News

Key to novel coronavirus therapeutics could be grown in … tobacco?

UofL’s nationally networked lab enables researchers to safely study virus
Key to novel coronavirus therapeutics could be grown in … tobacco?

UofL is home to one of 12 Regional Biocontainment Laboratories and two National Biocontainment Laboratories in the United States.

A decade ago, when the National Institutes of Health needed to place a high-security biocontainment laboratory in Kentucky, capable of safely studying dangerous and emerging infectious diseases, they turned to the University of Louisville.

Over the past decade, the laboratory has responded to national emergencies, studying highly infectious diseases such as SARS and others. Today it is being called upon in research efforts focusing on the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19. And in that lab, researchers are exploring compounds that hold promise as therapeutic agents against the disease and could be grown quickly in host tobacco plants.

That’s right, tobacco.

A strain of the reviled plant that has caused fatal diseases for centuries could be the key to quickly mass-producing a preventive agent, treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

“A protein in the university’s own proprietary portfolio and other compounds from industry sources may be useful against SARS-CoV-2,” said Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D., director of UofL’s Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM).  “We are currently conducting laboratory research with these compounds that could eventually lead to a therapeutic agent against COVID-19.”

UofL’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) is housed in the CPM and is part of a network of 12 regional and two national labs nationwide that were established with support from the NIH to conduct research with infectious agents. The national labs are located at Boston University and at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Regional labs are located at the University of Chicago, Duke University, Boston University and other universities throughout the U.S. The RBL network stands ready in response to public health emergencies and emerging diseases such as the novel coronavirus.

The UofL RBL includes Biosafety Level 3 facilities built to the most exacting federal safety and security standards. The stringently secure facilities protect researchers and the public from exposure to the pathogens being investigated. As part of the RBL network, the UofL RBL is able to respond to needs of researchers, federal agencies and pharmaceutical companies nationwide to conduct research with infectious agents.

Palmer and his research team received samples of SARS-CoV-2 last month and are researching it only in the highly secure confines of the RBL. Covered head to toe in personal protective equipment to prevent self-infection, the researchers now are testing the therapeutic candidates against the disease in cell cultures.

The UofL compound is known as Q-Griffithsin and is co-owned by the university with the National Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh. It is a potent anti-viral protein that possesses microbicidal capabilities. The other compounds are proprietary to their respective companies.

The research goal is to identify the best potential treatment option that could eventually be tested in humans, first at UofL to gauge its safety and efficacy and then later at the University of Pittsburgh and other clinical trial sites to continue to test its effectiveness. Although there are no guarantees, “we believe we could move into human clinical trials by the end of the year,” Palmer said.

That’s where the tobacco plants come in. A large amount of the ultimate therapeutic will be needed for human trials. Kentucky’s historical cash crop is a perfect host to produce the quantities needed.

“The unique quality about studying these compounds in Kentucky is that we can rapidly scale up production of tobacco plants to produce the large amounts of the agent we will need for human testing,” Palmer said. “As people already know, tobacco grows very well in Kentucky.”

Some of the compounds are already showing promise in the laboratory. While the end of the year seems far off in the current coronavirus climate, it is realistic because “SARS-CoV-2 may be with us for a couple of winter seasons. We’d like to have a product that could be tested if the infection comes back in the cold season like influenza does,” Palmer said.

If it does, Palmer and his team will be ready. “We think we will be able to deliver the drug as a nasal spray and hope we can use it as a preventive, pre-exposure treatment before a vaccine could be developed. This will be important for the public and especially for those who are at risk because of their age or pre-existing health conditions or because they work in health care.”

UofL Health expedites telehealth expansion in response to COVID-19 pandemic

UofL Health is launching an immediate expansion of its telehealth program to improve patient access with more than 600 of our providers, while maintaining social distancing, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 25, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear emphasized the importance of using this technology, especially in our current environment.

“This is something that had been on track for a launch later this year,” said Wade Mitzel, Chief Operating Officer, UofL Physicians. “But given the current need to reduce contact and increase precaution, we fast tracked the launch in order to give our patients peace of mind, with a convenient and safe way to access their provider.”

UofL Health – Telehealth will be available to established and qualifying new patients by calling our primary care access line: 502-588-4343. A scheduling specialist will help determine whether a telehealth or in-person visit would best serve the need.

Our telehealh appointment is like an in-person appointment with a provider. During the visit you’ll talk about your current health concerns and learn what to do.

  • Your visit can take place from a location that is the most convenient for you.
  • Your provider will use a video-based application to talk with you by phone, tablet or computer.
  • Our telemedicine platform is secure and HIPAA compliant.
  • Your photo and voice will not be recorded or stored.
  • Your privacy and rights will be respected and ensured.

If a telehealth appointment is appropriate, the scheduler will provide further instructions on downloading the application, verify an email address and confirm that you have a webcam or built-in camera for your desktop, laptop, phone, tablet or other compatible device. When it is time for your appointment to begin, you’ll click on a link to be connected with a provider.

Through UofL Health – Telehealth our providers can provide an initial assessment of symptoms related to COVID-19, plus treat common conditions like colds and flu, sore throats, rashes, allergies, bladder infections and more. Providers may prescribe medications, if appropriate, recommend an over-the-counter medication or provide home care options. If needed, the provider may refer patients to an appropriate UofL Physicians - Primary Care office location, specialist or to an emergency department.

