Microbiology and Molecular Genetics

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June 12, 2014: Dr Traktman's Term as President of American Society for Virology

 
Paula Traktman, PhD, Walter Schroeder Professor and Chair of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, and Associate Director for Basic Research in the MCW Cancer Center, is currently serving a one-year term as President of the American Society for Virology (ASV). Elected in the spring of 2014, Dr. Traktman’s term culminates at the society’s 33rd annual symposium. 
 
The ASV was founded in 1981 to promote the exchange of information and stimulate discussion and collaboration among scientists active in all aspects of virology. The society has approximately 3,000 members and the annual symposium draws an audience of about 1,000 attendees. 
 
Elected by the society’s membership, the President serves as the CEO of the society and selects the keynote and plenary speakers for the annual meeting. This year’s meeting is being held at the Colorado State University, and the keynote address is being presented by Nobel Laureate Dr. David Baltimore. One of Dr. Traktman’s major initiatives as President was to spearhead the design, development and implementation of the first MobileApp for an ASV symposium.

 

June 9, 2014: Dr Tarakanova Receives WBCS Grant

Vera Tarakanova, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is one of three recipients of a two-year $100,000 grant from WBCS Inc to study breast cancer risks and potential new therapies.  

Dr. Tarakanova’s research interest is in the association between viruses and cancer. One current treatment of certain cancers is histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, which have been found to inhibit development and metastasis of breast cancer and some other cancers and are currently in clinical trials.  However, long-term use of HDAC inhibitors was recently linked to the development of secondary, virus-driven cancers in breast cancer and prostate cancer patients.  In this study, Dr. Tarakanova proposes to discover the link between HDAC inhibitors and those virus-driven cancers.  The results will lead to increased safety and effectiveness of HDAC inhibitors, which are a promising new therapy for breast cancer treatment.

WBCS is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that raises money for breast cancer and prostate cancer research at the MCW Cancer Center. Since 1998, WBCS has contributed $5.1 million to those efforts.  That funding facilitated an additional $37.6 million in extramural support to MCW breast cancer researchers by enabling them to gather data to apply for larger grants from the National Institutes of Health.

 

September 12, 2013: Dr Ganesan Visit

Today Anand Ganesan, M.D., PhD., was invited to return to our department to give a seminar. Dr. Ganesan received his Ph.D. in Microbiology in 1999, in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph T. Barbieri, and his M.D. in 2001 at MCW. He is currently an Associate Professor of Dermatology, in the Department of Biological Chemistry, at the University of California-Irvine.

His seminar was on “From Systems Biology to Melanoma Drugs - The Story of RhoJ and Pak1”. Dr. Ganesan's laboratory at UC-Irvine focuses on utilizing systems level approaches to uncover pathways that regulate melanin production in human skin, and chemoresistance in melanoma tumors.

Dr. Ganesan met with the current MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program) students and MIMG (Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics) students & postdocs; as well as several MCW faculty.

 

April 25, 2013: Exploring Careers in Healthcare

On Wednesday, April 17, MCW faculty and staff joined Milwaukee Public Schools and more than a dozen other healthcare organizations for “Exploring Careers in Healthcare” at South Division High School on Milwaukee’s Southside. The event was organized to showcase the variety of careers available in healthcare to high school students. Approximately 300 students attended.

From the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics were Dr Joe Barbieri, Professor, and Gerald Porter, a member of Dr Barbieri's research team.

 

April 17, 2013: Team Wins Broyles-Maloney Award for Best Original Thesis

Nikki Johnston, PhD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, Tina Samuels, Research Associate II in Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, and Clive Wells, Program Manager II in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, received the Broyles-Maloney Award for best original thesis at the annual meeting of the American Bronchoesophagological Association.

Their manuscript, entitled, Curcumin and anthocyanin inhibit pepsin-mediated cell damage and carcinogenic changes in airway epithelial cells, will be published later this year in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology. Co-authors include Gary Stoner (Department of Medicine) and Amy Pearson (MCW alum). Dr. Johnston and Samuels have received the Broyles-Maloney three times; more than any other applicants in the award’s 25 year history.

 

April 2, 2013:  Dr. Paula Traktman Named Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

Paula Traktman, PhD, Chair and Walter Schroeder Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, has been elected as a 2013 Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. She will receive her designation at a ceremony during the academy’s annual meeting in Denver.

