Plasma cells live in our bone marrow. Their job: to make antibodies that protect us from bacteria and viruses. But if those plasma cells grow unchecked, that unchecked growth leads to multiple myeloma.
Sagar Lonial, MD
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that results in lytic bone disease, or holes in the bones. Whatâ€™s more, the cancerous cells crowd out normal bone marrow resulting in anemia or a low white count, leaving a person vulnerable to infections.
Sagar Lonial, MD, an oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, treats people with multiple myeloma. The prognosis for people with this type of cancer is poor; however, researchers are gaining on the disease. Twenty years ago, the survival rate was two to three years; now, itâ€™s four to five.
Lonial says one of the keys to improving patientsâ€™ prognosis is increasing their enrollment in clinical trials and better access to life-extending drugs.
Bali Pulendran, PhD
A tiny invader, perhaps a virus or a microbe, enters the body, and our ancient immune system responds. But how does it know what kind of invader has landed? And once it knows, how does it decide what kind of immune response it should launch?
In humans, the immune system consists of two parallel systems working with one another to fend off invaders. One is the innate immune system, the other the adaptive immune system.
Immunologist Bali Pulendran studies how those two systems work together to identify and respond to all kinds of intruders including pathogens, viruses and microbes.
Itâ€™s the innate immune systemâ€™s job to recognize the first signs of infectionâ€”that is, the moment a pathogen enters the body. â€œIn a sense they act as smoke detectors if you will,â€ says Pulendran. â€œLittle alarms.â€
Lary Walker, PhD
Consider this: Alzheimerâ€™s is a uniquely human disorder. But why? Why donâ€™t nonhuman primates, such as monkeys, get Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Monkeys form the senile plaques that are identical to the plaques found in humans. So do other animals.
â€œYet, despite the fact that nonhuman primates make this protein that we know is very important in the pathogenesis of Alzheimerâ€™s disease, they donâ€™t develop the full disease,â€ says Lary Walker, PhD. Walker is an associate professor at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
â€œThey donâ€™t develop the tangles we associate with Alzheimerâ€™s disease, the neuronal loss, the shrinkage of the brain, and they donâ€™t get demented in the sense that humans do,â€ says Walker.
When our bodies make a protein, the protein tends to fold into a functional form. But when it comes to Alzheimerâ€™s disease, some proteins misfold, becoming sticky and then combining with one another. In their collective form, the proteins can then form plaques or tangles, the two types of lesions associated with Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
And for some unknown reason, people who have plaques usually go on to form tangles. But people who have tangles donâ€™t always go on to form plaques. No one is sure why. But thatâ€™s what researcher Walker wants to find out.
To listen to Walkerâ€™s own words about Alzheimerâ€™s disease, access Emoryâ€™s new Sound Science podcast.
Conrad Cole, MD, MPH
Physicians and researchers are seeing a resurgence of micronutrient deficiencies in certain high-risk populations of children. But what exactly does that mean to those childrenâ€”right now and in the future?
For children who donâ€™t get enough micronutrients it means life-long problems, including decreased neurodevelopment and diminished cognitive abilities.
â€œMicronutrients are nutrients that are needed by the body in small quantities and are important for development, growth and sustaining life,â€ says Conrad Cole, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Emory School of Medicine. â€œThatâ€™s why theyâ€™re called micronutrients, and the ones we commonly think about are iron, vitamin D, calcium and zinc because they all have significant importance.â€
To listen to Coleâ€™s own words about micronutrients, access Emory’s new Sound Science podcast.
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 failureâ€”before damage is doneâ€”is his raison d’etre and primary research focus, according to Emory Medicine magazine.
Jana MacLeod, MD
Drunk drivers have been known to walk away from auto wrecksâ€”but thatâ€™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 hadnâ€™t been drinking at all.
So, Jana MacLeod, MD, and her colleagues trained surgical interns to conductÂ 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.
â€œRecent studies have shown brief alcohol interventions with trauma patients who have a history of alcohol misuse successfully prevented future episodes of drunk driving,â€ says MacLeod. Whatâ€™s more, itâ€™s been shown a five-minute intervention reduces hazardous drinking patterns up to three years after injury and decreases recidivism.
Posted on February 9, 2010