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Associate dean for research releases book on risks of arsenic exposure

Associate dean for research releases book on risks of arsenic exposure

J. Christopher States, Ph.D.

University of Louisville School of Medicine’s associate dean for research has edited a new reference book covering the most current information on the health and environmental risks of arsenic exposure. J. Christopher States, Ph.D., vice chair for graduate education in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UofL, is the editor of “Arsenic:  Exposure Sources, Health Risks, and Mechanisms of Toxicity,” scheduled for release November 2.

Arsenic exposure has been linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as several types of cancer, abnormal fetal development and even death from other chronic diseases in humans. Arsenic occurs naturally but also is used in the production of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides, leading to exposure through arsenic-containing drinking water and in some foods, particularly seafood and rice.

Recent research, covered in the book, has produced more details about how arsenic affects the body and what levels of exposure are harmful. Scientists also are studying how an individual’s genetic makeup and exposure to other toxins or diseases can increase damage from arsenic exposure.

“The issue of how to capitalize on these ideas and how to integrate research findings into models of human pathology is a very exciting topic that requires an updated book on arsenic as a toxicant,” States said.

The book uses novel modeling techniques, population studies, experimental data and future perspectives to help readers understand the potential health risks and how research can improve and contribute to characterization and risk assessment of arsenic exposure. It was written to serve as a resource for toxicologists, risk assessors, epidemiologists, environmental chemists, medical scientists and other professionals and researchers in government, academia and industry.

Arsenic:  Exposure Sources, Health Risks, and Mechanisms of Toxicity” is published by Wiley and will be released on November 2, 2015. It is currently available for preorder.

 

October 27, 2015

Grant funding opens new opportunities for JCTC students in STEM degree programs

Grant funding opens new opportunities for JCTC students in STEM degree programs

UofL researchers

A new initiative called the UofL Bridges to Baccalaureate (ULBB) program will provide a pipeline of support and mentoring for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in two-year science degree programs at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). The program will be for students who plan to complete a four-year degree at the University of Louisville in a biomedical or health-related field.

ULBB launches this fall thanks to a $900,000 National Institutes of Health five-year training grant. The funding will support eight JCTC freshman the first year, with eight additional students to be added in each of the second through fifth years.

Sham S. Kakar, PhD, MBA, is a professor in the Department of Physiology and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Kakar, along with JCTC Dean of Academic Affairs Randall Davis, PhD, are program directors on the grant.

"Our goal is to improve success rates not only of the transfer students in the ULBB program itself, but also to help develop an environment in which more STEM students make a successful transition from JCTC to UofL to biomedical careers," Kakar said.

Highlights of the program include:

  • Mentoring, help with courses, career counseling and advising both prior to and after transferring to UofL
  • Opportunity to take a UofL biology course at JCTC tuition rate
  • Summer research program after first year at JCTC to learn biomedical research skills; $5,000 salary
  • Summer research program after second year at JCTC working full-time in a UofL lab conducting research; $5,000 salary
  • Research presentation opportunities at local and national scientific conferences
  • Networking and planning for next steps after college

The first group of JCTC students are expected to start the ULBB program in October.

Other collaborators on the grant include: Joshua Irving, PhD, chair, Department of Physiology; Cynthia Corbitt, PhD, associate professor, Department of Biology; Adrienne Bratcher, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Exercise Physiology and Paul Florence, MS, professor, JCTC.

 

Kentuckians with rare diseases gain support through new advisory council

Kentuckians with rare diseases gain support through new advisory council

Ceremonial Bill Signing

A new Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council will bring together the best minds in the Commonwealth to help raise awareness, secure funding and speed the development of treatments and medical protocols that lead to cures.

Gov. Matt Bevin today ceremonially signed a bill establishing the council which will help provide a focus to finding cures for the 7,000 known rare diseases that affect approximately 30 million men, women and children throughout the United States.

“The creation of the Rare Disease Advisory Council will provide an important mechanism to raise public awareness about rare diseases and develop centralized resources for patients, caregivers, and family members,” said Gov. Bevin. “The council will bring together medical professionals and experts from across the state to work on advancing research, diagnosis, and treatment efforts. Kudos to Sen. Raque Adams and the General Assembly for passing this legislation with overwhelming, bipartisan support.”

Gov. Bevin also presented a proclamation declaring August 2019 as Gastroparesis Awareness Month.

University of Louisville physicians and other health care providers were on hand for the ceremonial signing at the Novak Center for Children’s Health.

“We know all too well the challenges and hurdles that people with rare diseases face,” said Kim Boland, MD, interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine. “The impact felt by patients and families who face these diseases is just as great as any resulting from more common maladies.”

A rare disease is defined as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Jennifer Dunegan is one of the few with the stomach condition gastroparesis. She and her husband Patrick created the support organization, Gastroparesis Support Services Inc. They also serve as ambassadors of the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Patrick Dunegan will now take on the role of inaugural chair of the new council.

“It an honor to advocate for all of those with rare diseases. Following my wife’s gastroparesis diagnosis in 2014, we knew it was important to join with others who face similar difficult rare disease health journeys,” Patrick said.

As part of his work in the council, Patrick said he hopes to secure funding for genetic testing for earlier diagnosis of rare diseases.

Disruption of glucose transport to rods and cones shown to cause vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa

UofL researchers note the metabolic changes are similar to those seen in lung cancer in laboratory
Disruption of glucose transport to rods and cones shown to cause vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa

Douglas Dean, Ph.D., and Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a common hereditary eye disorder that leads to the gradual deterioration of rod cells causing reduced peripheral vision and night vision. Subsequent loss of cone photoreceptors cause the loss of high-resolution daylight and color vision.