Dr. Traktman’s research focuses on the life cycle of vaccinia virus, which was used in the vaccination campaign that led to the global eradication of smallpox. Specific efforts have centered on viral genome replication (the process of amplifying the genes of the virus during the infection process), the role of the two virally encoded protein kinases and the virally encoded protein phosphatase (which are used to transmit signals and control complex processes in cells), and virion morphogenesis (the coordinated assembly of the complex, infectious virus particles that will spread to new cells and hosts).

In addition to her research and administrative duties, Dr. Traktman has personally trained 21 pre-doctoral students as well as a number of post-doctoral fellows. She also has served on various editorial boards and National Institutes of Health grant review panels, and has served in leadership roles in national organizations. This includes serving as president of the Association of Medical School Microbiology and Immunology Chairs, and upcoming President of the American Society of Virology (2013-2014).

Dr. Traktman received her PhD in molecular and cellular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and completed her post-doctoral fellowship in molecular virology at Harvard Medical School. She was a member of the faculty of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York prior to coming to MCW as Chairman.

Fellows are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. Each elected Fellow has built an exemplary career in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, industry or government service. Election to Fellowship indicates recognition of distinction in microbiology by one’s peers.

 

April, 2013:  Women in Science Series to Feature Dr. Traktman on May 30th

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) invites the public to attend the 7th annual Women in Science SeriesWomen in Science is an opportunity to meet outstanding female scientists and physicians and learn about their cutting-edge research.

Series subscriptions are available for a suggested minimum donation of $250, which supports two annual awards for promising women scientists.  For details, contact Linda Hruska, lhruska@mcw.edu or (414) 955-5863.

The May 30th event features Paula Traktman, PhD, Walter Schroeder Professor and Chair of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at MCW.  She will explain the intricate nature of viruses and how some can peacefully co-exist with humans, while others wreak havoc and cause devastating disease.  Dr. Traktman is also the senior associate dean for research development at MCW.  Her luncheon presentation is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 

Mar 21, 2013: Dr. Amy Hudson to Study Evasive Immune Strategies of Herpesviruses

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year, $476,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study immune response to certain herpesviruses.

Amy W. Hudson, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is the primary investigator of the grant.

Human herpesviruses -6 and -7 infect essentially the world’s entire population before the age of five.  Like all herpesviruses, these viruses remain latent or persistent throughout life.  HHV-6 and -7 (Roseoloviruses) are common childhood illnesses.  In most children, infection with HHV -6 or -7 causes a fever, which can be quite high;  in some cases, these high fevers cause seizures.  Recent studies suggest that these febrile seizures are associated with increased risk of developing epilepsy later in life.

Since herpesviruses remain latent or persistent within us throughout life, they must necessarily excel at escaping immune detection throughout the life of the host.  Because HHV-6 and -7 infect only humans, an animal model in which to study how these viruses interact with and thwart immune detection does not exist.

In this project, Dr. Hudson will develop a mouse model with a “humanized” immune system to study the mechanisms by which these viruses evade detection by the immune system.  This will lead to a better understanding of acute and latent infection, and may have future clinical application in the treatment of epilepsy and autoimmune disorders.

 

Feb 12, 2013: Drs. Robinson and McNally to Study Tuberculosis Immunity

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two year, $420,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study proteins associated with tuberculosis immunity.

Richard T. Robinson, PhD, and Mark T. McNally, PhD, are co-investigators of the grant.  Dr. Robinson is an Assistant Professor, and Dr. McNally is an Associate Professor, both in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of the world’s population is infected, and in 2011, 1.4 million people died as a result of the disease.  More than 10,000 cases of tuberculosis were reported in the United States in 2011.

A protein called IL12RB1 is well established as being critical for human immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  In this research project, investigators will evaluate two isoforms of that protein (different forms of the same protein), to determine how they are generated and whether they are effective in controlling tuberculosis infection.

This research will further understanding of the protein IL12RB1, which could lead to better methods to control tuberculosis infection.

 

Oct 23, 2012: Katherine Adams from the Zahrt Lab honored during Research Day Poster Session

Katherine Adams was one of ten students to receive the 2012 Dr Michael J Dunn Medical Student Research Day Poster Contest award.  The award is for her presentation at the Medical Student Research Day Poster Session and includes $500.  There were 128 posters presented at the event.  Presenters are M2s who participated in the Medical Student Summer Research Training Program this past summer.  More than 40 MCW faculty members participated as referees for the content.  The posters were scored on the basis of originality and innovativeness, experimental design and methodology, results and conclusions, and overall impression.

