Vital Record » Medicine http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Fri, 30 Jan 2015 22:17:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Compound found in grapes, red wine may help prevent memory loss http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=compound-found-in-grapes-red-wine-may-help-reverse-memory-loss http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=compound-found-in-grapes-red-wine-may-help-reverse-memory-loss#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:09:49 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22591 College of Medicine researcher publishes new findings on the benefits resveratrol may offer for treating memory loss in the elderly]]>

grapes and red wineA compound found in common foods such as red grapes and peanuts may help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research published by a faculty member in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant that is found in the skin of red grapes, as well as in red wine, peanuts and some berries.

Resveratrol has been widely touted for its potential to prevent heart disease, but Shetty and a team that includes other researchers from the health science center believe it also has positive effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to functions such as memory, learning and mood.

Because both humans and animals show a decline in cognitive capacity after middle age, the findings may have implications for treating memory loss in the elderly. Resveratrol may even be able to help people afflicted with severe neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study published online Jan. 28 in Scientific Reports, Shetty and his research team members reported that treatment with resveratrol had apparent benefits in terms of learning, memory and mood function in aged rats.

“The results of the study were striking,” Shetty said. “They indicated that for the control rats who did not receive resveratrol, spatial learning ability was largely maintained but ability to make new spatial memories significantly declined between 22 and 25 months. By contrast, both spatial learning and memory improved in the resveratrol-treated rats.”

Shetty said neurogenesis (the growth and development of neurons) approximately doubled in the rats given resveratrol compared to the control rats. The resveratrol-treated rats also had significantly improved microvasculature, indicating improved blood flow, and had a lower level of chronic inflammation in the hippocampus.

“The study provides novel evidence that resveratrol treatment in late middle age can help improve memory and mood function in old age,” Shetty said.

This study was funded primarily by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. Shetty’s lab is now examining the molecular mechanisms that underlie the improved cognitive function following resveratrol treatment. He also plans to conduct studies to see whether lower doses of resveratrol in the diet for prolonged periods would offer similar benefits to the aged brain.

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A new model for rural health care delivery http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=a-new-model-for-rural-health-care-delivery http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=a-new-model-for-rural-health-care-delivery#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:04:53 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22573 In rural communities, gaining access to health care can pose a challenge. The Holland Rural Health Rotations program, led by Catherine McNeal, M.D., Ph.D., exposes first-year medical students to the everyday struggles rural families face. Now in it's fifth year, the program has established a strong relationship with the community of Holland, providing health care where it was previously difficult to find]]>
Faculty and students who participated in the Rural Health Rotations Program outside of the HISD school clinic

Approximately 15 medical students are paired with families in Holland and meet once a month at the school-based clinic.

In rural communities, it can be a long way to the nearest doctor’s office or pharmacy.

Such is the case in Holland, Texas, a small town of about 1,200 residents that is located 21 miles south of Temple. Poverty is common and access to a major grocery store, let alone health care, is limited. For some families, going to a larger city to get groceries or to see a physician is a real struggle because they may not have time, or the money, to do both.

An appreciation for the challenges facing populations like those in Holland inspired Catherine McNeal, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple, to create a Rural Health Rotation program aimed at teaching medical students and nursing students about the barriers to health faced by rural populations. Ultimately she hopes that through this program, more TAMHSC graduates will choose to practice in rural areas.

Holland was a natural choice for the program because of an existing school-based clinic that was established in 1992 through a partnership between the Holland Independent School District (HISD) and Scott & White (now Baylor Scott & White Health).  The clinic received initial funding from the State of Texas and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Although school-based clinics exist in other communities, the one in Holland is unique because it provides care for people of all ages and from any community. It is staffed by resident physicians from Baylor Scott & White, including those in the pediatric and family medicine programs.

In addition to exposing first-year medical students to the concerns that people in rural communities face, the Rural Health Rotation program gives them practical clinical experience, which is unique for early medical education when most of students’ time is usually spent in the classroom learning anatomy and other health care basics.