Ophthalmology researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the loss of vision in RP is the result of a disruption in the flow of nourishing glucose to the rods and cones. This disruption leads to the starvation of the photoreceptors.

In research published today in Cell Reports, the researchers, led by Douglas C. Dean, Ph.D., and Wei Wang, M.D., Ph.D., of the UofL Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, described metabolic changes that result in the reduced availability of glucose in the cells.

As research provides a better understanding of the progression of RP, this knowledge may lead to therapies that could slow or stop this process before the rods and cones are destroyed. In addition to the relevance for RP, the researchers discovered the failure in glucose metabolism in RP is similar to changes seen in lung cancer and may be useful in developing therapeutic targets for both diseases.

“Interestingly, these metabolic changes appear similar to those we also are investigating in other studies into lung cancer in the laboratory,” Dean said. “Both lung cancer and neurons in the retina use glucose as a primary source for their metabolism. Attacking glucose utilization is a major strategy in fighting lung cancer. This unexpected connection in retinal and lung cancer metabolism has led us to link these seemingly unrelated systems to search for common drugs that target both lung cancer and retinal degeneration.”

RP is an inherited disease in which the photoreceptor cells in the retina – rods and cones – deteriorate over time. Photoreceptors absorb and convert light into electrical signals, which are sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Rods, located in the outer regions of the retina, allow peripheral and low-light vision. Cones, located mostly in the central part of the retina, allow perception of color and visual detail.

In RP, rods deteriorate first, causing the peripheral and low light vision loss typically associated with the disease. In later stages, the cones also deteriorate. Without cone function, RP patients lose the high-resolution daylight vision necessary for reading, facial recognition and driving. As a result, this stage of RP vision loss is more debilitating than the loss of nighttime or peripheral vision. RP affects 1 in 4,000 people globally.

This research is supported by grants from the National Eye Institute, BrightFocus Foundation and Research to Prevent Blindness.

Immunotherapy – using the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells – is leading to longer life for more cancer patients

Learn about the state of cancer treatment at Beer with a Scientist July 17
Immunotherapy – using the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells – is leading to longer life for more cancer patients

Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D.

At a Beer with a Scientist event four years ago, cancer specialist Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., described clinical trials in immunotherapy being conducted at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center. At that time, the new therapies were showing promise in the treatment of melanoma.

At this month’s Beer with a Scientist, Chesney, director of the UofL Brown Cancer Center, will share just how far those therapies have come in improving treatment of cancer.

Chesney will discuss cutting-edge approaches to stimulate the immune system to eradicate previously terminal cancers, focusing on treatments that stimulate white blood cells called T cells to kill cancer cells using antibodies and viruses. These immunotherapies are proving to be effective for multiple types of cancer.

"These novel immunotherapies are translating to previously terminal cancer patients having normal life spans,” Chesney said. “I believe we will experience a 25 percent decrease in cancer-related deaths in the next five years."

Chesney’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Lane. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer or other items is not required but is encouraged. Organizers encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. At these events, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.

 

 

 

July 15, 2019

Facilities, feedback and funding: UofL-administered network supports emerging medical research throughout Kentucky

KBRIN adding electron microscopy resource for early-stage researchers
Facilities, feedback and funding: UofL-administered network supports emerging medical research throughout Kentucky

Amber Onorato, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at Northern Kentucky University, back row center, with students in the 2018 summer research program

For nearly two decades, a program administered at the University of Louisville has been helping scientists at institutions throughout the state get their foot in the door of biomedical research.   

A five-year, $18.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded earlier this year will continue and enhance the work of the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN), the state’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA). The IDeA program builds research capacities in states with historically low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research as well as faculty development and infrastructure improvements. Kentucky is one of 23 states eligible for IDeA funding.

“Our goal is to enhance training in biomedical research for faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students throughout the state,” said Nigel Cooper, Ph.D., director of KBRIN, based at UofL. “Since 2001, federal funding through the Institutional Development Award program has allowed us to work with other higher education institutions in Kentucky to build a network of resources and education.”

KBRIN includes partner institutions who share biomedical research expertise, data processing and infrastructure with early-stage researchers at partner and outreach institutions, including collaborative networks among scientists, funding workshops and access to equipment that may not be available at the researchers’ home institutions.

The new funding allows KBRIN to add an electron microscopy core, offering researchers access to electron microscopes at UofL, the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University. To launch this resource, KBRIN has issued a call for proposals for electron microscopy pilot projects, enabling students and researchers to prepare samples and use the electron microscopes. Submissions are due July 15.

Through IDeA, KBRIN also provides funding for research projects to assist early-stage researchers in their work. In addition to advancing research itself, the projects support increased student training and career development, including summer programs and mentored research for undergraduate students.

Amber Onorato, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at Northern Kentucky University, recently received funding from KBRIN to support research that involves the synthesis of novel anti-inflammatory molecules. The KBRIN funds will allow Onorato and a group of her students to further advance the research project and work more closely with a collaborator at the University of Cincinnati to learn biological techniques.

“The funding allows me to spend more time with the students in the lab working on the project and to write grants and publications,” Onorato said. “It also allows me to pay the students who work with me over the summer, which gets more of my students in the lab. The ability to do this research in the field has made them more attractive candidates for professional schools as well as for their future careers.”

In the process of securing IDeA funding through KBRIN, the researchers also improve their potential for future direct NIH funding.

“We provide the infrastructure that allows newer researchers to ‘get in the game,’ but we also provide training for those researchers in the form of feedback on the grant proposals they submit to us for funding. This feedback prepares them to compete for NIH funding,” said Martha Bickford, Ph.D., associate program director of KBRIN.

Justin Yates, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University, is an early-stage biomedical investigator who recently obtained funding from the NIH after working with KBRIN over the past four years. He studies the neuro-behavioral mechanisms leading to addiction.

