2nd Annual Knock Out Stroke! May 12 at Muhammad Ali Center

2nd Annual Knock Out Stroke! May 12 at Muhammad Ali Center

Knock Out Stroke

Kentucky residents suffer stroke at rates among the highest in the nation. Factors increasing the risk of stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and African American and Native American ethnicity. Behavioral risks can be reduced with medical care and lifestyle changes, but it is important to begin reducing the risks as early as possible.

At the 2nd Annual Knock Out Stroke, medical experts from the University of Louisville Stroke Program, the state’s first Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, will share tips on how to manage high blood pressure and other risk factors related to heart disease and stroke. Guests will learn how to monitor their blood pressure, the importance of physical activity and how to incorporate it into their daily routine, recognizing the symptoms of stroke and understanding the latest treatment options. Plus, WAVE 3’s Dawne Gee will share her personal experience in suffering a stroke.

Knock out Stroke will be Friday, May 12, 2017 from 10:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at the Muhammed Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St., Louisville, Ky.  40202. The event is free and open to the public and includes lunch, door prizes and the opportunity to tour the Muhammad Ali Center museum at your leisure. Attendees are asked to register at or call 502-852-7522.

Family Health Centers and the UofL Department of Neurology host the program in conjunction with Stroke Awareness Month. Additional partners include the Kentucky Department of Public Health Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, Louisville Department of Health and Wellness, UofL School of Medicine, and UofL Signature Partnership Health & Quality of Life division.

The UofL Stroke Program is a collaboration of University of Louisville Hospital, a part of KentuckyOne Health, UofL Physicians and the UofL School of Medicine.

Detecting Alzheimer’s disease earlier using … Greebles?

Difficulty distinguishing novel objects is associated with family history of Alzheimer’s disease
Detecting Alzheimer’s disease earlier using … Greebles?

Which Greeble is different?

Unique graphic characters called Greebles may prove to be valuable tools in detecting signs of Alzheimer’s disease decades before symptoms become apparent.

In an article published online last week in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Emily Mason, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Louisville, reported research showing that cognitively normal people who have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have more difficulty distinguishing among novel figures called Greebles than individuals without genetic predisposition.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive, irreversible neurodegenerative disease characterized by declining memory, cognition and behavior. AD is the most prevalent form of dementia, affecting an estimated 5.5 million individuals in the United States and accounting for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. The ability to detect the disease earlier may allow researchers to develop treatments to combat the disease.

“Right now, by the time we can detect the disease, it would be very difficult to restore function because so much damage has been done to the brain,” Mason said. “We want to be able to look at really early, really subtle changes that are going on in the brain. One way we can do that is with cognitive testing that is directed at a very specific area of the brain.”

AD is characterized by the presence of beta amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Tau tangles predictably develop first in the perirhinal and entorhinal cortices of the brain, areas that play a role in visual recognition and memory. Mason and her colleagues developed cognitive tests designed to detect subtle deficiencies in these cognitive functions. They hoped to determine whether changes in these functions would indicate the presence of tau tangles before they could be detected through imaging or general cognitive testing.

Working in her previous position at Vanderbilt University, Mason identified test subjects age 40-60 who were considered at-risk for AD due to having at least one biological parent diagnosed with the disease. She also tested a control group of individuals in the same age range whose immediate family history did not include AD.

The subjects completed a series of “odd-man-out” tasks in which they were shown sets of four images depicting real-world objects, human faces, scenes and Greebles in which one image was slightly different than the other three. The subjects were asked to identify the image that was different.

The at-risk and control groups performed at similar levels for the objects, faces and scenes. For the Greebles, however, the at-risk group scored lower in their ability to identify differences in the images. Individuals in the at-risk group correctly identified the distinct Greeble 78 percent of the time, whereas the control group correctly identified the odd Greeble 87 percent of the time.

“Most people have never seen a Greeble and Greebles are highly similar, so they are by far the toughest objects to differentiate,” Mason said. “What we found is that using this task, we were able to find a significant difference between the at-risk group and the control group. Both groups did get better with practice, but the at-risk group lagged behind the control group throughout the process.”

Mason would like to see further research to determine whether the individuals who performed poorly on the test actually developed AD in the future.

“The best thing we could do is have people take this test in their 40s and 50s, and track them for the next 10 or 20 years to see who eventually develops the disease and who doesn’t,” Mason said.

In recent years, a great deal of research has focused on identifying early biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. However, not everyone who has an individual biomarker ultimately develops the disease. Brandon Ally, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery at UofL and senior author of the publication, said the tests with Greebles can provide a cost-effective way to identify individuals who may be in the early stages of AD, as well as a tool for following those individuals over time.

“We are not proposing that the identification of novel objects such as Greebles is a definitive marker of the disease, but when paired with some of the novel biomarkers and a solid clinical history, it may improve our diagnostic acumen in early high-risk individuals,” Ally said. “As prevention methods, vaccines or disease modifying drugs become available, markers like novel object detection may help to identify the high priority candidates.”

Robert P. Friedland, M.D., professor and Mason and Mary Rudd Endowed Chair in Neurology at UofL, has studied clinical and biological issues in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders for 35 years. He believes that early detection will enhance the ability of patients and physicians to employ lifestyle and therapeutic interventions.

“This work shows that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on cognition can be measured decades before the onset of dementia,” Friedland said. “The fact that the disease takes so long to develop provides us with an opportunity to slow its progression through attention to the many factors that are linked to the disease, such as a sedentary lifestyle, a high fat diet, obesity, head injury, smoking, and a lack of mental and social engagement.”

The article, “Family history of Alzheimer’s disease is associated with impaired perceptual discrimination of novel objects,” will appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Volume 57, Issue 2.



 April 11, 2017



Answer:  Greeble No. 4 is different.

Fourth-year medical students matched with residency training programs

Fourth-year medical students matched with residency training programs

Dexter Weeks

Fourth-year students in the University of Louisville School of Medicine learned where they will embark on residency training on Match Day, March 17. Students at UofL and medical schools across the nation received envelopes with the information about medical specialty they will pursue, where they will live and who will join them for the next three to seven years of medical training.

