Researchers fill gaps in horse reference genome to guide new approaches in fighting disease

Researchers fill gaps in horse reference genome to guide new approaches in fighting disease

By re-analyzing DNA from a thoroughbred named Twilight, pictured here on a farm at Cornell University, scientists corrected thousands of errors in the original horse reference genome.

Research led by scientists at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky has produced a more complete picture of the domestic horse reference genome, a map researchers will use to determine the role inherited genes and other regions of DNA play in many horse diseases and traits important in equine science and management.

By re-analyzing DNA from a thoroughbred named Twilight, the basis for the original horse reference genome, scientists generated a more than ten-fold increase in data and types of data to correct thousands of errors in the original sequence that was released in 2009. Since then, there have been dramatic improvements in nucleotide sequencing technology and the computational hardware and algorithms used to analyze data. It is now easier and less expensive to build a reference genome.

The new equine reference genome, known as EquCab3.0, was published today in Communications Biology, representing the work of 21 co-authors from 14 universities and academic centers around the world. The horse reference genome is publicly availablethrough the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Genome sequencing allows researchers to read and decipher genetic information found in DNA and is especially important in mapping disease genes – discovering diseases a horse might be genetically predisposed to developing.

Data gathered from future genetic and genomic studies of horses will use the new reference as a basis, which also has implications for tackling serious diseases in humans, said principal investigator Ted Kalbfleisch, Ph.D., of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the UofL School of Medicine.

“Because we can sequence a horse and map it to the reference genome, we can know what genes might be affected by a mutation and come up with a hypothesis for what went wrong,” Kalbfleisch said. “Looking beyond the horse, we all want to cure cancer and other diseases that affect humans. Being able to accurately generate reference genomes gives us the tool that we need to map an individual’s genomic content. Having a high-quality reference genome makes it possible for us to know where an individual has a mutation and personalize therapies that will be right for an individual and the specific disease they have.”

Senior author James MacLeod, V.M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center added, “Increased accuracy of the horse reference genome achieved through this work will greatly facilitate additional research in many aspects of equine science.  Medical advances for horses as a patient population, both in terms of sensitive diagnostic tests and emergent areas of precision medicine, are addressing critical issues for the health and wellbeing of these wonderful animals.”  

Financial support for the research was provided by the Morris Animal Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture and several additional grants to the laboratories of individual co-authors. 

Can evaporated drops of bourbon be used to identify counterfeits?

Learn about whiskey webs at Beer with a Scientist, Dec. 5
Can evaporated drops of bourbon be used to identify counterfeits?

Stuart J. Williams, Ph.D.

Every snowflake has a unique crystal shape. Every human possesses unique fingerprints.

At the next Beer with a Scientist, Stuart J. Williams, Ph.D., will explain that every brand of bourbon has a unique signature as well. Like fingerprints, these patterns, called whiskey webs, can be used to verify a bourbon’s authenticity.

“We have discovered that if you evaporate a small, diluted drop of bourbon on a surface, it leaves behind a pattern unique to bourbon,” Williams said. “Moreover, each pattern is unique to a specific brand of bourbon. We are using these findings to detect counterfeit bourbons, as well as to investigate fundamental mechanisms of self-assembly and to introduce colloid science to bourbon enthusiasts.”

Williams, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Louisville, researches fluid dynamics with an emphasis on flow visualization, microfluidics and colloid science. Colloids are a combination of tiny particles of one substance that are suspended in a liquid, solid or gas, but do not join with that substance.

Bourbon enthusiasts – and anyone else – can learn more about colloid science and see images of the unique and beautiful whiskey webs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Ln., Louisville. 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. (Bourbon is not available.)

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.


November 27, 2018

UofL cancer researcher gains NIH funding to study Alzheimer’s disease

Levi Beverly, Ph.D., will use additional $385K to expand study of ubiquilins in neurodegeneration
UofL cancer researcher gains NIH funding to study Alzheimer’s disease

Levi Beverly, Ph.D.

Levi Beverly, Ph.D., believes he can use his cancer research to help in the quest to understand a cause and find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the National Institute on Aging is providing funding to allow him to investigate further.

To generate new ideas in Alzheimer’s disease research, the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health, has offered researchers in other fields already funded by the NIH additional money to explore links between their current field of research and Alzheimer’s disease. Beverly, a UofL cancer researcher, has received one of the first round of these $385,000 awards.

“They are hoping to spark some new directions, uncovering potential new areas for research,” said Beverly, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Louisville. “This will get more people involved in the work and develop some preliminary seed data.”

Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases affect more than 5 million people in the United States. As the population ages, this number is increasing.

Beverly’s primary research grant from the National Cancer Institute is to study ubiquilin proteins in cancer. Ubiquilin proteins are critical adapters that appear to be central to signaling pathways driving Alzheimer’s disease as well as cancer.

“The protein ubiquilin is lost in both cancer and Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases,” Beverly said. “What we hope to discover is how this protein, which is associated with aberrant cell growth in cancer, also is associated with aberrant cell death in neurodegenerative diseases.”