 

Oct 9, 2012: Dr. Stephen Gauld to Investigate Autoantibody Production in Autoimmune Disorders

The Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute received a one-year award for more than $375,000 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The award will fund an investigation of the factors involved in regulating the production of autoantibodies, which are antibodies that target an individual’s own tissues. These autoantibodies are linked to autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Stephen Gauld, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in allergy and immunology, and microbiology and molecular genetics, and a researcher at the Research Institute, is the principal investigator for the grant.

The National Institutes of Health estimated in 2005 that between 15 and 24 million Americans suffer from one of the more than 80 diseases in the autoimmune disorder family.  Many of these chronic diseases have no cure and disproportionally impact women. Patients are often debilitated by their symptoms and the high costs of a lifetime of treatment.

This project seeks to understand the factors that influence the production of autoantibodies that attack a patient’s own tissues in cases of autoimmune disease. Prior research in Dr. Gauld’s lab has shown that a cell in the immune system, the regulatory T cell, suppresses the production of autoantibodies by other immune cells called B cells. Dr. Gauld will study this reaction to understand how it works and how it can be manipulated to reduce tissue damage and promote patient health.

The results of this study will advance understanding of autoantibody production and help researchers discover novel treatments to slow down or prevent the generation of antibodies that attack the body’s tissues.

 

Sept 25, 2012: Dr. Joseph Barbieri Assumes Role of Chair of AAMC MD-PhD Steering Committee

Joseph T. Barbieri, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program at MCW, has assumed the role of chair of the MD-PhD Steering Committee for the MD-PhD Section of the Association of American Medical College. Dr. Barbieri recently completed his term as chair-elect and will serve a one-year term as chair.

The mission of the MD-PhD Section is to advance the education, training and career development of physician-scientists, with an emphasis on training in the MD-PhD programs of LCME accredited medical schools. Individuals who are trained as both physicians and scientists make unique contributions to biomedical research, the translation of that research from theory to practice, and the leadership of academic health centers. The section promotes the development, growth, and nurturing of physician-scientist training programs by representing the interests of MD-PhD programs and their students in the areas of admissions, educational programs, scientific curricula, research and clinical training, and post-graduate career development.

 

Sept 24, 2012: Researcher to Investigate Tuberculosis Bacterium

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) received a two-year award for  more than $400,000 from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study how the bacterium which causes tuberculosis (TB) survives inside the human body in a latent state which is less susceptible to antibiotics.

Thomas Zahrt, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, is the principal investigator for the grant.

TB is a respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  More than 8.5 million people worldwide were diagnosed with the disease in 2010, and more than one million died from the illness.  The World Health Organization estimates that about one-third of the world’s population (two billion people) has a latent form of TB.  In these cases, illness and symptoms can appear a significant amount of time after initial exposure to the TB bacterium, usually due to a secondary event that weakens the immune system.

Dr. Zahrt’s lab is interested in discovering the mechanisms by which M. tuberculosis persists during the latent infection stage, as well as how the bacterium reactivates after months or years of dormancy.  This project will study an enzyme believed to be necessary for the bacterium to produce energy and survive during latency.

The findings from this research will generate new insight into the dormant phase of the bacterium responsible for TB, and may reveal new targets for therapies that can treat TB during latency despite its decreased susceptibility to antibiotics. 

 

Sept 4, 2012: Medical College to host 19th Midwest Microbial Pathogenesis Conference

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) received a one-year, $8,000 award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to help fund the 19th annual Midwest Microbial Pathogenesis Conference (MMPC), which will be held from Sept. 7-9, at MCW.

Thomas Zahrt, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Christopher Kristich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, are supervising the organization of this event.

The regional conference provides an important opportunity for between 200 and 300 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty and established investigators to discuss recent advances in the field of microbial pathogenesis, including the identification, validation, and characterization of new therapeutic targets or strategies for combating human infectious diseases.  This scientific forum is especially relevant for junior faculty who make up at least 50 percent of presenters, as these investigators are often discussing their research with peers for the first time since establishing new laboratories.