“We are really appreciative of our faculty. I think we have an education that is phenomenal and we are ready to go out and serve our patient populations,” said Matt Woeste, president of the UofL medical school class of 2017.

UofL students matched to prestigious programs including Beth Israel Deaconess, Case-Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, New York University, Tufts, University of Louisville, University of Texas-Galveston and Vanderbilt. While 27 percent will remain in Kentucky, others are heading across the nation to Washington and New Hampshire, to Florida and Hawaii, and many other locations. A record-high 10 couples all matched together.

  • 27 percent will remain in Kentucky
  • 39 percent matched in primary-care specialties
  • 3 will pursue military residency
  • 10 couples matched to programs in the same city

“These students definitely are ambassadors for the University of Louisville,” said Michael Ostapchuk, M.D., associate dean for medical student affairs. “Our students go to a residency and the residency directors in those programs see what the University of Louisville is all about and they want our students in the future.”

Fourth-year student MeNore Lake matched to Mount Auburn Hospital, where she will train as a radiologist.

“I can’t be any more excited than I am today,” Lake said. “It’s exactly what I wanted. I am very grateful.”

During her medical education at UofL, Lake pursued her passion for global health in the Distinction in Global Health track, one of the school’s distinction tracks, which allow students in the School of Medicine to explore a specific area of medicine.

“I’ve been in the Global Health Track and it’s meant a lot of growth for me. I’ve had great community and support here as well. I’ve felt well supported here,” she said.

Dexter Weeks believes UofL provided him with the comprehensive education he needed to earn a position in integrated plastic surgery residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston.

“I felt like I got a lot of hands-on experience, being able to do things at the level of a resident even though you are a student, getting an idea of what it’s like in your working environment. I felt like it really helped me make a decision about what I wanted to do with my future,” Weeks said. “I’m excited. I’m ready for the next adventure in residency.”



After graduating from medical school, physicians must complete training in residency programs in a medical specialty such as internal medicine, pediatrics or general surgery. The physicians obtain this training at academic medical centers, teaching hospitals and other health-care centers.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) provides a uniform process for matching medical student applicants with residency positions in the United States based on the preferences of both the students and the programs. The students interview with officials at residency programs in the fall of their fourth year of medical school. Students submit their specialty and program preferences to the NRMP and residency programs submit their preferences for applicants. A matching algorithm uses those preferences to match individuals into positions, and students throughout the United States receive their match notices precisely at noon on the third Friday of March – Match Day.

The 2017 match was the largest in the program’s history, matching students in 27,688 PGY-1 positions.              

Photos of UofL students in the match are available on Flickr.

Video of Match Day is available on Youtube.

International Americans help make up Louisville MOSAIC

Three from UofL among five receiving annual awards
International Americans help make up Louisville MOSAIC

2017 MOSAIC Award recipients, left to right: Anna Faul, John La Barbera, Vik Chadha, Barry Barker and CoCo Tran.

Two University of Louisville faculty members and an entrepreneur affiliated with the university’s co-working space iHub are among the five honorees of the 2017 MOSAIC Awards, scheduled for presentation May 18 at the Hyatt Regency Louisville.

Named to recognize “Multicultural Opportunities for Success and Achievement In our Community,” the MOSAIC Awards benefit Jewish Family & Career Services and honors international Americans who make a significant contribution in their profession and in the local and global communities.

From UofL, faculty members Anna Faul, Ph.D., and John La Barbera and iHub co-founder Vik Chadha will be honored, along with J. Barry Barker, director of Transit Authority of River City (TARC), and restaurateur Huong “CoCo” Tran.

“JFCS was founded to assist newcomers to Louisville, and this event honors its original mission,” Judy Freundlich Tiell, JFCS executive director, said. “To date, the event has recognized 57 international Americans who make our community a richer and more interesting city, creating a mosaic of many colors and perspectives.”

At the event, a cocktail reception will start at 5:30 p.m., featuring a showcase of new micro-businesses that have received training and financial assistance from the JFCS Navigate Enterprise Center. Dinner and the awards presentation will follow.  

Tickets to the event are $150 per person, and table sponsorships begin at $2,000.  For reservations, contact Beverly Bromley, JFCS director of development, at 502-452-6341, ext. 223 or

Title sponsor of the MOSAIC Awards is the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. Kindred Healthcare is the new American sponsor. WLKY32 is the media sponsor and Papercone Corp., PharMerica, TARC and Churchill Downs are major sponsors.  Rachel Greenberg is this year’s event chair.

About the 2017 MOSAIC Award winners

Annatjie Faul, Ph.D. – South Africa

Faul originally hails from South Africa and is Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging at the UofL Health Sciences Center and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Kent School of Social Work. A specialist in gerontology, Faul has been awarded multiple grants to develop rural health collaborations that address serious diabetes problems in the outlying rural areas of the state. She has established outreach programs to Latinos and Hispanics, created services in rural Kentucky, and most recently was awarded more than $2 million to help primary physicians in the region better serve the geriatric populations.

John La Barbera – Sicilian Descendant

The son of Sicilian immigrants, La Barbera is a first-generation American and Grammy-nominated composer/arranger whose music spans many styles and genres. He is a professor emeritus of music at the UofL School of Music and is an international music clinician and lecturer whose topics range from composing and arranging to intellectual property and copyright. His works have been recorded and performed by Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Torme, Chaka Kahn, Harry James, Bill Watrous and Phil Woods, to name a few. Though his major output has been in jazz, he has had works performed and recorded for symphony orchestra, string chamber orchestra, brass quintet and other diverse ensembles. He is a two-time recipient of The National Endowment for the Arts award for jazz composition. His published works are considered standards in the field of jazz education.

Vik Chadha – India

A native of India, Chadha is the co-founder of two successful technology companies - Backupify and GlowTouch -  that collectively employ more than 1,300 people globally. He was instrumental in conceptualizing and creating the high-tech, co-working space, iHub, at UofL’s J.D. Nichols Campus for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. His roles at EnterpriseCORP, the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc., and Nucleus allowed him to help create hundreds of high-paying jobs within the city of Louisville, and he has played an instrumental role in developing the city’s entrepreneurial environment. Chadha is a board member of the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation and was recently appointed by the governor to the board of the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative.

