Posts tagged ‘research’
There’s an awful calculus that takes place in malaria stricken regions of the world.
Due to malnutrition, children in these areas often suffer from iron deficiency anemia, which can lead to serious cognitive and motor impairments. While iron supplementation may sound like an obvious solution, there’s been a big problem with it.
Studies in mice and humans suggest that iron promotes malarial infection, likely by increasing the number of red blood cells—the target for the Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease.
More blood cells mean more infection, which means more inflammation. When the disease spreads to the brain in cerebral malaria, this inflammation causes neurological and cognitive damage in survivors.
This conundrum has left health experts at odds with each other about whether children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world where malaria is prevalent should get iron supplementation. More than 70 percent of malaria deaths occur in children under age 5. This year alone, according to the World Health Organization, the disease has killed more than 300,000 African children in this age group.
We’re all walking around with at least six billion pieces of information in our personal genome that, as the field of personalized medicine grows, can provide valuable clues to future health. When paired with clinical data from the electronic medical record (EMR), physicians will be able to provide individualized, precision medical care. The potential implications for improved health and efficiency of health care delivery are huge. So too are the technology needs to support that future.
In the not too distant future, every patient seen by providers at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Center will be offered genome analysis, something the organization’s founders could have never conceived of 50 years ago when the first shovel was plunged into the farm fields on Feb. 26, 1966, of what would become Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine. The groundbreaking was a short three years after a $50 million gift offer from the M.S. Hershey Foundation to Penn State to establish a medical school and teaching hospital in Hershey.
“This is the most exciting time to be in medicine in terms of research capabilities and outcome for patients,” said Dr. James Broach, director of Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine. “The first genome sequence was generated in 2003 and that took 10 years and $3 billion. Now, in one day for about $1,000, we can do the same thing.”
Four Diamonds support brings new pediatric cancer researchers to Penn State College of Medicine
Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 19-21. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $127 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.
Their journeys started halfway around the world, but their shared passion for uncovering the causes of pediatric cancer brought them to Penn State College of Medicine. Dr. Wei Li is originally from Peking, China, and Dr. Vladimir Spiegelman is originally from Moscow. Now both are in Hershey, through funding from Four Diamonds, working to understand how pediatric cancers develop in the hopes of discovering new lifesaving therapies.
Dr. Li, assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, came from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Spiegelman, Pan Hellenic Dance Marathon Endowed Chair in Pediatric Oncology and professor in the Department of Pediatrics, was most recently at University of Wisconsin.
For researchers early in their careers, it’s not just funding that matters—mentorship is also critical for success.
Dr. Dan Morgan has been studying cannabinoid signaling in the brain. Dr. Greg Lewis recently developed simulation software for fracture surgeries. Dr. Joslyn Kirby investigated bundled payments for management of a skin condition. These three Penn State College of Medicine doctors received guidance from senior researchers, along with $200,000 to fund their research, through the College’s Junior Faculty Research Scholar Awards program.
The program, launched in 2011, provides support to early-stage investigators in basic, clinical, and translational science research.
“It’s a way for us to jump start the research programs and career development of researchers here,” says program co-director Dr. Sarah Bronson, who is also director of Research Development and Interdisciplinary Research and co-director of the Junior Faculty Development Program. “We put equal weight on funding the scholar’s research program and recognizing a career and development plan that is going to make that research program happen.”
To that end, applicants don’t just propose the research they want to do. They also submit mentorship “dream team”—at least three experienced investigators who will provide advice and assistance in developing and executing a research proposal and a career development plan. The mentoring team meets with the scholar a minimum of once every six months.
Each scholar’s award is named to honor the contributions of senior investigators at Penn State Hershey who made a difference through their own research and through the mentoring of colleagues and trainees.
A new printing technology at Penn State Hershey gives doctors and researchers new possibilities.
Instead of ink on paper, a 3D printer can “print” strands of material in layers to create solid items. Doctors can imagine, design and create prototypes of everything from surgical tools to medical devices like abdominal drains and orthopedic screws.
“There is a big splash about 3D printing — and with good reason,” said Dr. Randy Haluck, vice chairman for technology and innovation for the Department of Surgery.
In the past, a doctor who wanted only a few of something for testing or custom use would have to go through a manufacturing process set up to make thousands of the same thing. Now, a single item or a small batch can be printed.
“This is faster, more efficient and cheaper,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, chair, Department of Surgery.
Just as a draft of text can be printed on a two-dimensional surface and then tweaked and revised before printing again, the same can be done with the 3D machine.
With a career in retrovirology research, a passion for education, and a 24-year history at Penn State Hershey, Dr. Leslie Parent brings a strong skillset to her new position as vice dean for research and graduate education.
Parent transitioned to the role in early June from her former position as chief of the Division of Infectious Disease.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to help other people do better research,” Parent said. “That was what really motivated me: the opportunity to enhance the research going on here at the College of Medicine. We already have excellent, successful investigators. We can take something that already has such a strong foundation and look for ways to promote our research, engage more people in our research, and build a better and more complete infrastructure for research.”
Parent started in the Division of Infectious Disease as a fellow, completed a post-doctoral fellowship in retrovirology, and started her own NIH-funded laboratory in 1998. She was named chief of the division in 2007 and was later asked to co-lead the college’s M.D./Ph.D. program, helping train future physician scientists.
Parent believes she brings an optimistic attitude and persistence to the role.
“I like to explore all the possibilities and do our best to achieve the things we set out to do,” she said. “I like to set goals and then gather people around to work as a team to achieve those objectives. I think team work is really important and I hope that I can be someone who can build teams and use a lot of different people’s talents to achieve the things we want to do here.”
An engineer, a surgeon, and a machinist walk into a conference room.
It might sound like the start of a bad joke, but it’s a regular scene in Penn State Hershey’s Division of Artificial Organs, where experts in vastly different fields bring their knowledge together to design, manufacture, implant and test artificial hearts in one location.
Cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. William S. Pierce formed the team in 1970 when he came to Penn State’s then-new Milton S. Hershey Medical Center after working on artificial heart development for the National Institutes for Health. Penn State’s strong engineering staff and Hershey’s suburban location offered the resources to develop the kind of collaborative program he envisioned.
Forty-five years later, Dr. Gerson Rosenberg, chief of the Division of Artificial Organs, can walk down the hall from his office to a machine shop, plastics lab, metal-polishing station and rooms where mock circulatory testing is done on heart-assist devices for adults and children. An assist device helps a sick heart do its work so it can rest while the patient awaits a transplant, so researchers are always looking for ways to improve the devices to work better and for longer.
At a nearby facility, veterinarians provide pre- and post-op care for animals implanted with pediatric heart-assist devices and a new pneumatic heart pump — operated by air pressure — that could improve the lives of young adults and adolescents born with congenital heart defects.
“We are unique in that everything from start to finish is done in one location,” Rosenberg said. (more…)