MMPC is a venue that helps promote collaboration and networking among faculty, especially underrepresented minorities in science who are encouraged to attend and participate. This grant will help continue a valuable meeting by providing support that will ultimately enhance knowledge of diseases that are caused by microbial pathogens of humans.

 

Aug 14, 2012: Department Researchers to Study Intestinal Bacteria

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $420,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to investigate the interactions between bacteria that live in the intestine and the intestinal immune system.

Nita H. Salzman, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Gastroenterology) and researcher at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, and Christopher J. Kristich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, are the primary investigators of the grant.

The gastrointestinal tract is home for trillions of microbes that live in a complex and delicately balanced ecosystem known as a microbiome. Previous work by Dr. Salzman and colleagues has identified an important, highly regulated balance between this intestinal ecosystem and the immune system. Disruption of this balance by an infection or oral antibiotic administration may translate into serious disease.

This research will study the bacterium Enterococcus faecalis, which is resistant to many antibiotics and can cause serious illness in hospitalized patients when it spreads from the gastrointestinal tract.  An ideal model for study, these bacteria can be used to probe bacterial- host interactions that contribute to enterococcal colonization of the gastrointestinal tract.

Understanding the mechanisms involved in the interaction between Enterococcus faecalis and the gastrointestinal tract may lead to new approaches for therapies that will prevent illness caused by these bacteria.

 

July 2, 2012:  Medical College Researcher to Study Potential Treatment for Botulism

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) received a two-year, $420,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to investigate a promising biological avenue for treating nerves affected by botulism.

Joseph T. Barbieri, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program at MCW, is the principal investigator for the grant and will collaborate with MCW colleagues Allison Ebert, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, and Jung-Ja Kim, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, to conduct this research.

Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce a nerve toxin that can cause botulism, a rare paralytic disease that afflicts approximately 145 people each year in the United States.  Botulinum toxin is the most toxic protein for humans and classified as a “Category A Select Agent.”  There is a limited supply of the vaccine used to treat the illness and no other approved therapies exist.

Dr. Barbieri will study a method to deliver therapies to diseased nerves.  The effectiveness of this method for treating specific nerves affected by the botulinum toxin will be tested in mouse models.

This is one of the first R21/R33 grants, a new funding mechanism at the NIH, awarded to MCW.  A two-year R21 grant may be transitioned into a longer-term, higher budget R33 grant if milestones are met.

This research aims to develop targeted, effective treatments for botulism, which may be useful in generating therapies for other diseases of the nervous system.

 

June 19, 2012: "Sneak Peek" at Science Careers for Undergraduates Visiting MCW

Nearly 40 undergraduate students from universities across the country will spend their summer vacation pursuing scientific research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The Medical College’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) offers a summer internship experience for students considering careers in the biomedical sciences.  The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences pairs each student with a faculty mentor to provide hands-on research opportunities.

Over the last 29 years, hundreds of students have participated in the SPUR program, most of whom have gone on to pursue careers in science in medicine. This year, 469 students applied for 36 spots at the Medical College.

The students’ experience is not limited to a campus project; the Medical College’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences partners with local businesses to showcase the Milwaukee area.  Many of those businesses have provided discounts and free offers to help promote Milwaukee to visiting scholars.

For more information, visit the SPUR Program Web Site

 

 

June 6, 2012: Bobbie Nick Voss Charitable Funds Golf Classic Supports Colon Cancer Research

The seventh annual Bobbie Nick Voss Charitable Funds Golf Classic is scheduled for Monday, June 18, at North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls. Event proceeds support colon cancer research and local colon cancer education and care initiatives.

The event is held in honor of Bobbie Nick Voss, a vibrant young woman who was diagnosed with colon cancer at 47 and died of the disease in 2005 at the age of 52. The golf event promotes colon cancer awareness and early detection, as well as funding research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The Bobbie Nick Voss Laboratory for Colon Cancer Research was established with a gift from Bobbie Nick Voss Charitable Funds. Since that time, the organization has given more than $100,000 to the Medical College’s digestive disease research programs, including a recent gift of $50,000. With that support, Michael Dwinell, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and Director of the Bobbie Nick Voss Laboratory, has been able to further his research of the spread and growth of cancer, and he is working on innovative methods to inhibit the spread of malignant colon cancer cells.

“Understanding the processes that cause cells to become cancerous, multiply, and move about the body is key in fighting this disease. The support of Bobbie Nick Voss Charitable Funds has allowed us to make great strides in that understanding, and we are grateful for the opportunity to further our research,” said Dr. Dwinell.

