Overcoming cardiac pacemaker "source-sink mismatch"

Instead of complication-prone electronic cardiac pacemakers, biomedical engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory envision the creation of “biological Read more

Hope Clinic part of push to optimize HIV vaccine components

Ten years ago, the results of the RV144 trial– conducted in Thailand with the help of the US Army -- re-energized the HIV vaccine field, which had been down in the Read more

Invasive cancer cells marked by distinctive mutations

What does it take to be a leader – of cancer cells? Adam Marcus and colleagues at Winship Cancer Institute are back, with an analysis of mutations that drive metastatic behavior among groups of lung cancer cells. The findings were published this week on the cover of Journal of Cell Science, and suggest pharmacological strategies to intervene against or prevent metastasis. Marcus and former graduate student Jessica Konen previously developed a technique for selectively labeling “leader” Read more

News

Proton Therapy and Its Importance to Georgia

From Clinic to You

By Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute
Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine

Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD

Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD

Emory Healthcare is a key player in plans to bring the world’s most advanced radiation treatment for cancer patients to Georgia.  Emory Healthcare has signed a letter of intent with Advanced Particle Therapy, LLC, of Minden, Nevada, opening the door to a final exploratory phase for development of The Georgia Proton Treatment Center – Georgia’s first proton therapy facility.

For certain cancers, proton therapy offers a more precise and aggressive approach to destroying cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, as compared to conventional X-ray radiation. Proton therapy involves the use of a controlled beam of protons to target tumors with precision unavailable in other radiation therapies. According to The National Association for Proton Therapy, the precise delivery of proton energy may limit damage to healthy surrounding tissue, potentially resulting in lower side effects to the patient. This precision also allows for a more effective dose of radiation to be used.

Proton therapy is frequently used in the care of children diagnosed with cancer, as well as in adults who have small, well-defined tumors in organs such as the prostate, brain, head, neck, bladder, lungs, or the spine.  And research is continuing into its efficacy in other cancers.

The gantry, or supporting structure, of a proton therapy machine.

The gantry, or supporting structure, of a proton therapy machine.

The closest proton therapy facility to Georgia is the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville.  Currently there are only nine proton therapy centers in the United States, including centers at Massachusetts General Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pennsylvania.

This is an exciting development in our ability to offer not only patients throughout Georgia and the Southeast the widest possible array of treatment options but patients from around the world who can come to Atlanta via the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International. In addition, we will work to expand its utility and access for patients through collaborative research projects with Georgia Tech and other institutions. Winship physicians will also be able to reach out to their international colleagues and provide direction in how best to study and implement this technology in the care of cancer patients.

Under the letter of intent, Emory Healthcare faculty and staff will provide physician services, medical direction, and other administrative services to the center. Advanced Particle Therapy, through a Special Purpose Company, Georgia Proton Treatment Center, LLC, (GPTC) will design, build, equip and own the center.  The facility, which will be funded by GPTC, will be approximately 100,000 square feet and is expected to cost approximately $200 million.  Site selection for the facility is underway, and pending various approvals, groundbreaking is expected in the Spring of 2012.

Video

The follow video presents a 3D simulation of proton therapy technology.

Additional Information:

Posted on by Vince Dollard in Uncategorized 1 Comment

March for Babies – March for Hope

As parents we hope all babies are born with a healthy start in life, after a full 37 – 40 weeks in the womb. Sadly, every year more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States. The rate of premature birth has risen by 30 percent since 1981 according to the March of Dimes. It’s not clear why some babies are born before full gestation – before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed. Thousands don’t live to celebrate their first birthday as a result.

In Georgia more than 400 babies are born too soon each week.  Dr. William Sexson, a neonatologist and professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign Chair witnesses the effects of preterm birth every day.  He says, “Premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality. Babies born just a few weeks too soon are at increased risk for newborn health complications, such as breathing problems, can face serious health challenges and are at risk of lifelong disabilities.”

On Saturday April 30, 2011, a legion of more than 10,000 families and business leaders from across Georgia will band together for the March of Dimes annual “March for Babies.” With more than 30 “March for Babies” events planned throughout the state, the annual affair is the nation’s oldest walk fundraiser dedicated to preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.

“March for Babies” supports research and educational programs aimed at helping women have healthy babies. Funds raised from the “March for Babies” event will support prenatal wellness programs, critical research and community grants, along with local resources such as the Angel II neonatal transport unit at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks. Babies born between 37 and 42 completed weeks of pregnancy are called full term. Babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy are called premature. “Women who have hypertension and diabetes are at higher risk to have preterm babies or babies with health problems,” says Sexson.

