December 1, 2021

WSU medical resident wins grant to explore salivary method for diagnosing common esophageal disease

Wayne State University medical resident Eric Antonucci, M.D., will start the year 2022 using a $31,000 award from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation to study the use of salivary biomarkers to diagnose Eosinophilic Esophagitis, or EOE, a disease that causes swallowing problems, chest pain and reflux. 

Eric Antonucci, M.D.

“Currently, this is diagnosed by esophagogastroduodenoscopy and biopsies of the esophagus, which makes it somewhat invasive, risky and costly,” Dr. Antonucci said. “Our project aims to find DNA/RNA in saliva that could serve as a marker for EOE. If there were reliable makers in saliva, then diagnosis would just mean a simple mouth swab, rather than biopsies.”

The one-year project will begin next month.

EOE affects children and adults, but his study will focus on children.

“We have all been very excited about the possibilities with this project. This grant gives us the funding to keep going,” he added.

Dr. Antonucci is in his fourth year of the WSU Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Graduate Medical Education Program, and worked on the grant with mentors Nathan Gonik, M.D., a School of Medicine alumnus, assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and co-director of the Multidisciplinary Aerodigestive Program at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; and Andrew Fribley, Ph.D., a cell biologist and assistant professor of Pediatrics and of Otolaryngology.

“Swallowing problems and reflux are among the most common problems we treat in the ear, nose and throat world. While EOE itself is a less common cause of those issues, it is complicated to diagnose, treat and monitor. This project specially targets those challenges,” Dr. Antonucci said. “Additionally, it is nice to see work from the lab be so readily applicable to the clinical side of medicine. Finally, Children’s has a well-developed multi-disciplinary aerodigestive clinic, which has allowed me to work across specialties with our gastrointestinal colleagues Kristen Cares, M.D., and Mohammad El-Baba, M.D. They have been additions to a great set of mentors this project has led me to.”

Dr. Antonucci earned his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, and started his residency at WSU in 2018.

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