To register for the golf outing or learn more about sponsorship opportunities, go to http://bobbiesays.com/bnvcf-golf-classic.

 

April 25, 2012:  Researcher to Study Bacteria Responsible for Common Disease in Developing Countries

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $420,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to investigate Leptospira, the bacteria that cause leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a significant illness in agricultural regions and areas of urban decay and poverty in the developing world.

Jenifer L. Coburn, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), member of CIDR, and secondary faculty in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, is the primary investigator of the grant.

Leptospira bacteria can be carried by most mammals. The bacteria are often spread to humans through wildlife, companion animals, particularly dogs, and livestock; water contaminated with animal urine poses a major challenge in preventing the infection from spreading. As a disease, leptospirosis varies widely in severity in humans, with age, underlying health status and the virulence of the particular Leptospira strains all contributing to the symptoms that emerge in any single case. In its most severe form, leptospirosis can produce fatal kidney failure or hemorrhage.

The leptospira bacteria are thought to make people and animals sick by attaching to and altering the biology of cells.  Attachment to cells is also critical to the ability of the bacteria to cause persistent infections in animals, resulting in the animals serving as carriers of the bacteria. In this study, Dr. Coburn seeks to identify the specific molecules the bacteria use to attach to cell surfaces.

By combining this information with recent advances in understanding Leptospira’s genetics, Dr. Coburn’s research may contribute to future development of improved vaccines and therapies.

 

April 13, 2012:  Medical College Researcher Receives Grant to Study Viral DNA Replication

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to investigate the replication of DNA in vaccinia virus, a poxvirus closely related to smallpox and monkeypox.

Paula Traktman, PhD, the Walter Schroeder Professor and Chairman of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, is the principal investigator for the grant.

Smallpox was a significant health problem until worldwide vaccination with the vaccinia virus eliminated it as a natural threat. Today, smallpox carries the threat of potential use as a biological weapon by terrorists. The monkeypox virus infects and sickens humans, primarily in central and western Africa, but has been reported in other parts of the globe.  An outbreak in the United States occurred in 2003 and included cases in Wisconsin caused by infected prairie dogs passing on monkeypox to humans.  

In addition, recombinant poxviruses are being developed to serve as vaccines against other viruses such as HIV, and significant progress is being made to enable them to serve as oncolytic therapies that can target and kill tumors.

In this project, Dr. Traktman’s lab will study three specific aspects of vaccinia virus replication. First, the researchers will analyze important proteins that are utilized in the replication process. Second, the researchers will look at the mechanism of poxviral DNA replication. Third, Dr. Traktman will analyze the unique compartments within host cells where vaccinia and other poxviruses replicate their DNA.

These findings may help develop antiviral therapies for poxviruses. Dr. Traktman’s research will also discover fundamental insights into the biological process by which all DNA is repaired and replicated, which has relevance to birth defects and to cancer.

 

April 2, 2012:  Medical College of Wisconsin Ranked 2nd Among U.S. Med Schools as One of the Best Places for Postdocs to Work

The Medical College of Wisconsin is ranked second among U.S. medical schools and universities for postdoctoral training, according to a new survey released by The Scientist magazine.  Overall, the Medical College is the 15th best place in the country for postdoctoral scientists to conduct their research, moving up four spots in rank from last year’s list.

A “postdoc” is a researcher who has earned a doctorate, and is pursuing research under the guidance and mentoring of a more senior faculty member. About 200 post-doctoral scientists are currently conducting research in a wide array of biomedical fields at the Medical College and its affiliated institutions, the Blood Research Institute and the Children's Research Institute.

“The Medical College of Wisconsin offers unique opportunities to postdoctoral researchers,” said Philip Clifford, PhD, Associate Dean of the College’s Postdoctoral Education Program and Professor of Anesthesiology and Physiology. “The College has made a commitment to career development for scientists, not only by virtue of the training they receive from faculty mentors, but also with our infrastructure, facilities, networking, and other career training.”

The rankings, which were released in the March 29, 2012 online edition of The Scientist, are based on a web survey of more than 1,500 non-tenured scientists working in academic, industry or noncommercial research institutions. Respondents answered questions ranging from the quality of training and mentoring to the pay and quality of life.

