Tag Archives: Research

New research fellowship explores pediatric headache treatment

Dane Stephens, Subhjit Sekhon

Two students at the UMKC School of Medicine have received a new award from the Children’s Mercy Hospital Philanthropy Fund to support research interests in neurology.

Dane Stephens, a fourth-year student, and Subhjit Sekhon, a fifth-year student, are the first recipients of the Neurology Research and Scholar Award. The award is given to students who will work on research projects with the Headache Research Group in the Division of Neurology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

Award recipients will work closely with the research group to design, implement and present research findings in the area of pediatric headache assessment and management. Research fellows also attend the American Academy of Neurology annual conference. There they will network with other professionals in the field, and attend presentations and poster displays, as well as other pertinent educational opportunities.

Research projects, while focused on headache treatment, vary based on current studies being conducted at any given time within the group.

The research fellowship award is available to qualified fourth, fifth or sixth-year B.A./M.D. students or second, third or fourth-year M.D. students at the UMKC School of Medicine. Students must commit to at least 80 total research hours throughout a 12-month period. A medical school research elective with the Children’s Mercy Hospital Department of Neurology is highly encouraged.

Jennifer Bickel, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the headache section at Children’s Mercy, will serve as faculty mentor for the research projects.

The Headache Research Group is comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners and additional allied health professionals. Bickel leads the interdisciplinary team in its commitment to improving education, advocacy and research regarding headache care in children.

Stephens and Sekhon are part of a fast growing number of students actively taking part in research activities. Below is a list of some School of Medicine students who have recently been selected for summer and yearlong research fellowships and been invited to present their research at regional and national meetings.

Year-long Fellowships:
Grant Randall, NIH Medical Research Scholars Program
Sultan Khan, TL1 Predoctoral Clinical Research Training Program, Washington University
Carlee Oakley, TL1 Clinical Research Training Program, University of Kansas Medical Center
Dane Stephens, Subhjit Sekhon, Neurology Research and Scholar Award, Headache Research Group in the Division of Neurology at Children’s Mercy Kansas City

Summer Fellowships:
Akash Jani, George Washington University Summer Research Internship, Dept. of Emergency Medicine
Vishnu Harikumar, Pediatric Oncology Education Program, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Priyesha Bijlani, Washington University Pediatric Student Research Program
Elizabeth George, Unite for Sight Summer Program in India
Ashwath Kumar, Health Policy Fellowship Initiative (American Academy of Ophthalmology, Washington, D.C.
Ben Bernard*, NIDDK Medical Student Research Training Program in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolic Disorders (*had to decline due to another research opportunity in Israel)
Chizitam Ibezim*, NIH Summer Internship Program (*had to decline due to other obligations)

Selected to present research at regional or national meetings:
Sarah Alshami, International Facial Nerve Symposium, Los Angeles, CA, August 2017
Noor Alshami, American Academy of Pediatrics, Chicago, IL, September 2017
Morgan Warren, Central Association of OB/GYN, Scottsdale, AZ, October 2017
Sumita Sharma, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Denver, CO, October 2017
Suzan Lisenby, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Denver, CO, October 2017
Siri Ancha, World Congress of Gastroenterology, Orlando, FL, October 2017
Ravali Gummi and Imran Nizamuddin, Clinton Global Initiative, Boston, MA, October 2017
Chizitam Ibezim, AHA Scientific Sessions, Anaheim, CA, November 2017
Amber (Leila) Sarvastani, AHA Scientific Sessions, Anaheim, CA, November 2017
Hunter Faris, AMA, Honolulu, HI, November 2017
Vaishnavi Vaidyanathan, Child Neurology Society Annual Meeting, Kansas City, MO, October 2017

UMKC researchers to present late-breaking studies at cardiovascular symposium

Research studies by UMKC School of Medicine faculty researchers at the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute have been selected for presentation at the world’s largest educational meeting for interventional cardiovascular medicine.

The researchers are the first or senior authors of 10 original studies and contributing authors of nine other studies selected for presentation at the 2017 Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics symposium in Denver, running October 30 through November 2.

The presentations includes two major studies selected as Late-Breaking Clinical Trials. Only 12 research breakthroughs highlighting the most innovative treatments for heart disease are selected for the late-breaking presentations.