Beverly plans to use the new funding to determine whether and how ubiquilin regulates contradictory signaling pathways in neuronal cells and epithelial cells, and how the loss of ubiquilin affects multiple types of tissues.

Robert Friedland, M.D., professor of neurology at UofL who has conducted research in Alzheimer’s disease for more than three decades, is collaborating with Beverly on the project.  

“We have known for many years that protein folding patterns are critical to neuronal damage in Alzheimer's,” Friedland said. “The work Dr. Beverly has done with ubiquilin has uncovered pathways that may be involved in key mechanisms of both Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. We anticipate that the interaction of researchers in cancer and neurodegeneration will help advance both fields.”

With combined annual national expenditures of approximately $300 billion for cancer and Alzheimer’s diseases in the United States, these conditions represent two of the largest burdens on the health-care system. Beverly believes the laboratory research conducted in this project will facilitate the development of therapeutic interventions for these diseases.

“Only by understanding the basic molecular, biochemical and genetic causes of these diseases will we be able to make significant progress in treating these patients,” Beverly said.




November 15, 2018

New York Times bestselling author, University of Chicago researcher to discuss cancer immunotherapy treatment

New York Times bestselling author, University of Chicago researcher to discuss cancer immunotherapy treatment

The University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center and School of Medicine will present a free seminar open to the public on immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. The event will be held in rooms 101-102 of the Kosair Charities Clinical and Translational Research Building, 505 S. Hancock St.

Charles Graeber, New York Times bestselling author of “The Good Nurse,” and Thomas Gajewski, M.D., Ph.D., a cancer researcher at the University of Chicago, will discuss Graeber’s new book, “The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer.” The book examines the ways in which cancer proliferates by avoiding the immune system, and the important new cancer immunotherapies that are beginning to unleash the immune system to fight – and beat –  the disease. 

Following the discussion, a question-and-answer session will be held.

Lunch will be provided at the seminar at no cost but seating is limited. For details, contact Diane Konzen at the Brown Cancer Center,

At 6 p.m. on the same date, the Kentucky Author Forum will present Graeber and Gajewski at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, 501 S. Main St. Several admission packages are available. Details can be found on the Kentucky Author Forum website found here.



UofL will host free showings of Oprah Winfrey film on Thursday

Movie examines how tissue and genetic material are used in research
UofL will host free showings of Oprah Winfrey film on Thursday

This poster from April 2017 advertises "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" that will be shown at UofL on Thursday, Nov. 8.

The University of Louisville Research Integrity Program will host two free presentations of the Oprah Winfrey movie, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” followed by question-and-answer sessions to discuss the issues raised by the movie.

The first showing will be at 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, in the basement auditorium of the Donald E. Baxter Biomedical Research Building (Baxter I) at 580 S. Preston St. on the UofL Health Sciences Center campus. The second showing will be at 2 p.m., Thursday, at the Floyd Theater located on the third floor of the UofL Student Activities Center, 2100 S. Floyd St. on the UofL Belknap Campus. Admission is free for both showings.

In 1951, cancerous cells from Baltimore resident Henrietta Lacks helped lead to breakthroughs that changed medicine. Her case sparked legal and ethical debates concerning the rights of individuals in determining how their tissue and genetic material are used – rights that are still being debated to this day.

The movie originally aired in April 2017 on HBO and stars Oprah Winfrey as Lacks’ daughter Deborah, who headed her family’s effort to find out exactly how their mother’s cells were used and what rights they had to reap the same financial rewards from the use of the cells as the researchers. Winfrey also was an executive producer of the film, taken from the best-selling book of the same name by Rebecca Skloot.

Following the HSC showing, Debra Schaller-Demers, director of research outreach and compliance at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and Paula Radmacher, UofL export control administrator, will lead a discussion with audience members on the issues raised by the movie. Following the Belknap campus showing, Schaller-Demers and Radmacher will be joined by UofL faculty members Avery Harman and Faye Jones for the discussion.

For information, contact Carla Jones, training and outreach coordinator with the Research Integrity Program at UofL, 502-852-2403.


Optimal Aging Institute receives MediStar award

Optimal Aging Institute receives MediStar award

Anna Faul accepts Medistar award

Selected for its excellence in creating innovative methods to reduce health care costs and improve quality of life for older adults, the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville recently received the MediStar’s Bluegrass Care Navigators Aging Care Award.  

During a ceremony held October 30 at the Muhammad Ali Center, the institute was lauded for its Flourish Program, an innovative, evidence-based approach to health care grounded in the concepts of social determinants of health and integrated care coordination 

The program is based on the institute’s Flourish Care Coordination Model, which links clinical and behavioral health care plans with a community care plan. Patients in the program receive detailed assessments, weekly and monthly monitoring, interdisciplinary health care consultation and care planning, coordination of care, community resource planning and support, as well as behavioral and mental health support. 