The Medical College was lauded for its funding, facilities and infrastructure. A total of 45 U.S. institutions and 10 overseas institutions were included in the 2012 rankings. The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, was ranked #1.  Emory University in Atlanta was ranked as the nation’s top medical school or university.

 

March 19, 2012: Medical College Researcher Receives Grant to Study Intestinal Bacteria

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a four-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate the interactions between bacteria that live in the intestine and the intestinal immune system.

Nita H. Salzman, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Gastroenterology) and investigator for the Children’s Research Institute, is the primary investigator of the grant.

The gastrointestinal tract is home for trillions of microbes that live in a complex and delicately balanced ecosystem known as a microbiome. Previous work by Dr. Salzman and colleagues has identified an important, highly regulated balance between this intestinal ecosystem and the immune system. Disruption of this balance by an infection or oral antibiotic administration may translate into serious disease. Dr. Salzman’s studies will provide new insight into the prevention of such illnesses.

 

January 2012: Article Selected by Faculty of 1000

The article, Ubiquitin and ubiquitin modified proteins activate the Pseudomonas aeruginosa T3SS cytotoxin ExoU was selected by Faculty of 1000.  The article is authored by members of Dr Frank's and Dr Terhune's laboratories.  The selection of the paper puts it in the top 2% of published papers in biology and medicine.  The F1000 faculty evaluator described the impact of the article as providing "the first description of a bacterial enzyme using ubiquitin as an activator."



January 2012: Predoctoral Fellowship Awarded to Tarin Bigley

Tarin Bigley, a member of Dr Terhune's laboratory and student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, has been awarded a F31 predoctoral fellowship from the NIH.  Mr Bigley's project is entitled "Role of CMV kinase in regulating infection of ESC-derived neuroprogenitor cells".



August 22, 2011: Cytomegalovirus, a Major Cause of Brith Defects, to be Studied by MCW Researcher

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1.7 million, five-year grant to investigate the cellular pathways that are hijacked during infection by cytomegalovirus, or CMV.

Scott S. Terhune, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and member of the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center, is the primary investigator.

The majority of the world population is infected by CMV. Once infected, the virus is dormant within the body for the lifetime of the individual and disease is prevented by the immune system. However, severe disease can occur in immunosuppressed individuals. CMV is also a leading cause of birth defects due to transmission from the expecting mother to the baby.

In this project, Dr. Terhune aims to identify how viral proteins overcome the natural ability of human cells to stop infection. Understanding those processes will lay the groundwork for future drug development aimed at enhancing the cells ability to fight and stop CMV infection.

 

July 9, 2011: Dr Coburn Contributes to "Lyme Disease on the Rise in Wisconsin" Article
 

Dr Jenifer Coburn, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Disease) and Center for Infectious Disease Research comments on the prevention of Lyme disease.  The article is entitled "Early Treatment Urged: Lyme disease on the rise in Wisconsin" by Kelly Hogan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Dr Coburn studies the interactions between Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterial agent of Lyme disease, and their host cells.

 

June 27, 2011: Life Cycle of Poxviruses to be Studied by College Researchers

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $420,750 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the maturation and encapsidation of the DNA chromosome of a specific type of virus called a poxvirus.

Paula Traktman, PhD, Walter Schroeder Professor and Chairman of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, is principal investigator for the grant.

There are at least seven types of poxviruses that affect humans; two can be deadly. There is fear that smallpox could be harnessed as a biological weapon by terrorists. Additionally, monkeypox has sickened hundreds. Poxviruses do not replicate like other viruses, and little is known about two proteins that appear to play a large part in the encapsidation process, which is key to the assembly of infectious virus particles.

This research will provide better understanding of this little-known portion of the viral replication process. By understanding the way these viruses spread, we will be able to develop better antiviral therapies to prevent human infection.

 

June 10, 2011: Dr. Paula Traktman Awarded Women of Influence by Milwaukee Business Journal

Paula Traktman has been selected as a Woman of Influence in the inspiration category by the Milwaukee Business Journal.  "You have to have inspiring ideas. Then you have to inspire the people who can do the work." Traktman is quoted on the Women of Influence Web Site. 

Video Interview

 

May 5, 2011: Dr. Michael Dwinell Receives Cancer Center Grant

The Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center has awarded seed grants in three categories – American Cancer Society institutional research grants, independent research grants in breast and prostate cancer, and interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowships in cancer research.

Michael Dwinell, PhD has received awards in two areas.

