible niche competition between the Ediacara Biota and sponges in different marine settings.

“Different environmental conditions and nutritional resources could have selected for very different community structures in different regions of the Ediacaran oceans,” Love said.

The title of the paper is “Ediacara Biota flourished in oligotrophic and bacterially dominated marine environments across Baltica.” Kelden Pehr, a graduate student in Love’s research group, is first author. Corresponding authors are Love and Andrey Bekker, both in UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences. The work was supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Agouron Institute.

-Sarah Nightingale

Chemist’s Research is Changing How We Design and Make Useful Molecules

Gregory Beran, associate professor of chemistry.

Despite having the same molecular formula, different crystal structures of the same compounds can exhibit very different properties, such as color, solubility, or melting point, and these can dramatically affect their behavior.

These different crystal structures, called polymorphs, have applications in pharmaceuticals, flexible electronics, solar cells, explosives, and agrochemicals. A team led by Gregory Beran, an associate professor of chemistry, are using computer modeling to predict what polymorphs might exist for a given compound and form at a given temperature and pressure.

In a paper published recently in Chemical Science, the team made a major step forward in this area of research: mapping out the phase diagram for methanol, and predicting the temperatures and pressures under which each polymorph will be stable. This process required a level of accuracy in modeling the interactions between the molecules that has previously been unobtainable.

While methanol is a relatively simple molecule, and is not of major commercial interest, Beran said this work is proof of concept for techniques that could eventually be applied to more complex molecules such as small-molecule pharmaceuticals. The team is actively working on ways to scale these techniques to larger species.

Read more about Beran’s work in this interview with the Royal Society of Chemistry. The title of the paper is “Ab initio prediction of the polymorph phase diagram for crystalline methanol.”

This story contains content provided by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

-Sarah Nightingale

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