According to the March of Dimes, the most urgent infant health problem in the U.S. today is premature birth. It affects more than half a million babies each year and is the leading cause of newborn death within the first month of life. Last November, the March of Dimes issued a Report Card on Premature Birth, giving the nation a “D” and Georgia, the grade of “F.”  Sexson adds, “We have a long way to go before all babies in America get a healthy start in life and we are committed to working with state health officials, hospitals and health care providers to continue to fight for preemies.”

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization with its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

For more information, or to participate in “March for Babies” visit marchofdimes.com.

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Talent in the pipeline

The Pipeline program, an initiative led by Emory medical students to improve college readiness and promote health career interest among Atlanta high school students, held graduation ceremonies Wednesday night at Emory University School of Medicine.

Graduating seniors and their mentors. All 19 seniors have at least one college acceptance, reports Pipeline co-founder Zwade Marshall.

Leaders at South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Sciences credit Pipeline with sparking interest in health science careers and bolstering attendance and academic performance.

“We see more leadership, not just in class but in the whole building,” says Edward Anderson, a teacher who coordinates the program. “Students are picking up the torch and running with it. I believe they will be future leaders and have a great impact.”

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors have access to a distinct curriculum with a classroom component, one-on-one mentoring by Emory undergraduates, and hands-on demonstrations. Sophomores explore infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS. Juniors study neuroscience. And seniors—who get help with college application coaching—focus on cardiology and community outreach, culminating in a health fair that they organize at their school.

Pipeline is run by Emory student volunteers with the support of the School of Medicine Office of Multicultural Medical Student Affairs, the Office of University-Community Partnerships, and the Emory Center for Science Education.

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Pilot simulation lab trains students, residents and staff at Emory University Hospital Midtown

EUHM simulation lab laparoscopic console

A new pilot simulation laboratory at Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) is providing medical students, residents, nursing students and staff with hands-on training to develop, perfect and maintain their skills. Located in the former obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) operating rooms, space that wasn’t currently being utilized, the lab focuses on team building, clinical competencies and research. This is the first simulation lab of its kind at EUHM.

The simulation lab is a joint venture of Emory Healthcare and Emory University School of Medicine, both providing equipment to outfit the lab and a wealth of expertise. Nursing Education, a department within Emory Healthcare, and the Emory School of Medicine have worked together in the development of the simulation lab. Some equipment being used has been donated or given to the hospital for training purposes.

One side of the simulation lab is set-up to train OB/GYN residents and students in deliveries and laparoscopic surgeries, cardiac arrests, mock codes and low volume/high risk procedures.

The other side of the lab focuses on nursing training, nursing education, central-line and intravenous insertion and medication dispensing. It is also being used by nursing for competency validation for new nursing employees and for annual skills assessment of current nursing staff.

Those instrumental in setting up the nursing side of the simulation lab are Sharlene Toney, PhD, RN, executive director, Professional Nursing Practice for Emory Healthcare, and Beth Botheroyd, RN, BSN, MHA/INS, nursing education coordinator for Emory Healthcare.

Toney says the lab is a critical part of the training and education of new nurses and current nursing employees, while also focusing on process improvement activities concentrated on patient safety. Nurses also have the opportunity to test their skills on training simulators and new equipment while in the lab.

Douglas Ander, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and director of the Emory Center for Experiential Learning, and Jessica Arluck, MD, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics and associate director of the OB/GYN residency program at Emory, both oversee the training of residents and medical students in the simulation lab.

Ander describes the lab as a “proof of concept” center, with the small set-up being only the first step in the process. Down the road, he envisions a larger simulation center for all Emory Healthcare employees, Emory’s School of Medicine and even the community.

EUHM simulation lab - Noelle

Arluck observes as resident Hudson performs an ultrasound on Noelle, the birthing simulator.

Arluck says she uses the simulation lab regularly with OB/GYN residents, teaching them the basics of laparoscopic surgery on a training module and monitor. She also teaches students with the help of an adult-size doll named Noelle, which simulates delivering a baby and going into cardiac arrest.

The simulation lab has also opened the door to medical education research. Emory pulmonary critical care fellow, Jenny Han, MD, is studying to see if a standardized, advanced cardiac life support simulation training has any effect on real patient outcomes in the hospital.

In the future, plans include adding cardiac catheterization simulator capabilities, as well as emergency department and nursing station simulation space.

 

Posted on by Janet Christenbury in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Medicine Through the Ages

Sometimes treasures are hidden in plain sight. Take for example the enormous mosaic that graces Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building, conveying the history of medicine through the ages through 2.5 million small mosaic chips.