Now in its fifth year, the program also pairs medical students with nursing students from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) so they can learn the importance of working together as a team to deliver the best patient care and also learn to appreciate the unique skills from each profession that can be combined to enhance patient care, especially for rural residents.

The program is based at the HISD campus, and the HISD superintendent and school nurse recommend families that could benefit from it. Approximately 15 medical students and an equal number of nursing students are paired in groups of two or three with each family.

For the past two years, second-year medical students who participated in the program as first-year students have been asked to help lead the program, which provides an additional learning opportunity.

“Student leaders bring fresh ideas and energy to the rotation,” McNeal said.

Texas A&M College of Medicine faculty members from Baylor Scott & White and the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, as well as faculty members from UMHB, work with each team of medical and nursing students to provide direction and guidance when the students have their monthly meetings with the families.

“This rotation has really established a two-way education,” McNeal said. “The families do a wonderful job teaching the students about the real-life struggles they face and, on the other end, the students provide information about health topics and clarify any misconceptions the families might have.”

Each of the participating families has special health care issues such as asthma or diabetes that their student groups help them manage. All of the families have children as well, many with special needs, exposing the students to the even greater challenges faced by families who need pediatric care.

“What I have noticed is that one of the largest struggles for our patients is finding the support to take that first step toward improving their health,” said Andy Marshall, a second-year medical student who currently serves as one of two student advisors for the program. “This program does a wonderful job of not only allowing us to develop a relationship and support system with the family, but also gives the families an opportunity to network and create a support system within the community.”

Katherine Rendon, a current third-year medical student, participated in the program during her first year of medical school and served as a student advisor during her second year.

“One of the aspects that I think we benefitted from was that we got access to patients so early on in our education,” Rendon said. “Since we had very little education in medicine at that time, we started out with the basics—speaking with the families to become comfortable interacting with our patients. Getting to know the families gave me a more patient-centered focus that I know I will carry into my practice, and it allowed our families to take a more active role in their health care.”

McNeal said she is delighted to see how fully the community of Holland has embraced the idea of accessible health care. “I think the Holland ISD has solved the problem of delivering health care to rural residents through its unique school-based clinic and by supporting the training of young doctors and nurses. If our nation wants to improve health care delivery, it needs to look at a tiny town in Central Texas to find the answers.”

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The cost of taking (or not taking) flu antivirals http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=the-cost-of-taking-or-not-taking-flu-antivirals http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=the-cost-of-taking-or-not-taking-flu-antivirals#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 21:14:58 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22561 With the uptick in flu cases and only a 23 percent effectiveness among the flu vaccine this year, the flu is beginning to reach epidemic proportions. Antivirals, including Tamiflu, are one of the biggest lines of defense against the flu, but some are questioning if they really work]]>
Sick woman blowing her nose next to medications and water.

Tamiflu and other antivirals can reduce the length of the flu by one-half to two days.

Should I take Tamiflu? It’s a common question this flu season, which is shaping up to be a real doozy. With a vaccine that doesn’t protect well against the more virulent-than-usual circulating flu strain – H3N2 – influenza is quickly reaching epidemic levels, leaving patients perplexed on the best remedies.  Antiviral medications are one option, but many question whether or not they are necessary, or even helpful at all.

While antivirals won’t cure flu the way an antibiotic might be used to cure a sinus infection, experts say they are still useful. This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the use of antivirals to combat the spread of the flu, especially for patients at a high risk of complications. And infectious disease physicians like Cristie Columbus, M.D., vice dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Dallas, agree.

“I’m a big proponent of flu antivirals, which shorten the duration of illness and, perhaps more importantly, reduce the amount of contagious virus (or viral shedding), which can potentially help prevent secondary cases, particularly in vulnerable populations,” she said.