COVID-19 can't stop another successful Match Day for UofL internal medicine residency programs

Minus the usual festivities, Match Day 2020 brings another solid incoming class for the UofL Internal Medicine, Combined Med-Peds residency groups
COVID-19 can't stop another successful Match Day for UofL internal medicine residency programs

University of Louisville medical students celebrate Match Day in 2019

Although it didn't take place in the usual manner due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, University of Louisville medical students, and others nationwide, still enjoyed the thrill and excitement of finding out their future paths in medical education.

Match Day forged ahead on March 20, as prospective medical residents opened their envelopes from the National Residency Match Program to find where they had been matched for their future training as residents.

"I would like to welcome 24 categorical, 16 prelim, and five med-peds interns to our residency program!" Jennifer Koch, M.D., FACP, Director of the UofL Internal Medicine Residency Program said. "As our healthcare system deals with the current COVID-19 crisis, it reminds us how fortunate we are to have such a diverse and dedicated group of young physicians who will be training in our program beginning in July."

In addition, the Combined Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program, under the direction of Laura Workman, M.D., FAAP, FACP, brought in yet another solid class.

"We are so thrilled with our class of incoming residents," Workman said. "They are a wonderful group and we are proud to have them as part of our med-peds family. We look forward to them starting this summer!"

Conducted annually by the NRMP, The Match uses a computerized algorithm designed to the best results by aligning the preferences of applicants with the preferences of residency programs. The results are used to fill thousands of training positions available in the United States.

Our incoming Class of 2020 includes:

Categorical Residents

  • Anuja Abhyankar - Grant Government Medical College
  • Apurv Agarwal - Maulana Azad Medical College
  • Jillian Berger - Indiana University
  • Brandon Busch - University of Mississippi
  • Mary Casey - University of Louisville
  • Saiteja Chava - Saint Louis University
  • Garvit Chhabra - Maulana Azad Medical College
  • Claire Crawford - University of Louisville
  • Quan Do - University of Louisville
  • Zainab Farooqui - University of Pikeville
  • Dylan Flaherty - Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Natasha Fraser - University of Louisville
  • Martha Gallegos - University of New Mexico
  • Nicole Giddens - University of Queensland
  • Brian Goodman - University of Pikeville
  • Mouaz Haffar - West Virginia University
  • Michael Hogg - University of Louisville
  • Nolan Interial - Lincoln Memorial University
  • Jaewon Jung - Indiana University
  • Neha Nidhi - The Ohio State University
  • Pranav Pillai - Topiwala National Medical College
  • Manasa Sagaram - Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Marianna Weaver - Liberty University
  • David Wilhelm - Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

 

Preliminary Residents

  • Simra Ahmed - University of Louisville
  • Christopher Atkins - Marshall University
  • Brennan Boyd - University of Arizona
  • Abigail Hatfield - University of Pikeville
  • Daniel Holbrook - University of Louisville
  • Joshua Iltis - University of Texas San Antonio
  • Timothy Mahanes - University of Louisville
  • Ashlee Margheim - University of Louisville
  • Chelsea-Ann Patrey - Medical University of South Carolina
  • Sina Rashidi - Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Scott Ray - Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Jasmine Robinson - University of Louisville
  • Amy Shah - University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Shannon Strader - Lincoln Memorial University
  • Andrew Villasenor - Lincoln Memorial University
  • Yi Zhang - Marian College of Osteopathic Medicine

 

Combined Med-Peds Residents

  • Molly Bedenbaugh - Medical University of South Carolina
  • Hannah Frudden - University of Illinois
  • Joseph McHale - University of Queensland
  • Malik McMullin - University of South Alabama
  • Anna Nelson - West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

HSC Contingency Plans

Dear Colleagues:

This email is a follow up to the EVPRI’s email concerning COVID19 preparedness for the research community. Much of this email contains instructions to prepare our laboratories for the immediate future in case COVID19 causes significant disruptions in daily university operations. Most of the recommendations are for basic research laboratories. I’m asking departmental chairs and center directors to communicate these recommendations to their faculty and laboratory managers.

 

  1. Establish a clear communication plan for each laboratory – Assemble a laboratory directory with cell phone numbers, land line numbers and email addresses. Develop a communication plan for email and phone text messaging and test it. Personnel must have the ability to contact other staff and faculty so they can receive instruction about laboratory issues. I ask that Chairs and Center directors forward all completed laboratory directories to me and the EVPRI by Tuesday March 17th.

 

  1. Designate 1 to 2 essential personnel in each laboratory – In the event that a major disruption in university function occurs, it is important that each laboratory identify these key personnel so that they can be given access to the facilities. Laboratory essential personnel should be prepared in the coming week to keep the laboratory functioning. Some tasks to consider are reagent preservation, maintenance of long-term experiments, monitoring of essential reagent storage equipment, monitoring of sensitive equipment and human subject issues. I ask that Chairs and Center directors forward a list of key personnel sorted by laboratory to me and the EVPRI by Tuesday March 17th.

 

  1. Develop a clear plan to shut down your laboratory – If the university is closed for any period of time it is important to consider the effects this will have and the actions that must be completed to ensure safety. These actions include: preserve research projects and critical reagents, protect sensitive equipment, ensure safety of an unattended laboratory, preserve data integrity, among others. Laboratory leaders should identify any experiments that can be ramped down or delayed. Faculty should identify others who do similar research to identify ways to work together to maintain critical laboratory functions and to share essential personnel. Laboratories should begin immediately to preserve critical cell lines or mouse lines. Biological and chemical waste should be removed before interruptions caused by staff reductions.