“Being able to conduct research with funding through KBRIN has made me competitive. It enabled me to have my research published, to pay for an undergraduate student to help with the research and to recruit more students,” Yates said. “When you are applying for an R15 (grant from the NIH), an important aspect is training undergraduate students. By showing I could do that, it helped my application score.”

Robert Keynton, Ph.D., interim executive vice president for research and innovation at UofL, said the program is an important resource for developing future biomedical researchers in Kentucky.

“This project is an excellent example of the value of a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional program at building research infrastructure and capacity across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which testifies as to why this is the longest, continuously funded NIH project at the University of Louisville,” Keynton said.

Since 2001, KBRIN has been funded continuously through IDeA, and has received more than $77 million in federal funding. Partner schools include the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Morehead State University and Centre College, but the network is available to any college or university in Kentucky.

UofL will host the Southeast Regional IDeA Conference Nov. 6-8 in Louisville. In addition to scientific talks and poster presentations, the conference agenda includes workshops to introduce the new electron microscopy core and other facilities, as well as training in specific skills, such as bioinformatics and grant writing.

How to Tame a Fox … and Build a Dog

Hear about the Siberian experiment in domesticating foxes at Beer with a Scientist, July 12
How to Tame a Fox … and Build a Dog

Dugatkin and Trut

Take adorable, furry creatures involved in revolutionary scientific research, add soviet-era politics and intrigue, set them in the often brutal -35° winters of Siberia and you have the makings of an incredible story.

Lyudmila Trut has spent nearly 60 years domesticating silver foxes at her research location in Siberia where she and Dmitri Belyaev set out to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time. Starting with essentially wild foxes, they selectively bred the animals, which developed dog-like physical characteristics and gentle temperaments in only a decade.

Lee Dugatkin, Ph.D., professor of biology at the University of Louisville, spent time with Trut and the foxes in the dead of winter in 2012 and 2014, gathering information for his new book with Trut, “How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog).” He will tell their story at the next Beer with a Scientist event July 12. A science historian in addition to biologist, Dugatkin will describe how Trut and her mentor risked not just their careers, but to an extent their lives, to achieve scientific history, developing a loving bond with their animal subjects along the way.

“It's one of the most important experiments ever undertaken, and layer on to that the political intrigue and human-animal love stories and how could I not fall in love with this project?” Dugatkin said.

Dugatkin’s talk begins at 8 p.m. onWednesday, July 12, at Against the Grain Brewery, 401 E. Main St. in Louisville. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Although Dugatkin does not have one of Trut’s domesticated foxes on hand, he will have plenty of photos and intriguing details.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer, other beverages or menu items is not required but is encouraged.

Organizers add that they also encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., created the Beer with a Scientist program in 2014 as a way to bring science to the public in an informal setting. Once a month, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science. For more information and to suggest future Beer with a Scientist topics, follow Louisville Underground Science on Facebook.

Upcoming Beer with a Scientist dates: 

  • Aug. 9
  • Sept. 13

Multiple honors for UofL LGBT health education

UofL shares knowledge with Harvard, receives national award, publishes clinical skills toolkit
Multiple honors for UofL LGBT health education

UofL medical education presenters with Harvard hosts

The University of Louisville shared its pioneering work in educating health professionals to provide quality health care to LGBTQ patients with faculty at Harvard Medical School in Boston last month. In New York, the university also received a national leadership award for workforce development for the same work on May 3. Earlier this year, UofL published The eQuality Toolkit, a clinical skills training manual to help others develop the specific clinical skills needed to provide high quality care to LGBTQ patients.

At the Seventh Annual National LGBT Health Workforce Conference, held last week in New York, UofL received the Organization Leadership Award from Building the Next Generation of Academic Physicians (BNGAP), an organization founded in 2008 to cultivate a more diverse workforce in academic medicine. The award highlights commitment, scholarship and dedication to the development of a health workforce that is responsive to the unique health issues and disparities of LGBT communities. Previous winners are Penn Medicine and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

A week prior, leaders from UofL’s eQuality program presented Grand Rounds to faculty at the Harvard Medical School Academy on incorporating training for the care of LGBTQ patients into the medical school curriculum. Amy Holthouser, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education, Susan Sawning, M.S.S.W., director of medical education research, and UofL School of Medicine alumni Rhiannon Ledgerwood, M.D., and Adam Neff, M.D., presented “Lessons from eQuality at University of Louisville: Successful collaborations for integrating sexual and gender minority health into medical education.”

David Hirsh, M.D., director of the Academy at Harvard Medical School, said the presentation from Holthouser and Sawning inspired the participants, who are planning to launch a similar program at Harvard.

“I was so moved by your advocacy and accomplishments and so taken by your style and grace, strength and conviction, wisdom and humility,” Hirsh said of the UofL group. “The grand rounds made an enormous difference. We will be speaking about it for a long time to come.  I am so grateful to learn from you and to have been present for such an important and transformative launch.”

Beginning in 2014, UofL served as the pilot program for the development of curriculum to incorporate competencies published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) related to provision of care for LGBT individuals and other sexual and gender minorities (SGM). Through the eQuality program, information related to care for SGM patients was embedded throughout the curriculum studied by all students in the UofL School of Medicine.

Jennifer Potter, M.D., professor of medicine and advisory dean and director of William Bosworth Castle Society at Harvard Medical School, invited the UofL team to The Academy at Harvard Medical School, which is responsible for professional development of faculty who teach in the MD program.

You care about the fact that SGM people experience health inequities,” Potter said of the UofL presenters. “You talk with your colleagues and students about the fact that these inequities are unacceptable. Then you go one step further – you actually TAKE ACTION to address the inequities with sheer grace, humility, positivity, a sense of humor and brilliance ... and in true collaboration with your local SGM community.”

