Pediatric Research Institute

About Us

Working under the leadership of Lu Cai, M.D., Ph.D., the Pediatric Research Institute's mission is to improve children's health, development and well-being through high-quality research. At present, support is directed toward providing infrastructure support for promising pediatric scientists and pioneering new research directions. We intend to achieve maximum return on what constitutes a currently small but growing investment in pediatric research, while implementing a "bench to bedside" philosophy.

Lu Cai, MD, PhD, director of KCHRIWe currently house excellent research programs in  Sleep Neurobiology and Juvenile Diabetes. We are expanding our scope to include tumor biology and outcomes research. Moreover, all of the programs housed here have the potential for expansion through collaborative research.

We are located in the Baxter Research Building on the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center campus. Our facility aids research by providing state-of-the-art equipment and a laboratory design that maximizes efficiency and supports innovation. Through common areas like informal lounges, we also provide the means for collaboration among researchers from various disciplines. The 30,000 square foot research floors feature three core laboratories and 18 laboratories measuring 880 square feet each. Annual support for Pediatric Research Institute investigators totals more than $5 million, with a substantial amount of the funding coming from the National Institutes of Health.

We are dedicated to the discovery of fundamental problems associated with pediatric disease. It is a core departmental function that will only grow in importance. Each year, our faculty produces significant peer-reviewed publications, abstracts, scientific presentations, books, and book chapters—43 in 2013. We have four endowed chairs of pediatric research.

Pediatrics Research Institute Team


Lu Cai, MD, PhD
Director, Pediatric Research Institute
Professor of Pediatrics
Research Bio

Jun Cai, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatric
Research Bio


Evelyne Gozal, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Research Bio

Yi Tan, Ph.D.
Carol B. McFerran Endowed Chair in Juvenile Diabetes
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Research Bio

Johnny Wise, Jr, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Research Bio




Associate Faculty

Gregory N. Barnes, MD, PhD
Director, Norton Children's Autism Center
Professor of Neurology
Department of Neurology


William T. Tse, MD
Director, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program - Norton Children's Hospital
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology


Sarah (Sallye) Burns, Coordinator

Feilan Chen, Research Associate

Tianci Chu, Postdoctoral Associate

Chunjie Gu, Research Technologist II

Rekha Jagadapillai, Research Associate

Qian Lin, Postdoctoral Associate

Jason Xu, Research Scientist

Jamie Young, Postdoctoral Associate

Wenxin Zeng, Research Technician

Pediatric Research Institute
Awards and Grants

Greg Barnes, MD

  1. NSF/NIMH. “Adaptive Partnership for the Robotic Treatment of Autism” 10/01/2019 – 09/30/2023 (PI: Dan Popa, UL BE, Co-I: Greg Barnes)
  2. GW Pharma- funding agency. “A phase II open label trial design to elucidate the relationships between inhibition and sleep to behavior and cognition in 30 children and adolescents with autism alone and intellectual disability.” 07/01/2019 – 12/31/2020 (PI: Greg Barnes)
  3. NIH/NIEHS, P30 ES030283 “University of Louisville Center for Integrated Environmental Health Sciences” 07/01/2020 – 06/30/2025 (PI: Chris States; Co-I: Greg Barnes, Leader for the Neurodevelopmental Toxicology Research Interest Group (Neuro RIG)

Jun Cai, MD

  1. Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust/Research Grant, “Modulation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 signaling pathway following the rotational acceleration-deceleration traumatic brain injury in developing mice” 01/17/2017 – 07/16/2021 NCE (PI: Jun Cai).
  2. NIH/R21NS098170, “HIF-1/p38 MAPK pathway in rotational acceleration-deceleration neonatal brain injury” 05/15/2018 – 04/30/2021 NCE (PI: Jun Cai)