 

  1. Remove and dispose of unnecessary items from your -80 and -20 freezers, and liquid nitrogen storage – In a crisis it may be necessary to consolidate perishable materials because of electricity failures that affect our freezers or no liquid nitrogen deliveries. Try to consolidate valuable material in freezers that are monitored and automatically notify you if the temperature is sub-optimal

 

  1. Map out the supply chains for your research – Assess your inventory and order reagents that have durable shelf lives. Attempt to establish an adequate inventory of important lab and safety supplies that may be in short supply due to global supply chain disruptions. Plan for delays or even loss of support in dry ice, liquid nitrogen, biological waste removal and hazardous substance removal.

 

  1. Check updates regularly from the EVPRI office – The EVPRI office is updating information about COVID19 and its impact on UofL. Their main COVID19 page ishttps://louisville.edu/research/covid19resources and their COVID19 FAQ page is https://louisville.edu/research/covid19resources/faq

 

I greatly appreciate the many suggestions I’ve received about how to prepare our laboratories for these challenges. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about these guidelines.

I am confident we will get through the coming days and the lessons we learn will be useful in the years to come.

 

All the best,

Jon

 

Jon Klein, MD, PhD FASN

Vice-Dean for Research

James Graham Brown Foundation Endowed Chair in Proteomics

Director, Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute

University of Louisville School of Medicine


Mental health experts explain how sporting event cancellations affect athletes, fans

Mental health experts explain how sporting event cancellations affect athletes, fans

empty basketball court

The traditional thrill of March Madness in the basketball arena has given way to a new kind  of madness this season as novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads. Conference tournaments, along with the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, are canceled because of the public health threat.

University of Louisville mental health experts say these cancellations make a big impact on both student athletes and fans.

UofL sports psychiatrist Christopher K. Peters, MD, says there will definitely be a grieving process for the student athlete.

“These students have and are working toward a high-level goal, which they may not be allowed to continue,” said Peters who is an associate professor of pediatrics at UofL and medical director of outpatient services with Norton Children’s Mental and Behavioral Health Center.

But, Peters points out, “perspective is everything and the grief should be tempered with the understanding that these decisions are made to mitigate a broader health crisis.”

Fans, too, feel the loss. UofL social psychologist Michael Cunningham, PhD, professor, Department of Communications, says fans have worked up to a major point on their calendars for these tournament events.

“People experience group identity and group affirmation as fans of a certain team – it is the gathering together of like-minded people who get a sense of personal validation and testosterone boost when their team wins,” Cunningham said. “It all adds spice to life and when it is taken away, life can be rather bland.”

Cunningham points out bracket fever and the entire support structure of tournament play will be pushed aside, as well.

“For some people it is like canceling Christmas,” he said.

Experienced administrator to lead emergency medicine at UofL, UofL Hospital

Experienced administrator to lead emergency medicine at UofL, UofL Hospital

Jeremy Thomas, M.D., M.B.A.

J. Jeremy Thomas, M.D., M.B.A., has joined the University of Louisville School of Medicine faculty as chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. The UofL Board of Trustees approved his appointment during a regular meeting on Jan. 23. Thomas also will serve as chief of service for emergency medicine at UofL Hospital.

Thomas, board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, was a tenured professor and executive vice chair of the University of Alabama-Birmingham Department of Emergency Medicine prior to his appointment at UofL. He also served as associate chief medical officer of emergency services and sepsis at UAB Medicine, UAB Hospital, as well as director of emergency services for UAB Hospital.

“The program at UofL has a very strong reputation for clinical training and for outstanding patient care. The resident teaching and the service to the community are outstanding,” Thomas said. “With my clinical operations and education background, the opportunity to lead this department was appealing.”

As chair of the UofL Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas will oversee the training of medical students and residents within the School of Medicine. As chief of service for UofL Hospital, Thomas will direct clinical services provided by the emergency department.

School of Medicine Dean Toni Ganzel said she was pleased to recommend Thomas for the position.

“I am confident that Dr. Thomas’s talent, skills and energy will be a good fit for leading the department into the future and he will build on the many strengths of the department,” she said.

UofL Health CEO Tom Miller also expressed confidence in his selection.

“Dr. Thomas’s leadership complements the outstanding care provided every day by our emergency medicine team,” Miller said.

Thomas, an Alabama native, attended medical school at the University of South Alabama and earned a master’s of business administration from Auburn University. He completed his emergency medicine residency at UAB and a cardiovascular emergencies fellowship at the University of Virginia. He received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) in Williamsburg, Ky.

“Having been to college in Kentucky and having colleagues and friends who trained at UofL and some who still live in the area made it an easy transition for me from a personal standpoint,” Thomas said.

 

University of Louisville, Norton Healthcare finalize pediatric integration

University of Louisville, Norton Healthcare finalize pediatric integration

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, left, and UofL Pediatrics Chair Kimberly Boland, M.D., right.

The affiliation between Norton Healthcare, UofL Physicians – Pediatrics and the University of Louisville School of Medicine was finalized on Sunday, March 1, 2020.

Under the newly formed Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, 21 former UofL general pediatric and pediatric subspecialist practices are now part of Norton Healthcare. Approximately 600 providers and staff have transitioned with the affiliation.

“By integrating the best pediatric providers who are committed to providing safe, high-quality care, we will make it easier for families to access comprehensive medical care for their children,” said Russell F. Cox, president and CEO, Norton Healthcare.

The UofL physicians and providers who are currently on the faculty of the school of medicine will remain in their academic role and will also work clinically within Norton Children’s Medical Group.