“It is rare for any institution to have even one late-breaking trial presentation at a major cardiology meeting,” said David Cohen, M.D., professor of medicine and MAHI director of cardiovascular research. “Having two of the 12 come from the Mid America Heart Institute is an incredible honor and a testimony to both the Mid America Heart Institute Clinical Scholars program and the international reputation that our research program has come to enjoy.”

Suzanne Baron, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, is the lead author of a study that describes the long-term quality of life outcomes of nearly 2,000 patients enrolled in a landmark multi-center trial. The research compared everolimus-eluting stents and bypass surgery for the treatment of left main coronary artery disease. Cohen is the lead author of the second study that evaluates the cost effectiveness of transcatheter aortic valve replacement compared with surgical aortic valve replacement in intermediate risk patients.

Four of the MAHI studies to be presented at this year’s meeting are the direct result of a groundbreaking OPEN-Chronic Total Occlusions (CTO) registry. The registry is led by Aaron Grantham, M.D., associate professor of medicine, with assistants from  Adam Salisbury, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and the support of the MAHI Outcomes Research group. The studies define the success, safety, health benefits and cost effectiveness of novel techniques to open blocked coronary arteries that are considered untreatable through minimally invasive techniques.

Brain tumor research follows unusual path

Tom Curran, Ph.D.

A promising therapy to combat brain tumors in children has emerged from a confluence of bold research, scientific insight and luck, a Children’s Mercy research director said Aug. 30 in the latest installment in the UMKC Health Sciences Deans’ Seminar Series.

The research aims to block a pathway that mutant cells often take when forming tumors near the brain stem. The work’s progress and hurdles were detailed by Tom Curran, Ph.D., who is the executive director and chief scientific officer of the Children’s Research Institute and a professor of pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine.

His presentation was titled “How mice, sheep, corn lilies and a beer helped children with brain tumors: Targeting the hedgehog pathway in medulloblastoma.”

When he started the hedgehog inhibitor work, Curran already had contributed extensively to the understanding of tumor formation – and knew plenty about mice. He discovered the Fos-Jun tumor-generating complex, and had identified reelin, the gene responsible for reeler, the mutation that makes mice lose muscle control.

Curran wanted to extend his mutation research to the tumors that form during brain development, “so we made the decision that we would take a take a precision medicine approach to medulloblastoma, even though we knew nothing about it at the time.”

He said his team came up with “a very naive concept” for proceeding: to identify molecules involved in tumor formation and then develop inhibitors for them, confirming both the mutations and their inhibition in mouse studies. After cause and prevention were demonstrated in mice, clinical drug trials in humans would follow.

The plan, however naive, has generated significant research success.

“That’s what translational research is about,” he said. “You have to develop a simple model … with milestones that let you know you’re making progress toward the goals.

“The other factor that is really important to this kind of science is luck. You need to be in the right place at the right time.”

The project’s first indication of good timing came quickly.

“Three weeks after we decided we were going to target medulloblastoma, the very first paper came out linking the sonic hedgehog pathway and … these tumors.” (A family of mutant genes with a spiky appearance is called hedgehog genes, and one of those was named after the Sonic Hedgehog computer game a Harvard researcher’s son was fond of.)

Sheep and corn lilies entered the picture when Curran was looking for a hedgehog-path inhibitor to work with and recalled a story about sheep giving birth to one-eyed lambs. What might have been a genetic defect was determined instead to be caused by a chemical in the corn lilies the ewes had eaten. The chemical, named cyclopamine, was found to block the sonic hedgehog path, the effect Curran was looking for. But it also was toxic and eventually seemed unlikely to lead to a suitable drug for humans.

Fortune intervened again when Curran was having a beer with a colleague after a conference in Taos, N.M. The friend was an expert on the sonic hedgehog pathway and referred Curran to another researcher whose team was doing similar work but running out of money for testing. Curran got in touch with the other team and was able to do the testing, which produced good results.

The project also has had its share of challenges to overcome, including recurrence of tumors after initial success in a human trial. That often happens in cancer treatment, Curran said, as drug resistance develops. But a biopsy from that case has provided further information, and trials continue.

Besides his positions at the Children’s Research Institute and UMKC, Curran is the Donald J. Hall Eminent Scholar in Pediatric Research and a professor of cancer biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Before coming to Kansas City, he led the Translational Brain Tumor Program for a decade at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; was deputy scientific director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute for another decade; and set up the multi-institution Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium.