Lu Cai, MD

  1. Basic Research Award from American Diabetes Association, “Zinc-induced MT prevents diabetic cardiomyopathy by regulating CARD9/P38a MAPK”, 01/2018 – 12/2020 (PI: Lu Cai)
  2. R01 NHLBI/1R01HL131110-01A1 (Louisville-subcontract), “E2F1 in bone marrow progenitor cells” 04/2016 – 03/2020 (PIs: Lu Cai at Louisville; G. Qin at University of Alabama)
  3. Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center, “The Vagus Nerve in Lung Disease” 05/2018 – 04/2022 (PI: Jun Yu, Co-I: Lu Cai)
  4. NIH/ R1NIEHS R01 “Cell survival advantage in cadmium induced carcinogenesis”, 09/01/2019 – 08/31/2023 (PI: Chendil Damodaran; Co-I: Lu Cai)
  5. UofL School of Medicine Basic Grant “Study of Right Ventricular Dysfunction in an Untreated Type I Diabetes Mellitus Mouse Model” 06/01/2020 – 05/31/2021 (PI: Jiapeng Huang; Co-I: Lu Cai)
  6. Uof L EVPRI Internal Grant, Research II “Role of Nrf2 Pathway in Right Heart Failure” 06/01/2020 – 05/31/2021 (PI: Jiapeng Huang; Co-I: Lu Cai)
  7. NIH/NIEHS, P30 ES030283 “University of Louisville Center for Integrated Environmental Health Sciences” 07/01/2020 – 06/30/2025 (PI: Chris States; Co-I: Lu Cai, Leader for the Multi-Organ Toxicology Research Interesting group (MOT RIG) & Metallomics Shared Resource Director of Environmental metals, at the Integrated Toxicomics & Environmental Measurement Facility Core, ITEMFC)

William T. Tse, MD

  1. Kentucky Pediatric Cancer Research Task Force Research Award, "Developing Targeted Cellular Immunotherapy for Childhood Malignancies", 2019-2020 (PI: Tse WT)
  2. University of Louisville raiseRed Campaign Research Award, “Finding Cures for Childhood Cancer”, 2018 – 2023 (PI: Tse WT)
  3. Fight Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Award, "Developing Effective Cellular Immunotherapy Targeting Childhood Osteosarcoma", 2019-2020 (PI: Tse WT)

Multiple Contributors

  1. 1R01HL12587701A1, “A novel mechanism of stromal cell derived factor 1 protection against diabetic cardiomyopathy”, 05/2017 – 04/2022 (PI: Yi Tan; Co-Is: Lu Cai, Paul Epstein)


Pediatrics Research Institute Publications



Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journal

(2020 - present)

Lin X, Jagadapillai R, Cai J, Cai L, Shao G, Gozal E. Metallothionein induction attenuates the progression of lung injury in mice exposed to long-term intermittent hypoxia. Inflamm Res. 2020 Jan; 69(1): 15-26. PMID: 31707449.

Liu Q, Liu Y, Li F, Gu Z, Liu M, Shao T, Zhang L, Zhou G, Pan C, He L, Cai J, Zhang X, Barve S, McClain CJ, Chen Y, Feng W. Probiotic culture supernatant improves metabolic function through FGF21-adiponectin pathway in mice. J Nutr Biochem. 2020 Jan; 75:108256. PMID: 31760308.

Sun Y, Zhou S, Guo H, Zhang J, Ma T, Zheng Y, Zhang Z, Cai L. Protective effects of sulforaphane on type 2 diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy via AMPK-mediated activation of lipid metabolic pathways and NRF2 function. Metabolism. 2020 Jan; 102: 154002. PMID: 31706979.

Wang W, Jiang S, Tang X, Cai L, Epstein PN, Cheng Y, Sun W, Xu Z, Tan Y. Sex differences in progression of diabetic nephropathy in OVE26 type 1 diabetic mice. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2020 Jan 1;1866(1): 165589. PMID: 31678163.

Cheng Y, Zhang X, Ma F, Sun W, Wang W, Yu J, Shi Y, Cai L, Xu Z. The Role of Akt2 in the Protective Effect of Fenofibrate against Diabetic Nephropathy. Int J Biol Sci. 2020 Jan 1; 16(4): 553-567. PMID: 32025205;

Wang X, Wang H, Zhang T, Cai L, Dai E, He J. Diabetes and its Potential Impact on Head and Neck Oncogenesis. J Cancer. 2020 Jan 1; 11(3): 583-591. PMID: 31942181

Dai X, Yan X, Wintergerst KA, Cai L, Keller BB, Tan Y. Nrf2: Redox and Metabolic Regulator of Stem Cell State and Function. Trends Mol Med. 2020 Feb; 26 (2):185-200. PMID: 31679988.