“UofL is committed to helping nurture healthy children and communities while maintaining our strong academic training programs and research. This agreement ultimately will translate into even better care for children,” said Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D., president, UofL.

“Integrating allows the two organizations to move forward, capitalizing on each other’s strengths for the benefit of our patients and families,” said Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, division president, provider operations, and system chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare.

The affiliation is designed to make it easier for patients to access outpatient care within the practices and inpatient care at Norton Children’s Hospital. Access will be improved through:

  • Scheduling enhancements
  • Recruiting additional providers
  • Increasing the number of multidisciplinary clinics, where patients with serious and chronic medical conditions can see multiple specialists on the same day
  • Using a single integrated electronic medical record, which will make it easier for patients and families to access test results and communicate with their providers

“Ultimately, the goal is to develop and deliver the best possible programs, services and patient experience for the children of Kentucky and beyond,” said Jennifer C. Evans, M.D., MPH, FACOG, system vice president, women’s and pediatric services, Norton Healthcare. “Both organizations have been committed to providing a seamless transition.”

This new model also will allow the practices to enhance their focus on providing highly skilled clinical care that is integrated with world-class medical education and research. A strong continued commitment to innovation and education is an important component of the integration. UofL’s academic and research mission is key to teaching the next generation of pediatric providers, which is essential to growing a regionally and nationally recognized pediatric program. In addition, by working together, the organizations can recruit, train and retain key talent for pediatric programs.

“Children will benefit from the strong academic training programs and research that will continue through the UofL School of Medicine,” said Kimberly A. Boland, M.D., professor and chair, department of pediatrics, University of Louisville School of Medicine. “Working together will help us attract additional specialists to Louisville to care for children with the most complex medical issues. We look forward to seeing what great things we can accomplish together, not only in clinical care, but also in educating future pediatricians and making new discoveries in the field of child and adolescent health care.”

 

 

Experts on aging to speak at statewide conference

UofL Trager Institute, Kentucky Association for Gerontology host Optimal Aging Conference
Experts on aging to speak at statewide conference

Optimal Aging Conference

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches, the 2020 Optimal Aging Conference offers unique educational and networking opportunities for health care, social service and technology professionals, alongside older adults and their caregivers.

The conference, now in its fourth year, will feature experts in aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s research, innovation and public health. The University of Louisville Trager Institute and the Kentucky Association for Gerontology are hosting the conference April 19-21 at the Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway, in Louisville.

“We are thrilled to present such a strong line-up of speakers,” said Anna Faul, PhD, executive director of the University of Louisville Trager Institute. “The presenters, along with our breakout and poster sessions, will provide an incredibly rich and engaging experience for anyone working in the aging field or who has interest in inspiring our understanding of aging,” she said.

2020 Optimal Aging Conference Topics and Speakers:

Aging Inspired in Kentucky: Directions in Aging Policy (Panel Discussion)

  • Sandy Markwood, national CEO, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
  • Eric Friedlander, acting secretary, Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services
  • LaDonna Koebel, executive director, Office of Senior Protection & Mediation, Kentucky Office of the Attorney General

A Community Network Approach to Health
Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD
,chief health economist,MicroClinic International; faculty member, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston

Ending the Alzheimer's Pandemic
Dale Bredesen, MD
,professor, UCLA; founding president and professor emeritus, Buck Institute for Research on Aging; author of New York Times bestseller, The End of Alzheimer’s

 AARP Keynote: Words of Wisdom for #Agetech Entrepreneurs
Nigel Smith, MBA
, director, Hatchery Ventures, AARP Innovation Labs, Washington, D.C.

Alzheimer’s Update
Gregory Jicha, MD, PhD
, professor of neurology; director, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky

Guided by the theme “Aging Inspired,” conference attendees also will hear from experts on a number of topics including: how to prevent financial elder abuse, national programs and arts activism counteracting ageism, programs for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, the future impacts of artificial intelligence and robotics in senior care, trauma-informed care of older adults, international evidence-based falls programs, lifestyle medicine nutrition and more.

“The 2020 Optimal Aging Conference provides outstanding resources, inspiring ideas, and continuing education for Kentucky’s aging service professionals. The conference is a great opportunity for networking and professional development,” said Stacey Watkins, president of the Kentucky Association of Gerontology.

The UofL Trager Institute also will host a mobile workshop for its new Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic. The clinic, located in Louisville’s Innovation Corridor, is a one-stop-shop that provides integrated life-long wellness by combining lifestyle and preventative medicine with specialized and acute care.

Early-bird registration ends March 22. Learn more about registration, keynote speakers, and continuing education online at: https://www.tragerinstitute.org/optimal-aging-conference. Contact Natalie Pope at natalie.pope@louisville.edu for more information.

 

From waterboy to star player: astrocytes shown to have a leading role in brain development

From waterboy to star player: astrocytes shown to have a leading role in brain development

William Guido, Ph.D., and Naomi Charalambakis, Ph.D.

Astrocytes, abundant, star-shaped glial cells in the central nervous system, are known to support neurons through such tasks as providing glue that helps neurons stick together, delivering nutrients and removing waste. However, research published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals they also play a commanding role in visual development.

University of Louisville researchers, working with colleagues at Virginia Tech Carillion (VTC), have discovered that astrocytes play a crucial role in directing interneurons, specialized neurons essential for vision, to the proper location in the brain during development. In response to visual stimulation, astrocytes express fibroblast growth factor 15, (FGF15), a molecule that directs the interneurons from germinal zones to their destination in the visual thalamus.