Curran earned his doctorate for studies at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories in London. His work has been published in nearly 300 papers and cited more than 50,000 times.

 

 

 

Faris receives UMKC Project ADVANCER award

Third-year medical student Hunter Faris, left, has received a research award to work with John Q. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Westport Anesthesia/Missouri Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Research.

Third-year medical student Hunter Faris has been selected for a student research award from the UMKC strategic funding award initiative, Project ADVANCER (Academic Development Via Applied aNd Cutting-Edge Research). The program supports research projects of UMKC undergraduate and professional students from underrepresented minorities.

Faris will be working with faculty mentor, John Q. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Westport Anesthesia/Missouri Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Research, to establish a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the regulation of neuronal activities. His project, Regulation of Src Family Protein Kinases in the Rat Striatum by Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor, could significantly advance the knowledge of receptor signaling and protein kinases biology.

Project ADVANCER is a UMKC initiative to provide students the opportunity to gain experience and build a “track record” in research. That experience will provide students better access to competitive postgraduate training such as residencies or graduate programs and, ultimately, to better employment opportunities.

Students who have identified a UMKC faculty mentor in the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geosciences; School of Biological Sciences; School of Computing and Engineering; School of Medicine; or School of Nursing and Health Studies may jointly develop an application for a Project ADVANCER award with their faculty mentor.

Faris and Wang expect to produce results that will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Med School scientist receives American Heart Association grant for research study

Mingui Fu, Ph.D.

The American Heart Association has awarded a $154,000 grant to UMKC School of Medicine scientist Mingui Fu, Ph.D., to conduct a two-pronged study that could lead to the development of novel therapies for vascular inflammatory diseases.

An associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Science, Fu has been studying the molecular process that leads to atherosclerosis, a thickening of the artery walls created by the buildup of plaque. Atherosclerosis is a common underlying issue surrounding cardiovascular disease and stroke.

While some therapies have proven beneficial, there are currently no available treatments to reduce the early steps that lead to the formation of these abnormal arterial masses.

Fu’s new study will explore at a molecular level the process by which a particular protein, TRIM65, has been found to target those molecules responsible for regulating inflammation, antivirus and cancers. The research also seeks to determine how the loss of the TRIM65 protein affects the adhesion of those abnormal fatty cells to arterial walls to produce atherosclerosis.

If successful, Fu’s study will define a regulatory pathway of endothelial activation and provide insights for developing new therapies for vascular inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis.

Recently, Fu and his research lab at the School of Medicine published a paper in the journal Scientific Reports that revealed the discovery of a novel secreted protein in body fat tissue that displayed a potent anti-inflammatory role in immune cells and vascular endothelial cells. In addition, he also has published a review article in Nature Reviews Immunology about RNA-binding proteins in immune regulation.

According to a 2017 report by the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the worldwide leading cause of death and is an underlying factor in nearly one-third of all deaths in the United States.

Donors set sights on work at Vision Research Center

Situated prominently on the corner of 21st and Charlotte is UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Research Center, a bustling center of excellence within the new UMKC Health Sciences District. Yet, even with the cutting-edge research and advanced academics taking place under its roof, many are unaware of the critical position it plays in improving the treatment of eye disease for people in our community and beyond.

Nelson Sabates, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and co-director of the Vision Research Center, is working to heighten the facility’s recognition and its continued efforts to offer the most advanced academic environment for teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists.

Two recent gifts from donors, one from the estate of Mary Adams and the other from an anonymous contributor, are helping to make this goal possible by supporting basic science research being conducted by UMKC faculty members, Peter Koulen, Ph.D., and Karl Kador, Ph.D.

“These gifts will have a significant impact on our ability to provide newer and longer lasting treatments for patients diagnosed with glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy,” Sabates. “We are grateful to have been chosen by these donors as the recipients of their generous contributions to our mission of ensuring patients receive the most advanced medical treatments available.”

Both researchers are working to develop new therapy approaches urgently needed by physicians worldwide to better diagnose, prevent, and treat eye disease and vision disorders.

