June 27, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 282 — Geoengineering for K-12 students, and treating chronic pancreatitis

When it comes to climate change, much of the public discussion is focused on ways to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep global temperatures in check. However, one overlooked tool could help humanity stave off the worst effects of climate change and buy governments more time. That tool is geoengineering, or the deliberate modification of the climate system. To help address this awareness gap, IU researchers are creating a five-lesson curriculum focused on climate change and geoengineering for K-12 students. The researchers hope the lessons will allow more teachers to present the topic of geoengineering in classrooms. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Ben Kravitz says K-12 teachers have so many demands on their time that it can be difficult for them to add new topics to their teaching plans. Handing teachers a geoengineering curriculum that's complete and ready to use was the goal. Kravitz says the most-studied geoengineering techniques include spraying sulfur into the atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of volcanoes and brightening clouds that lay low over the ocean to reflect more sunlight. Computer models and experiments show that both techniques could temporarily lower temperatures in parts of the world, but large-scale deployment comes with tradeoffs that researchers are still working to quantify. Postdoctoral Researcher Paul Goddard says with so much yet to be discovered, the new curriculum aims to encourage students to develop their own ideas about geoengineering and its potential to solve climate problems. The new curriculum includes individual and group projects, an experiment to demonstrate how cloud brightening works, a mock United Nations meeting to debate whether to deploy geoengineering technologies, and ways for students to share their ideas with their local or state governments. The researchers will share an updated version of their curriculum with Indiana K-12 science teachers at a professional development program co-developed by IU's Environmental Resilience Institute.

In other news, IU School of Medicine researchers are studying the safety and efficacy of a drug combination for patients with chronic pancreatitis. Led by IU, the phase 1 clinical trial recently received $1.1 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Chronic abdominal pain is the main symptom of chronic pancreatitis, with 50 to 80 percent of patients seeking medical attention for pain management. While several drug therapies are available to treat chronic pancreatitis, opioids are the most effective. However, opioid-induced hyperalgesia, a phenomenon resulting in dose escalation, can occur. Researchers believe the addition of an anti-seizure drug called lacosamide could help. Anesthesia Professor Fletcher White says the new drug combination of opioids and lacosamide may result in improved pain control, as well as a decrease in the opioid dose necessary for the pain relief. In pre-clinical and clinical trials for patients with neuropathic pain, lacosamide in combination with opioids reduced both pain scores and dosing amount of the opioid necessary for pain relief. However, there are no data evaluating the use of the drug in chronic pancreatitis patients. White is co-leading the Indianapolis study site with Gastroenterology and Hepatology Professor Evan Fogel. There are five additional satellite sites around the country. Fogel says chronic, debilitating abdominal pain is the most common reason why patients with chronic pancreatitis are referred to gastroenterologists. While some patients may be candidates for endoscopic or surgical therapies, the majority of patients manage their symptoms with pharmaceuticals. And unfortunately, most of the pain management options available to these patients often have disappointing efficacy. Fogel says that's why there's a need to identify safe and effective drugs to treat this disease.