J. Barry Barker – Great Britain

Barker is from England and has been a leader and innovator in the fields of public transit and community planning for over four decades. Currently he manages a $64 million budget serving as the director of TARC. His primary contributions in the field include introduction of service innovations, priority on and increasing customer centric services, initiating improvement in labor-management relations, and improved safety and environmental leadership. Also, he has added hybrid and electric buses and significantly increased outside funding for Louisville’s transit authority. He has served as a board member and chaired many community boards and has been recognized and awarded for his contributions by many local and national organizations.

Huong “CoCo” Tran – Vietnam

A Vietnamese refugee in 1975, Tran opened the first Chinese fast food restaurant in Louisville. Since opening the Egg Roll Machine, she has opened a total of nine restaurants. She hired many of the first Vietnam refugees who came to Louisville. She has impacted the community greatly by promoting healthy eating. She encourages and guides other Asian entrepreneurs by mentoring them. For the past 16 years, each of her vegetarian restaurants has provided free meals on Thanksgiving Eve. She is a member and a strong supporter of the Vietnamese Community of Louisville and served on the Advisory Community Board.



Nominate a deserving medical resident for inaugural awards

Nominate a deserving medical resident for inaugural awards

Mark Amsbaugh, president, House Staff Council

The University of Louisville House Staff Council has launched the inaugural Outstanding Resident Awards to recognize achievement among the medical house staff.

Nominations are accepted through March 31, and anyone in the university community is eligible to submit a nomination. Three awards will be presented:

  • Resident of the Year Award: Presented to the resident who overall best embodies the mission of the university to provide excellent patient care, either directly or indirectly, advance his or her field through scholarly activity, educate other residents and students, and is an excellent example of professionalism.  
  • Resident with Outstanding Achievement in Scholarly Activity: Given to the resident who has achieved the most to further his or her field through scientific pursuit. Publications — both number and quality — as well as other scholarly activity such as presentations, quality improvement programs, grand rounds and others are considered.
  • Resident with Outstanding Achievement in Community Engagement: Awarded to the resident who has best embodied the university mission of service to and engagement with the community, state, nation or world.  A leadership role, over part or all of a project, is essential.

Nominations are made online  and must include the resident’s name and a 2-4-sentence description of the nominee’s qualifications for the award.  All nominations will be anonymous. Winners will be selected by the House Staff Council and will be announced in May or June.

For additional information, contact House Staff Council President Mark J. Amsbaugh, M.D., at

Match Day 2017!

Match Day 2017!

Match Day 2016

Fourth-year students in the UofL School of Medicine learned where they will embark on residency training during the Match Day celebration, Friday, March 17 at noon. Each student received an envelope informing the soon-to-be doctors where they will live, what medical specialty they will pursue, and who will join them for the next three to seven years of their training. Fourth-year students at medical schools across the nation all learn their residency destinations at noon EDT on Match Day.

UofL students celebrated Match Day at Mellwood Arts Center beginning at 11 a.m.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) provides a uniform process for matching medical school applicants with residency programs based on the preferences of both. The students interview with officials at residency programs in the fall of their final year of medical school. Students then submit their preferences to the NRMP, and residency programs submit their preferences for applicants. A matching algorithm uses those preferences to match individuals into positions, and students throughout the United States receive their match notices precisely at noon on the third Friday of March – Match Day.

Watch a video of the 2016 event.

NYU researcher will discuss heart’s conduction system April 26

NYU researcher will discuss heart’s conduction system April 26

Glenn Fishman, M.D.

An accomplished researcher from New York University will discuss the heart’s specialized conduction system in the next Leonard Leight Lecture at the University of Louisville.

Glenn I. Fishman, M.D., will speak at noon, Wednesday, April 26, at the Jewish Rudd Heart & Lung Center Conference Center, 201 Abraham Flexner Way.  Admission is free and parking also is available free of charge in the Jewish Hospital Garage, 450 S. Floyd St.

Fishman is the William Goldring Professor of Medicine and Director of the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology at New York University School of Medicine.  He also serves as Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine and a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology.

His research focuses on the formation and function of the specialized cardiac conduction system. This complex network comprises pace-making cells that establish the normal rhythmicity of the heart, as well as rapidly conducting specialized cells that facilitate highly synchronized excitation and contraction of the working myocardium, which is the muscle substance of the heart that enables it to pump.

Continuing education credits are available to both physicians and nurses who attend the lecture. For additional information, contact 502-852-1162 or

The Leonard Leight Lecture is presented annually by the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and funding is provided through the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation. For 30 years until 1996, Leight was a practicing cardiologist in Louisville and played a major role in developing cardiology services and bringing innovative treatment modalities in heart disease to Louisville.

The Leonard Leight Lecture series was established at the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation in 1994 by gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Kurt Ackermann and Medical Center Cardiologists.




UofL health science schools rise in 2018 U.S. News rankings

UofL health science schools rise in 2018 U.S. News rankings

Dean Toni Ganzel: "This ranking is a symbol that shows we continue to be on the right track in meeting the medical needs of our state, nation and world.”

 The University of Louisville School of Medicine and School of Nursing both jumped in U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings for 2018, with the medical school rising to its highest ranking in one category in three years.

The rankings were released March 14 and are available at

In the category of “Best Medical Schools-Research,” the UofL medical school ranks 73rd, five points better than 2017 and 10 points better than 2016.

In the category of “Best Medical Schools-Primary Care,” UofL ranks 88th, a four-point drop from last year but still nine points higher than 2016’s ranking of 97th.

The UofL School of Nursing’s “Best Nursing Schools-Master’s” ranking saw a significant increase — 12 points — rising to 76th this year from 88th in 2017. The school ranked 68th in 2016.

Both schools’ leaders attribute the success to hard work by students, faculty and staff, and a shared commitment to improving standards and quality even as the university faces budget cutbacks.

