Tracing the start of COVID-19 in GA

At a time when COVID-19 appears to be receding in much of Georgia, it’s worth revisiting the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Emory virologist Anne Piantadosi and colleagues have a paper in Viral Evolution on the earliest SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequences detected in Georgia. Analyzing relationships between those virus sequences and samples from other states and countries can give us an idea about where the first COVID-19 infections in Georgia came from. We can draw Read more

Reddit as window into opioid withdrawal strategies

Drug abuse researchers are using the social media site Reddit as a window into the experiences of people living with opioid addiction. Abeed Sarker in Emory's Department of Biomedical Informatics has a paper in Clinical Toxicology focusing on the phenomenon of “precipitated withdrawal,” in collaboration with emergency medicine specialists from Penn, Rutgers and Mt Sinai. Precipitated withdrawal is a more intense form of withdrawal that can occur when someone who was using opioids starts medication-assisted treatment Read more

CROI: HIV cure report and ongoing research

The big news out of CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections) was a report of a third person being cured of HIV infection, this time using umbilical cord blood for a hematopoetic stem cell transplant. Emory’s Carlos del Rio gave a nice overview of the achievement for NPR this morning. As del Rio explains, the field of HIV cure research took off over the last decade after Timothy Brown, known as “the Berlin patient,” Read more

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Biomarker may predict serious complications after lung transplantation

Researchers at Emory studying lung transplantation have identified a marker of inflammation that may help predict primary graft dysfunction (PGD), an often fatal complication following a lung transplant.

Primary graft dysfunction after a lung transplant

The results are published in the American Journal of Transplantation. First author Andres Pelaez, a pulmonary medicine specialist at Emory’s McKelvey Lung Transplant Center, and postdoc Patrick Mitchell led the research team.

“Despite major advances in surgical techniques and clinical management, serious lung transplant complications are common and often untreatable,” Pelaez says. “PGD is a severe lung injury appearing just a few days after transplantation. Unfortunately, predicting which lung transplant recipients go on to develop PGD has been so far unsuccessful. Therefore, our research has been directed towards identifying predictive markers in the donor lungs prior to transplantation.”

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Nursing students give health care in the Dominican Republic

Recently, a group of Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing students traveled to the Dominican Republic for Alternative Spring Break.

Students team up to provide care in the Dominican Republic

Armed with food, medicine and clothing, the Emory students partnered with Dominican nursing and medical students to serve Haitians now living there after being displaced by the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

Hunter Keys and Abby Weil were among the team of nursing students that journeyed to Santo Domingo, D.R. to provide health screenings and educational outreach. They also accompanied Dominican nursing students on home visits and elementary school visits.

Hunter and Abby blogged about their transformative experience.  On the second day of their travels, they wrote:

“…there is a huge need for ongoing care, including wound care, physical therapy, and mental health treatment. Dealing with these health issues on top of the terrible tragedy of losing loved ones, homes, and jobs is almost unimaginable. The process of healing will be long and difficult, both mentally and physically. One of the take home messages of the team was that while the great amount of aid pouring into Haiti directly after the earthquake is so useful and greatly needed, there will need to be a sustained effort to provide the services needed to facilitate this healing process.”

Learn more about Hunter and Abby’s travels and see photos from the field.

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How intestinal bacteria influence appetite, metabolism

Pathologist Andrew Gewirtz and his colleagues have been getting some welldeserved attention for their research on intestinal bacteria and obesity.

Briefly, they found that increased appetite and insulin resistance can be transferred from one mouse to another via intestinal bacteria. The results were published online by Science magazine.

Previous research indicated intestinal bacteria could modify absorption of calories, but Gewirtz and his colleagues showed that they influence appetite and metabolism (in mice)

“It has been assumed that the obesity epidemic in the developed world is driven by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the abundance of low-cost high-calorie foods,” Gewirtz says. “However, our results suggest that excess caloric consumption is not only a result of undisciplined eating but that intestinal bacteria contribute to changes in appetite and metabolism.”

A related report in Nature illustrates how “next generation” gene sequencing is driving large advances in our understanding of all the things the bacteria in our intestines do to us.

Gewirtz’s laboratory’s discovery grew out of their study of mice with an altered immune system. The mice were engineered to lack a gene, Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5), which helps cells sense the presence of bacteria.

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New education model for real-world health care

 

Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing has started a new educational concept called the Dedicated Education Unit (DEU).

Launched by the School of Nursing and Emory Healthcare last fall, the DEU pairs a nursing student with a staff nurse for one-on-one clinical instruction in the medical-surgical unit at Emory University Hospital or Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Nursing senior Ivey Milton (left) checks on a patient’s medication, guided by Jackie Kandaya, her medical-surgical instructor at Emory University Hospital Midtown

A first at Emory and in Georgia, the DEU is based on the model implemented by the University of Portland School of Nursing and its clinical partners in the early 2000s.

Kelly Brewer, who holds a joint appointment with the School of Nursing and Emory Healthcare as DEU coordinator, says, “Our DEU initiative relies on these concepts and the skills of nurses and faculty to help students transition into the real world of nursing. It’s a win-win situation for both sets of professionals since faculty and clinical nurses are in short supply because of the nursing shortage.

