Highlights and News

Congratulations, Nadine Michel

Fourth year MSTP student, Nadine Michel (laboratory of Dr. Mike McConnell) won the Outstanding Research Poster Award at the UVA Medical Alumni Association’s 2018 Winter Retreat at the Lansdowne Resort on Saturday, February 17, 2018.

Congratulations, Shadi Khalil

The latest edition of News from the UVA School of Medicine featured the research of MSTP student, Shadi Khalil and his colleagues working in the laboratory of Dr. Adam Goldfarb. Dr. Goldfarb is also the MSTP Associate Director of Admissions.

Read more about their new discovery here.

Congratulations Class of 2017

Congratulations! SMD 2017!

Congratulations to the MSTP’s who graduated last weekend during final exercises! We will miss you!

View Match Results

Left to Right: Ali Dhanaliwala, Sam Rosenfeld, Sarah Breevoort, Samantha Adamson, Aaron Fond, Joe Walpole, Dave Peske.

Congratulations, Goldfarb Lab!

MSTP mentor, Adam Goldfarb and his team have recently been recognized for their research in the area of blood platelet creation and the “Master Switch” that could assist in the production of platelets specifically in neonates. Nearly 30% of preemies are affected by neonatal thrombocytopenia and many will require platelet transfusions.

Read more about their exciting discovery HERE.

UVA MSTP Scott Seki Receives F31 Award

Please join us in congratulating Scott Seki (Grad 3) for receiving an F31 for his work in the Gaultier Lab, Department of Neuroscience.

Great job, Scott!

His project narrative is below:

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is a common debilitating disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) for which there are limited therapies and no cure. RRMS arises when the immune system, a cellular network that normally protects an individual from pathogens, instead sparks flares of severe inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. The goal of this study is to establish and exploit the changes in cell metabolism that support immune cells as they engage in these intense bouts of CNS destruction, in hopes that this will reveal novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

Congratulations Adli Lab!

MSTP Mentor Dr. Mazhar Adli develops method for tracking genes in living cells based on CRISPR technique, opening doors for observing gene interaction in 3D. Congratulations!

Read the full story HERE in UVA Today!


Congratulations Class of 2017!

Graduating class 2017

Please join us in congratulating these MSTPs who matched on March 17th!

Name Institution Specialty
Samantha Adamson Washington University Internal Medicine
Sarah Breevoort Utah Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Ali Dhanaliwala University of Pennsylvania Diagnostic Radiology
Aaron Fond University of Texas, South West Internal Medicine
David Peske Johns Hopkins Pathology
Samuel Rosenfeld University of Washington Internal Medicine
Joe Walpole Johns Hopkins Anesthesiology (prelim. UVA)

Mentors in the News: ‘Bad Guy’ Cells Unexpectedly Prove Vital

June 29, 2016 by

They Cause Allergies and Asthma, But They Also May Save Your Life

  • Surprising discovery points to way to prevent life-threatening consequences of C. difficile infections
  • diff kills one in seven infected in North America
  • But probiotics that ensure the presence of certain cells in the gut may stave off infection
  • Finding ‘as unexpected as it is important,’ with ‘immediate implications for therapy’

‘Bad Guy’ Cells Unexpectedly Prove Vital for Stopping Deadly C. Difficile

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have identified immune cells vital for protecting us from potentially fatal C. difficile infection. Surprisingly, those cells are often vilified for their role in causing asthma and allergies. But when it comes to C. difficile, they could be the difference in life and death.

With the discovery, the researchers have answered some of the greatest questions about C. diff, shed light on why antibiotics lead to severe C. diff and identified a potential way for doctors to prevent the life-threatening infection – and possibly other infections as well.

The Role of Antibiotics

Bill Petri, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health at the UVA Health System, hailed the discovery by UVA’s Erica L. Buonomo, PhD, and colleagues as “the most remarkable breakthrough I have participated in as a scientist.”