“I am so gratified by this recognition of the effort put forth by everyone at the UofL School of Medicine,” said Toni M. Ganzel, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the medical school. “For the past four years, we have made significant investments in upgrading our instructional facilities, enhancing and modernizing our curriculum and strengthening wherever possible our research enterprise. This ranking is a symbol that shows we continue to be on the right track in meeting the medical needs of our state, nation and world.”

“We are thrilled our graduate program is recognized for excellence and rigor,” said School of Nursing Dean Marcia J. Hern, Ed.D., C.N.S., R.N. “Our graduates become nurse leaders who meet evolving health care demands by using evidence-based advanced practice knowledge to improve outcomes of diverse patient populations.”

In addition to medicine and nursing, U.S. News ranks graduate education programs annually in business, education, engineering and law. The magazine also periodically ranks programs in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, the health arena and other areas as identified by academic experts.

The rankings are based on two types of data, according to the magazine’s statement of methodology: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students.

The chart below shows the U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools” rankings for UofL HSC schools over the past three years:



2018 Ranking

2017 Ranking

2016 Ranking

Best Schools of Nursing - Master's





Best Medical Schools - Primary Care





Best Medical Schools - Research





Prepared by the UofL  Office of Institutional Research & Planning

Erica Sutton and UofL medical students improve access to colon cancer screening

Sutton and Surgery on Sunday Louisville receive award for providing colonoscopies for uninsured and underinsured
Erica Sutton and UofL medical students improve access to colon cancer screening

Erica Sutton, M.D.

Erica Sutton, M.D., assistant professor and director of community engagement for the University of Louisville Department of Surgery, and Surgery on Sunday Louisville (SOSL) were honored last week by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) for efforts in colorectal cancer prevention. SOSL was presented an 80% by 2018 National Achievement Award during a live webcast on March 1 in honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Sutton, also assistant dean of medical education, clinical skills at the UofL School of Medicine, founded Surgery on Sunday Louisville, which provides colonoscopies and other surgical procedures for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. Sutton, along with UofL medical students Sam Walling and Jamie Heimroth, who volunteer for SOSL, traveled to New York City to receive the award and participate in the live event.

National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable was co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 80% by 2018 National Achievement Award recognizes individuals and organizations who are dedicating their time, talent and expertise to advancing needed initiatives that support the shared goal to regularly screen 80 percent of adults 50 and over by 2018. SOSL was one of five honorees recognized, along with the grand prize winner, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.Left to right:  Mary Doroshenk (Director of NCCRT), Jamie Heimroth (2nd year medical student at UofL, involved in SOSL), Christopher Head (SOSL Board Member), Erica Sutton, M.D. (Executive Director of SOSL, UofL School of Medicine faculty), Sam Walling (Medical Director of SOSL, 4th year medical student at UofL), Emily Bell (Associate Director of NCCRT), and Richard Wender, M.D. (Chief Cancer Control Officer, American Cancer Society)

Sutton, who practices with UofL Physicians and is chief of surgery at Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, has special expertise in minimally invasive procedures and surgical endoscopy. Through Surgery on Sunday Louisville, she and other physicians and health-care professionals provide in-kind outpatient surgical and endoscopic care to income-eligible members of the Louisville community who are uninsured or underinsured. Among the services provided are colonoscopies for patients who may be at high risk for colon cancer but who do not have adequate health insurance coverage to obtain the recommended colonoscopies to screen for the disease.

Despite a sharp increase in the percentage of individuals who have health insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Sutton said some individuals still cannot obtain the tests they need.

“We have had a very successful rollout of the ACA here in Kentucky. However, there are still gaps,” Sutton said. “We have people in Kentucky who cannot afford their ACA deductibles or insurance premiums. They are falling into those gaps. There are high risk people for colon cancer whose insurance doesn’t cover the recommended screenings so they would have to pay for endoscopies.”

Last year, Sutton, Walling and others published research in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons showing that providing free colonoscopies to high-risk individuals who could not afford the tests was cost-neutral compared with individuals who developed advanced colon cancer.

“One of the biggest messages we give is that Kentucky is doing a great job, but we still have a need for this program.”

In her role as director of community engagement for the UofL Department of Surgery, Sutton says she sees department-wide support for health equity.

“Our department as a group really does want to see surgical access for all people in our community. Individually, our surgeons stand behind that and put forth their time and resources so anyone who needs surgical specialist gets the help they need. I am very proud of how they do that.”

Walling, a fourth-year medical student at UofL, has volunteered with SOSL since its inception and now serves as the group’s medical director. He helped develop a program to formalize medical student participation in SOSL, which he says will enable a higher percentage of medical students to gain clinical experience prior to entering residency, allow them increased understanding of health disparities and the role of humanism in medicine. Walling will report on the effort, done in conjunction with the Distinction in Medical Education program, at the Association for Surgical Education Annual Meeting in April in San Diego.

Surgery on Sunday Louisville, Inc.

Founded in 2013, Surgery on Sunday Louisville is modeled after Surgery on Sunday, Inc., of Lexington, Ky., which has been serving Kentucky residents since 2005. Physicians and other volunteers provide surgical services to uninsured or underinsured patients every other month. Patients are seen twice a month in clinic for screening and post-op visits. Since its founding, more than 500 Surgery on Sunday volunteers have treated more than 270 patients in Louisville.

Science fiction into reality: What can artificial intelligence really do for us – or against us? Beer with a Scientist Mar. 15

UofL computer science professor will discuss safety, security and economic possibilities of artificial intelligence
Science fiction into reality:  What can artificial intelligence really do for us – or against us? Beer with a Scientist  Mar. 15

Roman Yampolskiy, Ph.D.

From TheJetsons to I, Robot, science fiction writers have illustrated both exciting and frightening visions of the impact computers, robots or other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) could have on society and mankind. As technology has become increasingly integrated into our lives, the prospect of living with super-intelligent machines has become not only conceivable, but perhaps inevitable.

Roman Yampolskiy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering, will share his insights into the current and future reality of artificial intelligence at the next Beer with a Scientist event.

“Many scientists, futurologists and philosophers have predicted that humanity will achieve a technological breakthrough and create Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), machines that can perform any task as well as a human can,” Yampolskiy said. “It has been suggested that AGI may be a positive or negative factor in all domains, including technology and economy. I will attempt to analyze some likely changes caused by arrival of AGI.”