Installed in 1996, the mosaic is the work of Italian-born artist Sirio Tonelli.  Dr. John Skandalakis (1920-2009) of Emory University was familiar with the artist through previous work on the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Atlanta. It was Dr. Skandalakis, director of the Centers for Surgical Anatomy and Technique, who was a key force in commissioning the mural.

Yet this piece of campus, 66 feet long and three stories high, remains largely unknown on the Emory University campus. Interested in seeing the mural in person? WHSCAB, at 1440 Clifton Road on Emory’s Atlanta campus, is open to the public during normal weekday hours. A brochure available in the lobby not only gives background information but provides a key to the identities of the over 30 historical figures and events pictures on the mosaic.

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Links between autism and epilepsy

An article in the April 2011 issue of Nature Medicine highlights the mechanistic overlap between autism and epilepsy.

By studying how rare genetic conditions known to coincide with both epilepsy and autism—such as Rett syndrome, fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis—unfold at an early age, neuroscientists are finding that both disorders may alter some of the same neural receptors, signaling molecules and proteins involved in the development of brain cell synapses.

Gary Bassell, PhD

Emory cell biologist Gary Bassell and his colleagues have been taking exactly this approach. Recently they published a paper in Journal of Neuroscience, showing that the protein missing in fragile X syndrome, FMRP, regulates expression of an ion channel linked to epilepsy. This could provide a partial explanation for the link between fragile X syndrome and epilepsy.

The Nature Medicine article also mentions a drug strategy, targeting the mTOR pathway, which Bassell’s group has been exploring with fragile X syndrome.

Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Neuro Leave a comment

HIV vaccine design: always a moving target

HIV presents a challenge to vaccine design because it is always changing. If doctors vaccinate people against one variety of virus, will the antibodies they produce stop the virus that they later encounter?

A recently published report on an experimental HIV vaccine’s limited effectiveness in human volunteers illustrates this ongoing puzzle in the HIV vaccine field.

Paul Spearman, now chief research officer for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and vice chair for research for Emory’s Department of Pediatrics, began overseeing the study when he was at Vanderbilt. The report is in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Paul Spearman, MD

The vaccine was designed to elicit both antibody and T cell responses against HIV and in particular, to generate broadly neutralizing antibodies. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Volunteers who received the vaccine made antibodies that could neutralize the virus in the vaccine, but not related viruses thought to be like what participants in a larger study might encounter.

“High levels of neutralizing antibodies can be raised against HIV, while at the same time, breadth of neutralization has never yet been achieved in a vaccine,” Spearman says. “The essential problem is that the antibodies raised have a narrow specificity, while the virus is extremely variable. In contrast, about 20% of HIV-infected individuals will demonstrate neutralization breadth.”

Last year, scientists demonstrated a method for identifying these broadly neutralizing antibodies in HIV-infected individuals. However, having a vaccine hit that target reliably is still elusive.

Spearman reports that he is in charge of a new trial that will be boosting the same individuals that participated in the previous trial with HIV protein from a clade C virus, starting later this year. Clade C is the predominant HIV subtype in southern Africa, while clade B, used in the published trial, is the predominant subtype in North America and Western Europe.

Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Immunology Leave a comment

Brain Tumor Foundations Join Together to Raise Awareness and Funds for Research

“Two Voices, One Vision: Sharing Hope Across Generations” is the vision and message this year as two well-known brain tumor foundations join together to raise awareness and money for brain and spinal tumor research and support.

The Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation (SBTF) is joining forces with the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children (BTFC) for the 2011 Race for Research, to be held on July 23 at Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta. The joint run and walk will highlight the shared mission of both groups in the fight against brain tumors.

Costas G. Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD

Costas G. Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD

Emory neurosurgeon Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, is the president of the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. He says the annual race is the major fundraising event for the SBTF, raising money to support critical, cutting-edge brain and spinal tumor research at major medical centers in the Southeast, including Emory. Over the past decade, the SBTF has raised more than $1.2 million for research.

Since 1983, the BTFC has been serving the pediatric brain tumor population, providing $1.5 million in emergency financial assistance for families over the past 10 years, in addition to providing resources for numerous patient programs and research.

According to Hadjipanayis, the Race for Research has drawn, in recent years, over 2,000 participants annually from throughout the Southeast and across the U.S. By joining forces with the BTFC, attendance is expected to grow, as is the fundraising goal of $300,000 this year for the two not for profit organizations.

Hadjipanayis, who is also chief of the neurosurgery service at Emory University Hospital Midtown, hopes this event will help in gaining greater exposure for brain tumor awareness in both children and adults, while raising funds for important research.