Kang Y, Zhang G, Huang EC, Huang J, Cai J, Cai L, Wang S, Keller BB. Sulforaphane prevents right ventricular injury and reduces pulmonary vascular remodeling in pulmonary arterial hypertension. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2020 Apr 1; 318(4): H853-H866. PMID: 32108526

Yu HT, Zhen J, Xu JX, Cai L, Leng JY, Ji HL, Keller BB. Zinc protects against cadmium-induced toxicity in neonatal murine engineered cardiac tissues via metallothionein-dependent and independent mechanisms. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2020 May; 41(5): 638-649. PMID: 31768045

Xu H, Wang X, Feng W, Liu Q, Zhou S, Liu Q, Cai L. The gut microbiota and its interactions with cardiovascular disease. Microb Biotechnol. 2020 May; 13(3): 637-656. PMID: 31984651.

Zhang Y, Cao H, Qiu X, Xu D, Chen Y, Barnes GN, Tu J, Gyabaah AT, Gharbal AHAA, Peng C, Cai J # and Cai XH, #. Neuroprotective effects of adenosine A1 receptor signaling on cognitive impairment induced by chronic intermittent hypoxia in mice. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 2020 Jul 9; 14: 202. PMID: 32733207

Wang K, Dai X, He J, Yan X, Yang C, Fan X, Sun S, Chen J, Xu J, Deng Z, Fan J, Yuan X, Liu H, Carlson EC, Shen F, Wintergerst KA, Conklin DJ, Epstein PN, Lu C, Tan Y *. Endothelial Overexpression of Metallothionein Prevents Diabetes-Induced Impairment in Ischemia Angiogenesis Through Preservation of HIF-1α/SDF-1/VEGF Signaling in Endothelial Progenitor Cells. Diabetes. 2020 Aug; 69(8): 1779-1792. PMID: 32404351

Jiang S, Young JL, Wang K, Qian Y, Cai L * Diabetic‑induced alterations in hepatic glucose and lipid metabolism: The role of type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus (Review). Mol Med Rep. 2020 Aug; 22(2): 603-611. PMID: 32468027

Jin S, Li J, Barati M, Rane S, Lin Q, Tan Y, Zheng Z, Cai L*, Rane MJ*. Loss of NF-E2 expression contributes to the induction of profibrotic signaling in diabetic kidneys. Life Sci. 2020 Aug 1; 254: 117783. PMID: 32413404

Wang X, Wang H, Zhang T, Cai L, Kong C, He J. Current Knowledge Regarding the Interaction Between Oral Bone Metabolic Disorders and Diabetes Mellitus. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020 Aug 7; 11: 536. PMID: 32903738

Mazzocco JC, Jagadapillai R, Gozal E, Kong M, Xu Q, Barnes GN, Freedman JH. Disruption of essential metal homeostasis in the brain by cadmium and high-fat diet. Toxicol Rep. 2020 Aug 23; 7: 1164-1169. PMID: 32983904

Tan Y, Zhang Z, Zheng C, Wintergerst KA, Keller BB, Cai L*. Mechanisms of diabetic cardiomyopathy and potential therapeutic strategies: preclinical and clinical evidence. Nat Rev Cardiol. 2020 Sep; 17(9): 585-607. PMID: 32080423.

Young JL, Cai L*. Implications for prenatal cadmium exposure and adverse health outcomes in adulthood. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2020 Sep 15; 403: 115161. PMID: 32721433

Li Z, Guo H, Li J, Ma T, Zhou S, Zhang Z, Miao L, Cai L*. Sulforaphane prevents type 2 diabetes-induced nephropathy via AMPK-mediated activation of lipid metabolic pathways and Nrf2 anti-oxidative function. Clin Sci (Lond). Sep 30; 134 (18): 2469-2487. PMID: 32940670