In addition to improving health outcomes, the Flourish model hopes to reduce health care costs by leveraging new rules through Medicare Advantage that will pay for non-skilled in-home service providers beginning in 2019.

The institute was one of seven award winners. UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences faculty member, Sarah Moyer, M.D., also was honored for her work as a co-chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board. She is director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.


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

A special Halloween treat for NICU families

A special Halloween treat for NICU families

Family delivers Halloween baskets to NICU

Last year, Jaclyn Maria and her husband were leaving University of Louisville Hospital with a brand new bundle of life, Luca. Taking home their baby boy the day before Halloween was a special time for the family, after a challenging journey awaiting his arrival.

Jaclyn had been on bed rest at the hospital for 10 weeks after going into labor at 22 weeks. She delivered Luca on Oct. 1, 2017, at 32 weeks, and he stayed in the NICU for a month.

Jaclyn says she had a unique experience at the Center for Women and Infants at UofL Hospital. She worked with a music therapist to write songs for her baby and visited with a therapy dog to ease her anxiety.

“I had a daily a routine, and the weeks passed quickly,” she said.

“The staff did so much to spoil us and make the season of Halloween with our son special despite being in the NICU,” Jacyln said. “Thanks to the staff, we have fond memories of what could have been a very difficult time for our family.”

She received a Halloween card with Luca’s footprint, and a group of volunteers who knit costumes for the NICU babies made him a sock monkey outfit with his name and birthdate.

“It was a gift you don’t expect that means so much, and we treasure that,” she said.

As a way to pay it forward, Jaclyn launched a fund-raiser this year to fill enough Halloween baskets for every family in the NICU. Filled with candy and care items like tissues and lotion, she delivered the baskets in time to make it a special Halloween for those in a similar circumstance.

“We can’t believe it has been a year – they did so much for us while we were here and we are glad to bring cheer to others,” Jaclyn said.

American Heart Association, universities awarded $17.98 million to continue research to provide evidence for tobacco regulation

UofL, other universities, to conduct research studies for the next five years

Building upon the success of the past five years, the American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to building longer, healthier lives, in partnership with the University of Louisville, has received a nearly $18 million, five-year renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Tobacco Products to continue support for the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center.

Under the direction of Rose Marie Robertson, M.D., the association’s deputy chief science and medical officer, and Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine at UofL, the Center examines the short- and long-term cardiovascular effects of tobacco products and the overall toxicity of tobacco products and their constituents.

The AHA Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center received $20 million in its initial funding in 2013 through this same interagency partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration as the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products began its investment in the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS). The AHA Center is a multi-institutional network focused on creating a broad scientific base to inform the FDA’s regulation of tobacco product manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

The renewal grant awards were based on the scientific and technical merit of the applicant organizations. The AHA Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center’s quality of research and productivity in its first five years created a strong foundation for future research and led to the renewed funding.

“We are honored to continue to be a part of this important national movement to protect the public health from the tragic consequences of tobacco product use that takes the lives of more than 480,000 Americans each year,” Robertson said. “In light of the fast-paced shifts in the landscape of new tobacco products, an accelerating trend of the use of these products by our nation’s children and an emerging generation of dual or poly-tobacco product users, the need for a better understanding of the health effects of these novel products has become even more imperative.”

During the past five years, more than 50 investigators from 12 institutions throughout the nation have collaborated on 82 publications from the center that examined topics such as the reasons behind the growing prevalence of adults and young adults who are vaping, the toxicity of flavoring chemicals used in e-cigarettes and the preliminary indicators of the growing use of poly-use, or the practice of using multiple tobacco products at the same time.

To date, researchers have found the use of tobacco products such as traditional cigarettes, hookahs, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes and e-hookahs leads to a decrease in immune cells and prevents repair of damaged endothelial cells, increasing the risk of contracting secondary infections. Additionally, use of electronic hookahs can increase the risk of blood clots.

“Dr. Bhatnagar and his colleagues continue to demonstrate their leadership in the field of environmental cardiology, which obviously includes the use of tobacco,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D. “This renewal demonstrates the significance of the research being conducted and the potential impact it has on anyone who uses tobacco or similar products.  

“Hopefully it will impact those who are considering using tobacco both by providing information regarding health effects that can be used in health risk warnings, and also by providing FDA data regarding the toxicity of individual constituents within tobacco-derived aerosols.”

Research at the nine institutions –Boston University, Johns Hopkins University,  New York University, University of Louisville, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Wake Forest University, Stanford University, University of Iowa and National Jewish Hospital – participating in the AHA Center over the next five years will focus on understanding the toxic potential of combustible and newer forms of tobacco products, identifying the biological markers of cardiovascular injury caused by components of tobacco products and assessing the risk of heart disease for different racial and ethnic groups of people from the use of newer tobacco products.

