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August 2007
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October 2007

Medical College Honors Two Female Faculty Scientists With School’s First Women Pioneers in Research Awards

Two faculty scientists are the first to be honored in the Medical College of Wisconsin’s initiative to raise awareness of outstanding local women researchers. Winners of the Women Pioneers in Research Awards are Elizabeth R Jacobs, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology and chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, and Michele A. Battle, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the department of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at the Medical College.

Dr. Jacobs will receive a $10,000 research award.  Dr. Battle will receive the $1,000 Edward J. Lennon, M.D. Award for Outstanding Woman Postdoctoral Researcher.  The awards were announced at the College’s new Women in Science lecture series, Sept. 27, at the Women’s Club of Wisconsin.  Earnestine Willis, M.D., the college’s nationally-recognized maternal and child health researcher, discussed Health Literacy in the second lecture of the series.

“The awards were created to recognize women who have advanced research in their field and have served as mentors to other women scientists,” says Medical College President and CEO, T. Michael Bolger.   Recognized by the Milwaukee Academy of Medicine in 2005 for distinguished service,

Dr. Jacobs also directs the pulmonary & critical care research program. She has served as clinical director of the Medical College Cardiovascular Center.  She received her fellowship training in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, and in electrophysiology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.

As a translational research practitioner, her goal is to bring laboratory discoveries to the bedside, and then back to the lab for validation.  Her clinical focus is on critical care, septic syndrome and lung injury. She is the principal investigator for two National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded grants, to study the process of vascular damage by high blood pressure in the lungs; and to investigate the role of naturally-occurring lipid modulators in lung vascular and airway tone.

“Dr. Jacobs and collaborators have teamed for more than five years to facilitate adaptation of ideas derived in the basic science labs to the clinical sphere, and back to the lab again,” says Medical College Dean and Executive Vice President Michael J. Dunn, M.D. “Respected by the faculty, she is multi-talented, with excellent clinical skills, outstanding research, impressive leadership and a ready willingness to serve and represent the college.”

She received her M.D. degree and completed an internal medicine residency, at the University of Kansas School of Medicine after receiving her undergraduate degree from Marquette University.

Dr. Battle has been working in the laboratory of Stephen Duncan, D.Phil, the Marcus Professor in Human and Molecular Genetics and professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, since 2003.  She is studying the mechanism of cholesterol absorption by the small intestine and making excellent progress, according to Dr. Duncan.  The school’s postdoctoral office selected her for the award on the basis of her outstanding capabilities and productivity.

She is the winner of a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for 2004-07, has published six research papers and made numerous invited presentations at national scientific sessions. She received her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 2002, and her B.S. in biology and philosophy, summa cum laude, from the University of Scranton, Pa., in 1996.

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Medical College Receives $1.8 Million NIH Grant To Study Relationship between Bacterial Pathogens and Host Cells

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the injection of toxins into epithelial cells by a bacterial pathogen.  These studies may ultimately provide opportunities to develop therapeutics that prevent damage to tissues and limit bacterial growth.  The grant is from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dara W. Frank, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is principal investigator for the grant. . Dr. Frank is also director of the Medical College’s Center for Biopreparedness and Infectious Diseases.

She believes that the localization of a cofactor for membrane integrity may govern the toxin’s biologic activities and promote either colonization or spreading at certain stages of bacterial invasion.  Understanding how eukaryotic elements critical to bacterial toxin activity work together will allow the development of inhibitors that interrupt the natural progression to serious infections. This may result in a combination of therapies that could help patients who are critically ill or in the early stages of chronic infection.

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Medical College Receives $1.6 Million NIH Grant to Determine if Chronic Sleep Restriction Causes Irreparable Tissue/Organ Injury

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate injury to cells and tissues in different organ systems that may result from chronic sleep restriction, causing susceptibility to disease.

Carol A. Everson, Ph.D., professor of neurology, is principal investigator for the grant, entitled Oxidative Stress Responses to Loss and Recovery of Sleep. The grant is from the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Inadequate sleep is a known risk factor for disease and shortened lifespan, and sleep recovery is widely believed to have dynamic healing powers. However, the actual physical and biochemical properties that mediate changes in health status resulting from sleep loss and sleep recovery remain unresolved.

Dr. Everson and her team have shown that sleep restriction in the rat model leads to severe metabolic and endocrine disturbances, uncompensated oxidative stress, and generalized cell injury. Evidence from her laboratory suggests oxidative stress-associated damage may mediate biologically and clinically important changes in physiology, such as a proinflammatory state, hypercatabolism (catabolism is the destructive phase of metabolism during which complex substances are converted into simpler substances, usually accompanied by energy release), and altered survival.

Corresponding studies will determine the extent to which recovery of sleep reverses functional impairments. The studies are designed to answer questions about processes induced by sleep loss that cause morbidity, and provide a specific physiological basis for how subsequent sleep may be recuperative. The outcomes are expected to facilitate interventions that limit adverse health effects of sleep deprivation which can be severe in a variety of medical conditions and is especially profound in the critically ill.

Contributing to these studies is Neil Hogg, Ph.D., associate professor of biophysics and co-director of the Free Radical Research Center at the Medical College.

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Stem Cells Show Promise for Treating Huntington’s Disease

The song of the canary aids the quest to create medium spiny neurons


Paying close attention to how a canary learns a new song has helped scientists open a new avenue of research against Huntington’s disease – a fatal disorder for which there is currently no cure or even a treatment to slow the disease.