Yampolskiy is interested in AI, AI safety, cybersecurity, digital forensics, pattern recognition and games related to artificial intelligence. He has written a book, “Artificial Superintelligence:  A Futuristic Approach,” that addresses issues related to ensuring this technology remains beneficial to humanity.

 The event begins at 8 p.m. onWednesday, Mar. 15, at Against the Grain Brewery, 401 E. Main St. in Louisville. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

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

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

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

For more information and to suggest future Beer with a Scientist topics, follow Louisville Underground Science on Facebook. Upcoming dates:  April 5, May 17, and June 14.

Call for summer research projects

Call for summer research projects

Proposals are now being solicited from faculty to submit a biomedical summer research project for medical students at the University of Louisville.

The student’s stipend support and poster production costs are covered by the School of Medicine’s Summer Research Scholar Program (SRSP) and NIH training grants. 

To submit a project, visit      

Deadline is March 10, 2017.



UofL educators honored by Louisville Business First for preparing future physicians to care for LGBTQ patients

Amy Holthouser, M.D., and Stacie Steinbock receive “Best Innovators” award for UofL’s eQuality Project
UofL educators honored by Louisville Business First for preparing future physicians to care for LGBTQ patients

Amy Holthouser, M.D., and Stacie Steinbock

Amy Holthouser, M.D., and Stacie Steinbock were honored by Louisville Business First as “Best Innovators” for their work in educating future physicians regarding the best care for LGBTQ patients at the 2017 Health Care Hero Awards. Holthouser, associate dean for medical education at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and Steinbock, director of the UofL LGBT Center Office at the Health Sciences Center, received the award for their work in launching the eQuality Project, a national pilot program at UofL for developing curriculum for medical students to better meet the health-care needs of LGBTQ patients. The event, held Feb. 23 at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, recognized professionals making a significant impact in the Louisville health-care community.

“We are proud to be recognized by leaders in our business community with this award,” Holthouser said. “By teaching physicians how to take better care of all patients, we believe we make the Commonwealth of Kentucky a healthier environment for businesses to invest in the future.”

The eQuality Project was established at UofL to ensure that individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), gender nonconforming or born with differences of sex development (DSD) receive the best possible health care. The UofL School of Medicine is the first in the nation to incorporate competencies published in 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) related to provision of care for LGBT and DSD individuals.

“While this category only allowed up to two people to be named, the success of this project is due to a huge team of people contributing in many different ways,” Steinbock said. “This innovative work is made possible by the compassionate, brave leadership within the School of Medicine.”

Holthouser and Steinbock were among five winners at the 2017 Health Care Heroes program honored for their impact as a manager, provider, innovator or in community outreach. A total of 19 health-care professionals and a specialty health-care facility were finalists for the awards. Finalists for the innovator award from UofL also included Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, and Darryl Kaelin, M.D., chief of the Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Kathrin LaFaver, M.D., the Raymond Lee Lebby Chair for Parkinson’s Research, was a finalist in the provider category, and the Kentucky Racing Health Services Center through the UofL School of Nursing was a finalist for the community outreach award. Winners were selected by a team consisting of Business First editors and the publisher.

Robert Friedland, M.D. co-organizer of conference to educate physicians and researchers in the Middle East about Alzheimer’s disease

Robert Friedland, M.D. co-organizer of conference to educate physicians and researchers in the Middle East about Alzheimer’s disease

Robert P. Friedland, M.D.

To educate physicians, researchers, social workers and nurses in the Middle East on current research and treatments for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Robert Friedland, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Louisville, has co-organized the Seventh International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in the Middle East (ICAD-ME). The number of individuals with AD and related disorders in the region is rising due to the rapidly aging population and public health systems have not kept pace with recent developments in treatment.

“There is little awareness of dementia in the region because of prevailing biases about the loss of function in healthy aging,” Friedland said. “People in the Middle East need to know that it is never normal for a person at any age to be demented.”

Friedland, the Mason and Mary Rudd Endowed Chair in Neurology at UofL and an organizer for the previous six ICAD-ME meetings, will discuss his research into the relationship between gut microbiota and neurodegeneration, and provide information on potential preventative measures to delay the onset of AD. In addition, he hopes to learn about special features and needs of the region’s population.

The conference will cover topics including the history of Alzheimer’s disease and its basic pathophysiology, pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies, ethical and legal issues, and aging as it is addressed in the Koran and the Bible. The event, sponsored by the United States National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging and Biogen, will take place Feb. 23-25, 2017 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Additional organizers are Changiz Geula, Ph.D., professor at Northwestern University, Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., professor at Barrow Neurological Institute of Phoenix, and Abdu Adem, Ph.D., professor at United Arab Emirates University.

In a welcome statement, the organizers expressed a desire to continue educational events in the Middle East:  “We believe that we need to ensure a continuity of such meetings in the Middle East in order to demonstrate our common aim to conquer Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders as well as our solidarity as scientists and physicians across borders, ethnicity, religion and gender.”



February 13, 2017

UofL researcher receives $2.6 million from NIH to determine how gut microbiota protect against malaria

UofL researcher receives $2.6 million from NIH to determine how gut microbiota protect against malaria

Nathan Schmidt, Ph.D.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The bugs in our gut can help fight bugs from outside our bodies.

Nathan Schmidt, Ph.D., has published research showing that microbes in the gut of mice can affect the severity of illness suffered from infection with Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria. To pursue this research further, Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has received a five-year research grant of $2.6 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the National Institutes of Health. In his new research, Schmidt intends to determine which microbes are responsible for protecting against illness and to learn more about the mechanism behind that protection.

“Now we are hoping to determine which bacteria or metabolites are interacting to determine the severity or lack of severity of illness in the individual,” Schmidt said. “If we can identify the bacteria, it raises hope that we can target those mechanisms to prevent severity of the disease, thereby reducing illness and death from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Globally, malaria afflicts more than 200 million people and causes more than 400,000 deaths each year, with 90 percent of cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. However, many more individuals are infected with the Plasmodium parasite but do not become seriously ill. Schmidt’s research aims to learn more about why some people become seriously ill while others do not.