“Identifying the biomarkers of cardiovascular injury caused by tobacco use can lead to improved standards for testing of novel tobacco products and lead to policies regulating the level of harmful chemicals present in tobacco products, thus aiming to reduce the overall burden of cardiovascular injury in the general population,” Bhatnagar said.

The researchers hope to identify specific substances from tobacco products and in their smoke or aerosols that contribute to heart disease. This includes flavoring chemicals used in electronic nicotine delivery systems such as  e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, JUUL and others, along with chemical solvents used in such products.

The center also has responsibility for training the next generation of tobacco regulatory scientists who will continue research into tobacco and its health effects. To this end, 23 people have been trained as fellows in tobacco regulatory science and 11 fellowship projects have been funded over the first 5 years. The center has also funded 12 short-term projects to study emerging topics of interest to tobacco regulation.

The renewed center has been designed to retain this flexibility to respond to FDA’s research needs in a shifting landscape of tobacco use through rapid-response research funding and independent fellowship grants that can enhance the center’s research database alongside its flagship projects.


The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.



Global satellite mini-conference on air pollution and health scheduled for Oct. 30-31 at University Club

UofL Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute provides free access to World Health Organization event
Global satellite mini-conference on air pollution and health scheduled for Oct. 30-31 at University Club

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants such as the Mill Creek Plant in Louisville can have a significant impact on health. (Photo: The Nature Conservancy)

The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute and its Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil at the University of Louisville will host a satellite mini-conference of the World Health Organization’s Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 30-31. The conference will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at the University Club, 200 E. Brandeis Ave.

“We are pleased to be an official satellite mini-conference host site of the World Health Organization’s first global conference on air pollution and health,” said Ted Smith, Ph.D., Center for Healthy Air, Water and Soil Director. “This conference is a prime opportunity for Kentuckiana citizens who are interested in the impact air pollution has on health and well-being to share ideas and learn from experts around the globe as well as those in our own community.”

The mini conference will include video streams from the plenary session of the main conference in Geneva with an opportunity for discussions in Louisville to be shared with the main conference each day.

Tuesday’s session will open with remarks from Smith. A session will follow that examines the scientific evidence that exists showing the impact air pollution has on health with a discussion to follow mediated by Daniel Conklin, Ph.D., UofL professor of medicine.

Wednesday’s session will cover engaging the health sector as a leader of change in public policy, and communication, advocacy and partnerships to develop opportunities and remove barriers for promoting clean air policy.

Admission is free but reservations are required to receive a box lunch. To register, go to the online registration form here. For additional information, contact Lauren Anderson at

The event is organized in collaboration with the United National Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organization, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Economic Commission for Europe and The World Bank.

Increasing access to psych therapies is focus of UofL lecture

Talk kicks off Depression Center’s 12th annual conference
Increasing access to psych therapies is focus of UofL lecture

David M. Clark, Ph.D.

The need to make psychological therapies widely available is the focus of the “Building Hope” public lecture on Thursday, Nov. 1.

David M. Clark, Ph.D., professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford in England and director of the Oxford Centre of Anxiety Disorders & Trauma, will present “Thrive: How Psychological Therapies Transform Lives and Save Money.” The event is part of the “Building Hope” public lecture series sponsored by the University of Louisville Depression Center and will be held at 6 p.m. at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St.

“Effective psychological treatments are available for most mental health problems, but the public rarely benefits. This can be changed,” Clark said. “The clinical and economic arguments for increasing access to psychological therapies are overwhelming.”

The lecture kicks off the Depression Center’s 12th annual conference at the Clifton Center on Friday, Nov. 2, that will focus on translating science into clinical practice for depression and anxiety disorders.

Conference sessions are geared toward psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, primary care physicians and other mental health clinicians. Focusing on some of the most promising developments in biological psychiatry and psychotherapy, participants will learn about advanced methods for challenging clinical problems.

Keynote speakers include Clark, Mark A. Frye, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Clinic and director of the Mayo Clinic Depression Center, and Laura Wright McCray, M.D., associate professor and residency program director of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Vermont.

Continuing education credits are available for attendees.

Attendance is free for UofL physicians, nurses, faculty members, students, residents and fellows. Registration for other health care professionals costs $100. For more information, call 502-588-4886 or visit the website.

The conference is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Centerstone Kentucky, Norton Healthcare and Passport Health Plan.

The UofL Depression Center is Kentuckiana’s leading resource for depression and bipolar disorder treatment, research and education. It is a charter member of the National Network of Depression Centers, a consortium of leading depression centers that develops and fosters connections among members to advance scientific discovery and provide stigma-free, evidence-based care to patients with depressive and bipolar illnesses.



October 25, 2018

University of Louisville Joins Prestigious International Group Advising the United Nations on Sustainability

UofL also to be founding member for US network.
University of Louisville Joins Prestigious International Group Advising the United Nations on Sustainability

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi

What does the University of Louisville have in common with the Columbia University in New York, Princeton University and Oxford University in the United Kingdom? All are members of the United National Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

“Inclusion in this international effort recognizes our efforts over the decades to impact our world in a meaningful way when it comes to sustainability,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi today in announcing UofL’s membership at the Louisville Sustainability Symposium, which UofL is hosting for the first time.

