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Grant bolsters Hiremath’s research on esophageal disorder

Jun. 14, 2018, 8:38 AM

Girish Hiremath, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics, has received a Junior Faculty Development Grant from the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Institute for Clinical Research and Education.

Girish Hiremath, MD, MPH

Hiremath, who is also an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering, was one of four early career gastroenterologists in the United States to receive the award this year. The grant provides $100,000 per year for three years and protects research time for promising clinical investigators, according to the ACG.

“If history is any indicator, these four newest ACG Scholars will become leaders in academic medicine,” the ACG said in a statement.

Hiremath aims to advance the understanding, diagnosis and monitoring of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that affects the esophagus and is a major cause of upper gastrointestinal disease in children and adults.

Patients with EoE may experience swallowing difficulty, vomiting, heartburn and food impaction due to narrowing of the esophagus. In young children, EoE may cause feeding difficulties and poor weight gain.

It can be difficult to distinguish EoE from other conditions that affect the esophagus, Hiremath said, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and proton pump inhibitor therapy-responsive esophageal eosinophilia (PPI-REE). Diagnosis requires microscopic analysis of esophageal biopsies, which is time-consuming and expensive and allows identification of EoE only after potentially irreversible tissue damage may have occurred.

Hiremath aims to develop a minimally invasive approach to identify EoE using Raman spectroscopy, an optical technique that can profile the chemical composition of tissue samples. He and colleagues in the Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center (VBC) are pioneering the clinical application of Raman spectroscopy both in vitro and in vivo. His colleagues at the VBC have validated its application for in vivo, real-time classification of inflammatory bowel disease in adults.

With the ACG funding, Hiremath will establish the esophageal Raman “signatures” in patients with EoE, GERD, PPI-REE and healthy controls. He will then explore the diagnostic capabilities of a novel fiberoptic Raman spectroscopy probe to distinguish esophageal conditions in children in real time during an upper endoscopy.

“This is the first study to systematically evaluate the capabilities of Raman spectroscopy to differentiate EoE from non-EoE patients in both laboratory and clinical settings,” Hiremath said. “The study will guide future studies of the key biochemical pathways involved in EoE and will contribute to the development of a novel tool for non-sedated, real-time, non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of EoE in children and adults.”

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