Koulen, the Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research and Director of Basic Research at the Vision Research Center, focuses on therapy development for chronic diseases of the eye and brain. Kador’s research focuses on creating three-dimensional models of the retina that can be used to understand how retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) integrate and form synapses (the point at which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to another) with their binding partners within the retina. He and his lab are working to develop a functional cell source and transplantation method to treat optic neuropathies such as glaucoma and optic nerve stroke.

“Having an endowed chair in vision research has been instrumental in our ability to conduct research at UMKC and, in order to continue moving forward, we need to raise additional funds for a second endowed chair,” Sabates said.

Sabates will join the UMKC Foundation Board of Directors in July and is resolute in seeing a new health sciences building become a reality.

“I, along with many others, am a true advocate for advancing UMKC’s combined health sciences with a modern, functional space where faculty and students can have access to the latest technologies,” he said. “I am excited to be a voice for the health sciences arena at UMKC.”

Built on a 50-year history, UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology and the Vision Research Center look to opportunities for future growth in research, education, prevention, treatment and outreach.

Sarah Morrison research award winners announced

Recipients of the April 2017 Sarah Morrison student research awards are (left to right) Jessica Kieu, Shipra Singh, Vishal Thumar, Komal Kumar, and Katherine Suman.

Five School of Medicine’s students have been selected by the Student Research Program to receive Sarah Morrison Student Research Awards. The awards  support support research efforts and help students fund their presentations at conferences and scientific meetings.

The April 2017 recipients are Jessica Kieu, fourth-year medical student, Komal Kumar, fourth-year medical student, Shipra Singh, fourth-year medical student, Katherine Suman, sixth-year medical student, and Vishal Thumar, sixth-year medical student.

Sarah Morrison award recipients are reviewed by a committee of faculty judges and processed through the school’s Office of Research Administration. Awards of up to $1,500 are presented each April and October. Since 2013, students have received more than $61,000 in financial support from the Sarah Morrison program to support research projects at the School of Medicine.

Students interested in the Sarah Morrison Research awards are encouraged to apply prior to the April 1 and Oct. 1 deadlines each year. For complete application information, visit the Office of Research Administration’s student research website.

Award winners, abstract titles and faculty mentors

  • Jessica Kieu, “Maternal-fetal reactions to acute emotional stress in prenatal depressed mothers: correlations with fetal biomagnetometry measures,” Prakash Chandra – TMC
  • Komal Kumar, “Pregnant Women with Previous Mental Health Disorders and Behavior During Ultrasound,” Prakash Chandra – TMC
  • Shipra Singh, “The Effect of NAAA Gene Expression on Acetaminophen Hepatotoxicity,” Shui Ye – CMH
  • Katherine Suman, “The role of innate immune system signaling pathways in glaucoma pathogenesis,” Peter Koulen – Vision Research Center
  • Vishal Thumar, “Visualizing the Difference between Life and Death: A Comparison of Liver Ultrasound Findings in Children with Sinusoidal Obstruction Syndrome After Bone Marrow Transplantation,” Sherwin Chan – CMH

 

 

Vaidyanathan presents research at international neurology conference

Medical student Vaishnavi Vaidyanathan, right, presented her research poster with her mentors Harold Morris, M.D., and Angela Hawkins, M.S.N., R.N., at the 2017 American Academy of Neurology conference.

Fifth-year medical student Vaishnavi Vaidyanathan spent nearly two months exploring the histories of stroke patients and the effects of the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). The result was a research poster she recently presented at the 2017 American Academy of Neurology conference in Boston.

Her presentation showed that patients treated with tPA within the first 24 hours of a suffering a stroke have significantly fewer early onset seizures.

Vaidyanathan began her study last September while completing a neurology rotation at Saint Luke’s Hospital. Under the guidance of Saint Luke’s neurologist Harold Morris, M.D., and Angela Hawkins, M.S.N., R.N., stroke program manager, Vaidyanathan reviewed the histories of nearly 1,300 stroke patients.

“They allowed me to write it up and go through process with their guidance,” Vaidyanathan said. “I learned so much from that, literature searching, how to write up an abstract, doing bio-statistics. It was a great learning opportunity.”

The annual neurology conference in Boston drew an international audience of nearly 14,000 physicians and scientists.

“This conference was a great experience,” Vaidyanathan said. “I got to meet people who are celebrities in the neurology field. They’re very well-known. I had the opportunity to listen to talks about the latest research that’s going on in neurology and hear all the great innovations that are happening. It was an awesome experience.”