“Both of our hospitals are committed to making students feel that they are part of the unit so they’ll want to work there after they graduate,” she adds. “They will already have a sense of what Emory’s health care system is about, and their transition into the real world of health care will be less stressful.”

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Improving measurement of pesticides in breast milk

Little is known about the exposure of infants to pesticides, despite their vulnerability and evidence of widespread dietary exposure among older children and adults. A study led by Emory Rollins School of Public Health researchers P. Barry Ryan, PhD, and Anne Riederer, ScD, seeks to improve methods for measuring pesticides in breast milk and infant formula.

“We really don’t know about how babies are exposed to pesticides in their everyday life,” says Riederer, assistant research professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “There are very few published studies on this topic, and we’d like to be one of the groups that actually publishes an analytical method that can be used by researchers in any country to be able to detect these different types of pesticides in breast milk.”

Although the breast milk method will be pilot tested on samples collected from a birth cohort in Thailand, it will have broad applications for the U.S. population.  Insight Pest Control Wilmington says that because these pesticides are widely distributed in the food supply, all U.S. infants are potentially exposed.

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University global alliance partners with Rollins

Rollins School of Public Health

Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health is one of five organizations that have joined to form the University Global Alliance Program (UGAP).

The initiative, launched March 2 by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, aims to unite higher education and the private sector to accelerate the application of thought leadership to global public health informatics, policy development, strategic planning, programmatic implementation and evaluation.

In addition to Emory, the UGAP alliance includes The Satcher Leadership Institute of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Colorado School of Public Health. The universities were chosen for their innovative research in public health and their interest in advancing public health practice through applied technology and informatics.

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A storied look at HIV/AIDS in Africa

At a recent Emory global health seminar series, Kate Winskell showed how fiction penned by young Africans can help inform the response to HIV and AIDS. Since 1997, more than 145,000 young Africans have participated in scriptwriting contests as part of Scenarios from Africa HIV communication process.

The resulting archive of stories is a unique source of cross-cultural and longitudinal data on social representations of HIV and AIDS. The archive now spans 47 countries and a critical 12-year period in the history of the epidemic. Winskell’s presentation analyzed the stories that were part of the 2005 Scenarios contest. Six African countries were represented.

The seed for Scenarios was planted more than a decade ago–before the rise of the Internet—when Winskell, a public health educator, and her husband, Daniel Enger, were searching for innovative ways to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. The old ways of trying to stop the spread of the disease, focusing only on medical aspects of the epidemic or relying on educational materials that were not culturally adapted, were clearly limited.

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Predicting individual risk for heart failure

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, and colleagues

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, director of heart failure research at Emory Healthcare and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, says heart failure is any condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the metabolic needs of the body, but that does not mean that the heart is not pumping or the heart has stopped working.

Heart disease is not a disease but a syndrome, so a whole family of different diseases can precede this condition. Diabetes, obesity, heart valve problems, lung disease, heart attack and irregular heartbeats are only some factors that can cause heart failure. “Pinning down the roots of heart failure can be confusing,” says Butler, who serves as deputy chief science advisor for the American Heart Association. “Unlike some heart problems, heart failure is not one disease. It has a few common causes, and a few less common, even rare, causes.”

Finding new ways to identify people at risk for developing heart failure—before damage is done—is his raison d’etre and primary research focus, according to Emory Medicine magazine.

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Nia Project: Helping victims of violence

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, Emory School of Medicine professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, founded in the early 1990s the Grady Nia Project for abused and suicidal African-American women. Named for the Kwanzaa term that means “purpose,” Nia serves countless numbers of abused women who come through Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department each year.

The program is funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health, and Kaslow serves as principal investigator. Kaslow also serves as chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital and holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Psychology, Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and the Rollins School of Public Health.

Nadine Kaslow, PhD

Kaslow says the women in the Nia program, who either feel suicidal or have attempted suicide because of stress associated with violence, are victims of intimate partner violence and are usually black, minimally employed, with children and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many are homeless.

Nia is staffed 24/7. Some staffers may make a trip to the emergency department in the middle of the night when a woman comes in with injuries or a story consistent with intimate partner violence or when she has attempted suicide. If a woman enrolls in the program, she will join approximately 50 to 75 other women who are going through it at any given time.

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Probing a puzzling form of muscular dystrophy

Two researchers at Emory, Anita Corbett and Grace Pavlath, recently have combined their expertise to probe how a puzzling form of muscular dystrophy develops.

Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD) is an inherited type of muscular dystrophy that primarily affects muscles of the face and throat. In the video below, Anita Corbett explains how this affects patients as they get older.


The mutations that cause the disease make a protein called PABPN1 longer and stickier than normal, and the mutated protein appears to form clumps in muscle cells.

The puzzle lies in that PABPN1 (poly A binding protein nuclear 1) can be found everywhere in the body, but it’s not clear why the mutated protein specifically affects muscle cells — or why the muscles in the face and throat are especially vulnerable.

In December 2009, Corbett, Pavlath and postdoctoral fellow Luciano Apponi published a paper where they suggest that the clumps of mutated protein, which some researchers have proposed to be toxic, might not be the whole story. A lack of functioning PABPN1 might be just as strong a factor in the disease, they’ve discovered.

The results will appear in a future issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

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