The CDC has three recommended antiviral drugs:

  • Tamiflu (oseltamivir) – Comes in liquid or pill form and is the most popular influenza antiviral medication; side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches.
  • Relenza (zanamivir) – Comes as an inhalable powder; not recommended for people with breathing problems, because it could cause bronchial spasms.
  • Rapivab (peramivir) – An intravenous medication, given as a single dose, and recommended for people who are unable to tolerate Tamiflu or Relenza due to side effects.

All three antiviral drugs work by inhibiting neuraminidase, the protein that allows the virus to spread from cell to cell, which plays a key role in reducing the amount of contagious virus. The antiviral drugs could also reduce the duration of the flu by one-half to two days, especially if started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.

“If we can get antiviral medicines to patients as soon as the first symptoms are displayed, it could mean the difference between hospitalization and home-based care,” Columbus said.

This is especially important for those at a high risk for flu complications, including aging adults, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions, such as asthma or other chronic lung problems, and those who are already hospitalized. While there are differing opinions on the use of antivirals due to side effects in pediatric patients, Columbus recommends that children also be treated with antivirals.

“I recommend antivirals be prescribed for pediatric patients as per CDC guidelines, with symptom control for nausea if needed,” Columbus said. “Particularly for high-risk pediatric patients, the benefit of antiviral treatment outweighs the risk of side effects.”

For otherwise healthy individuals, starting antivirals in the first 48 hours can speed their recovery time, allowing for a quicker return to work and normal daily activities and, theoretically, preventing spread to others.

“Even if it’s past the 48-hour window, previously healthy people who are exhibiting severe or progressive symptoms might benefit from antivirals,” Columbus noted.

Because flu is so widespread this season, the CDC recommends a decision to treat for influenza should not depend on a positive flu test. However, this has led to complications with some insurance companies, who require a positive test result before they will cover the cost of Tamiflu.

“It’s unfortunate, because, depending on the test used and availability of testing, results can be falsely negative or delayed, all of which contributes to the flu spreading further,” Columbus said. “Tamiflu can be expensive, especially if you have to pay out-of-pocket, but it may be the difference between a relatively mild illness and a trip to the hospital for some.”

When deciding whether or not to fill a Tamiflu prescription, consider this: One less day of feeling sick could help reduce the spread of the H3N2 virus this season and could keep you or a loved one out of the hospital and ultimately, it might even save your life.

For more information on antiviral medications, visit the CDC website.

Dr. Columbus has particular interest in health care epidemiology and infection control and prevention. A diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and of the Subspecialty Board of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Columbus is also a member of several national professional organizations including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. She is also a member of the Texas Infectious Disease Society, Texas Club of Internists and active regionally in the Texas Medical Association, where she served on the Committee on Infectious Diseases.

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Prockop named National Academy of Inventors Fellow http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=prockop-named-national-academy-of-inventors-fellow http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=prockop-named-national-academy-of-inventors-fellow#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:27:23 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22170 Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine and a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, has been named a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow]]>

Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine and a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, has been named a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow. Prockop will be among 170 new Fellows to be inducted during the NAI’s 4th Annual Conference on March 20 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Darwin Prockop

Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D.

NAI Fellows are academic inventors and innovators who are named on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation.

“The award recognizes that basic biomedical research is increasingly making discoveries that have important practical consequences in terms of their commercial value and the benefits they can bring to patients,” Prockop said. “My research group has for years worked on both the basic biology of adult stem cells and their potential use to treat patients with devastating diseases such as parkinsonism, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and brain trauma. The two lines of research are closely interconnected in that the more we learn about the basic biology of the cells, the more we discover ways the cells can be used to treat patients. The award and the multiple patent applications we have filed helps document our progress and encourages us to continue.”

Prockop directs the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas. He holds 20 U.S. patents and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Medicine.

The NAI was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

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Texas A&M’s new environmental research center awards stimulating research at Texas A&M and across the Texas Medical Center http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-ams-new-environmental-research-center-awards-stimulating-research-at-texas-am-and-across-the-texas-medical-center http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-ams-new-environmental-research-center-awards-stimulating-research-at-texas-am-and-across-the-texas-medical-center#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:33:16 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22161 The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR), headquartered at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston, has awarded its first five pilot program grants]]>

The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR), headquartered at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston, has awarded its first five pilot program grants, each intended to fund “high-risk, high-reward” science to better understand the effects of the environment on human health – with most recipients also receiving matching funds from their own organizations.