“Antibiotics are really important, and very often you have to give antibiotics, but you do it knowing that you’re predisposing your patient to another infection [C. difficile] that is potentially lethal. About one out of seven people with this infection dies in North America. So it’s a terrible dilemma for physicians,” Petri said. “This is not a common complication of antibiotics, but when it happens, it’s a very serious one. This work enables a potential long-term solution to that, which is probiotics to restore the natural state of the gut.”

There were almost half a million C. diff infections in the United States in 2011, and approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of infection, according to a study released last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has classified the bacterium as an “urgent threat,” noting the rise of a new epidemic strain in recent years that has made the infection even deadlier.

Kris Chadee, PhD, a professor at the University of Calgary who was not involved in UVA’s C. diff work, called the discovery “as unexpected as it is important,” noting that the finding “has immediate implications for therapy: Probiotics designed to restore the healthy gut microbiome should be an effective way to prevent this life-threatening infection.”

Understanding C. Difficile

  1. difficile is primarily a hospital-acquired infection, and it predominantly affects the elderly, particularly elderly people on antibiotics. UVA’s discovery offers answers about why that is. The researchers showed that the gut bacteria stimulates the production of a protein called IL-25, which then recruits protective cells called eosinophils. As such, IL-25, the product of “good” bacteria, protects the lining of the gut from pathogens. Antibiotics, however, disrupt our body’s natural bacterial populations, leaving the gut lining vulnerable to C. diff and other infections.

Intriguingly, the researchers found an important and unexpected role for eosinophils, a type of white blood cells. These cells are often vilified for their role in causing both allergies and asthma, but in the battle against C. diff, they can be life-saving. IL-25, the UVA researchers show, protects us from C. diff by manufacturing eosinophils to guard the integrity of the gut lining. The epidemic strain of C. diff is so deadly specifically because it kills eosinophils, allowing it to breach the gut, the researchers determined.

“We found that if you deplete eosinophils, either genetically or by an antibody neutralization, you lost the integrity of the epithelial barrier in the gut,” Buonomo said. “Maintaining that barrier is very important for having a healthy response to C. difficile. It also prevents bacteria from spreading to other sites in the body, so if you have a breakdown in the barrier, you can have a septic response or bacteria in your blood or in other systemic organs.”

The findings suggest that researchers should be able to develop new probiotics that patients could take to ward off C. difficile. “We could end up that every person taking an antibiotic is taking a new probiotic that is specifically designed to maintain IL-25 and eosinophils,” Petri said.

Petri noted that Buonomo joined his lab while a graduate student at UVA, and he credited the discovery to the new perspective she brought. “Erica was a card-carrying immunologist before she came into my lab,” Petri recalled. “She came with an immunology mindset, and the lab wasn’t immunology focused at all. It’s changed. We’ve all seen the benefit of having that perspective, of looking at how the immune system is responding to the bacterial infection.”

Findings Published Online

The discovery has been described in a paper published online by the scientific journal Cell Reports. It was authored by Buonomo, Carrie A. Cowardin, Madeline G. Wilson, Mahmoud M. Saleh, Patcharin Pramoonjago and Petri.

Spring 2016 Edition of Vitals

The University of Virginia has released the Spring 2016 Edition of their e-magazine Vitals. You will see a few familiar faces! Congratulations!

Congratulations to the Owens Lab!

Congratulations to Dr. Gary Owens, former MSTP Director, on this amazing discovery!

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke — and may offer way to block effects of aging

May 17, 2016

Gene helps prevent heart attack, stroke — and may offer way to block effects of aging

An atherosclerotic lesion

 Findings in a nutshell:

  • Gene thought active only in embryos and permanently silenced in adults is actually critical in preventing heart attacks and strokes
  • Manipulating expression of this gene might help block age-related decline in the body’s ability to carry out repairs and heal wounds
  • Discovery creates potential new avenue for battling strokes and heart attacks
  • ‘We think this is just the tip of the iceberg’