To find out more about the 2011 Race for Research 5K run and 2K walk, visit upport.sbtf.org/2011Race.

Information about the SBTF can be found by visiting www.sbtf.org. For more information about the BTFC, see www.braintumorkids.org.

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Inclusive Environment Helps Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Learn

The Monarch Program

The Monarch School Program is dedicated to providing information and resources to families and school systems throughout Georgia for the education of K-12 students with autism / autistic spectrum disorder.

Educators have known for a long time that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can learn a lot by being in a classroom with typical children. Inclusion (educating students within the general education classroom) gives children with special needs the opportunity to learn in a natural environment and the opportunity to learn social skills from interacting with their classmates. In addition, Inclusion can eventually lead to greater acceptance of these children in the community.

Unfortunately, teachers are not always trained how to help children with special needs function in a typical classroom, nor in ways to ensure successful imitation of the positive role models.

“Teachers do not necessarily have the specific training required to teach these children yet, too often, the children with ASD are placed in the classroom with the expectation that the teacher, or the student, will learn to adapt,” says Sheila Wagner, M.Ed., assistant director of the Emory Autism Center. “Without the training, many times the student faces failure, when success was the goal.”

In order to provide some guidance to the school system, the Emory Autism Center received a grant from the Childhood Autism Foundation (CADEF) in 1994 to develop a program that would address Inclusive Education for students with ASD.  With the help of CADEF, the Monarch Program was created. The program implemented a nationally recognized Inclusion Project that has reached hundreds of students with ASD, thousands of teachers through on-site technical assistance and training, and assisted thousands of typical students in learning about the autism spectrum and children with different behaviors and abilities.

“The Monarch Program has grown to provide school systems with a network of support from curriculum training, to teacher and home/school collaboration, to consultations and social skills curriculum,” says Wagner, who serves as the Program Manager of the Monarch School-Age Program at Emory.

“Because of the Monarch Inclusion Project, students with ASD are increasingly able to enjoy exposure to typical students, and teachers are offered some guidance in providing a positive classroom experience.”

Wagner began her experience in the field of autism more than 30 years ago and has published three books on inclusive programming for students with ASD, as well as a brochure on Asperger’s syndrome, and a chapter in Grandin & Attwood’s book Aspergers and Girls.

The Emory Autism Center is a component of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. The program was opened in 1991 as a public, private and University collaboration. Since opening, the Emory Autism Center has become a national model for diagnosis, family support and innovative treatment, as well as a vital source of professional training.

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Dr. Kutner Receives Award for Excellence in Public Health

Michael Kutner

Michael Kutner, PhD, the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award

The Rollins School of Public Health is on a 35-year trajectory that dreams are only made of. What began as a small working group tasked with formulating a strategic plan for Emory’s school of public health, evolved into a Masters of Community Health program (MCH) and degree in 1975. Finally, in 1990, Emory approved the public health school, the university’s first new school in 71 years. Michael Kutner, PhD has been there every step of the way, and as a result is the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award. The award honors faculty members from Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center who, through their lifetime of work, exemplify excellence in public health.

For 40 years, Dr. Kutner has played a key role in building the school of public health and advancing programs of research across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.  He joined Emory’s School of Medicine in 1971, was a key figure on that small planning group for a school of public health, and served as Interim Chair of the medical school’s Department of Statistics and Biometry in 1986.

When Dr. Hatcher and the Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Emory University School of Public Health in 1990, Dr. Kutner was appointed the inaugural Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  As he has stated on numerous occasions that subsequent events after this appointment “went way beyond our wildest dreams.”

He played a major role in creating the organizational structure of the school—curriculum, strategic faculty and chair recruitments, committees, policies and procedures—and for securing its initial accreditation.

Dr. Kutner always carried public health with him. In 1994, he served as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and returned to the Rollins School of Public Health in 2000.  In 2004, he was named Rollins Professor and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, where he served until 2009.

Throughout his Emory career, Dr. Kutner has provided critical support for biomedical research.  He developed the Biostatistics Consulting Center, collaborated with scores of investigators, and has co-authored over 150 articles in leading health and medical journals.   He is former Director for Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design for the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute and is currently the Biostatistics Core Director for the Center for AIDS Research.  He is known around the world for his widely adopted textbooks, Applied Linear Regression Models and Applied Linear Statistical Models.

Dr. Kutner’s lifetime contributions to research, teaching and mentoring are not only legendary, but they give integrity and energy to public health and to Emory. On April 5th, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and the Rollins School of Public Health will celebrate Dr. Kutner’s distinguished career with a reception in the RSPH Klamon Room at 4 p.m.

RSVP to Nancy Sterk at nsterk@emory.edu.

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