Researchers in lab

The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR) awarded its first five pilot program grants to researchers across The Texas A&M University System and University of Houston.

Named by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April as the newest National Center of Excellence in Environmental Health Science, the CTEHR – a cross-institutional initiative which includes collaborators from across The Texas A&M University System, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston – serves as the cornerstone for integrated environmental health research, translation of research advances into practice and community outreach and engagement aimed at improving human health.

As an integral component of the CTEHR, the Pilot Project Program is designed to enhance the overall mission of the center by advancing and promoting early-stage environmental health research, the hardest to fund via traditional funding sources, but the most important for launching “high-risk, high-reward” science.

Administered by Drs. Stephen Safe and Ben Morpurgo of Texas A&M University and Agrilife Research, the Pilot Project Program was cited as one of the strengths of CTEHR at the time the Center received it’s designation from the NIH, and is continuing into its third year under the leadership of Drs. Safe and Morpurgo.

Texas A&M researchers receiving CTEHR pilot program grants include Clinton D. Allred, associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science; Leslie Cizmas, assistant professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Public Health; Gerard L. Cote, department head, Biomedical Engineering and the Charles H. & Bettye Barclay Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and, receiving a joint grant, Robin Fuchs-Young, professor, College of Medicine and Mick Deutz, director of the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity. Funding was also awarded to Maria Bondesson Bolin, research assistant professor in the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston.

Allred, along with co-principal investigator Arul Jayaraman, professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, will receive a $25,000 grant to support their project titled, “The role of estrogenic compounds and their metabolites in colonic inflammation” which will be matched by the College of Engineering and Department of Nutrition and Food Science for a total project budget of $50,000.

Cizmas’ project, “A multi-step approach to assessing the toxicity of drinking water disinfection by­ products following chlorination, chloramination or a novel fen·ate disinfection process,” will receive $25,000 from CTEHR to support this research and Virender Sharma, interim department head of the Texas A&M School of Public Health Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, has committed $25,789 in matching funds.

Cote’s project, “Blood-based point-of-care system to measure radiation exposure using citrulline as a biomarker,” has a total budget of $50,000. CTEHR will provide $25,000 to support this research and Dr. Costas Georghiades has committed $25,000 in matching funds from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station/College of Engineering.

Fuchs-Young and Deutz applied jointly for their project, “A quantifiable biological endpoint to assess the impact of an educational intervention on control of childhood asthma in the Rio Grande Valley.” CTEHR will provide $25,000 to support this research and the College of Medicine and Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine has committed matching funds to support the total project budget of $50,000.

Bondesson Bolin will receive $25,000 to support her project titled “Modes of action of vascular disrupting compounds” and the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling has committed matching funds, to total $50,000.

As pilot project award recipients and center members, all grant recipients will also have access to the center’s facility cores and qualify for subsidies to further leverage their research

“Through a unique team science approach, members of the CTEHR are unlocking the mysteries of environmental health through new discoveries aimed at improving human health,” said Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology and director of the CTEHR. “The center aims to accelerate innovative scientific discoveries and move them from bench-to-bedside, across translational boundaries, and from the laboratory to the clinic and ultimately to communities to improve human environmental health.”

One of only 21 centers of excellence in the country, the CTEHR is poised to lead the state and nation in better understanding the effects of the environment on human health. The center’s members are focused on translating research advances in environmental causes of disease to improve detection, prevention and management of diseases induced or worsened by environmental exposures.

