Massaging A Rat Gets Researchers A Goose

With two weeks to go before this year’s awards ceremony, the last Golden Goose Award of 2014 was announced today.  Tiffany Field of the University of Miami, Gary Evoniuk of GlaxoSmithKline, and Cynthia Kuhn, and Saul Schanberg of Duke are recognized for their work with rats and its application to the care of premature infants.

The work started back in 1979, with Kuhn, Schanberg and Evoniuk working at Duke on the factors influencing growth in rat pups.  Through their experiments, the group came to realize the impact grooming had on rat pup growth.  The tactile stimulation from researchers prompted increases in enzymes and growth hormone.  That same year Drs. Field and Schanberg met at a conference.  Field’s work is in pediatrics and her research was on stimulating growth in prematurely born infants.  She partnered with Schanberg and his colleagues to better understand their work.  She later applied their work to premature infants and was able to demonstrate greater growth rates, increased alertness and shorter hospital stays for premature infants who received tactile stimulation (infant massage).  Her work and that of her colleagues at Duke were sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Field’s infant massage techniques have led to significant cost savings

Dr. Schanberg has passed, but the rest of the team will be at the awards ceremony on October 18, along with the two other groups recognized for their research that had successful, but quite unanticipated, applications.