“It is so rewarding to see the work that has been done here at UofL to improve health care for LGBT patients is valued by an institution as highly respected as Harvard,” said Toni Ganzel, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the UofL School of Medicine. “In addition, it is an honor to receive a national award from a well-respected organization such as BNGAP. We are pleased to be able to share this knowledge with educators and influencers throughout the United States.”

The eQuality Toolkit, published with funding from the National Institute of Health Care Management Foundation, is available to all health professionals at no charge to enhance competency nationwide in caring for LGBTQ patients.

Twisted Pink donates $100,000 to UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center

Twisted Pink donates $100,000 to UofL’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center

Twisted Pink presents check to James Graham Brown Cancer Center

Twisted Pink, a charitable foundation dedicated to funding research to prevent and cure metastatic breast cancer, presented a check for $100,000 to the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center on May 7. The funds will be used to seek improved survival for those diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the breast to another part of the body.

The presentation included, left to right, Haval Shirwan, Ph.D., Nicola Garbett, Ph.D. and Paula Bates, Ph.D. of UofL, Constanze Coon, Ph.D., Lara MacGregor and Caroline Johnson of Twisted Pink, and UofL’s Beth Riley, M.D., Yoannis Imbert-Fernandez, Ph.D., Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D. and Brian Clem, Ph.D.

Meet the newest Health and Social Justice Scholars

Meet the newest Health and Social Justice Scholars

Health and Social Justice Scholars

One doctoral student from each of the four schools on the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center campus has been selected for the second cohort of the Health and Social Justice Scholars program. From applications received from doctoral students in the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, scholars are selected based on their commitment to social justice and health equity. They will engage in a three-year program designed to help them learn techniques for working interprofessionally and with community members to improve the overall health of local residents. Scholars will develop projects that include community-based research conducted along with a faculty mentor and a report prepared for scholarly publication. In addition, they participate in community service projects and attend monthly discussions.

Tasha Golden, School of Public Health and Information Sciences

A doctoral student in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, Tasha Golden works with the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center and the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky. Golden’s community-oriented research at the intersection of art and public health is informed by her career history. As the frontwoman and songwriter for the band Ellery, her songs have been heard on the radio and in major motion pictures, TV dramas and Starbucks. Golden’s prose and poetry have been published in “Ploughshares,” “Pleaides” and “Ethos Review,” among others, and her debut book of poems, “Once You Had Hands” (Humanist Press), was a finalist for the 2016 Ohioana Book Award. Her critique of gender inequities in the juvenile justice system appears in the Spring 2017 issue of peer-reviewed journal “Reflections.” Golden’s background as artist, entrepreneur and researcher often leads to new and unique networks, and allows her to draw connections among disparate ideas and initiatives. She continues to write and record, and has led trauma-informed creative writing workshops for incarcerated teen women since 2012. 

C. John Luttrell, School of Nursing

C. John Luttrell obtained a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from Murray State University in 2005, and a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Louisville in 2013. While he was a student at UofL, he served as the academic affairs liaison on the Nursing Student Council, and received the Helen C. Marshall Award for Outstanding Leadership. While working as a trauma nurse at University of Louisville Hospital in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit from 2013-2016, Luttrell completed the one-year nurse residency program, often served as the charge nurse during his scheduled shifts, and served as a clinical capstone preceptor for nursing students at the UofL School of Nursing. Luttrell is a full-time Ph.D. student in the School of Nursing, where he holds a position as a graduate research assistant. His research interests focus on health disparities among homeless adolescents and engaging with community organizations to provide services to homeless youth.

Devin McBride, School of Medicine

Originally from Ithaca, N.Y., Devin McBride received a bachelor of science in economics from Syracuse University in 2008. She graduated with a degree of distinction after completing a thesis project on the impact of mega-multi mall development on local communities. While earning a second bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, she was involved in multiple research projects including biomedical research, which first sparked her interest in medicine. After moving to Louisville in 2012, McBride began working in the emergency room as a scribe and volunteered with the Kentucky Waterway Alliance. She has been involved in numerous other research projects in Louisville, and presented posters at the Kentucky Academy of Science Annual Meeting and Research!Louisville. Currently, McBride is a student director at the Family Community Clinic, is co-president of the student LGBTQ group HSC Pride, and is involved in health-care politics as a member of Students for a National Health Plan. She plans to research health disparities in the LGBTQ community.

Morgan Pearson, School of Dentistry

A native of Louisville, Morgan D. Pearson is a second-year student in the School of Dentistry. As a child, Pearson experienced a traumatic injury, resulting from an automobile accident that required her to have multiple surgeries. Because of the expert and compassionate care she received, she decided early on that she wanted a career in the health sciences field, ultimately choosing dentistry. Pearson is a 2015 graduate of Murray State University, where she earned a bachelor of science in biology with minors in music and chemistry. She attended UofL’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) and MCAT/DAT workshop before deciding on a career in dentistry over medicine. Pearson has had a heart for service since she was a child. From age 11 through 17, she volunteered at the VA Medical Center in various capacities. After going away to college, she volunteered at the VA during summer breaks. At Murray State University, Pearson mentored and tutored incoming freshmen to ensure their success. As a dentist, Pearson will focus on community dentistry, continuing to serve those who are disadvantaged because of their inability to pay or to access care.

UofL’s HSC Health and Social Justice Scholars program is administered by the HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion and directed by Katie Leslie, Ph.D.

 

#WeAreUofL

Epidural stimulation shown to normalize blood pressure following spinal cord injury

UofL research supports future study of beneficial effects of stimulation
Epidural stimulation shown to normalize blood pressure following spinal cord injury

Susan Harkema, Ph.D., Glenn Hirsch, M.D.