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Erwin elected to lead Texas chapter of the American College of Cardiology http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=erwin-elected-to-lead-texas-chapter-of-the-american-college-of-cardiology http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=erwin-elected-to-lead-texas-chapter-of-the-american-college-of-cardiology#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:06:03 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22155 John P. Erwin, III, M.D., FACC, assistant dean for continuing medical education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) as the ACC Governor for Texas. ]]>

John P. Erwin, III, M.D., FACC, assistant dean for continuing medical education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) as the ACC Governor for Texas. Erwin’s term will run until 2019. He will concurrently serve as the President of the Texas Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.John Erwin

In his position as a member of the Board of Governors, Erwin will join other elected Governors from across the country to facilitate communication between College leaders and their members in the state they represent. Erwin will provide input from the Texas cardiology community to the College on issues related to legislative and regulatory concerns, practice needs, and needs to help members improve patient care.

As the Texas Chapter President, he will also serve as the voice of the Texas cardiology community when advising local and state government officials, media and other professional organizations on issues related to cardiovascular disease. Erwin will also work with the Texas Chapter members to provide education, quality improvement activities, and avenues to influence legislative and regulatory issues affecting the practice of cardiology and quality patient care.

“I feel honored and privileged to represent the patients and the great cardiologists and cardiovascular professionals of the State of Texas,” Erwin said. “Texas has had a rich history of medical leadership and of pioneering cardiac innovations that have improved and saved countless numbers of lives. I look forward to carrying that torch and working alongside the many wonderful thought leaders that constitute the American College of Cardiology.”

Erwin is a graduate of the Texas A&M College of Medicine and performed his Internal Medicine residency and his Cardiovascular Fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

 

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Wielding Nature’s Sword: Researchers at Texas A&M discover new treatments against drug-resistant infections http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=wielding-natures-sword-researchers-at-texas-am-discover-new-treatments-against-drug-resistant-infections http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=wielding-natures-sword-researchers-at-texas-am-discover-new-treatments-against-drug-resistant-infections#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 20:28:02 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21808 Since World War II, antibiotics have been our only defense against bacterial infection, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics. Now, researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered an entirely new class of antimicrobials that have the potential to kill drug-resistant bacteria]]>

Since World War II, antibiotics have saved countless lives by killing disease-causing bacteria. To this day, traditional antibiotics remain the only treatment against such illnesses, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics. These bacteria, known as multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), are able to survive and even multiply in the presence of antibiotics, making treatment against them nearly impossible.

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

But now, after decades of using the same basic ingredients for antibiotics, a new way to treat bacterial infection is finally on the horizon. Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., and her team at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered that a new set of compounds synthesized by medicinal chemist Lászlo Kürti, Ph.D., with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, have the potential to kill MDROs. Specifically, the researchers have their sights set on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – a bacterial infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to commonly used antibiotics, making it so hard to treat, it’s been deemed a “super bug.” This discovery is predicted to yield an entirely new class of treatments for a multitude of drug resistant infections.

“Microorganisms have been battling each other for millennia, so they have a whole armamentarium of ways to kill each other,” said Cannon, who is a pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “It’s just a matter of us noticing and isolating those weapons and then synthesizing them for use as treatments against pathogens, the bad guys.”

Penicillin and cephalosporin – the bases for the most commonly used modern antibiotics – were first isolated from fungi. Most new FDA-approved antibiotics are simply tweaks of those original molecules. The first molecule of Cannon and Kürti’s new class of antimicrobials was originally isolated by researchers more than a decade ago from a bacterium that originates from the ocean. Then, only tiny amounts could be extracted from cultures of the bacteria with great effort. Fast forward to present day, and the current team now has developed a simple method to synthesize the molecule and tweak it.

“The beauty of the discovery is that these compounds can now be synthesized in one pot in 30 minutes. It’s a very scalable procedure that can easily yield large quantities,” Cannon said. “We have been able to take the new compounds into the lab to study their activity, and have found that they are more active against MRSA than the gold-standard treatment, vancomycin. Plus, we have found compounds with better activity than the compound made by the bacterium from the ocean.” These constitute a completely new class of antimicrobial molecules that don’t look like anything else currently used in medicine.