Tian Z, Chu T, Shields LBE, Zhu Q, Zhang YP, Kong M, Barnes GN, Wang Y, Shields CB, Cai J. Platelet-Activating Factor Deteriorates Lysophosphatidylcholine-Induced Demyelination Via Its Receptor-Dependent and -Independent Effects. Mol Neurobiol. 2020 Oct; 57(10): 4069-4081. PMID: 32661728

Zhang H, Cai L. Zinc homeostasis plays an important role in the prevention of obesity-induced cardiac inflammation, remodeling and dysfunction. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2020 Dec; 62: 126615. PMID: 32683230

Wang W, Li J, Cai L*. Research progress of sirtuins in renal and cardiovascular diseases. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2021 Jan; 30(1): 108-114. PMID: 33229910

Klionsky DJ, …… Cai L., et al.  Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition). Autophagy 2021 Jan; 17(1): 1-382. PMID: 33634751

Zhou W, Cai H, Li J, Xu H, Wang X, Men H, Zheng Y, Cai L*. Potential roles of mediator Complex Subunit 13 in Cardiac Diseases. Int J Biol Sci. 2021 Jan 1; 17(1): 328-338, PMID: 33390853

Li Z, Li J, Miao X, Cui W, Miao L, Cai L. A minireview: Role of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling in obesity-related renal injury. Life Sci. Jan 15; 265: 118828. PMID: 33253722Yu HT, Zhen J, Leng JY, Cai L, Ji HL, Keller BB. Zinc as a countermeasure for cadmium toxicity. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2021 Mar; 42(3): 340-346. PMID: 32284539

Zhou S, Jin J, Wang J, Zhang Z, Huang S, Zheng Y, Cai L*. Effects of Breast Cancer Genes 1 and 2 on Cardiovascular Diseases. Curr Probl Cardiol. 2021 Mar; 46 (3): 100421. PMID: 31558344

Li J, Liu L, Zhou WQ, Cai L, Xu ZG, Rane MJ. Roles of Krüppel-like factor 5 in kidney disease. J Cell Mol Med. 2021 Mar; 25(5): 2342-2355. PMID: 33523554

Men H, Cai H, Cheng Q, Zhou W, Wang X, Huang S, Zheng Y, Cai L*. The regulatory roles of p53 in cardiovascular health and disease. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2021 Mar; 78(5): 2001-2018. PMID: 33179140

Li C, Miao X, Wang S, Liu Y, Sun J, Liu Q, Cai L, Wang Y. Elabela may regulate SIRT3-mediated inhibition of oxidative stress through Foxo3a deacetylation preventing diabetic-induced myocardial injury. J Cell Mol Med. 2021, Jan; 25(1):323-332. PMID: 33244875

Fan J, Liu H, Wang J, Zeng J, Tan Y, Wang Y, Yu X, Li W, Wang P, Yang Z, Dai X. Procyanidin B2 improves endothelial progenitor cell function and promotes wound healing in diabetic mice via activating Nrf2. J Cell Mol Med. 2021 Jan; 25(2): 652-665. PMID: 33215883

Chu T, Shields LBE, Zeng W, Zhang YP, Wang Y, Barnes GN, Shields CB, Cai J#. Dynamic glial response and crosstalk in demyelination-remyelination and neurodegeneration processes. Neural Regen Res. 2021 Jul; 16(7):1359-1368. PMID: 33318418

Wang X, Chen XX, Yu HT, Tan Y, Lin Q, Keller BB, Zheng Y, Cai L*. Engineered cardiac tissues: a novel in vitro model to investigate the pathophysiology of mouse diabetic cardiomyopathy. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2020 Oct 9. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33037406

Lin Q, Huang Z, Cai G, Fan X, Yan X, Liu Z, Zhao Z, Li J, Li J, Shi H, Kong M, Zheng MH, Conklin DJ, Epstein PN, Kupper AW, Mohammadi M, Cai L, Li X, Li Y, Tan Y. Activating AMP-activated Protein Kinase Mediates Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 Protection from Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Mice. Hepatology 2020 Sep 23.  Online ahead of print. PMID: 32965675

Wang X, Chen X, Xu H, Zhou S, Zheng Y, Keller BB, Cai L*. Emerging roles of microRNA-208a in cardiology and reverse cardio-oncology. Med Res Rev. 2021 Feb 3. Online ahead of print. PMID: 33533026