Patients with severe spinal cord injury (SCI) often experience chronically low blood pressure that negatively affects their health, their quality of life and their ability to engage in rehabilitative therapy.

“People with severe spinal cord injury – especially when it occurs in a higher level in the spine – have problems with blood pressure regulation to the point that it becomes the main factor affecting quality of life for them,” said Glenn Hirsch, M.D., professor of cardiology at the University of Louisville (UofL). “Some cannot even sit up without passing out. They are forced to use medications, compression stockings or abdominal binders to maintain an adequate blood pressure.”

Working with human research participants, Hirsch and researchers at the Kentucky Spinal Cord injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at UofL, have found that spinal cord epidural stimulation can safely and effectively elevate blood pressure in individuals with SCI along with chronic hypotension. The research was reported this month in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Normalization of Blood Pressure with Spinal Cord Epidural Stimulation After Severe Spinal Cord Injury).

Led by Susan Harkema, Ph.D., associate director of KSCIRC and professor of neurosurgery, the research included four research participants with chronic, motor complete, cervical SCI who suffered from persistent low resting blood pressure. The participants were implanted with an electrode array for epidural stimulation, and individual configurations for stimulation were identified for each participant. During five two-hour sessions, the participants’ blood pressure was elevated to normal ranges. Their blood pressure returned to low levels when stimulation ceased, and was again elevated to normal ranges with stimulation.

Stefanie Putnam was one of the research participants. Following a severe spinal cord injury in 2009, Putnam’s blood pressure was so low she was unable to engage in the simplest of activities without losing consciousness.

“It prevented me from participating in activities, from talking on the phone, from sitting at a table and eating food. I had trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, trouble carrying on a conversation,” Putnam said. “I was passing out periodically – six or more times a day. Then I would have to tilt back in the chair for two hours.”

To help sustain her blood pressure, Putnam took medication, wore an extremely tight corset and drank a large amount of caffeine.

“I would still pass out,” she said.

With epidural stimulation, Putnam said she immediately felt the effects.

“I went from feeling like I was glued to the floor to elevated – as though gravity was not weighing me down. I feel alive!” she said.

Because of the undesirable side effects of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, Hirsch said epidural stimulation for chronic low blood pressure in SCI could have significant benefits.

“People with severe SCI who have problems with resting hypotension have limited options. This intervention appears to reliably and reproducibly maintain blood pressure,” Hirsch said.

This work builds on previous research at KSCIRC showing benefits of spinal cord epidural stimulation, along with activity-based training, in which individuals with SCI have achieved voluntary movement, standing and stepping, and improved bladder, bowel and sexual function.

Harkema, the publication’s first author, said the blood-pressure research is promising, but must be tested over time and with a larger cohort of study participants.

“We need to see if it will have an impact over months or years,” Harkema said. “It will be very important to determine if these results are sustainable.”

To that end, UofL is screening participants for a six-year study that will further explore the life-enhancing effects of epidural stimulation on people with spinal cord injury (SCI). That study will measure the extent to which epidural stimulation will improve cardiovascular function as well as facilitate the ability to stand and voluntarily control leg movements below the injury level in 36 participants with chronic, complete spinal cord injuries. Individuals interested in being considered for this study can add their information to the university’s Victory Over Paralysis database: victoryoverparalysis.org/participate-in-research.  

The published research is supported by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, University of Louisville Hospital, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Medtronic Plc.

 

 

March 19, 2018

 

UofL researchers discover procedure to regenerate dormant cone cells, potentially to improve vision in retinitis pigmentosa

Henry Kaplan, M.D., presenting findings at national and international medical conferences
UofL researchers discover procedure to regenerate dormant cone cells, potentially to improve vision in retinitis pigmentosa

Henry J. Kaplan, M.D.

Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered a way to revitalize cone receptors that have deteriorated as a result of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Working with animal models, Henry J. Kaplan, M.D., and a group of researchers in the UofL Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences discovered that replenishing glucose under the retina and transplanting healthy rod stem cells into the retina restore function of the cones.

The research, conducted by Kaplan, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Douglas Dean, Ph.D., and Wei Wang, Ph.D., and published in December in Cell Reports, could lead to therapies for preserving or recovering central vision in patients with RP. Kaplan will present the research findings at five conferences in the United States and abroad beginning this month.

Retinitis Pigmentosa is an inherited disease in which the photoreceptor cells in the retina – rods and cones – deteriorate over time. Photoreceptors absorb and convert light into electrical signals, which are sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Rods, located in the outer regions of the retina, allow peripheral and low-light vision. Cones, located mostly in the central part of the retina, allow perception of color and visual detail.

In RP, rods deteriorate first, causing the peripheral and low light vision loss typically associated with the disease. In later stages, the cones also deteriorate. Without cone function, RP patients lose the high-resolution daylight vision necessary for reading, facial recognition and driving. As a result, this stage of RP vision loss is more debilitating than the loss of nighttime or peripheral vision. RP affects 1 in 4,000 people globally.

Recent research has shown that as the rods deteriorate, the cones are no longer able to access glucose, which becomes trapped in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). As a result of glucose starvation, the cones go dormant and eventually die.

The UofL researchers found that the cones remain dormant for a period of time before they are completely lost, and if the glucose supply can be replenished during dormancy, the cones can be regenerated. The researchers were able to successfully restore cone access to glucose in either of two procedures. First, by transplanting rod-specific induced pluripotent stem cells beneath the retina, and second by injecting glucose directly into the subretinal space.