Neurobiologists William Guido, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at UofL, and Michael Fox, Ph.D., director of the Center for Neurobiology Research at Virginia Tech Carilion, worked in collaboration to reveal this process. The publication, “Retinal inputs signal astrocytes to recruit interneurons into visual thalamus,” also included significant lab work by graduate students at both universities.

“My lab identifies a neurocircuit and follows it during development to visualize it, manipulate it and understand how it works,” Guido said. “Dr. Fox provides the molecular mechanisms that underlie that circuit assembly. We combined our strengths to come up with these findings. Neither one of us could have done this on our own.”

Interneurons are part of a class of neurons that balance excitatory neurons and are essential in maintaining proper brain function. If the interneurons do not populate the thalamus correctly, neural circuits mediating vision do not develop properly. Therefore, the accuracy of the interneuron movement is essential for how the brain views the external world.

The proper balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurons is essential not only in visual processing, but in other brain functions as well. That means this research provides new targets for treating neurological diseases caused by an imbalance between inhibitory and excitatory activity in the brain.

“Neurological diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia can be attributed, in part, to abnormal interneuron levels and activity,” said Naomi Charalambakis, Ph.D., a UofL alumna who shares first authoriship of the publication. “This work not only reveals the importance of astrocytes in the development of thalamic interneuron circuitry, it also sparks more questions for future research: How does this affect the physiology patterns of other sensory systems? Does this phenotype manifest in behavioral differences?”

For this reason, Guido believes understanding how these cells migrate and are incorporated into brain circuitry could lead to new ways to ensure the proper balance of excitatory and inhibitory activity of other neurons.

“Knowing the importance of the location and incorporation of this type of neuron into the brain circuitry as well as the mechanism for its placement, we may be able to design strategies to make sure those neurons get where they should be or to overcome a deficit if they are missing,” Guido said. “This could allow us to correct some of these conditions.”

Another key finding of the work is that the astrocytes cue the migration of interneurons in response to external influences.

“Experience with the outside world is critical. When there is visual stimulation, that triggers the regulatory role for these cells in targeting,” Guido said.

Graduate students at both UofL and VTC conducted much of the lab work for this research. Charalambakis, whose 2018 doctoral dissertation resulted in this publication and another in The Journal of Neuroscience in May 2019, now is a senior science policy analyst at Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The synergistic research between the Guido and Fox labs has led to numerous discoveries of vital information about neurodevelopment and five high profile publications over the past decade. The National Eye Institute funds both research labs.

Robert Friedland, M.D., to conduct research on neurodegenerative disorders in Japan

Researcher awarded competitive fellowship grant from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Robert Friedland, M.D., to conduct research on neurodegenerative disorders in Japan

Robert Friedland, M.D.

University of Louisville neurologist and researcher Robert P. Friedland, M.D., a professor in the Department of Neurology, will teach and conduct research in Japan during a one-year sabbatical beginning May 1. Friedland will conduct research on neurodegenerative diseases at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine (KPUM). The work is funded by a long-term Invitational Fellowship for Research in Japan from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) which was awarded through a competitive selection process.

Friedland has studied Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and related conditions for more than 30 years. His previous work has uncovered the role of amyloid proteins made by intestinal and oral bacteria in neurodegenerative diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Previously, Friedland worked with researchers at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka to reveal the important influence of oral bacteria on the development of hemorrhagic stroke.

In Kyoto, Friedland will further investigate the influence of the microbiota on neurodegenerative disease models in fruit flies. He plans tests to determine the influence of functional bacterial amyloid proteins on the aggregation of brain proteins, a key element of neurodegenerative diseases. Friedland will collaborate in this research with Toshiki Mizuno, Ph.D., of the KPUM Division of Neurology and Gerontology, one of several Japanese researchers with whom Friedland has worked for several decades.

He also will conduct research with collaborators at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate further with my Japanese colleagues and to conduct this research in Kyoto,” Friedland said.

JSPS awards fellowships to select international researchers to conduct collaborative work with researchers in Japan. Long-term fellowships for 2020 have been awarded in agriculture, engineering, chemistry, math, humanities and medicine. Friedland received one of four fellowships in the field of medicine.

After his year in Kyoto, Friedland will continue his research and clinical work at UofL, where his collaborators in the lab of Levi Beverly, Ph.D., currently are finishing data analysis on a study of the influence of bacterial amyloid on ALS in mice.

Pharmacology & Toxicology faculty honored by School of Medicine

Faculty from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology were honored at the inaugural School of Medicine Celebration of Faculty Excellence on February 18.

  • Dr. La Creis Kidd received the multicultural teaching award. 
  • Dr. Scott Whittemore received the Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity Award for Career Achievement.
  • Dr. Christopher States was nominated for Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity Award in the basic and applied sciences.

 

             




Owners of Holsopple Brewing talk beer at Beer with a Scientist Feb. 26

Owners of Holsopple Brewing talk beer at Beer with a Scientist Feb. 26

Sam Gambill and Kristy Holsopple

Flavors and aromas are the key to great beer. Kristy Holsopple and Sam Gambill have developed some uniquely flavored beers for their microbrewery, Holsopple Brewing, including brews flavored with blueberry, toasted hemp seeds and cinnamon, to name just a few.

Holsopple, a microbiologist, and Gambill met at a brewery and each have 15 years in the alcohol manufacturing industry. Now married with two young boys, they share their brewing talents with customers at the brewery. At the next Beer with a Scientist, Holsopple and Gambill will discuss beer sensory terms and how raw materials and yeast create beer aromas and flavor.

The talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26 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.

Pfizer Inc. designates UofL first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research

Pfizer Inc. designates UofL first-of-its-kind Center of Excellence for epidemiological research

Julio Ramirez, M.D., right, in the UofL infectious diseases laboratory

A new collaboration with Pfizer Inc. will enable the University of Louisville’s Division of Infectious Diseases to play a significant role in epidemiological research related to vaccine-preventable diseases affecting adults, including the elderly.

UofL has been designated the first Center of Excellence by Pfizer Vaccines.

“UofL’s Division of Infectious Diseases has a rich history of collaboration with Pfizer through the successful implementation of numerous clinical epidemiological research studies. We are excited to formalize a long-term collaboration that builds on these past successes,” said Julio Ramirez, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Louisville.

The Center of Excellence, directed by Ramirez, is a collaboration between the university and the pharmaceutical corporation aimed at determining the human health burden of important infectious diseases and potential vaccine effectiveness. The data will provide robust evidence to national health officials and independent policy makers who develop recommendations for the use of vaccines in immunization programs worldwide. Studies will take place in hospitals, long-term care facilities and the community.

UofL is the first Center of Excellence selected by Pfizer Vaccines Medical Development and Scientific/Clinical Affairs to be part of an international network of epidemiological research organizations. This designation is for a period of three years with an option for renewal. Pfizer selected UofL because of the university’s exceptional capabilities for conducting population-based surveillance and clinical research that engages multiple health care facilities, health care personnel, industry and communities-at-large.

“Pfizer has had an outstanding working relationship with the University of Louisville for more than 10 years,” said Luis Jodar, Ph.D., chief medical and scientific affairs officer, Pfizer Vaccines. “The quality of disease burden evidence varies widely worldwide. Deriving accurate and credible population-based incidence estimates require comprehensive surveillance to identify cases of diseases within a well-defined and well-characterized geographic area. Thanks to UofL’s excellent network of research partners, the population available for research studies in Louisville can provide the data to derive estimates of disease burden that can be generalized nationally.”

The demographics of Jefferson County, Kentucky, are similar to the United States in general, including racial and ethnic make-up, socioeconomic status, and the proportion of rural and urban populations.

The research studies conducted as part of the center may lead to economic growth and development for the city of Louisville and the Kentuckiana region, including jobs and educational opportunities in the health care industry.

“This collaboration will provide increased visibility for the university on a global scale, making UofL attractive for high-caliber researchers and research grants,” said Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D., president of UofL. ”It also presents an exceptional opportunity for our researchers to improve the human condition by helping to reduce the burden of infectious diseases worldwide by generating data that will inform governments and health care policymakers.”

Pfizer studies anticipated for UofL include population-based surveillance of infectious diseases including Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria which causes pneumonia and other infections, Clostridioides difficile, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and colitis, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus associated with mild cold-like symptoms but can cause severe infection in some people, including older adults. Visit CERIDLouisville.org/research for additional information on these diseases and two Center of Excellence studies already underway at UofL:

  • The City of Louisville Diarrhea (CLOUD) study launched in September 2019. Pfizer will be providing up to $6.5 million in funding for a one-year study of the incidence of diarrhea among Louisville-area residents.
  • The Louisville Pneumonia study is up to $4.5 million in funding provided by Pfizer for a one-year study of the incidence of pneumonia among adults in Louisville that launched in November 2019.

Watch a video here

UofL researchers rehydrate dried blood in weightless environment

Goal of the research is to ensure availability of medical care during long-term space missions
UofL researchers rehydrate dried blood in weightless environment

Research crew preparing to board ZERO-G aircraft with the glovebox.

Technologies in development by researchers at the University of Louisville are aimed at ensuring astronauts on long-range space missions have access to medical care. A UofL research team recently tested rehydrating dried red blood cells in a weightless environment. The UofL group completed more than 50 weightless cycles during two flights to test rehydrating the blood and the use of 3D-printed surgical instruments aboard a ZERO-G aircraft.

ZERO-G is a privately owned company that uses a modified Boeing 727 jet to create a weightless environment using parabolic flight patterns. The experiments, sponsored by NASA, are designed to ensure that crews have access to proper medical treatment during long-range exploration space flights, such as to Mars.

Michael Menze, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, and Jonathan Kopechek, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioengineering at UofL, lead a team that has developed several methods for drying blood to enable it to be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration. The dried blood then can be rehydrated using sterile water when it is needed. Current methods for storing blood require constant refrigeration and the blood can only be stored for six weeks, which would not be sufficient for crews on years-long space missions.

“If cosmic radiation reduces red blood cell count, for example, you are not going to have a donor and a recipient [with a four-person flight crew], you are going to have four people needing blood and there is no good way to store it during a long space trip of months or years,” said Brett Janis, a graduate research assistant who also is involved in the project. “So being able to store it in a dried state and then confidently rehydrate it is critical.”

The dried blood is typically rehydrated by adding water and inverting the container, Menze said. This method relies on normal gravity, however, so the researchers devised other methods for potential use in space. [See a video about the project HERE.]

To develop testing procedures, Menze worked with George Pantalos, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. Pantalos tested medical equipment in a weightless environment in the past and customized a glovebox enclosure he developed for his research for these experiments.

“If you are in reduced gravity or zero gravity, will the red blood cells rehydrate correctly and will they function like normal red blood cells, transporting oxygen to the tissues of the body,” Pantalos said.

