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
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
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
Vivian Pinn, MD, associate director for research on womenâ€™s health, and director of the Office of Research on Womenâ€™s Health at NIH, opened the meeting with Emoryâ€™s conference chair, Nanette Wenger, MD, professor of medicine (cardiology), Emory School of Medicine, and chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Nanette K. Wenger, MD
In a career that spans more than 50 years, Wengerâ€™s dedication to reducing womenâ€™s disability and death from cardiovascular disease has made her one of the countryâ€™s most-respected experts on coronary heart disease in women. In 2009, Wenger received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology.
Although Wenger has earned dozens of awards in her celebrated career, she says her greatest professional achievement has been to help change a major paradigm in cardiology: the assumption that heart disease affects only men. A half a century ago heart disease was thought of as a “man’s disease.”
At Emory’s fifth annual predictive health symposium â€œHuman Health: Molecules to Mankind,â€ Emory GYN/OB Sarah L. Berga, MD, discussed the state of childbirth in the United States and how maternal stress affects pregnant women and their fetuses.
Berga is McCord professor and chair of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory School of Medicine. Sadly, BergaÂ has seen maternal mortality rise steadily since the 1980s when she entered her medical residency. Georgia, she says, has the worse maternal mortality in the country. And the United States fares worse than many countries when it comes to maternal mortality.
Despite the unfortunate rise in maternal mortality of late, the good news is physicians have now started to pay more attention to the effect of stressâ€”both the physical and emotional kindâ€”on women and their fetuses. Recent research shows stress has the same negative effect on the body as do organic diseases, such as thyroid disease. In fact, too much stress reduces thyroxine levels by about 50 percent, says Berga. But because thereâ€™s no clinical recognition of this, tests are needed to determine if thyroxine levels are indeed insufficient.
For adult organ transplant recipients, juggling a lifetime regimen of immunosuppressant drugs is difficult enough, but for children it presents an even greater challenge.Â These drugs, which also can have toxic side effects, must strike a delicate balance between preventing organ rejection and protecting from infections.
But childrenâ€™s immune systems are still â€œlearningâ€ what distinguishes them from the world around them, and children are constantly developing and changing, both physically and emotionally. This puts them at greater risk for complications either through inappropriate medication or failure to take these drugs properly.
The ARRA-funded project will not only help determine which medications children should take, but also will give them the support to care for their transplanted organs.Â The Emory scientists are studying new biological monitoring technologies that can identify unique ways to determine exactly how much medication a child really needs. These studies are being combined with a novel transition care clinic specializing in helping children cope with their illness and assuming responsibility for their care.
â€œThis award indicates exceptional insight by the NIAID into the critical link between a childâ€™s physical well-being and their emotional maturity,â€ says Kirk. â€œIt will accelerate progress in this vital area of research for a very deserving subset of chronically ill children.â€
Emory University Hospital is one of about 20 hospitals nationwide, and the only site in Georgia, to study this new technology – with 75 patients receiving new valves at Emory since the clinical trial started in October 2007. Researchers hope to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in late 2011.
The life threatening heart condition affects tens of thousands of Americans each year when the aortic valve tightens or narrows, preventing blood from flowing through normally.
Peter Block, MD
Peter Block, MD, professor of medicine, Emory School of Medicine, and colleagues are performing percutaneous aortic valve replacement as part of a Phase II clinical trial, comparing this procedure with traditional, open-heart surgery or medical therapy in high-risk patients with aortic stenosis.
The procedure provides a new way for doctors to treat patients who are too ill or frail to endure the traditional surgical approach.
During the procedure, doctors create a small incision in the groin or chest wall and then feed the new valve, mounted on a wire mesh on a catheter, and place it where the new valve is needed.
Although African Americans make up a significant share of HIV cases in the U.S., they are underrepresented in HIV clinical trials. New research shows that promotion of HIV clinical trials and participation by African Americans can be increased by coalitions that link community organizations to clinical-research institutions.
â€œCommunity organizations already have built trusting relationships in their communities,â€ saysÂ Paula Frew, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine. â€œIf HIV/AIDS prevention and HIV clinical research become part of the agendas of these organizations, they can become ideal allies for increasing participation by community members who are at risk for disease.â€
Pathologist Keqiang Ye has made a series of discoveries recently, arising from his investigations of substances that can mimic the growth factor BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
BDNF is a protein produced by the brain that pushes neurons to withstand stress and make new connections. Some neuroscientists have described BDNF as “Miracle Gro for brain cells.”
â€œBDNF has been studied extensively for its ability to protect neurons vulnerable to degeneration in several diseases, such as ALS, Parkinsonâ€™s and Alzheimerâ€™s disease,â€ Ye says. â€œThe trouble with BDNF is one of delivery. Itâ€™s a protein, so it canâ€™t cross the blood-brain barrier and degrades quickly.â€
Working with Ye, postdoctoral fellow Sung-Wuk Jang identified a compound called 7,8-dihydroxyflavone that can duplicate BDNFâ€™s effects on neurons and can protect them against damage in animal models of seizure, stroke and Parkinsonâ€™s disease. The compoundâ€™s selective effects suggest that it could be the founder of a new class of brain-protecting drugs. The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This conclusion comes from a 10-year history of coronary bypass patients at Emory recently published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
Puskas also recently presented long-term follow-up data from the first randomized U.S. trial to compare off-pump with conventional on-pump surgery.
The results from the landmark SMART (Surgical Management of Arterial Revascularization) study, which started in 2000, show that participants who had the off-pump procedure lost less blood, had less damage to their hearts during surgery and recovered more quickly than those who underwent on-pump surgery.
Beating-heart patients in the study also were able to breathe on their own sooner after surgery, spent less time in intensive care and left the hospital one day sooner, on average, than conventional coronary bypass patients.
Peripheral artery disease affects millions of people in the United States. It’s basically hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to problems with getting enough blood to the limbs. Symptoms of severe PAD include leg pain that doesn’t go away once exertion stops and wounds that heal slowly or not at all.
Lifestyle changes, medication and surgery can address some cases of PAD, but often the disease is not recognized until it has advanced considerably. At Emory, cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi has been exploring whether a patient’s own bone marrow cells can repair the arteries in his or her limbs.
What may soon be old-fashioned: next-generation sequencing combines many reactions like the one depicted above into one pot
DNA polymerases, enzymes that replicate and repair DNA, assemble individual letters in the genetic code on a template. The PNAS paper describes efforts to modify Taq DNA polymerase to get it to accept “reversible terminators.” (Taq = Thermus aquaticus, a variety of bacteria that lives in hot springs and thus has heat-resistant enzymes, a useful property for DNA sequencing)
Ortlund was involved because he specializes in looking at how evolution shapes protein structure. Along with co-author Eric Gaucher, Ortlund is part of the Fundamental and Applied Molecular Evolution Center at Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
To sequence DNA faster and more cheaply, scientists are trying to get DNA polymerases to accept new building blocks. This could facilitate next-generation sequencing technology that uses “reversible terminators” to sequence many DNA templates in parallel.
Every time scientists identify genetic risk factors for a human disease or a personality trait, it seems like more weight accumulates on the “nature” side of the grand balance between nature and nurture.
That’s why it’s important to remember how much prenatal and childhood experiences such as education, nutrition, environmental exposures and stress influence later development.
At the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Symposium in December, biologist Victor Corces outlined this concept using a particularly evocative example: bees. A queen bee and a worker bee share the same DNA, so the only thing that determines whether an insect will become the next queen is whether she consumes royal jelly.