Gurudutt N. Pendyala, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology. He is the principle investigator on two active grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Dr. Pendyala will be the keynote speaker for the CHRI Pediatric Research Forum on Thursday, May 7. Dr. Pendyala kindly took time to respond to some brief biographical questions in advance of his keynote presentation.
Q: When did you join the UNMC Anesthesiology faculty, and where were you before coming to Nebraska?
A: I joined the faculty in September 2014, and prior to moving to Omaha, I was a Post-doctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA.
Q: What are the overarching objectives of your research program?
A: My lab’s prime focus is drug addiction - particularly dependency on opioids and psychostimulants, and how they affect the brain at the molecular and cellular levels. One arm focuses on the role sex differences play in addiction. A novel finding is that females progress more quickly to regular use, greater dependence and a higher relapse rate with drugs. Adding another layer of complexity is the abuse of drugs, especially prescription opioids that easily pass through breastmilk, during and after pregnancy and how it impacts the baby's brain development. This forms the other arm of my research program. A common cord connecting these two arms is molecular characterization of brain derived extracellular vesicles and application of novel technology-based platforms to further detect them in blood plasma for diagnostic purposes.
Q: Who are some of your key collaborators and team members within UNMC or at other institutions?
A: I am very lucky to have some terrific colleagues - both basic and clinical faculty here on the medical campus. These include Drs. Yelamanchili, Dutoit (Anesthesiology), Shukry, Sualy (Anesthesiology, Children’s) and Anderson-Berry (Pediatrics, Children’s). Importantly, the support of my chair Dr. Lisco and that of Pediatrics, Dr. Simonsen and their proclivity to forge interdepartmental collaborations is phenomenal. My ongoing outside collaborations include with University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Emory, Rutgers and Texas Tech University Health Science Center.
Q: It’s evident that you engage in a lot of studies that bridge different disciplines. In your experience, what are the keys to fostering successful inter-disciplinary research?
A: Scientific research is all about ideas and the creative process to help decode specific question(s). Interdisciplinary research teaches you that. Thus, interdisciplinary collaborations amongst scientists and clinicians provides the needed vertical depth and sufficient knowledge for pushing the frontiers of science in all directions.
Q: What are the most significant ways that your research intersects with children’s health?
A: Basic science research plays a significant role in advancing our knowledge to understand the root cause of pediatric diseases and developing new approaches for their treatment. My ongoing research (with colleagues at Children’s) on studying the effects of long-term effects of sedatives/anesthetics on neonate brain development and behavior is one good example.