The KIDDRC generates and synthesizes new knowledge about the causes, prevention, management, and treatment of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) at the environmental, behavioral, neural/cellular, molecular, and genetic levels.
Research will be facilitated through four core services provided at the KIDDRC:
Administrative and Communications Core. The KIDDRC operates across three physical locations: The KU campus in Lawrence, the KU Medical Center, and the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City. This Core service coordinates and integrate services and functions across those sites, and provides scientific leadership to ensure that those services are responsive to changing needs and new scientific directions within the Center. In addition, this Core is charged with communicating the results of the research of the KIDDRC so that they may be quickly translated into practice. This includes students training for future careers in IDD, those individuals who serve individuals with IDD through clinical practice or service, and of course individuals with IDD and their family members.
Clinical Translational Core. This Core addresses two basic problems faced by all researchers in the field of IDD:
First, all scientists conducting clinical studies of IDD are challenged with recruiting individuals to their research projects. Some forms of IDD are fairly rare; for example, Fragile X syndrome affects only 1 in 2500-4000 males and 1 in 7000-8000 females. The services provided by this Core assists scientists in finding these individuals across the state, region, and country. This Core facilitates contact with individuals with IDD for research by maintaining integrated repositories and other regional databases, by maintaining and expanding registries for access to populations of individuals with well-characterized IDD and typically-developing (TD) individuals, and by facilitating contact with community organizations and facilities that serve populations of interest to projects in the KIDDRC portfolio. Thus along with assisting scientists in recruiting individuals with IDD to their studies, the Core helps them compose valid comparison (control) groups that are necessary to draw reliable conclusions about their research.
In addition, individuals with the same IDD diagnosis can be quite different from one another in a number of ways, and these differences bear on the degree to which a scientist’s research can be generalized to broader IDD populations. Thus, it is important for researchers to carefully verify IDD diagnoses, and measure individual variation in their populations. This Core provides centralized assistance to investigators so that the methods for characterizing their samples are standardized and rigorous; this service also makes such tools cost-effective so that investigators do not need to duplicate such services in each laboratory or in each project. Finally, by standardizing these characterizations, it allows data from KIDDRC studies to be pooled with studies from other locations across the world on rare or more common but diverse IDD conditions so that the impact of our work can be accelerated and more broadly applied.
Preclinical Models Core. Much of what we understand about IDD and many of the treatments or interventions that eventually come to improve the quality of life for individuals with IDD start with the genetic or behavioral modeling of IDD conditions in the laboratory at the molecular or cellular levels, or with animals models. Since this work must occur before the actual clinical studies and trials of people with IDD, it is called Preclinical research. This Core unit will assist scientists with the development of these cellular and animal models of IDD by providing Center scientists with access to equipment, facilities, space, and trained personnel to create and characterize laboratory models of IDD and to analyze behavior, anatomy, physiology and gene expression using rigorous and state-of-the-art methods.
Research Design and Analysis Core. A common and critical function in the conduct of any scientific endeavor is the proper design of studies, and the appropriate analysis of the data derived from those designs. This Core will provide consultation and assistance to preclinical and clinical Center investigators in the design of laboratory experiments and field studies, with the construction of databases to safely and securely store large amounts of data, and with state-of-the-art statistical analysis and bioinformatics methods.
Scientific Themes and Projects
The science conducted within the KIDDRC has traditionally fallen into four long-standing themes:
- Language, Communication Disorders and Cognition
- Risk, Intervention, and Prevention
- Neuroscience/Neurobiology of IDD, and
- Cellular and Molecular Biology of Early Development
The Kansas IDDRC is led by Director John Colombo and Co-Director Peter Smith, and leadership also rests with scientific theme coordinators, and each of the Core directors. Together, they comprise the Executive Committee of the KIDDRC.
John Colombo serves as the director and principal investigator of the University of Kansas Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). He became the third director of the KU Life Span Institute in September 2007. Professor Colombo has previously served the University of Kansas as faculty chair of the Human Subjects Committee on the Lawrence campus (1993-2012), as an associate dean of KU’s Graduate School (2001-2004) and as acting chair of the Department of Psychology (2005-2006). He joined the KU faculty in 1988 preceded by six years as a postdoctoral trainee and research associate. Along with being an active participant in the Cognitive and Brain Science and Developmental Science doctoral programs within the Department of Psychology, he is affiliated with three interdisciplinary doctoral programs: Child Language, Clinical Child Psychology and Neuroscience.
Peter G. Smith is Co-Director of the KIDDRC. He has long-standing research interests in neuroplasticity and repair of the mammalian nervous system, including how the nervous system can reorganize in response to hormones, how changes in peripheral innervation give rise to chronic pain, the effect of spontaneous and inherited mutations on nervous system development, and how neurodevelopmental disorder can affect sensory and metabolic functions, and these research programs have received over 35 years of continuous funding. At the KIDDRC, he has been a member for 33 years, core director for 8 years, and center co-director for 18 years. He has directed and built the R.L. Smith Center component of the KIDDRC during a period of unprecedented growth in its operations.