“From the Conn Center looking for renewable energy sources and our university-wide efforts to reduce our carbon footprint to our recent creation of the Envirome Institute that focuses on health sustainability, we have a long history of trying to leave a better planet.”

UofL joins just 684 universities and research centers throughout the world that advise the United National on sustainable development.

Additionally, UofL will be a founding member of the U.S. Solutions Network later this year.

“The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network is honored to welcome the University of Louisville to the global network,” said Columbia University Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, advisor to the Secretary General of the UN and Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. “The SDSN looks forward to working closely with the Envirome Institute and city and community leaders to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Our efforts together will help to advance wellbeing in Louisville and around the world.”

The national and regional networks support the localization of the 17 goals set out by the UN and agreed to by 193 nations in 2015. Local networks will promote long-term pathways for sustainable development, promote high-quality education and research collaboration for sustainable development, and support governments in understanding and addressing the challenges of sustainable development.

Through these efforts, the networks are working to create a future in which poverty has been eradicated, the planet is protected and people are ensured the ability to enjoy peace and prosperity.

“We feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to be a founding member of this nation’s grass-roots effort,” Bendapudi said. “All of us at the university in collaboration with our community partners look forward to spearheading efforts to better understand how our environment, in the broadest sense of the word, impacts us as individuals.”

Led by Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine, the UofL Envirome Institute takes a holistic approach to researching how the human-environment interrelationship impacts peoples’ lives. In addition to building on Bhatnagar’s pioneering work establishing the field of environmental cardiology, UofL will incorporate community engagement and citizen science to introduce a singular, new approach to the study of health.

“Our researchers, staff and students will explore new concepts associated with examining the elements of a single person’s overall environment and determine how that affects their lives. The impact this will have will be felt well beyond Louisville,” Bendapudi said.

Newest institute named in honor of Christina Lee Brown

Newest institute named in honor of Christina Lee Brown

Christina Lee Brown (third from the right)

In recognition of her support, the University of Louisville will rename its most recently created institute to The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute. The UofL Board of Trustees voted on the name change today.

“I cannot think of a better way to honor Christie for her tremendous generosity that has allowed the institute to become a reality and to get off to such a strong start,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi.

In May, Brown committed $5 million in support of the institute, which takes a holistic approach to researching how the human-environment interrelationship impacts peoples’ lives. In addition to building on the pioneering work of Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., that established the field of environmental cardiology, UofL will incorporate community engagement and citizen science to introduce a singular, new approach to the study of health. Bhatnagar is the institute’s director, as well as the Smith and Lucille Gibson Chair in Medicine.

The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute develops new infrastructure for transdisciplinary knowledge, bridging academic research with community engagement it transforms the city of Louisville into an urban laboratory and establishes the university as a repository of knowledge about the envirome. The Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute offers global leadership in developing new models of living by making decisions through the lens of health.

‘Think Pink’ in Shepherdsville on Oct. 23 honors breast cancer survivors

‘Think Pink’ in Shepherdsville on Oct. 23 honors breast cancer survivors

The Paroquet Springs Conference Centre in Shepherdsville will be the site of the "Think Pink" celebration of breast cancer survivors on Oct. 23.

The Kentucky Cancer Program at the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center is teaming up with the Bullitt County Health Department to honor breast cancer survivors in October.

The “Think Pink” event will be held beginning at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the Paroquet Springs Conference Centre, 395 Paroquet Springs Dr., Shepherdsville.

Former Kentucky First Lady Judy Patton and breast cancer survivor Tabitha Spencer, RT,, R(M), of Baptist Health Louisville, will speak. Health information booths also will be set up on a variety of topics related to breast cancer.

The event is free but RSVPs are required by calling the Bullitt County Health Department at 502-955-5355.

For more information, contact Pam Temple of the Kentucky Cancer Program at 502-852-6318 or


Tackling opioid misuse among older adults

Tackling opioid misuse among older adults

Joe D’Ambrosio instructs a group of students

The majority of older adults take at least one prescription medication daily, and according to 2016 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 500-thousand Medicare Part D beneficiaries take opioids, with the average dose far exceeding the recommended amount. This can lead to health risks such as breathing complications, confusion, drug interaction problems and increased risk of falls.

To help tackle the issue of opioid misuse in older adults, the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville has been working with individuals in rural Kentucky who are involved in the institute’s Flourish Program, which is designed to deliver interdisciplinary care coordination to those with chronic conditions.

Of the 154 patients who have received services, medication management issues related to opioid prescriptions and interactions with other medications were a factor with more than 90 patients. Medication safety also proved to be a problem, with family members or caregivers taking opioids from patients in at least 10-percent of cases.

The institute recently received supplemental federal funding to their Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant, specifically to expand work in Bullitt, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties related to opioids and older adults. This effort also will be offered in Jefferson, Barren, Metcalf and Hart counties.