“Following rod stem cell transplant, we observed reassembly of the cone inner segments, regeneration of cone outer segments and increased electrophysiologic function within 1,000 microns from the transplant margin for at least three months after the transplantation in all directions,” Kaplan said. “However, the recognition that glucose starvation of cones occurred because of the trapping of glucose in the RPE provides multiple new possible treatments to restore lost central vision including drug therapy, gene editing and regenerative medicine.”

Kaplan will present these findings at the 6th China Ocular Microcirculation Society Annual Meeting - International Ophthalmology Conference, Beijing, China, and the American Society of Retina Specialists, Boston, this month, at the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology, Carmel, in September, the Retina Society, Boston, in October, and the5th World Integrative Medicine Congress, Guangzhou, China in December.

This research has the potential to lead to therapies that preserve or restore central vision for individuals with RP.

“If therapy can prevent or reverse the onset of cone degeneration within the macula, most patients would be immeasurably helped and able to live a normal life despite the loss of peripheral vision and decreased dark adaptation,” Kaplan said.

This research is supported by grants from the National Eye Institute (RO1 EY026158), Research to Prevent Blindness and KY Research Challenge Trust Fund.

 

August 15, 2017

Final call for abstracts for inaugural UofL Optimal Aging Conference, June 12-14

Final call for abstracts for inaugural UofL Optimal Aging Conference, June 12-14

Abstracts are due midnight of Thursday, March 31, for the Inaugural Optimal Aging Conference. Abstracts can be submitted here. More conference information can be found at www.OptimalAgingInstitute.org.

The Optimal Aging Conference will be held June 12-14 in Louisville at the Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway. This conference is jointly presented by the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville and the Kentucy Association for Gerontology (KAG).

The Optimal Aging Conference focuses on aging as an opportunity for indiduals and socieities, and not a disease. This conference is transdisciplinary and as such, individuals across a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds are welcome to submit abstracts, including academics, health care professionals, social service professionals, business professionals working in health care, age care disrupters and older adults.

The conference features a variety  conference tracks, including:

  • Aging in Community
  • Healthcare & Aging
  • Building Coordinated Care Networks
  • LGBTQ Aging
  • Business & Aging
  • Mental Health & Aging
  • Caregiving
  • Multicultural Aging
  • Creativity & Lifelong Learning
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Health & Wellness
  • Legal & Ethical Issues

The 2016 Optimal Aging additionally features several pre-conference opportunities:

  • June 11-12: Chief Resident Immersion Traing (CRIT), a leadership training for Chief Residents, Program Directors and geriatrics faculty
  • June 12: Continuing education for Social Work professionals

For information about the conference and abstract submission, visit www.OptimalAgingInstitute.org or call 502-852-5629.

 

 

Supporting gender affirming surgery and creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ patients

Transwoman dentist and endodontist to share her experience as part of LGBT Certificate Series Jan. 17
Supporting gender affirming surgery and creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ patients

Anne Koch, D.M.D.

Anne Koch, D.M.D., a highly accomplished endodontist, underwent gender affirming surgery, transitioning from male to female at age 63. After a period of adjustment, she has renewed a career in dentistry that includes advocating for better health care for transgender individuals. Koch will share her experience Jan. 17 from 12-1 p.m. at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, HSC Auditorium in Kornhauser Library, as part of the LGBT Certificate Series.

Koch will address gender affirming surgery, creating a welcoming office environment for LGBTQ patients, risks associated with prolonged cross-sex hormone therapy, and surgical options for both female-to-male (FtM) and male-to-female (MtF) patients. As a health-care professional as well as a transwoman, Koch is in a unique position to share her own medical and surgical transition experience and answer questions from health-care students and professionals.

Koch is adjunct assistant professor of endodontics and a member of the Board of Overseers for the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. She received both her D.M.D. and Certificate in Endodontics from the University of Pennsylvania and is the founder and past director of the Postdoctoral Program in Endodontics at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Following her clinical and academic career, Koch formed her own successful technology and development company, Real World Endo. The author of more than 150 articles in the field of endodontics, Koch has presented more than 1,000 lectures worldwide.

The program is offered in collaboration with the UofL American Student Dental Association Chapter (LASDA), the UofL American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA), UofL Dental Continuing Education, and the LGBT Center Satellite Office on HSC.

The event is free and all are welcome whether or not they are participating in the LGBT Certificate Series. Attendees are asked to register, and lunch is provided with RSVP at https://goo.gl/S5Eayz.

The program qualifies for dental continuing education credit. For dental CE visit https://goo.gl/vLZSdv.

UofL dermatology chief elected to national committee

Callen tapped by Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education
UofL dermatology chief elected to national committee

Jeffrey Callen, M.D.

Jeffrey P. Callen, M.D., chief of the Division of Dermatology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has been elected to serve on the Accreditation Review Committee (ARC) of the Accreditation Council of Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). His two-year term begins Dec. 1, 2016.

The ACCME is a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that is responsible for accrediting institutions throughout the United States that offer continuing medical education (CME). Accreditation decisions are determined through a review by two ACCME committees: first, the Accreditation Review Committee, and second, the Decision Committee of the Board of Directors. All accreditation decisions are then ratified by the ACCME’s Board of Directors.

All physicians are required to earn CME credit in order to maintain their license to practice. In Kentucky, all physicians who maintain an active Kentucky medical or osteopathic license are required to complete 60 hours of CME every three years.

A Chicago native, Callen earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison before earning his medical degree from the University of Michigan, where he also performed residencies in internal medicine and dermatology.

