University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Stapleton Receives K23 Grant to Study Sepsis Treatments

Renee Stapleton, M.D., Ph.D.
Renee Stapleton, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

Renee Stapleton, M.D., Ph.D., University of Vermont assistant professor of medicine and a critical care specialist at Fletcher Allen Health Care, was awarded a four-year, $683,532 National Institutes of Health K23 grant to conduct translational research on nutrition and pharmaconutrients in critically ill patients with sepsis, which is the leading cause of death in critically ill patients in the U.S.

K23 awards, which are directed for mentored career development for patient-centered research, provide research funding and protected time to further career development through expert mentoring and a specific educational plan. Stapleton's research has three goals: 1) a phase I dose-finding study of intravenous zinc in patients with severe sepsis to identify a dose for use in future trials; 2) an investigation of the pharmacokinetics of zinc in patients with severe sepsis compared to healthy controls; and 3) an examination of the impact of zinc on inflammation, immunity, and oxidant defense in patients with severe sepsis. Nearly all critically ill patients experience zinc deficiency, which is associated with increased mortality and organ failure. Zinc supplementation is believed to decrease organ failure and help restore immune function.

As part of the grant, Stapleton, who is trained in epidemiology, will also pursue additional training in pharmacokinetics and translational research to establish herself as an expert in nutrition and pharmaconutrient therapy in critical illness.