While modern-day antibiotics readily go into solutions that can be injected, inhaled or ingested, these new molecules are not water soluble. That factor may seem like a major barrier, but thanks to new nanoparticle technologies, what was once an obstacle has become a momentous opportunity that Cannon’s group, as part of a National Institute of Health’s Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology, has the expertise to seize.

Nanoparticles are simply particles that exist on the nanometer scale (anything up to 100 nanometers is considered a nanoparticle). As a comparison, most bacteria are on the micrometer scale, averaging about a micron or two long. Even the largest nanoparticle – one that is 100 nanometers – is merely a tenth of a micron. Because they are so small, these nanoparticles contain some very useful properties. For instance, they can be designed to slip through sticky mucus and penetrate into biofilms. They can be synthesized from polymers, large molecules composed of many repeated subunits, designed to be broken down in the body.

“Think of a microscopic baseball with a rubber center covered by yarn, then cowhide. Our otherwise insoluble antibiotic contained in the ‘rubber center’ is shielded by a water-loving hydrophilic surface, the ‘yarn,’ which renders the nanoparticle compatible with suspension in a solution. You can decorate the outside, the ‘cowhide,’ with molecules that specifically bind to the surface of bacteria to allow accumulation of the drug at the site of the infection. This nanoparticle delivery is much more targeted than traditional antibiotics,” Cannon said.

Targeting in this precise manner allows for a dramatic drop in the amount of medication that a patient needs in order to kill infection. Further, targeting may spare beneficial bacteria that are often killed secondarily by traditional delivery of antibiotics that are dispensed throughout the body. What’s more, targeting may allow for the use of more potent drugs, since the drugs would merely affect the site of infection and not the entire body.

The next step for Cannon’s team is to test nanoparticles containing the antimicrobial molecules in animal models, which, she says, is very close to happening.

This piece was originally published on October 20, 2014.

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College of Medicine announces new department to bridge gap between clinical excellence and scientific discovery http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=college-of-medicine-announces-new-department-to-bridge-gap-between-clinical-excellence-and-scientific-discovery http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=college-of-medicine-announces-new-department-to-bridge-gap-between-clinical-excellence-and-scientific-discovery#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:15:48 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22100 Approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a new Department of Clinical Translational Medicine will serve as an academic home for clinical teaching and physician-scientist faculty within the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and will provide the infrastructure for new degree programs as the college continues to expand]]>
Faculty member mentors medical student

Approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a new Department of Clinical Translational Medicine will serve as an academic home for clinical teaching and physician-scientist faculty within the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and will provide the infrastructure for new degree programs as the college continues to expand.

Through a new Department of Clinical Translational Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center is cultivating physician scientists who are intent on transforming health from bench to bedside. Approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the new department will serve as an academic home for clinical teaching and physician-scientist faculty within the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and will provide the infrastructure for new degree programs as the college continues to expand.

Clinical faculty members are currently housed within community-based hospitals across the state. The move will allow cross-disciplinary medical faculty that do not have a designated clinical affiliation to call Texas A&M Health Science Center home, where they will focus medical education and academic mentorship of students in the clinical realm, as well as clinical translational research in the lab. The newly formed department will allow these interdisciplinary physician scientists greater access to researchers in a number of disciplines across Texas A&M University, including chemists and engineers, enhancing collaborative cutting-edge research opportunities that will transform the future of 21st Century health care through novel discoveries taken from bench to bedside for the care of patients.

“A new department in clinical translational medicine will allow us to recruit the best of the best physician scientists with multifaceted specialties into one academic home to mentor young physicians, while advancing research that has the potential to save lives across the globe,” said Paul Ogden, M.D., interim dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “A department of this nature will open new doors at Texas A&M for research that leverages scientific expertise within both the health science center and university.”