In 1977, Callen joined the faculty at the University of Louisville, attaining the rank of professor in 1988 and being appointed as chief of the Division of Dermatology the same year. He served on the Board of Directors of the Dermatology Foundation from 1983-88; the American Academy of Dermatology from 1994-98 and 2003-04 as vice president; and the Association of Professors of Dermatology Inc. since 2003. He was the chair of the Council on Education of the American Academy of Dermatology 2003-07. He has been a member of the board of the American Board of Dermatology and the American Dermatological Association. He is a past president of the Medical Dermatology Society and was awarded the society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. In 2009 Callen received the Thomas Pearson, Ph.D. Education Award from the American Academy of Dermatology. This September he will assume the Presidency of the Association of Professors of Dermatology.

Callen is the author or co-author of 84 original articles, 181 case reports, 149 review articles, 50 editorials, 15 books, 276 book chapters and 165 abstracts. He has served as editor or deputy editor of the Archives of Dermatology, Journal Watch Dermatology and the Dermatology Section of UpToDate. He is currently the Associate editor of JAMA Dermatology. His book, Dermatologic Signs of Systemic Disease, now in its fifth edition, was just published.

Locally, Callen has served on the boards of the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family and Vocational Services, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Kentucky Arts and Crafts Foundation and the Speed Art Museum.

 

 

UofL ophthalmology residents certified earlier in training for advanced laser eye surgery

UofL residents earn certification usually achieved later in training thanks to public-private partnership
UofL ophthalmology residents certified earlier in training for advanced laser eye surgery

Residents Sidharth Puri, M.D., and Mohammad Ali Sadiq M.D.

Ophthalmology residents are learning to perform advanced eye surgeries earlier in their training at the University of Louisville thanks to a unique partnership with Suburban Excimer Laser Center and training on laser equipment from J&J Vision, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

“This is a novel public-private venture that provides a unique opportunity to combine the resources of a Fortune 500 company, the UofL ophthalmology program and a private laser center staffed with highly experienced clinicians,” said Richard Eiferman, M.D., clinical professor of ophthalmology with the University of Louisville School of Medicine, who oversees the training.  

The UofL Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences is one of only three programs in the United States in which the residents are trained for LASIK and PRK procedures during residency. The physicians in the laser center train the residents in performing the procedures, while representatives of Johnson & Johnson instruct them in the use of J&J Vision Surgical equipment for these procedures.

The program’s success promptly led to expanding it to include ophthalmology residents from the University of Kentucky Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences as well. Eight residents from UofL and six residents from UK are participating in the elective program.

The final stage of the training takes place at Suburban Excimer Laser Center, in which the residents perform surgeries under the direction of Eiferman, a clinical professor in the UofL School of Medicine, Frank Burns, M.D., and Mark Cassol, M.D., a lecturer in the UofL School of Medicine.

Earlier this year, two senior residents from UofL were the first medical residents in the United States to complete all of the required training and become FDA certified to perform the laser surgery prior to completing their three-year residency program. The certification typically is achieved by physicians engaged in specialized cornea fellowships following ophthalmology residency.

Only two other eye programs in the United States, Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, have similar programs.

Sidharth Puri, M.D., chief ophthalmology resident at UofL, said access to this training gives UofL residency graduates a significant advantage.

“This is a big strength for our program. It gives residents top notch exposure to the newest surgical techniques available,” Puri said.

To assist these residents in their training, the program is offering more affordable eye surgery to UofL faculty, staff, students and alumni. Resident procedures, staffed by Richard Eiferman, M.D., Frank Burns, M.D., and Mark Cassol, M.D., range from $495-$795 per eye for custom LASIK. For an appointment, call 502-588-0550.

 

November 1, 2018

Congressman John Yarmuth to offer insight into federal funding for science at UofL

Forum to discuss the importance of science advocacy and explain the federal budget process
Congressman John Yarmuth to offer insight into federal funding for science at UofL

Congressman John Yarmuth

When the federal government reduces funding for scientific research, labs may close and researchers may lose their positions. However, researchers have a voice in the funding process, and legislators want to hear from them.

“Scientists should be involved, stay informed and advocate for science funding,” said Naomi Charalambakis, a graduate student in the University of Louisville Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. “A lot of students and postdocs are completely unaware of how the budget begins and where scientists can intervene to help that process along. We have direct input and we can change the attitudes of policymakers.”

To help students and faculty at UofL gain a better understanding of the budget process and how individual researchers can affect it, the Science and Policy Outreach Group (SPOG) will present, “Funding Your Future: A forum discussing the federal budget and the importance of science advocacy,” at 10:00 a.m. August 26 at HSC Auditorium.

The event’s keynote speaker, Congressman John Yarmuth, will help clarify the federal budget process and provide an update on federal funding for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins October 1. Yarmuth, who represents Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, serves on the Committee on Budget and the Committee on Energy.

Forum schedule:

• 10 a.m. - Naomi Charalambakis, graduate student and Society for Neuroscience fellow, “The Federal Budget – How it works and why students should care.”
• 10:45 a.m. - William Guido, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, “The Importance of Advocacy – a chairman’s perspective.”
• 11:00 a.m. – Jon Klein, M.D., Ph.D., vice dean for research of the UofL School of Medicine, will introduce Congressman John Yarmuth. A Q&A session will follow.

The event is hosted by the Science and Policy Outreach Group (SPOG) and the Career Research Advancement Focused Training (CRAFT) Seminar Series. SPOG is an organization of graduate students at UofL with the mission to create and facilitate a dialogue between students in the sciences and members of Congress and the community. The CRAFT Seminar Series offers monthly presentations on career development for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at UofL.

Since there is water on Mars, could humans live there?

UofL professor to explain why the discovery of water on Mars is a big deal at next Beer with a Scientist event, Jan. 13
Since there is water on Mars, could humans live there?

Timothy Dowling, Ph.D.

For the January 2016 edition of Beer with a Scientist, Timothy Dowling, Ph.D., will explain how the discovery of water on Mars sheds light on our own environment.