In a paper published Sept. 20 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have shown how stem-cell therapy might someday be used to treat the disease. The team used gene therapy to guide the development of endogenous stem cells in the brains of mice affected by a form of Huntington’s. The mice that were treated lived significantly longer, were healthier, and had many more new, viable brain cells than their counterparts that did not receive the treatment.

While it’s too early to predict whether such a treatment might work in people, it does offer a new approach in the fight against Huntington’s, says neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author of the study. The defective gene that causes the disease has been known for more than a decade, but that knowledge hasn’t yet translated to better care for patients.

Full story.

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Dr. Owen Griffith Named Dean, Medical College Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Owen W. Griffith, Ph.D, has been named dean of the Medical College of Wisconsin Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Griffith, professor of biochemistry, has served as interim dean since July 1.

"The Graduate School has benefited from Dr. Griffith's interim leadership," says Medical College President & CEO, T. Michael Bolger. "He is committed to helping the Medical College develop the best and brightest researchers and scientists, and is very deserving of this appointment."

Dr. Griffith came to the Medical College in 1992 from Cornell University Medical College (now Weill Medical College) in New York City, where he was professor of biochemistry. Dr. Griffith received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Rockefeller University in New York, and joined Cornell as a postdoctoral fellow in 1974, rising to the rank of full professor in 1987.

He was appointed chairman and professor of biochemistry at the Medical College in 1992. He remained chairman until July 2001, when he stepped down to devote more time to developing ArgiNOx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biotech company he helped start.

Dr. Griffith has written more than 150 research publications, most of which deal with nitric oxide (NO) metabolism, and he serves or has served on advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health and on the editorial boards for several national scientific journals.

He is inventor or co-inventor of 41 U.S. patents and numerous international patents, most of which pertain to controlling the level of NO produced in the body.  NO dilates blood vessels, which helps blood to flow, but becomes toxic if over-produced. 

The Medical College Graduate School offers Ph.D. degrees in cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy; biochemistry; biophysics; biostatistics; microbiology and molecular genetics; pharmacology and toxicology, physiology, and functional imaging (a joint PhD program with Marquette University).

Other degrees offered are; the M.S. in medical informatics (a joint degree program with the Milwaukee School of Engineering), M.S. in epidemiology, M.S. in health care technologies management and M.S. in bioinformatics (both joint degree programs with Marquette University), an M.P.H. in public health and an M.A. in bioethics.

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Taking the sting out of drug application

Harvey Black

For the State Journal

A small Madison biotechnology company called Ratio is working to commercialize a painless way to administer drugs.

The product is a disposable, adhesive drug delivery pump worn on the skin. This device can be worn for up to 24 hours and deliver a steady dose of a drug, then it is discarded and a new patch is applied. It is self-contained and small, making it convenient to wear and easy to hide. A small non-electronic pump provides for constant dosing.

The system, which is touted as being simpler and less expensive than others on the market, was invented by David Beebe, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering, and his colleagues at UW-Madison and the University of Illinois.

Full story.

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Stem Cells in Adult Testes Provide Alternative to Embryonic Stem Cells for Organ Regeneration

Isolation of Specialized Subsets of Spermatogonial Stem Cells Help Generate a Wide Range of Cell and Tissue Types, Weill Cornell Team Reports in Nature

NEW YORK (Sept. 20, 2007) — Easily accessed and plentiful, adult stem cells found in a male patient's testicles might someday be used to create a wide range of tissue types to help him fight disease—getting around the need for more controversial embryonic stem cells.

That's the promise of a breakthrough study in mice led by a team from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, who report their findings in the September 20 issue of Nature.

Using spermatogonial progenitor stem cells (SPCs) obtained from the mouse's testes, the researchers were able to redirect the cells' development in the lab to form so-called "multi-potent adult spermatogonial-derived stem cells" (MASCs).

It was these cells that went on to develop into working blood vessel (endothelial) cells and tissue, as well as cardiac cells, brain cells and a host of other cell types.

Full story.

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Early ebola research at UW creates controversy

Anita Weier —  9/20/2007 8:22 am


The UW-Madison conducted research on the deadly Ebola virus in 2005 and 2006 in a lower-level security facility than is recommended until the National Institutes of Health told the university to stop.

John Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project, a watchdog group for biological research, said Wednesday that researchers at the University of Wisconsin made and manipulated copies of the entire Ebola virus genome without proper safety precautions.

Full story.

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Investigating New Developments in the Research Credit

Your company might decide to put extra cash into research and development to stay on the cutting edge. Good news: Besides maintaining a competitive advantage, your business might be able to claim the Research and Development Tax Credit. In the latest tax law, the credit was extended until December 31, 2007.

Full Article.

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UW gets big grant for health research

$41 million will help put discoveries into practice

Posted: Sept. 18, 2007

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's new Institute for Clinical and Translational Research will get $41 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to improve the way biomedical and health sciences discoveries make their way into clinical trials, hospitals and doctors' offices.

The grant is one of the largest the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has received, and it makes the school one of 12 institutions to receive multimillion dollar grants in the second round of the NIH's Clinical and Translational Science Awards. Twelve other institutions won grants in the first round of the program last year.

The Institute for Clinical and Translational Research was created in January with a planning grant from NIH, money from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, the UW Medical Foundation and other sources in response to the NIH's "Roadmap for Medical Research," a national plan to establish academic centers that aim to get more biomedical research into clinical practice.

Full story.

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