In 2016, Schmidt published research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) revealing that mice having one community of microbiota colonizing their gut were less susceptible to severe infection from Plasmodium than mice with a different community of microbiota. In this research, Schmidt showed that when the microbiota from the mice experiencing low or high levels of illness were transplanted to mice that previously had no microbiota (germ-free mice), the transplanted mice had similar levels of disease following infection as the low and high donor controls, respectively. These results demonstrate that it was the gut microbiota causing differences in disease severity. In another series of experiments, he treated mice with antibiotics followed by doses of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in lab-cultured yogurt. The parasite burden in the susceptible mice decreased dramatically and symptoms of illness were reduced in the mice treated with the yogurt.

Schmidt believes the antibiotic allowed the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria introduced in the yogurt to colonize the gut, thereby controlling the Plasmodium population.

“Enteric bacteria provide a competitive environment for other bacteria to grow and survive in. Treatment of mice with antibiotics provided an opportunity for the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria to grow and provide protection against severe malaria. Alternatively, it is possiblethe Lactobacillus prevented recovery of bacteria that cause severe malaria,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt hopes to further isolate which bacteria are responsible for protecting the host from illness and tease apart the mechanisms by which they influence Plasmodium populations and immune response. This should allow collaboration with other researchers to test those effects in humans.

“Nathan’s current findings and the proposed studies will enhance our understanding of how microbiota may modulate host immunity to malaria, which could explain why some individuals develop severe disease while others suffer milder symptoms. This is an understudied area with many opportunities,” said Nejat Egilmez, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Schmidt is one of a growing number of researchers investigating links between gut microbiota and disease across the UofL Health Sciences Center campus.

“The role of commensal microbiota in host physiology and health is a highly active, cutting-edge area of research amounting to a new paradigm in medicine,” Egilmez said. “In addition to Nathan, several of our faculty, including Drs. Michele Kosiewicz, Krishna Jala and Hari Bodduluri, have ongoing projects exploring the link between host microbiota and diseases such as autoimmune disorders, infectious disease and cancer. The new award will create opportunities for future collaborations not only amongst these individuals but also with others in the department who study the more basic processes underlying host immunity and microbial pathogenesis.”


February 20, 2017

Do the bugs in our gut affect our brains?

UofL neurologist Robert Friedland, M.D., shares latest research on microbiota along with a prescription for ‘gene therapy’ in the kitchen at Beer with a Scientist, Feb. 15
Do the bugs in our gut affect our brains?

Gut-brain connection

We all are home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and more, referred to as the microbiota. These organisms evolved along with us, inhabiting various ecological locations in and on our bodies, and are important to our health.

Robert Friedland, M.D., professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Louisville, has conducted research showing that the microorganisms in the intestines can affect the brain, and may be responsible for causing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. He will discuss this research and other valuable insights on microbiota at the next Beer with a Scientist event.

“These partner microbes have more than 100 times more genes than our own DNA. Since they are dependent upon our diet for their nutrition and sustenance, we can substantially alter the microbiota through alteration of food intake, performing a type of ‘gene therapy,’” Friedland said. “We will discuss the role of the microbiota in health and disease and review what people can do to lower their risk of cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases.”

Friedland is a clinical and research neurologist and has researched neurodegenerative diseases and other brain disorders associated with aging for more than 30 years. He is collaborating on research projects with investigators in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Japan.

The event begins at 8 p.m. onWednesday, Feb. 15, at Against the Grain Brewery, 401 E. Main St. in Louisville. A 30-minute presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session.

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

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

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

For more information and to suggest future Beer with a Scientist topics, follow Louisville Underground Science on Facebook. Upcoming dates for events:  March 15. 

Louisville and Lexington Eye Banks merge to better serve Kentucky and beyond

Single eye bank based in Louisville will serve entire state and portions of W. Va., aligns with area served by Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates
Louisville and Lexington Eye Banks merge to better serve Kentucky and beyond

Kentucky Lions Eye Center

On January 1, 2017, the Kentucky Lions Eye Bank in Louisville and the Lexington Lions Eye Bank merged into a single Eye Bank serving the entire state of Kentucky and portions of West Virginia. The Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation, the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky are proud to announce the unification of all Eye Banking services, including procurement of donor tissue and distribution of corneas for transplant, into one organization serving the entire state of Kentucky.

“This merger is the culmination of 25 years of negotiation and work behind the scenes to better serve the people of Kentucky,” said Tom Van Etten, of Louisville, past Lions Eye Foundation chair.

Previously, the Louisville Lions Eye Bank, affiliated with the University of Louisville, served the western part of the state; the Eye Bank of Lexington, affiliated with the University of Kentucky, served the eastern part of Kentucky and parts of West Virginia. The new Kentucky Lions Eye Bank serves the same geographical area as Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) to effectively coordinate corneal donation with organ and tissue donation statewide. 

Corneal transplantation is a separate procedure that replaces all or part of a diseased cornea, improving sight, stabilizing diseased eyes and improving comfort in patients with severe corneal pathology. In 2015, there were 79,000 corneal transplants performed in the United States, and there were 470 donors of ocular tissue from Kentucky. Cornea transplants have a 95 percent success rate, and the lifetime economic benefit of corneal transplants performed in 2013 in the United States was $5.5 billion. The leading indication for corneal transplantation in 2016 was keratoconus, followed by corneal edema, Fuchs dystrophy and corneal scars.

The newly merged Kentucky Lions Eye Bank positions the state of Kentucky to efficiently coordinate with other eye banks in the United States to provide corneas for transplant in the state of Kentucky and assist with medical needs elsewhere when possible.

For the immediate future, the laboratories at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky will remain functional as operations will continue in both cities. They gradually will be centralized in Louisville over the next five years.

“The merged Eye Bank will be an asset to the state of Kentucky and should provide the resources for the state to be a national provider of donor ocular tissue to restore sight and to assist in research of blinding diseases,” said Henry J. Kaplan, M.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Louisville.