Vaidyanathan said she already has ideas for future studies that look at the effects of tPA and other intra-arterial interventions on the incidence of post-stroke seizures.

“I hope to do further investigation of these patients and get more results that I can write up and present,” she said.

Randall selected to NIH research fellowship

Grant Randall

Grant Randall, a fifth-year medical student, has been selected to take part in a student research fellowship program at the National Institutes of Health.

Beginning this June, Randall will take a leave of absence from medical school to devote his full-time focus to NIH’s Medical Research Scholar’s Program. He is the fourth student from the School of Medicine chosen to participate in the program.

“I talked to some of our students, Blake Montgomery and Dean Merrill, who did this NIH program and they had fantastic things to say about it,” Randall said.

The yearlong program offers medical, dental and veterinary students an intensive research fellowship participating in basic, clinical and translational research at the NIH’s campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Randall said he is excited about the prospects of working with and learning from some of the top researchers in the country.

“You get to take part in lectures pretty much every day and do basic science research, often with Nobel Laureates,” he said. “They do leadership classes, classes on statistics, how to conduct clinical research, writing research papers. Basically, a lot of the skills that people typically pick up along the way (in medical school and residency), they teach you there.”

Randall will spend the first couple of weeks of his fellowship meeting many of the NIH researchers and mentors to get an idea of the opportunities available and find a research project that meets his interest. He said he hopes to work in translational research to get a taste of both basic science and clinical research.

He acknowledged School of Medicine mentors Michael Wacker, Ph.D., assistant dean for medical student research, and John Foxworth, Pharm.D., professor of medicine, for encouraging him to explore the NIH program. Randall said he became interested in research while taking part in out-of-town clinical electives and working with scientists at the University of Iowa on immunology projects.

“That was my main exposure to in-depth basic science research, being in a lab every day,” Randall said. “I loved it and decided I wanted to do more.”

Research Summit winners announced

The Office of Research Administration has announced four School of Medicine winners for their poster presentations at the 2017 UMKC Health Science Research Summit on April 26, including a first-place tie.

Sixth-year medical student Kayla Briggs and fifth-year medical student Sai Vanam were each awarded first place for BA/MD students. Clair Smith, a fifth-year student, was awarded second place in the competition.

First prize for non-BA/MD student presentations was awarded to Yashashwi Pokharel, MD, MSCR.

Awards for the winners were provided in memory of former School of Medicine faculty member Loredana Brizio Molteni, MD, FACS.

School of Medicine students presented 51 posters at the event. Each presentation was judged by members of the faculty. This year’s judges were: Darla McCarthy, PhD; Jeffrey Price, PhD; Maria Cole, PhD; Kim Smolderen, PhD; Raymond Scott Duncan, PhD; Jannette Berkley-Patton, PhD; Mian Urfy, MD; Lakshmi Venkitachalam, PhD; Nilofer Qureshi, PhD; Felix Okah, MD, Peter Koulen, PhD; Bridgette Jones, MD; Karl Kador, PhD; Dan Heruth, PhD; Mary Gerkovich PhD; James Stanford, MD; Rosa Huang, PhD; and Paula Nichols, PhD.

The Office of Research Administration also acknowledge Tim Hickman, MD., MPH, for helping students prepare by conducting sessions prior to the research summit and John Foxworth, PharmD, for reviewing the student posters.

All of the student posters presented at this year’s research summit can be viewed on the Student Research website.

Health Sciences Student Research Summit
School of Medicine Winners

BA/MD Student awards
First place (tie)

Kayla Briggs, “Development of a Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery Tertiary Referral Center within the Veterans Affairs Medical System: Early Experiences.” Mentor: Farzad Alemi, MD, MS.
Sai Vanam, “Effects of Cryopreservation on Structure and Quality of Corneal Tissue.” Mentor: Peter Koulen, PhD.
Second place
Claire Smith, “The Cost and Potential Avoidability of Antibiotic-Associated Adverse Drug Reactions.” Mentor: Jennifer L. Goldman MD, MS.

Non-BA/MD Student Award
First place

Yashashwi Pokharel, MD, MSCR, “Heterogeneity in Treatment Effect in Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease: Insights from the CLEVER Trial.” Mentor: Kim Smolderen, PhD.