Independent Research Grant in Breast and Prostate Cancer for: CXCL12 Treatment as a Novel Therapeutic Paradigm for Breast Cancer.  Also, an award for Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cancer Research.

 

April 21, 2011: Nucleic Acid Extraction Core now open in Children's Research Institute

The Children’s Research Institute (CRI) Nucleic Acid Extraction (NAE) Core offers manual and automated DNA extraction services from whole blood, including small (400 ul), medium (1-5 mL) and large (5-10 mL) volumes. DNA extraction from saliva, buccals, and tissue (fresh, frozen, and FFPE) is also available.

All specimens should be dropped off with a completed requisition form at the Pediatric Translational Research Unit (TRU). Monday through Thursday, they can be dropped off between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and on Fridays, they can be dropped off between 7:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Contact Beth Virlee, Technical Coordinator, (414) 955-2523, prior to submission of blood, saliva, and buccal samples for DNA extraction. Contact Alexandra Lerch-Gaggl, PhD, Scientific Director of the Pediatric BioBank and Analytical Tissue Core, 414-955-2267 prior to submission of tissues for DNA extraction purposes.

A complete list of services and fees can be found on the CRI Nucleic Acid Extraction Core Web site. The site also includes the sample requisition form and details about instrumentation, expected yields, and general operating procedures.

 

October 27, 2010:  Department Hosts Learning Experience for Local Middle School Class

 

It was a pleasure to have a group of students visit the department to see the typical work of a scientist. The students were 7th graders from the classes of Ms. Porter, Ms. Goggins, and Mr. Reynolds at Wedgewood Park Middle School in Milwaukee.


Department faculty and staff explained their research with tours, speakers, and scientific demonstrations. For example, students tested the effectiveness of alcohol hand sanitizer by collecting bacteria from their hands and growing it in a petri dish. Students learned the educational requirements and career path to become a research scientist. Also, students saw how fMRI can view the function of the brain.


The students enjoyed the day and some gained an interest in becoming scientists. Thanks to those who helped including Dr Barbieri, Sally Durgerian, Patrick Gonyo, Dr Hudson, and Dr McNally.

Dr Mark McNally demonstrating to students the sublimation of dry ice by viewing bubbles created in soapy water.


September 29, 2010:  Roy Long, PhD, Named Assistant Dean of Recruitment for the Graduate School

Roy Long, PhD, has been appointed Assistant Dean of Recruitment for the Graduate School by Ravi Misra, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Biochemistry.
 

As Assistant Dean of Recruitment Dr. Long will serve as part of the faculty leadership team in the Graduate School Dean's office He will work directly with the Dean of the Graduate School, the Associate Director of Recruitment, and the general Graduate School faculty to advise on matters pertaining to recruitment of students.

Dr. Long has served for eight years on the Admissions Committee for the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences and currently is Chair of this committee. He served for two years on the MCW Graduate School’s Curriculum Evaluation Committee and has recently been appointed Chair of this committee.

Dr. Long’s research focuses on the genetic regulation of protein synthesis. His lab uses baker’s yeast, S. cerevisiae, as a model system to study mechanisms of gene expression. This research contributes to a better understanding of development.

Dr. Long joined the College faculty in 1998 as an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In 2004, he was promoted to Associate Professor. Dr. Long received his PhD in biological chemistry in 1994 from The Pennsylvania State University. He completed research fellowships at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

 

September 27, 2010:  Infertility Causes Studied by Medical College of Wisconsin Researcher

 

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a two-year, $416,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development to investigate causes of infertility. Paula Traktman, PhD, the Walter Schroeder Professor and Chairman of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Research Development, is principal investigator for the grant.

About one in seven couples worldwide have problems conceiving. About 10 million couples in the United States are affected by infertility, and about two million couples seek fertility treatments each year.

Dr. Traktman is researching the formation of sperm and egg cells in mice. Specifically, her work is focused on an enzyme known as the VRK1 protein kinase. When this enzyme is deficient, sperm and egg production in mammals appears to be compromised or halted, causing infertility.

Deeper understanding of how this enzyme functions within the body may lead to more effective fertility treatments as well as identifying new targets for male contraception.

 

 

September 2, 2010: Terhune Lab Making Strides in Virus Research

Scott Terhune, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center, and graduate students John Savaryn and Justin Reitsma, are using proteomics to gain a greater understanding of the role of cellular protein interactions during viral infection. All three presented research at the 35th annual International Herpesvirus Workshop in Salt Lake City.