Pantalos, Menze and Janis, along with other researchers and five students, designed and prepared the tests to rehydrate the blood cells and traveled to Florida with the glovebox and equipment in November 2019 to conduct the experiments aboard the ZERO-G aircraft. During the tests, the team assembled a bag with the powdered blood cells, a syringe and sterilized water in the glovebox. There they tested multiple techniques to rehydrate the cells during the weightless phases of flight.

“We tested two different ways of assisting in the mixing of liquid and powdered red blood cells,” Menze said. “We used pliable plastic bags instead of hard-plastic containers for the mixing. The water was added to the bag from an attached syringe and the liquid and powder were mixed by ‘massaging’ the bag or by using a second attached syringe and moving the liquid in and out of the bag. The ‘massage’ methods seem to work a bit better.”

Pantalos said the glove box and planned experiment techniques worked well, allowing the scientists and students to complete all the planned tests on the blood cells, which had been dehydrated using two different methods -- spray-dried and freeze-dried -- in 5 milliliter and 10 milliliter volumes. After the aircraft landed, the rehydrated samples were analyzed by a ground crew for evaluation to see if they are suitable for infusion into a patient.

“We found that the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood was comparable to what we find when we are rehydrating our blood at one-earth gravity,” Menze said. “I was really excited.”

During the flight, Pantalos also tested the use of 3D-printed instruments to simulate basic surgical tasks such as incision and retraction. By 3-D printing tools and instruments they need aboard the spacecraft, it is possible for the crew to take basic materials and create specific pieces according to needs that arise during the mission rather than trying to anticipate all potential medical needs in advance.

The NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which supports projects for developing technology appropriate for use in space flight, funded the preparation testing and the flights. The UofL team now is preparing for their next flight campaign, planned for later this year, to test rehydration processes for cells dehydrated using different methods and rehydrating up to 350 milliliters of blood, which would be needed in an actual transfusion therapy situation.

What in the world is CRISPR, anyway?

Beer with a Scientist features a non-scientist’s guide to cutting-edge biomedical research tools
What in the world is CRISPR, anyway?

Levi Beverly, Ph.D.

You may have heard about breakthroughs in medical research such as CRISPR, a technology that allows scientists to edit genes, or the microbiota, the bugs that live in and on us and are getting the credit and blame for any number of health conditions. But how can non-scientists understand these subjects and their effects on health and health care?

University of Louisville researcher Levi Beverly, Ph.D., is here to help.

At the next Beer with a Scientist, Beverly, associate professor in the Department of Medicine, will explain these and other recent developments in biomedical research for people without a degree in science.

“We will talk about CRISPR, microbiota and other topics, but we also are asking the audience what they want to learn about,” Beverly said. “People are invited to bring an article or headline they have seen that needs more explanation or to post questions or topics on our Facebook page, Louisville Underground Science.”

Beverly’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22 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.

UofL well represented at the AASLD annual Liver Week

UofL was well represented at the AASLD (American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases) annual Liver Week, in Boston on November 13-17 2019.  We had more than 15 presentations, including several oral presentations on topics ranging from environmental liver injury to alcohol associated liver disease.  Dr. Craig McClain co-chaired the Alcohol SIG (Special Interest Group) meeting. 

https://www.aasld.org/event/liver-meeting

Dr. James Collins Joins M&I Faculty

Dr. James Collins Joins M&I Faculty

Dr. James Collins

Dr. James Collins joined the faculty as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, starting January 1, 2020.  Dr. Collins’ research focuses on the factors that underlie the spread of of epidemic, hypervirulent Clostridium difficile.  His recent discovery of the link between dietary trehalose and C difficile virulence was recently published in Nature (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29310122).  Welcome James!

UofL Trager Institute executive director elected to national board

UofL Trager Institute executive director elected to national board

Anna Faul, PhD, and Catherine P. Carrico, PhD, President of the National Association for Geriatric Education board

Selected for her leadership in the area of geriatric education, Anna Faul, PhD, executive director, University of Louisville Trager Institute, has been elected to join the executive board of the National Association for Geriatric Education (N-AGE).

N-AGE is a non-profit membership organization representing geriatric education centers and other organizations that provide education and training to health professionals. The organization seeks to improve the quality of health care for older adults, including underserved and minority groups. N-AGE is a leading national voice for building a robust pipeline at every level of education to increase the size and skill set of students and professionals in the aging-related workforce.

“I am honored to be selected for this national leadership position. As a long-time educator in the field of gerontology, I am deeply passionate about increasing the workforce size and improving the skills of the aging-related workforce,” Faul said. “Workforce development is one of the UofL Trager Institute’s strategic initiatives and we have received several HRSA-funded grants to support this goal. I look forward to taking what we have learned from these programs to a national level.”

“We are thrilled that Dr. Faul has joined the N-AGE Board of Directors. She is an experienced leader in the field who brings a wealth of knowledge about aging services and geriatrics,” said Catherine P. Carrico, PhD, president of the N-AGE board.

As a new board member, Faul will serve as chair of the Education and Training Committee. In this role, she will further the committee’s goal of enhancing nationwide opportunities for the education of health care practitioners in geriatrics and gerontology. Specifically, Faul will work to increase the visibility of HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Programs and Geriatrics Academic Career Awards. This builds on her experience as principal investigator for both the UofL Trager Institute’s HRSA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program and HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Enhancement Program. She also has served as mentor for Samantha Cotton, PhD, program manager at the UofL Trager Institute and 2019 Geriatrics Academic Career Award recipient.

