Warren symposium follows legacy of geneticist giant

If we want to understand how the brain creates memories, and how genetic disorders distort the brain’s machinery, then the fragile X gene is an ideal place to start. That’s why the Stephen T. Warren Memorial Symposium, taking place November 28-29 at Emory, will be a significant event for those interested in neuroscience and genetics. Stephen T. Warren, 1953-2021 Warren, the founding chair of Emory’s Department of Human Genetics, led an international team that discovered Read more

Mutations in V-ATPase proton pump implicated in epilepsy syndrome

Why and how disrupting V-ATPase function leads to epilepsy, researchers are just starting to figure Read more

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

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Improving measurement of pesticides in breast milk

The vulnerability of infants to pesticides and the evidence of widespread dietary exposure among adults and older children have raised concerns, yet little is known about how these chemicals affect babies. Emory Rollins School of Public Health researchers P. Barry Ryan, Ph.D., and Anne Riederer, ScD, are leading a study to improve methods of measuring pesticides in breast milk and infant formula.

Riederer, an assistant research professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, stated that there are very few published studies on this topic. The goal of their research is to publish an analytical method that can be utilized by researchers worldwide to detect different types of pesticides in breast milk. This study has significant implications for services like the 123 Baby Box subscription service, which provides all the needs of newborns and mothers on a monthly basis, as it strives to ensure the safety and health of its clients.

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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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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Eye diseases and immune system link studied

Drawing shows areas of the eye

Emory Eye Center researchers are looking at the role of the immune system in the inflammation of the eye and the progression of eye diseases.

Santa Ono, PhD, professor of ophthalmology, Emory School of Medicine and researcher at the Emory Eye Center, and Emory senior vice provost for undergraduate education and academic affairs, and his team at the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Ocular Immunology Lab, focus on the immune component of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), ocular cancer (melanoma and retinoblastoma) and ocular inflammation.

Santa J. Ono, PhD

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of sight impairment and blindness in older people. The macula, in the center of the retina, is the portion of the eye that allows for the perception of fine detail. AMD gradually destroys a person’s central vision, ultimately preventing reading, driving, and seeing objects clearly

In a recent article of Emory Magazine, Ono, an ocular immunologist, says, “If a person with AMD looks at graph paper, some of the lines will be wavy instead of straight. Certain parts of the image are no longer being transferred to the brain.”

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Palliative care: Addressing suffering and quality of life

The palliative care program at Emory University is working to improve quality of life and wellness by addressing the physical, psychological, ethical, spiritual and social needs of patients with serious, life-threatening or progressive chronic illnesses, and provides support to their families and caregivers.

Tammie E. Quest, MD

Often mistakenly confused with hospice care, palliative care is appropriately provided to patients in any stage of serious illness – whereas hospice care is primarily used for those approaching the end stage of life, says Tammie Quest, MD, interim director of the Emory Center for Palliative Care.

A typical palliative care “team” consists of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, mental health professionals, therapists and pharmacists, assisting patients through a wide array of illnesses, including stroke, heart and lung disease, cancer and HIV.

The palliative care teams work closely with primary physicians to control pain, relieve symptoms of illnesses – such as nausea, fatigue and depression. Teams help provide counseling in making difficult medical decisions and provide emotional and spiritual support, coordinate home care referrals and assist with identifying future care needs.

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Stress increases health risks to mother and fetus

At Emory’s fifth annual predictive health symposium Human Health: Molecules to Mankind,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, Berga 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 stress ”both the physical and emotional kind” 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 there’s no clinical recognition of this, tests are needed to determine if thyroxine levels are indeed insufficient. The bottom line is, pregnant women should visit a gynecology clinic on a regular basis to ensure their and their babies’ safety.

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Tailoring transplant drugs for children

For adult organ transplant recipients, juggling a lifetime regimen of immunosuppressant drugs is difficult enough, but for children it presents an even greater challenge.  These drugs, which also can have toxic side effects, must strike a delicate balance between preventing organ rejection and protecting from infections.

But children’s immune systems are still “learning” 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.

A grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will support new studies at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to help clinicians tailor therapies specifically for children receiving transplants.  The project will include hiring of additional personnel to undertake these studies.

Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, is principal investigator of the project, which is supported by a two-year grant of nearly $1.65 million. Kirk is professor of surgery and pediatrics in Emory University School of Medicine and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. He also is vice chair of research in the Department of Surgery and scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center.

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.  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.

“This award indicates exceptional insight by the NIAID into the critical link between a child’s physical well-being and their emotional maturity,” says Kirk. “It will accelerate progress in this vital area of research for a very deserving subset of chronically ill children.”

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Intervention: preventing trips to the trauma unit

Jana MacLeod, MD

Drunk drivers have been known to walk away from auto wrecks but that’s unusual. In fact, the norm is this: those who drink before an accident of any kind, particularly a motor vehicle accident, have a much higher chance of being injured or dying than if they hadn’t been drinking at all. If you’re facing a DUI charge, don’t hesitate to reach out through this contact form to discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer. Those who got injured in a vehicular accident may need to hire a car accident attorney Michigan to ensure that their rights are protected.

So, Jana MacLeod, MD, and her colleagues trained surgical interns to conduct brief interventions on patients with alcohol-related injuries. MacLeod is an associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine. She says brief interventions offer patients a way to talk about their alcohol use with their physician, and then make behavioral changes if they so choose.

MacLeod talks about the benefits of these interventions in an Emory Sound Science podcast.

Recent studies have shown brief alcohol interventions with trauma patients who have a history of alcohol misuse successfully prevented future episodes of drunk driving says MacLeod. What’s more, it’s been shown a five-minute intervention reduces hazardous drinking patterns up to three years after injury and decreases recidivism.

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Heart Month: Helping narrowed aortic valves

Celebrating February’s American Heart Month at Emory Heart & Vascular Center

Emory cardiologists are using a promising new non-surgical treatment option for patients with severe aortic stenosis.

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.

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Community groups play key role in increasing HIV research participation

Paula Frew, PhD, MPH

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.

“Community organizations already have built trusting relationships in their communities,” says Paula Frew, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Emory School of Medicine. “If 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.”

Frew was lead investigator in a study published recently in the Journal Prevention Science. She is director of health communications & applied research at the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center and an investigator in the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

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