Their research is focused on human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a member of the herpesvirus family, which infects a majority of the world’s population and is the number one cause of viral-mediated birth defects. Infections in healthy adults are generally asymptomatic (the person is a carrier but experiences no symptoms), but infection or reactivation of latent virus in people with compromised or immunologically immature immune systems can result in life threatening disease.

Dr. Terhune's lab is studying the role of viral proteins expressed early during infection, at a time when the cell is trying to block infection. They have successfully shown that their approach of combining viral genetics and proteomics can be used to determine how viral proteins are manipulating the infected cell. Their research has led to a greater understanding of the how the virus overpowers human cells to promote infection.

 

August 6, 2010: NIH Grant Supports Collaborative Medical Research in Region

 

A BizTimes.com article discusses the $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health given to the Medical College of Wisconsin to coordinate research within the Milwaukee area.   The Medical College's Clinical and Translational Science Institute will support collaborative research projects involving the seven institutions involved in this program.

Read the full article

 

March 29, 2010: Dr. Christopher Kristich Receives Award to Research Drug-resistant Bacteria

 

Christopher J. Kristich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has received a National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. The five-year, $2.3 million grant will support research on antibiotic-resistant bacteria, addressing the crisis of escalating hospital-acquired bacterial infections.

The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award recognizes new investigators for their creativity and the innovativeness of their research methods as well as the project’s potential impact on an important biomedical or behavioral research problem. Dr. Kristich was one of 54 investigators nationwide who received an award in 2009.

Dr. Kristich is also lead researcher for a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for an investigation of Enterococcus faecalis – one of the more common antibiotic-resistant bacteria responsible for hospital-associated infections.

Infections that cannot be controlled by antibiotics can progress rapidly, leading to pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other life-threatening conditions. Each year, 99,000 U.S. deaths are caused by hospital-associated infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number is rising.

The increase in hospital-acquired infections is due in part to advances in medical care. Widespread use of antibiotics to combat these infections has caused existing antibiotics to lose their effectiveness against common bacteria. Because of their natural occurrence in the human body and their increasing resistance to treatments, these bacteria have become prevalent in hospital settings where, through contact with health care workers, they are spread from patient to patient.

The New Innovator Award will help Dr. Kristich identify how bacterial proteins interact to promote antibiotic resistance.

The overall goal of Dr. Kristich’s research is to enhance basic understanding of antibiotic resistant bacteria to facilitate development of new treatments against deadly infections.



March 4, 2010: Dr. Dara Frank Elected to the American Academy of Microbiology


Dara W. Frank, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and Director of the Medical College's Center for Biopreparedness and Infectious Diseases, has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. Seventy-eight microbiologists nationwide received this honor.

Fellows of the academy are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.


December 2009: Tissue bank to advance clinical care

Source: 2009 Medical College of Wisconsin Annual Report

 

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in adults, underscoring the need for improved methods for early diagnosis and treatment. The ability to use human tumors for research is critical to better understand the biology of cancers and translate advances to patient care. Toward this goal, a pancreatic cancer tissue bank is being developed at The Medical College of Wisconsin under the direction of Douglas Evans, MD.

The Medical College’s pancreatic cancer tissue bank is modeled after and expands on the highly regarded pancreatic tissue bank that Dr. Evans developed and directed at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Small portions of pancreatic cancer tumors removed during surgery will be submitted to the tissue bank to be preserved for genetic studies. A corresponding database will record relevant medical history anonymously for each tissue sample. The integration of the clinical data with the biological findings from the tissue samples is critical for translating findings from the laboratory to clinical use.

The pancreatic cancer tissue bank will be housed in the lab of Michael Dwinell, PhD, who will manage the bank and the use of the tissue samples by Medical College basic science researchers.

The pancreatic tissue bank will serve as the pilot for a Medical College-wide human tissue bank, directed by Saul Suster, MD, comprising many tissue types, such as cardiac, kidney and brain tissue. The College-wide central human tissue bank is an important platform for a strong translational research enterprise. Dr. Evans and Dr. Suster are working with a multidisciplinary tissue bank development team to establish standardized protocols for tissue collection, processing, distribution and data recording, which are the essential foundation for ensuring the integrity and reliability of the research.

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