Faul learned of her board selection during the 2019 Gerontological Society of America’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting in Austin, Texas. She begins her 3-year term on the N-AGE board in January 2020.

“I am grateful and excited to begin this new role on the National Association for Geriatric Education Board. This is an incredible opportunity to elevate the leadership of the UofL Trager Institute, and the University of Louisville in shaping the future of geriatric education in our country,” Faul said.

 

UofL medical student leads effort for medical education to prevent firearm-related injury

Suicide risk screening and other training added to UofL School of Medicine curriculum, resolution adopted by state and national medical organizations
UofL medical student leads effort for medical education to prevent firearm-related injury

Rachel Safeek, left, and Patrice Harris, MD, MA, president of AMA

Rachel Safeek, a second-year medical student at the University of Louisville, is calling for medical schools to train future physicians in techniques to help prevent injuries and death caused by firearms. Her work has led to UofL being one of the first medical schools to incorporate this training for all students.

“About 40,000 Americans die and 85,000 others are injured each year from firearm-related causes, and the incidence of firearm-related morbidity and mortality has increased over the past decade,” Safeek said. “This is a very important public health issue. My classmates, colleagues and I believe that physicians have a role in counseling patients related to their health and we have an opportunity through those interactions to help reduce the number of firearm-related deaths and injuries.”

In September, Safeek and her colleagues wrote and presented a resolution that was adopted by the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) to support training in Kentucky’s medical schools to reduce firearm-related morbidity and mortality in their curriculum. She presented a similar resolution at the American Medical Association conference in November, which was adopted by the American Medical Association Medical Student Section.

The resolution calls for all future physicians to have training to counsel patients in safe firearm use and storage, to know how to screen patients for suicide risk and to learn trauma-related first response techniques.

At UofL, Safeek presented a curriculum plan she coauthored with faculty members Suzanne McGee, M.D., and Charles Kodner, M.D., and Susan Sawning, M.S.S.W., to the School of Medicine’s Educational Program Committee, which voted to include it in the school’s curriculum beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year.

To jump-start the training effort, Safeek and other students and faculty have partnered with Whitney/Strong to organize a week-long series of optional events to educate UofL medical students, faculty and residents on firearm violence prevention, scheduled for February.

“Our hope is that more medical schools will incorporate this type of training into their programs and doctors will be able to help make a difference in this health crisis,” Safeek said.

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., recognized by AAPM&R for work in inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., recognized by AAPM&R for work in inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities

Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H.

For Priya Chandan, M.D., M.P.H., creating an inclusive world for individuals with intellectual disability is a life mission. Inspired by her older brother who has Down syndrome, Chandan is leading efforts to ensure all health care professionals are trained to treat adults with intellectual disabilities.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) has presented Chandan the Distinguished Public Service Award at the organization’s annual assembly in San Antonio, Texas. Chandan, assistant professor in the University of Louisville’s Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, was selected thanks to her efforts at ensuring inclusive health through innovations in medical education and her work with Special Olympics.

In a ceremony last month, Chandan received the award, established to honor individuals who, in the course of public service activities, have significantly contributed to the growth and development of services that directly impact the specialty of PM&R. Previous winners of the award include Michelle Obama, Judith E. Heumann, an international disability rights activist, and numerous members of Congress.

Chandan is committed to inclusive health, the intentional inclusion of all people, including people with intellectual disabilities (ID), in mainstream health services, training programs, research, funding streams, policies and laws.

“Intentional inclusion of people with disabilities in the spaces physicians occupy — clinical, research and teaching environments — is critical for repairing trust with marginalized communities, including the 1 in 4 American adults with a disability,” Chandan said. “Historically, medicine has been part of the problem, which means we have a responsibility to be part of the solution moving forward by engaging in advocacy efforts together with the patients we serve.”

Chandan’s personal experience with her brother has given her a personal understanding of the need for physicians who can provide equitable care for people with ID. She led AAPM&R’s Inclusive Health Innovation grant from the Special Olympics, which involved policy, education and advocacy activities, including the creation of an AAPM&R Intellectual Disability Member Community.

“Dr. Chandan is taking her personal experience and has turned it into a passion that she uses every day in her career,” said Darryl Kaelin, M.D., chief of the UofL Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “She is making better care for individuals with intellectual disability a local and national goal. She represents the University of Louisville well.”

Chandan directs the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine, a partnership between Special Olympics International and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry to ensure future physicians receive training to care for individuals with ID across their lifespan. For this program, she oversees inclusive medical education efforts at 18 medical schools nationwide and led UofL’s participation in the program, partnering with Special Olympics Kentucky and Lee Specialty Clinic.

Chandan also received funding from WITH Foundation to further develop medical education in the form of a standardized patient experience for PM&R residents using actors from Down Syndrome of Louisville.

Chandan is involved in Special Olympics International's Inclusive Health movement, where she serves as a content expert for the Center for Inclusive Health, an online resource for health care providers and other audiences for ways to intentionally include people with intellectual disability in mainstream health care services, training programs and research. She also is a global clinical advisor for MedFest, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program that provides free pre-participation sports physical exams to athletes with ID. She has engaged residents and faculty in MedFest efforts in Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Chandan was a member of the 2018-19 cohort of the faculty leadership program at UofL, Leadership and Innovation in Academic Medicine (LIAM). As part of the year-long leadership curriculum, she and her group colleagues piloted interactive, online topic tournaments to increase active, self-directed learning opportunities in the medical school curriculum.