We advance health through transformational discoveries across disciplines, from Alzheimer’s to zinc digestibility. These impacts are made possible through public and private investments, legislator support, multi-institutional partnerships, and the dedication of faculty and student scholars. 

Below, we showcase recent examples of our most impactful research in the area of health and wellness. You can also view and download a pdf version and subscribe to one of our ACES e-newsletters to stay abreast of new developments in ACES research. 

Discover Our Health & Wellness Research

Wearable Device Measures Infants’ Heart Rate and Stress Responses

Silhouette of infant against heart-shaped background, showing heart rhythm

One of the biggest challenges for researchers studying emotional and social development in young children is that their subjects are often too young to give helpful, verbal feedback. ACES researcher Nancy McElwain worked with Beckman Institute engineers to develop LittleBeatsTM, a small wearable device placed in the front pocket of a specially designed t-shirt. The sensor-packed device measures motion and heart rate and records audio. It enables infants as young as one month to provide useful information from their own homes. McElwain’s research focuses on the relationships children form with their parents in infancy, and how those relationships shape social, emotional, and physiological development. LittleBeatsTM data collection is still in its early stages, but the researchers are optimistic about future applications for the device and are currently recruiting families to participate.

ACES researcher:
Nancy McElwain, Human Development and Family Studies

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seed funding from the Center for Social and Behavioral Science, Jump ARCHES, and the Personalized Nutrition Initiative.

Related news story:

Wearable tech offers up-close look at infant development

Monoclonal Antibodies Developed to Fight Catastrophic Lung Disease

Image of mouse with a syringe injecting monoclonal antibodies

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating and incurable lung disease affecting millions worldwide. Injuries to the lung, such as through severe respiratory infections, cause scar tissue or fibrosis, restricting air intake. Many patients experience sudden worsening of symptoms, known as acute exacerbation (AE), from which few recover. Acute exacerbation presents similarly to acute respiratory disease syndrome (ARDS), the most frequent cause of death for patients suffering from COVID-19. ACES scientists and international partners have developed monoclonal antibodies that prevent lung cell death in mouse models for IPF and ARDS. The antibodies, along with new, non-invasive diagnostic tools the team developed, could be a critical step in treating the deadly diseases, for which few effective therapies currently exist.

ACES researchers: 
Isaac Cann, Animal Sciences
Esteban Gabazza, Institute for Genomic Biology
Roderick Mackie, Animal Sciences

The Charles and Margaret Levin Family Foundation; the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology; the College of ACES Office of International Programs; and multiple Japanese foundations.

Related news stories:

New tests and treatments developed in mice for pulmonary fibrosis

Bacterial protein fragment kills lung cells in pulmonary fibrosis, study finds

Healthy Diet Boosts Cancer Survival

Outline of a person's head filled with images of fruits

Head and neck cancer patients who eat a healthy diet are more likely to survive their diagnosis, according to a new ACES-led study. Following 468 head and neck cancer patients, the researchers compared survival rates for patients on six different diets. They found patients whose eating habits aligned with the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010) were 93% less likely to die of any cause during the first three years after diagnosis. AHEI-2010 rates the quality of a person’s diet based on how often they consume healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and avoid trans fats and sugary beverages. A healthy diet affects not only mortality but also symptoms, and it can mitigate nutritional problems that occur during treatment, the researchers say. Their work can help develop dietary intervention and medical nutrition therapy guidelines for these patients. 

ACES researchers:
Christian Maino Vieytes, predoctoral fellow in the Division of Nutritional Sciences
Sandra Rodriguez-Zas, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Department of Animal Sciences
Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Related news story:

Healthy diet after head, neck cancer diagnosis may boost survival

Childhood Poverty Linked to Cell Aging, Insulin Resistance

Graphic showing several silhouettes of people against the outline of the state of Georgia

Black adolescents who lived in poverty and were less optimistic about their future showed accelerated aging in their immune cells and elevated insulin resistance in their mid- to late twenties, according to new ACES-led research. Allen Barton and colleagues at the University of Georgia tracked the health of 342 African Americans for 20 years. The participants lived in rural Georgia, a region with one of the highest poverty rates and shortest life expectancies in the U.S. The researchers sought potential mechanisms linking individuals’ childhood social environment to later-life insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Their findings suggest chronic diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome that occur at significantly higher rates among Black adults and low-income populations may partially originate with experiences much earlier in life.

ACES researchers:
Allen Barton, Human Development and Family Studies

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Related news story:

Study links insulin resistance, advanced cell aging with childhood poverty