For more information or to make charitable donations, contact the Louisville Lions Eye Bank (502) 852-5457 or the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation at (502) 583-0564. The website of the new organization will be

UofL Center for Women & Infants earns Baby-Friendly Designation

Award recognizes birthing centers for advocacy of breastfeeding for mother/baby health
UofL Center for Women & Infants earns Baby-Friendly Designation

The Center for Women & Infants has been recognized for its advocacy in breastfeeding for mother/baby bonding and health.

Center for Women & Infants CWI logoThe University of Louisville Center for Women & Infants (CWI) at UofL Hospital has been named a Baby-Friendly Designated birthing facility by Baby-Friendly USA. The designation is awarded to birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding.

Baby-Friendly USA implements the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in the United States. BFHI is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The UofL Center for Women & Infants is the only Downtown Louisville facility and the fourth facility in Kentucky to earn the designation. Currently there are 405 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers in the United States and more than 20,000 worldwide.

The designation is awarded to birthing centers that follow the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, offering breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies. The Baby-Friendly designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed and is maintained by continuing to practice the Ten Steps.

“The process to earn Baby-Friendly Designation truly involved a team effort,” Libby Smith, R.N., nursing director of the CWI, said. “The staff, providers and leaders throughout the CWI work together for the common goal. Providers support breastfeeding from the beginning of the patient’s prenatal care through delivery, and then while mom and baby are in the hospital. The pediatric providers support mom and baby throughout their care, also.

“The greatest congratulations are for the nurses and the lactation team who provide the support for the family. There is a lot of education that takes place in the CWI, and a lot of support when mom is tired and just wants to give up; everyone encourages her to keep going. The Baby-Friendly Designation has been awarded because our staff works hard to make mothers and babies their priority.”

“This Baby-Friendly Designation is the culmination of years of dedication and hard work by leadership and staff at CWI. We knew in our hearts we were ‘baby friendly,’ but the designation is a very exciting confirmation for us,” said Therese Spurling, R.N., who is board certified in lactation consulting by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

The CWI is home to Labor & Delivery, High-risk Antepartum Units, Mother/Baby Unit and the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Units. It was created by leaders in the field of maternal-fetal medicine and neonatology and high-risk obstetrics and gynecology to achieve the best results possible for newborns and their mothers. In addition to the highest quality physician-provided obstetrical, newborn and neonatal care for mother and baby, the CWI has implemented innovative services including care provided by Certified Nurse Midwives, family centered Cesarean sections, tub labor and centering pregnancy. The CWI also has been a long-time leader in the field of Kangaroo Care. For information, visit or call 502-562-3094.


Surplus medical equipment from UofL gets a second life in Ghana

Improvements in eye care at UofL mean better care for 3 million Africans
Surplus medical equipment from UofL gets a second life in Ghana

Surplus ophthalmic equipment in use in Tamale, Ghana

To provide the best care for patients and the best training for physicians, the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and UofL Physicians Eye Specialists regularly upgrade diagnostic and other equipment. Several of these displaced items have been put to use more than 5,000 miles away to improve care for patients in Ghana.

Until recently, Friends Eye Center in Tamale, Ghana, lacked basic ophthalmic equipment and the center’s surgical microscope was outdated and cumbersome. The center, directed by Seth Wanye, M.D., provides vision care for nearly 3 million residents of the West African nation and serves as a training site for future ophthalmologists.

Henry J. Kaplan, M.D., chair of the UofL Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, visited Friends Eye Center during a medical mission trip several years ago.

“Most of the equipment they had was non-functional. The equipment we gave them we no longer use because of the acquisition of more technologically advanced diagnostic devices,” Kaplan said. “Many of the people there have totally lost their eyesight and are dependent on their relatives and other support structures, which presents an enormous economic burden.”

Wanye, who regularly visits UofL to enhance his surgical skills, was visiting Louisville in 2015 when Kaplan offered to donate the equipment to his center in Ghana.

“It was like a dream come true,” Wanye said. “It helps me perform thorough examinations of the eye so I can identify other problems, not just the cataract that you can see. It also gives the patients comfort and they are fascinated.”

Shipping large items to Africa is not a simple process, however, and it was nearly a year before the equipment reached the center. Thanks to multiple organizations that shared the expense and worked to transport the instruments, the Friends Eye Center now has a slit lamp, which allows Wanye to examine his patients’ eyes more precisely, a better surgical microscope, chairs for both the surgeon and the patient, and an auto refractor for determining eyeglass prescriptions.

Wanye, who was the only ophthalmologist serving the Northern and Upper West regions of Ghana until a colleague joined him last year, also works with future physicians in the center to introduce them to the specialty of ophthalmology. Most Ghanaian medical students choose other specialties since ophthalmology is not a medical priority in Ghana.

“You have so many other diseases that are killing people. They say eye diseases don’t kill so they are overlooked,” Wanye said. But he has seen that restoring vision allows individuals to regain their independence and enables children to go back to school.

“When you go out into the villages, people are poor, they don’t have money but they are blind. So we will get the resources and do the surgery.”

Wanye receives funding from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Unite for Sight and the Lions Clubs International to provide eye screenings and perform between 2,000 and 4,000 cataract surgeries each year. In addition to screenings and surgeries on location, Wanye provides care for patients in the Friends Eye Center.

“To be one doctor that serves millions of people is not a trivial task. He does it because of a love and conviction for the good that he is doing. I really do admire what he’s doing and that’s why we are more than happy to assist him,” Kaplan said. This is the first time UofL’s ophthalmology department has donated equipment to a foreign health-care organization.

Wanye hopes to establish a regular exchange between UofL ophthalmologists and the center, similar to a program in which residents and faculty members from the UofL Department of Pediatrics travel to the Tamale Teaching Hospital several times each year. Tamale is an official sister city to Louisville.

“My dream is to have some continuous program, especially with the residents’ program here, so we would have residents coming to Friends Eye Center,” Wanye said. In the meantime, he is grateful to UofL for the donated equipment. “We know how valuable they are and how expensive they are. They will help us deliver more quality service to our people. Thank you to everyone at UofL,” Wanye said.


February 6, 2017

Photo courtesy Friends Eye Center, Ghana

UofL study examines the experiences of Muslim cancer survivors

Results will guide religious and culturally sensitive interventions
UofL study examines the experiences of Muslim cancer survivors

Fawwaz Alaloul, Ph.D.