One such faculty member that will be a perfect fit in the new model is Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric pulmonologist and eminent scientific leader known for her work developing novel treatments for the most challenging childhood respiratory diseases. Cannon, one of the most recent faculty recruits for the Texas A&M College of Medicine, is a practicing physician training Texas A&M medical and M.D./Ph.D. students in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. In addition to her academic role, Cannon is involved in multidisciplinary research with scientists at the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry, focused on discovering new ways to deliver therapeutics to fight lung infections in children living with cystic fibrosis.

“A true physician scientist with a passion for patients and students, combined with a dedication to the discovery of novel life-saving treatments, Cannon exemplifies the new breed of faculty members this new department will cultivate,” Ogden said.

The department will initially house 16 current clinical faculty members in Bryan-College Station and Round Rock, with plans to hire an additional 45 faculty members over the next five years.

 

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Texas A&M Health Science Center advancing Alzheimer’s disease research as coordinating center for new statewide grant program http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-health-science-center-advancing-alzheimers-disease-research-as-coordinating-center-for-new-statewide-grant-program http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-health-science-center-advancing-alzheimers-disease-research-as-coordinating-center-for-new-statewide-grant-program#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:29:53 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22040 The TARCC is comprised of six Texas medical research institutions, including Texas A&M Health Science Center, all working together to advance scientific initiatives aimed at halting the disease in its tracks. One such initiative is a new grant program administered by TAMHSC that encourages utilization of TARCC’s extensive patient cohort]]>
Geriatric nurse caring for an older woman

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Texas in particular ranks third in the nation for the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases and deaths.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.2 million people in the United States are affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Of those people, more than 500,000 die each year because of this debilitating and incurable disease. Texas in particular ranks third in the nation for the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases and deaths.

In 1999 the Texas State legislature mandated that the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders establish a consortium of Alzheimer’s disease centers, leading to the formation of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC). Fifteen years later, the TARCC is comprised of six Texas medical research institutions, including Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC), all working together to advance scientific initiatives aimed at halting the disease in its tracks.

One such initiative is the new Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders TARCC Investigator Grant Program (IGP), a part of the state-funded Darrell K. Royal Texas Alzheimer’s Initiative. The council selected TAMHSC to administer the grant that encourages utilization of TARCC’s extensive patient cohort through the award of five pilot grants of $50,000 each and two larger awards of $125,000 over a two-year period. The TARCC Investigator Grant Program, which specifically targets burgeoning scientists, aims to increase awareness and application of TARCC’s unique and expansive patient data and sample resources in order to stimulate new understandings of Alzheimer’s disease and advance related scientific discoveries.

“The Council has the utmost confidence in Texas A&M Health Science Center to design and administer this important allocation of Alzheimer’s disease research dollars in Texas. We are proud of our affiliation with TAMHSC and the benefit to all Texans that will come from this endeavor,” said Debbie Hanna, Chair Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.

Specifically, the grant program will leverage the TARCC’s Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study that tracks a diverse group of patients diagnosed with AD and mild cognitive impairment, as well as healthy controls. The study facilitates collaborative AD research projects among the TARCC member institutions and promotes novel, basic and clinical research that develops new insights into mechanisms of AD. One of study’s strengths is that it follows the participants annually in conjunction with regular collection of standardized clinical, neuropsychiatric, and genetic and blood biomarker data and samples. The study is unique in its inclusion of the largest number of Mexican-American participants – the fastest growing population in Texas – ever involved in an ongoing Alzheimer’s research study.

“Given the comprehensive nature of the data collected, as well as the inclusion of Mexican-Americans, the Texas Harris Alzheimer’s Study is an invaluable asset to national AD research” said Farida Sohrabji, Ph.D., professor and associate department chair at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who serves on the TARCC’s Steering Committee and will be responsible for coordinating launch and award administration of the grant program. “Although open to all researchers within the state, the program will target junior-level investigators to provide up-and-coming researchers with financial support to advance studies that utilize this unparalleled resource and spur multi-institutional, collaborative research throughout Texas.”

More information on the grant program and future announcements of application deadlines can be found at: http://www.txalzresearch.org/.

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