“This additional funding will allow us to dramatically increase our ability to screen for potential opioid misuse and to educate patients, students and practitioners on best practices for pain management for older adults,” said Anna Faul, Ph.D., the institute’s executive director.

Joe D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., the institute’s director of health innovation & sustainability and assistant professor at the UofL School of Medicine will lead an interdisciplinary clinical team of faculty from nursing, social work and counseling psychology to serve as mental health clinicians for the project.

He said the institute is developing a new program to train students and clinicians on how to identify and treat opioid-related substance abuse among older adults. The programming also will be offered to community mental health partners including Centerstone, the region’s largest mental health care provider.

Researchers earn federal funding to explore impact of environment on diabetes, obesity

Researchers earn federal funding to explore impact of environment on diabetes, obesity

UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D.

A team of researchers at the University of Louisville has garnered $16.4 million from the National Institutes of Health to explore several angles related to how different aspects of our environment contribute to the development or health impacts of diabetes and obesity.

“More than 90 million adults in the United States are obese and more than 30 million adults suffer from diabetes. Our faculty, staff and students work every day to understand the causes and impacts of both so that we can develop the next generation of preventions, cures and treatments,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D. “This group of dynamic researchers now is looking at how our environment, in the broadest sense of the word, plays a role. This understanding has the potential to change not just people in Louisville, but literally the world. This is some of what makes UofL a great place to learn, work and invest.”

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., director of the UofL Diabetes and Obesity Center and the recently created Envirome Institute, which houses the Diabetes and Obesity Center, earned a competitive renewal grant that provides funding for essential core programs for all researchers in the center. Additionally, the center grant helps set the director of the research with an emphasis on metabolic and inflammatory mechanisms leading to diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance; stem cell biology; and environmental determinants of cardiometabolic disease. This marks the second successful five-year renewal that Bhatnagar has earned.

Petra Haberzettl, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, and Bradford Hill, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, received funding to examine the effects of air pollution on stem cell health.

Jason Hellman, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, received funding to explore how exercise can reduce inflammation. His previous work has shown previously uncovered new mechanisms of sustained inflammation in atherosclerotic lesions in diet-induced obesity.

Matt Nystoriak, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, is examining how the heart talks to blood vessels to increase blood flow during exercise.

Timothy O’Toole, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, received support to study how the molecule carnosine can be activated in protecting humans against airborne particulate matter.


Where was this water before it was in my beer?

New location and time for Beer with a Scientist! Oct. 17
Where was this water before it was in my beer?

Robert Bates

Kentucky has an abundant supply of water – sometimes too much. So it may seem like we need not worry about our water use as much as people living in drier areas such as California or Arizona.

That is not necessarily the case.

At the next Beer with a Scientist, Robert Bates, a water expert and nearly 30-year employee at Louisville Metro Sewer District, will explain that, while it is plentiful here in Kentucky, water still is a precious commodity and recycling it makes sense. He will discuss water recycling in the United States, the “Louisville water cycle” and how some local organizations are recycling water to make beer.

Now an operations specialist with GRW, an engineering consulting firm based in Lexington, Bates was in operations management for more than 10 years at MSD’s Morris Forman Water Quality Treatment Center, the largest wastewater treatment facility in Kentucky. He also is a past president of the Water Environment Association of Kentucky/Tennessee (WEAKT) and has co-authored several peer-reviewed scientific publications on wastewater.

“There is no new water, so the more we can do to protect this most vital resource, the better,” Bates said. “Plus, no water, no beer!”

His talk begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Holsopple Brewing, 8023 Catherine Ln., Louisville. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

Enjoy this popular event, organized by Louisville Underground Science, at its earlier time and new location. Admission is free. Purchase of beer, other beverages or menu items is not required but is encouraged.

Organizers continue to 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.

Special Olympics gold medalist receives clinical care at UofL

Special Olympics gold medalist receives clinical care at UofL

Dionte Foster, left, trains at the UofL Bass-Rudd Tennis Center on his new prosthetic leg.

For the first time in years, Dionte Foster played tennis on two legs.

The Special Olympics gold medalist traveled to Louisville last week from his native St. Kitts in the Caribbean to receive pro bono clinical care from University of Louisville Physicians and a sports prosthesis from Louisville Prosthetics that would retail for about $61,000.

While training for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, Foster was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, which required his left leg to be amputated above the knee.

“It was devastating because tennis is my world. It almost felt like it was the end of life,” Foster said. “But, I became determined to not give up. I’ve been living life to the fullest ever since and trying to be strong for me and my mom.”

Foster, 24, not only lost his leg, but the cancer had spread to his lungs, requiring surgery and chemotherapy, which he received in New York because adequate treatment was not available in the Caribbean.