A study at the University of Louisville will provide insight into cultural and religious influences on the experiences of Muslim cancer survivors living in the United States.

The results will be used to develop culturally and religiously sensitive interventions, such as support groups for Muslim cancer survivors, to improve quality of life and health outcomes.

Funded by more than $28,000 in grants from the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation and the American Nurses Foundation, the study is led by UofL School of Nursing Assistant Professor Fawwaz Alaloul, Ph.D., and focuses on Muslims of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent who reside in the United States.

“Previous studies conducted in Islamic countries showed that the religion and culture of Muslims have a great influence on their experience and how they perceive their cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship after treatment,” Alaloul said. “This study will help us understand the influence of religion, faith and cultural practices on their cancer experience.”

Studying Muslim cancer survivor experiences has become increasingly important as the Muslim population continues to grow in the United States. Lack of understanding by health care providers of Muslim cancer survivor experiences within the context of culture can create barriers that may interfere with health outcomes, Alaloul said.

Prior research has shown that some Muslim cancer patients use herbs and other dietary supplements to treat disease or manage symptoms and they do not share this information with health care providers. The supplements might interact with prescribed medication, adversely impacting treatment outcomes. Patients might also refuse to take medications that contain swine-derived gelatin because Muslim law forbids the consumption of pork and they do not disclose this to their providers.

“We need to make sure health care providers are aware of these differences when treating Muslim patients,” Alaloul said. “If providers are aware of these issues, they will better identify, understand and meet patients’ religious needs, which can reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes.”

Muslims are less likely to disclose their cancer diagnosis to their community and even some relatives because they think the information is too personal. Withholding their health status means the patient forgoes emotional support from the community. Cancer support groups tailored for Muslims could improve quality of life, Alaloul said.

To see if you qualify to participate in the study, contact Alaloul at or 502-852-8396. Study participants should identify as Muslim, speak and read English, Arabic or Urdu, be at least 18 years old and be one to five years post-cancer diagnosis. Interviews can be done in person, over the phone or through video conference.

GSG III Foundation pledges more than $1 million for Lung Research Program at UofL

Gibbs Lung Research Program will develop new research models, test therapies
GSG III Foundation pledges more than $1 million for Lung Research Program at UofL

Cardiovascular Innovation Institute

A new research program at the University of Louisville will focus on developing better methods for studying lung inflammation and allow for new research into causes and potential therapies for lung diseases that affect millions of Americans. Thanks to a pledge of $1.05 million over five years from the GSG III Foundation, Inc., the UofL School of Medicine will create the Gibbs Lung Research Program at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (CII). The program will use established research and existing partnerships at CII to develop improved methods for studying diseased lungs and to explore new treatments for inflammatory lung disease.

“Given the number of people in Louisville and Kentucky who suffer from lung diseases, from COPD to cystic fibrosis to asthma, we are happy to support the community by creating a program that can ultimately lead to life-changing therapies for the people of Louisville and across the United States,” said George Gibbs, chair of the GSG III Foundation, which is based in Louisville.

Lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) alone affecting 13.5 million people. Inflammation of the lungs is often the first sign of more serious lung disease. However, scientists have limited methods for studying inflammation in lungs to better understand how and why it occurs and to develop treatments.

“Other than lung cancer, most people do not understand the extent of the problem of lung disease,” said Laman Gray Jr., M.D., executive and medical director of the CII. “Inflammatory lung diseases are debilitating and affect millions of individuals. What is worse is the scientific world has limited capabilities for studying these diseases. This gift from the GSG III Foundation will allow us to develop expanded modeling opportunities with the goal of reducing human suffering from lung disease.”

More than 70 percent of donor lungs are unusable for transplant. Support from University of Louisville Hospital and Jewish Hospital, both part of KentuckyOne Health, will enable the program’s investigators to obtain donated human lungs that cannot be used for transplant. Researchers in the new program plan to develop techniques to sustain these donor lungs over a longer period of time, allowing them to study the causes of inflammation as well as test potential therapies.

The goals for the program are three-part:

-Establish an ex vivo human lung model allowing lungs that are unsuitable for transplant to be brought to CII for research. The donated lungs will be enclosed in a sterile plastic dome, attached to a ventilator, pump and filters. The lungs will be maintained at normal body temperature and treated with a bloodless solution containing nutrients, proteins and oxygen.

-Develop methods for long-term support of the ex vivo lungs. Current processes enable the lungs to be supported for up to 12 hours, which is long enough to transport them for transplant, but not long enough for meaningful study.

-Once these techniques are in place, researchers in the program intend to use the research models explore areas of potential benefit, including:

  • Cell therapy – Explore the use of stem and regenerative cells isolated from a patient’s own fat tissue to treat lung inflammation.
  • Mechanics – Develop improved methods of respiratory support by studying the biomechanics of diseased lungs and the benefits of ex-vivo lung perfusion, a method of strengthening lungs outside the body.
  • Gene expression - Understand the course of dysfunction and dysregulation among the more than 40 different cell types within the lung and profile the functional changes that occur in diseased lungs and compare the gene expression to healthy lungs.

The program’s investigators will include Gray, James B. Hoying, Ph.D., division chief, cardiovascular therapeutics, Stuart K. Williams, Ph.D., division chief, bioficial organs, George Pantalos, Ph.D., professor of surgery and bioengineering, Victor van Berkel, M.D., cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, and Shizuka Uchida, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, all of UofL.

UofL researchers hope the Gibbs Lung Research Program ultimately will become a comprehensive lung research program, leading to valuable treatments that will slow or reverse the course of lung disease, improving quality of life for millions of people.


About the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute

Since opening in 2007, the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute has focused on the discovery, development and implementation of innovative treatments for cardiovascular disease. The CII’s main goal is to foster a world-class collaborative, integrated, multi-disciplinary enterprise encompassing basic, translational, clinical and population research in cardiovascular disease, affecting individuals throughout their entire lifespan, from prenatal life to death. The CII is a partnership effort of the University of Louisville and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.