“In 2015, NASA announced the discovery of liquid water on present-day Mars. We’ll take a look at what the many rovers and orbiters have turned up about the past, present and future of the Red Planet, and why liquid water is so important,” Dowling said. “The discoveries on Mars are revealing how essentially every detail of the Earth’s system is beneficial to life, and we will discuss habitability and the future of space exploration.”

Plus, Dowling will separate fact from fiction in the recent movie, “The Martian.”

Dowling is a professor of atmospheric science in UofL’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. He studies planetary atmospheres and specializes in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics.

The program begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 13 at Against the Grain Brewery, 401 E. Main St. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

The Beer with a Scientist program began in 2014 and is the brainchild of UofL cancer researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D. Once a month, the public is invited to enjoy exactly what the title promises:  beer and science.

Admission is free. Purchase of beer, other beverages or menu items is not required but is encouraged.

Organizers add that they also encourage Beer with a Scientist patrons to drink responsibly.

For more information and to suggest future Beer with a Scientist topics, follow Louisville Underground Science on Facebook.

 

January 5, 2015

Ignore the politics: Refugee health care benefits patients, providers

Dec. 10th presentation will highlight UofL Global Health Initiative’s refugee services

Refugee resettlement may be a hotly debated issue on the presidential campaign trail but the health care of refugees is both a service provided by and a benefit provided to the University of Louisville Global Health Initiative.

Ruth Carrico, Ph.D., and Rahel Bosson, M.D. will address the “The State of Refugee Health in Kentucky: From Flight to Resettlement” at noon, Thursday, Dec. 10, in room 103 of UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, 485 E. Gray St. Admission is free.

Carrico, a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner, and Bosson are among the staff who practice in UofL’s refugee health care and vaccine clinics that see approximately 3,000 refugees annually. These services are provided through a partnership with the Kentucky Office for Refugees, Catholic Charities Inc. and Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

While Syrian refugees are currently most discussed in news reports, the UofL clinic is the medical home for people seeking resettlement in Louisville from approximately 30 countries and who speak more than 20 languages.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the refugees come from a country with which the United States has recently relaxed sanctions and resumed diplomatic relations: Cuba.

“Most of our refugee patients today come from Cuba,” Carrico said. “The next largest groups are Iraqis, the Butanese and Somalis.”

The wide variety of nationalities is illustrated by the most prevalent condition seen in each group, Bosson said. “Women from Cuba most often have reproductive health concerns,” she said, “while PTSD is prevalent among people from the Middle East. In the Somali population, non-active tuberculosis is most often what we see.

“But we also  provide and facilitate care in  virtually every other health specialty – dentistry, vision, oncology, cardiovascular care, mental health services and vaccines – we arrange it all.”

The health care providers focus on exactly that – health care – not politics. The refugee patients need the services provided by the clinic, and in turn, the care provided is integrated in the health sciences schools’ education and training process. The care is interprofessional with medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health faculty and students partnering with faculty and students from engineering, business, arts and sciences and law.

“Before they can come to the United States, refugees are required to have an overseas medical exam,” Carrico said. “When they arrive, there is an eight-month window for them to make major strides toward self-sufficiency.

“Health is part of that self-sufficiency; how can you work and support yourself if you are sick? We can wait for health issues to occur and see them present in the emergency room,” Carrico said, “or we can care for them upfront. Preventive care is always less expensive and produces the best outcomes.”

The providers work with staff at the two resettlement agencies in Louisville to coordinate care for the newly arriving refugees, allowing a global health experience for faculty, staff and students.

“The care we provide in turn gives our resident physicians and medical, nursing and public health students important education and training in conditions not always seen in Louisville,” Bosson said. “Combined with interactions from students across the entire university, these experiences are unique to education and training at UofL and can be found in few other places across the United States.”

Added Carrico, “Many of our residents and students want a global health experience as part of their training; we provide it right here in Louisville.”

For information about the refugee clinic at UofL, call 502-852-3324.

Bolli recognized for lifetime of achievement by international research society

Bolli recognized for lifetime of achievement by international research society

Roberto Bolli, M.D.

The International Society for Heart Research (ISHR) has honored University of Louisville’s Roberto Bolli, M.D. for his contributions to cardiovascular science. The Peter Harris Distinguished Scientist Award, which recognizes a senior investigator for lifetime contributions of major discoveries in cardiovascular science, was presented to Bolli at the organization’s European Section meeting in Bordeaux, France earlier in July.

“This award is significant because it comes from an international community. I was chosen not by people I work more closely with in the United States, but by people from all over the world. It is truly an international recognition,” said Bolli, chief of UofL’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, director of the Institute of Molecular Cardiology and director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, as well as vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine.

The Peter Harris Distinguished Scientist Award is the most prestigious award presented by the ISHR, an international organization devoted to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge in the cardiovascular sciences on a world-wide basis. The ISHR’s 3,000 members are affiliated with seven sections based on five continents.

As recipient of the 2015 award, Bolli received a $3,000 honorarium and presented a keynote lecture at the meeting on July 2 on the state of cell-based therapies for ischemic cardiomyopathy. His research is focused on the use of stem cells to treat patients with coronary artery disease. Bolli led the Louisville-based SCIPIO trial that pioneered treatment with a patient’s own heart stem cells to regenerate dead heart muscle. Larger studies are underway which could lead to widespread use of this treatment.

“Smaller studies, including what we did in Louisville, have shown promise and the data are encouraging. We are awaiting final demonstration that the cells are truly beneficial in patients,” Bolli said.

Bolli also has conducted research on preventing damage caused during heart attacks by studying ischemic preconditioning, the phenomenon in which heart muscle exposed to brief periods of stress becomes resistant to the tissue death that might be caused by a heart attack.