He continued to play tennis, albeit with great difficulty, on one leg. Special Olympics officials started raising money to get Foster a prosthetic leg and news of the effort reached Matt Holder, MD, MBA, chief executive officer of the Lee Specialty Clinic in Louisville, who also serves as the global medical adviser for Special Olympics.

Seeking help, Holder contacted Priya Chandan, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in UofL’s Department of Neurological Surgery and a Special Olympics Kentucky board member. Through the UofL connection, Matthew Adamkin, MD, UofL Physicians-Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, was tapped to provide care at no cost to Foster. Adamkin prescribed the prosthetic and worked closely with licensed prosthetist and pedorthotist Wayne Luckett of Louisville Prosthetics to ensure it would meet Foster’s needs. Luckett obtained specialized components for the prosthetic through donations from Freedom Innovations, Martin-Martin Bionics, Endolite North America and American Prosthetics.

Foster must learn to trust his prosthetic, placing more weight on it in order to improve his movement.

“It’s hard work to wear a prosthetic,” Luckett said. “It requires 100-percent more energy to move compared to able-bodied people. He’s already an athlete and in good shape, but we’re going to get him in better shape so he can return to the tennis courts and be competitive again.”

Also during his time in Louisville, Foster underwent a CT scan of his chest with support from the Mary Jane Gift Quality of Life Fund through the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center. The fund was established by Tommy and Alex Gift to honor their mother after she lost her life to cancer.

Foster received good news; his CT scan showed no evidence of cancer. Megan Nelson, MD, UofL-Physicians-Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, who specializes in cancer rehabilitation, helped organize the CT scan and arranged for Foster to meet with a sarcoma support group.

After a couple days of physical therapy, Foster trained on the tennis court with Rex Ecarma, UofL men’s tennis head coach, and Jeff Bourns, an amputee and Adapted Touring tennis player who holds a Top 5 World Rank (Category A) on the TAP World Tour.

The effort by multiple organizations to improve Foster’s mobility and help him return to competitive tennis was extraordinary, Adamkin said.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” Adamkin said. “Dionte’s strides have been remarkable. With every day, he will get more confident and secure with the prosthesis.”
Foster said he is determined to make his story an example that inspires others to overcome adversity.

“It’s a game changer,” Foster said of receiving his new leg. “This has been an honor and I’m really thankful. It’s amazing to know I have a leg to go back home with and put my crutches aside.”

Professor Emeritus among honorees of optimal aging awards

Professor Emeritus among honorees of optimal aging awards

2018 Gold Standard Award winners

At age 96, Seymour “Sy” Slavin is still active speaking to groups in the community. A professor emeritus of the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work, Slavin recently was recognized as one of 15 awardees of the 2018 Gold Standard Awards for Optimal Aging.

Now in its seventh year, UofL’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging hosted the awards this month, honoring Slavin in the educator category.

After teaching more than 30 years, Slavin went on to create and serve as the first director of the Kentucky Labor Institute. He lectures on topics ranging from Einstein’s views on the relationship of science and religion to the role of the administrative state in a democracy.

The Gold Standard awards honor individuals age 85 and older who lead flourishing lives, said Anna Faul, Ph.D., executive director of the institute.

“We do not have to be free of aging-related challenges to age optimally. It is our ability to flourish and live our best lives every day in the face of these challenges. This year’s outstanding cohort of awardees and nominees are true inspirations,” she said.

Fifteen awardees along with 58 other nominees were recognized at a luncheon on Sept. 7 sponsored by Hosparus Health. The event corresponds with Optimal Aging Month – an effort dedicated to promoting the positive view that aging is an opportunity, not a disease.

“The award winners demonstrate that while aging optimally looks different for every person, we can all strive to continue living our best lives at every stage,” said Christian Furman, M.D., medical director of the institute.

“Hosparus Health applauds the institute for recognizing that aging is a part of life. As an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life, we are honored to be a part of this event,” said Phil Marshall, president and CEO of Hosparus Health.

The complete list of 2018 category award winners include:

  • Elmer Lucille Allen, Category: Outstanding Individual, Age: 86
  • Mary Atherton, Category: Years of Wisdom, Age: 100
  • Elizabeth Bealmear, Category: Years of Wisdom, Age: 91
  • Les Brooks, Category: Never too Late, Age: 86
  • Thomas Cork, Sr., Category: Outstanding Individual, Age: 92
  • Don & Patsy Hall, Category: Outstanding Couple, Age: 87 & 87
  • Father Simon Herbers, Category: Compassion, Age: 97
  • Beatrice Huff, Category: Kentucky, Age: 89
  • Margot Kling, Category: Social Justice, Age: 92
  • Margaret Martel, Category: Years of Wisdom, Age: 106
  • Emma Patria Pedroso Iglesias, Category: New Beginnings, Age: 85
  • Dorothy Roehrig, Category: Years of Wisdom, Age: 100
  • William T. Shumake, Category: Leadership, Age: 92
  • Dr. Seymour Slavin, Category: Educator, Age: 96

Technology, along with therapy, helps individuals with chronic spinal cord injuries voluntarily take steps

New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine documents the effectiveness of epidural stimulation with locomotor training following chronic, complete spinal cord injury in restoring brain-to-spine connectivity, long thought to be impossible
Technology, along with therapy, helps individuals with chronic spinal cord injuries voluntarily take steps

Kelly Thomas, Claudia Angeli, Ph.D., Jeff Marquis and Susan Harkema, Ph.D.

