News and announcements from the Medical College of Wisconsin
College pediatrician to help develop sensitive, rapid flu test
The Medical College of Wisconsin will partner with diagnostic product developer Nanogen, Inc., for the development of a multi-analyte molecular diagnostic test for influenza. Nanogen was awarded a two-year, $10.4 million contract from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the project. The College and HandyLab, Inc., were selected as subcontractors.
The contract will be used to develop a fast molecular test that simultaneously detects and differentiates influenza type A, influenza type B, seasonal flu strains and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It provides for a secondary “reflex” test for avian flu strains to be available for samples that are determined to be positive for flu A but negative for seasonal flu.
The test is expected to be significantly more sensitive than current rapid flu tests and conducted in less than half the time it takes to run current molecular tests.
“Success in this project will significantly advance multiplex PCR (polymerase chain reaction) use in the clinical laboratory and provide a unique hands-off solution for rapid, sensitive and specific detection of seasonal respiratory viruses and pandemic influenza,” said Kelly Henrickson, MD, Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), who has a longstanding partnership with Nanogen and will help develop the test.
Creation of the test will incorporate assay development on which Nanogen has worked in cooperation with the Medical College as part of a National Institutes of Health grant for multiplexed infectious disease diagnostics. It will also utilize the College’s new Midwest Respiratory Virus Program.
Microwave engineers receive grant to advance EPR methods
The National Biomedical Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Center in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Department of Biophysics includes a distinguished group of microwave engineers on its research team. This team has received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to advance microwave engineering in EPR.
EPR is a form of microwave spectroscopy used to study matter on a molecular level. In biomedical EPR, the sample (for example, a protein) is nearly always in water. When exposed to microwave radiation, it tends to absorb energy and may become warm, just as in a microwave oven. The College team has developed special techniques to avoid change of temperature, which can invalidate the data. This grant will help further advance these new techniques by high-frequency modeling of microwave fields for samples in water.
James S. Hyde, PhD, Professor of Biophysics and Director of the National Biomedical EPR Center, is principal investigator for the new grant.
NIAID awards grant to study development of food allergies
Mitchell H. Grayson, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Allergy), was one of 12 researchers chosen nationwide to lead a two-year, $5 million innovative study of food allergies. The program, Exploratory Investigations in Food Allergy, is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and two advocacy groups, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the Food Allergy Project. The initiative will support research on the factors that contribute to the development of food allergy, the relationship between other immune system disorders and food allergy, and the epidemiology and genetics of food allergy.
Dr. Grayson is currently conducting research on the role viruses play in the development of asthma and allergic diseases (funded by a distinct $1.8 million National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute grant). As part of this new program, he will use a mouse model to study the role that stomach viruses play in developing food allergies. These studies are designed to determine the mechanisms involved in the development of food allergies, with the hope that future therapies will be developed to inhibit induction of these disorders.
NCI funds research into statins’ use as breast cancer therapy
The Medical College has received a five-year, $1.57 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to investigate the mechanisms by which statins, commonly used drugs for lowering cholesterol, kill breast cancer cells. Balaraman Kalyanaraman, PhD, Chairman and Professor of Biophysics is principal investigator for the study, which will examine the potential of statins as agents for preventing or treating breast cancer.
Using state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, researchers will monitor the therapeutic response of statins alone, and in combination with other antioxidants, in a rat model of breast cancer. The ultimate goal of this research is to be able to translate these findings to humans so that breast cancer may be detected non-invasively at an early stage and treated more effectively with a combination of statins and antioxidants less toxic than traditional chemotherapies.
College team to study how anesthetics protect heart
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded the Medical College a five-year, $9 million renewal program project grant to study how inhaled anesthetic drugs affect the heart. Zeljko J. Bosnjak, PhD ’79, Professor and Vice Chairman for Research of Anesthesiology and Professor of Physiology, is program director for the multi-department project.
The research team has shown ways in which anesthetics can protect the heart against injury resulting from inadequate blood flow or oxygen. Their work has already been translated to clinical applications to improve outcomes following surgery, including the establishment of new practice guidelines for the use of anesthetics for patients at risk of having a heart attack.
With the new grant, the researchers hope to identify the mechanisms by which anesthetics protect sensitive organs during surgical insult, such as blood flow interruption or low oxygen supply.
College imaging study reveals genetic risk for Alzheimer’s
Medical College of Wisconsin researchers have reported that children of Alzheimer’s patients who are carriers of a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease have neurological changes that are detectable long before clinical symptoms may appear.
Functional MRI brain imaging revealed that these symptomless carriers of the APOE-4 gene demonstrated significantly reduced functional brain connectivity between the hippocampus and the posterior cingulated cortex, two important brain structures for memory processing. Non-carriers had 65 percent better functional connectivity than carriers of the gene. The study, conducted at Froedtert Hospital, was led by Shi-Jiang Li, PhD, Professor of Biophysics. The early identification of people at great risk for Alzheimer’s disease would be of tremendous value in developing interventional therapies.
AAMC presents award to Women’s Faculty Council
The Women’s Faculty Council of the Medical College of Wisconsin received the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) 2008 Women in Medicine Leadership Development Award. The College is only the ninth organizational winner of the award since it was created in 1993.
The award recognizes individual and organizational contributions to advancing women leaders in academic medicine. The College’s Women’s Faculty Council was created in the late 1980s as an advisory committee to the dean on issues relating to the professional development of women faculty members. The initial charge has since been expanded to include issues of importance to the professional development of all faculty members. The council consists of 12 women faculty members from both clinical and basic science departments.
New chief residency training program coming to College
The Medical College was one of four U.S. medical schools selected to participate in the national Chief Resident Immersion Training in the Care of Older Adults demonstration project. It trains chief residents to diagnose and treat health problems common to older adults and empowers them to better train the medical students and residents under their supervision.
The Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs oversees the project. Karen J. Brasel, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery (Trauma and Critical Care), and Kathryn M. Denson, MD, Assistant Professor Medicine (Geriatrics/Gerontology), will be leading the chief resident training effort at the College.