OCD Medication Could Also Stop Deadly Sepsis, UVA Study Suggests

An antidepressant drug used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder could save people from deadly sepsis, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Sepsis is a significant cause of death around the world. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Infection calls it “the body’s extreme response to an infection.” Essentially, the body’s immune response spirals out of control, and the normally beneficial inflammation becomes harmful. The result can be tissue damage, organ failure or even death.

To evaluate the potential of one drug, the antidepressant fluvoxamine, to stop sepsis, Gaultier’s team tested it in a mouse model of the disease. The drug worked very effectively, they found.

[Read more]


Study Shows that Exercise Before Surgery Can Protect Muscles and Nerves

UVA’s Zhen Yan, PhD, a top expert on the cellular benefits of exercise, and his team are working to better understand how the body is damaged by the restoration of blood flow – known as ischemia reperfusion injury – and to find ways to improve outcomes for people who suffer it, including surgery and trauma patients and soldiers injured on the battlefield. They found that pre-injury exercise clearly reduced the damage to both muscle and nerve, but it did not significantly reduce the amount of oxidative stress. “We know exercise made the muscle and nerve tougher,” Yan said. “The protection is very clear.”
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Brain Discovery at UVA Makes ‘Most Promising Medical Advances’ List

University of Virginia School of Medicine discovery about the role of the brain’s cleaning system in aging and Alzheimer’s disease has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as one of 2018’s most promising medical advances.

The finding, published in the prestigious journal Nature, suggests that impairments in the lymphatic vessels that carry waste from the brain could be major contributors both to Alzheimer’s and the cognitive decline that comes with age. The NIH included the discovery in its 2018 research highlights in the category of “findings with potential for enhancing human health.” [Read more]


Gene Discovery Reveals New Targets for Treating Atherosclerosis, Inflammatory Diseases

A group of genes that has been largely ignored by scientists could play critical roles in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), inflammation, and likely obesity and other metabolic diseases, new research suggests.

“We came across the genes, called SLCs, kind of by accident,” said researcher Kodi Ravichandran. “Initially, just like everybody else, we were not paying much attention to the SLCs. But they kept coming up repeatedly in our gene expression analyses, and we realized this must be relevant. Then we took a serious dive into their biology, and we had a lot of fun surprises.” [Read more]


HPV Discovery Raises Hope for New Cervical Cancer Treatments

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have made a discovery about human papillomavirus, or HPV for short, that could lead to new treatments for cervical cancer and other cancers caused by the virus. Anindya Dutta said that despite a vaccine, HPV cancers are likely “here to stay. So we need new therapies.”

HPV is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer and 95 percent of anal cancers. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease, infecting more than 79 million Americans. Most have no idea that they are infected or that they could be spreading it. [Read more]


Kipnis Receives Prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Award

Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, a School of Medicine neuroscientist who is transforming our understanding of the brain’s relationship to the immune system has been awarded the prestigious Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health.

As chairman of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience and director of its Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG), Kipnis will receive more than $5.6 million in research funding over five years as part of the award.

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Kipnis Lab

In Scientific American cover story, “The Seventh Sense,” neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis describes the relationship between the nervous and immune systems. “Mounting evidence indicates that the brain and the immune system interact routinely, both in sickness and in health,” he writes. The immune system may “qualify as a kind of surveillance organ that detects microorganisms in … the body and informs the brain about them, much as our eyes relay visual information and our ears transmit auditory signals.” [Read more…]







Leitinger Lab Discovery Reveals How Obesity Causes Disease and How We Can Stop It

New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine explains why obesity causes harmful inflammation that can lead to diabetes, clogged arteries and other health problems. Doctors may be able to use this knowledge to battle these chronic diseases and others driven by damaging inflammation.

“All these diseases have a common denominator,” said researcher Vlad Serbulea, PhD. “It may well be that we’ve identified what starts off the whole cascade of inflammation and metabolic changes.”

Check out the full story on UVA Health System Connect, 7/23/18.



Lukas Tamm Appointed Chair of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics

Effective July 1, 2018, Lukas Tamm, PhD, has been appointed as chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics. Dr. Tamm received his basic training in molecular biosciences at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Switzerland. He spent a year at Cornell University studying microtubules by electron microscopy as part of his Master’s thesis (1978). He then joined the group of Joachem Seelig at the University of Basel where he earned his PhD in biophysics (1982). After postdoctoral training with Harden McConnell at Stanford University (1982-1984), he became a junior faculty member at the University of Basel. He joined the University of Virginia in 1990, where he is currently the director of the Center for Membrane and Cell Physiology.

(News, UVA School of Medicine website, 6/15/18)


John Lukens, PhD, awarded a 2018 Research Grant by The Alzheimer’s Association

John Lukens, PhD, is investigating how brain injury disrupts drainage of deleterious waste from the brain and how that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is awarding the School of Medicine’s John Lukens, PhD, a 2018 Research Grant Award. This funding will support research critical to developing more-effective strategies for detecting/treating/preventing Alzheimer’s.

The grant award provides Dr. Lukens $149,820 over three years to study lymphatic dysfunction and inflammasomes as drivers of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. [Read more…]

(UVA Health System Newsroom, 2/20/18)