Of four research participants living with traumatic, motor complete spinal cord injury, two are able to walk over ground with epidural stimulation following epidural stimulation paired with daily locomotor training. In addition, all four participants achieved independent standing and trunk stability when using the stimulation and maintaining their mental focus. The study was conducted at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville (UofL) and was published online early, and will appear in the Sept. 27 issue of New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, University of Louisville Hospital and Medtronic plc.

See video story

This ground-breaking progress is the newest development in a string of outcomes at UofL, all pointing to the potential of technology in improving quality of life – and even recovery – following spinal cord injury. This latest study builds on initial research published in The Lancet in 2011 that documented the success of the first epidural stimulation participant, Rob Summers, who recovered a number of motor functions as a result of the intervention. Three years later, a study published in the medical journal Brain discussed how epidural stimulation of the spinal cord allowed Summers and three other young men who had been paralyzed for years to move their legs. Later research from UofL demonstrated this technology improved blood pressure regulation.

“This research demonstrates that some brain-to-spine connectivity may be restored years after a spinal cord injury as these participants living with motor complete paralysis were able to walk, stand, regain trunk mobility and recover a number of motor functions without physical assistance when using the epidural stimulator and maintaining focus to take steps,” said author Susan Harkema, Ph.D., professor and associate director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville. “We must expand this research – hopefully, with improved stimulator technology – to more participants to realize the full potential of the progress we’re seeing in the lab, as the potential this provides for the 1.2 million people living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury is tremendous.”

Progress for Individuals Living with Paralysis

The American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) was used to classify the spinal cord injuries of each of the four participants. When the four participants joined the study, they were at least 2.5 years post injury. They were unable to stand, walk or voluntarily move their legs. Eight to nine weeks prior to the implantation of an epidural stimulator, they started daily locomotor training – manual facilitation of stepping on a treadmill – five days per week for two hours each day. Although there were no changes to their locomotor abilities prior to the implant, following the epidural stimulation participants were able to step when the stimulator was on and the individual intended to walk. Participants 3 and 4 were able to achieve walking over ground – in addition to on a treadmill – with assistive devices, such as a walker and horizontal poles for balance while the stimulator was on.

“Being a participant in this study truly changed my life, as it has provided me with a hope that I didn’t think was possible after my car accident,” said Kelly Thomas, a 23-year-old from Florida, also referred to as Participant 4. “The first day I took steps on my own was an emotional milestone in my recovery that I’ll never forget as one minute I was walking with the trainer’s assistance and, while they stopped, I continued walking on my own. It’s amazing what the human body can accomplish with help from research and technology.”

Jeff Marquis, a 35-year-old Wisconsin native who now lives in Louisville, was the first participant in this study to attain bilateral steps. “The first steps after my mountain biking accident were such a surprise, and I am thrilled to have progressed by continuing to take more steps each day. In addition, my endurance has improved, as I’ve regained strength and the independence to do things I used to take for granted like cooking and cleaning,” said Marquis, who is participant 3 in New England Journal of Medicine study. “My main priority is to be a participant in this research and further the findings, as what the University of Louisville team does each day is instrumental for the millions of individuals living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury.”

“While more clinical research must be done with larger cohorts, these findings confirm that the spinal cord has the capacity to recover the ability to walk with the right combination of epidural stimulation, daily training and the intent to step independently with each footstep,” said Claudia Angeli, Ph.D., senior researcher, Human Locomotor Research Center at Frazier Rehab Institute, and assistant professor, University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Advancements for Spinal Cord Injury Community

This research is based on two distinct treatments:  epidural stimulation of the spinal cord and locomotor training. Epidural stimulation is the application of continuous electrical current at varying frequencies and intensities to specific locations on the lumbosacral spinal cord. This location corresponds to the dense neural networks that largely control movement of the hips, knees, ankles and toes. Locomotor training aims to ultimately retrain the spinal cord to “remember” the pattern of walking by repetitively practicing standing and stepping. In a locomotor training therapy session, the participant’s body weight is supported in a harness while specially trained staff move his or her legs to simulate walking while on a treadmill.

“We are seeing increasing interest in the use of neuromodulation procedures and technologies such as epidural stimulation in the treatment of spinal cord injury and restoration of locomotor, cardiovascular and urodynamic functions,” said Maxwell Boakye, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., chief of spinal neurosurgery at the University of Louisville and clinical director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. “Epidural stimulation is likely to become a standard treatment with several improvements in design of the device to target more specific neurological circuits.”  

For more information on epidural stimulation research, visit


September 24, 2018