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The second code in DNA

UW Medicine researchers, led by John Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D. ’95, UW associate professor of genome sciences and medicine, have uncovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease. The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called a codon, and the team discovered that some codons can have two meanings: one related to protein sequence and one related to gene control. In these “duons,” the protein-coding language is written on top of the language for gene control, hiding it. The discovery, published in the Dec. 13, 2013 issue of Science, will open new doors in interpreting a patient’s genome — and in disease diagnosis and treatment. Read more at; search for “exonic transcription.”

Neanderthal DNA and the modern genome

In 2010, scientists concluded that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of Homo sapiens. In a study published on Jan. 29, 2014 in Science, Joshua Akey, Ph.D., UW associate professor of genome sciences, and UW graduate student Benjamin Vernot discuss their findings, based on a genome sequenced from a Neanderthal bone in 2012. In sequencing the genomes of 665 Europeans and East Asians, the researchers found that 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in people from those groups. In other findings: Neanderthal DNA sequences are found in regions of the modern-day genome linked to regulation of skin pigmentation; they are conspicuously absent in a segment thought responsible for speech and language. Read more at The New York Times — search for Neanderthal — or at UW Today.

Brain may play key role in blood sugar metabolism and diabetes

New research suggests that normal glucose regulation depends on a partnership between the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus and other brain areas that help maintain normal glucose levels. Michael W. Schwartz, M.D., Res. ’86 (internal medicine), UW professor of medicine and director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence, is the lead author of the study, published in the Nov. 7, 2013 issue of Nature. The findings may lead to new treatments and approaches to prevent diabetes through a two-system model focused on the pancreas and the brain in blood sugar regulation.

Abnormal sleep duration increases genetic risk for depression

A UW study of 1,788 adult twins is the first to suggest that both too little and too much sleep increase a genetic risk for depression. Among twins with normal sleep duration of seven to 8.9 hours per night, the total heritability of depressive symptoms was 27 percent. The genetic influence on depressive symptoms increased to 53 percent among twins with a sleep duration of five hours per night and 49 percent among those who reported sleeping 10 hours per night. Principal investigator Nathaniel Watson, M.D., Res. ’97, ’00 (internal medicine), associate professor in the Department of Neurology and co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center, suggests that optimizing sleep might help maximize the effectiveness of psychotherapy and other treatments for depression.

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Patient Care

New UW Medicine Memory & Brain Wellness Center

The doors opened October 15, 2013, at a new UW Medicine center focused on diagnosing and treating people suffering from memory loss and dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Patients and their families may access the new UW Medicine Memory & Brain Wellness Center, located at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, through physician referrals.

Now bigger and better, and still serving the Eastside

In response to the need for increased medical access on the Eastside, the Eastside Specialty Center moved to
a larger site with more capacity and high-tech medical services. Read more about the center’s new home in Bellevue, Wash., and its many services — including cardiology, digestive health and other specialties.

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New initiative prepares faculty and students for effective teamwork

The University of Washington contains six health sciences schools, including medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and social work, and together, these schools are at the forefront of a national movement in healthcare teaching and delivery. With the launch of the Interprofessional Education Initiative: Vision for a Collaborative Future, the UW Board of Health Sciences Deans has laid the foundation for progressive integration of collaborative learning across these six disciplines. Students from the schools are participating in a new Foundations
of Interprofessional Practice” curriculum. Nearly 600 students attended the program’s kickoff last fall, and many faculty attended a workshop that explored teaching interprofessional core competencies and helping students navigate
challenging interactions as a team.

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(The five-state region served by the UW School of Medicine: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.)

International conference held in Big Sky, Montana

More than 230 people from nine countries traveled to Big Sky, Mont., this fall to participate in the 2013 Consortium of Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships (CLIC) Conference. Clerkships, where third- and fourth-year medical students experience hands-on care in multiple clinical settings, expose students to different medical disciplines. Longitudinal integrated clerkships are a different learning model: they place a student in one setting over a longer period of time, where the student can contribute to the comprehensive care of patients, develop relationships with mentoring physicians and meet most of their core competencies in one place. Conference attendees had the opportunity to learn about technology and community engagement, among other topics, and students — courtesy of the Montana Family Medicine Residency — were invited to a wilderness medicine seminar. The conference was hosted by the UW School of Medicine, the Montana WWAMI program and the Montana Area Health Education Center.


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Three UW Medicine faculty members elected to Institute of Medicine

Three faculty members were recently made members of the Institute of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the
fields of health and medicine. Janis L. Abkowitz, M.D., Res. ’82, Fel. ’83 (hematology), the Clement A. Finch
Professor of Medicine and head of the Division of Hematology in the UW Department of Medicine, has improved
knowledge of how blood production resumes after a bone marrow transplant. She also leads the Hematology Clinic at
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Frederick R. Appelbaum, M.D., UW professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology, is
an expert in blood cancers. He is deputy director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and president of Seattle
Cancer Care Alliance. Bruce M. Psaty, M.D., Ph.D., UW professor of medicine, epidemiology and health services, co-directs the Cardiovascular Health Research Unit, a joint program of the UW and Group Health Research Institute.
He has had major roles as an epidemiologist in multi-center studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Residency program directors receive Courage to Teach Award

Angelisa M. Paladin, M.D., Fel. ’99 (pediatric radiology), UW assistant professor in radiology, and Sidney M. Gospe, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., UW professor in neurology and pediatrics, are recipients of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s 2014 Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach” Award. The prestigious national award, given to only 10 people each year, honors program directors who find innovative ways to teach residents while providing quality healthcare. Paladin has been program director for the diagnostic radiology residency program for six years. Gospe, who holds the Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Endowed Chair in Child Neurology, recently retired after more than 11 years as program director for the child neurology residency.

Carlos Pellegrini: the new president of the American College of Surgeons

Carlos A. Pellegrini, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery and Henry N. Harkins Endowed Chair in Surgery, was
installed as the 94th president of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) on Oct. 6, 2013. Pellegrini is a pioneer
in minimally invasive surgery on the digestive tract. Under his leadership, UW Medicine opened the Center for
Videoendoscopic Surgery, the Center for Esophageal and Gastric Surgery and the Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies. Pellegrini also has been elected an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He will be formally admitted on July 8, 2014, in London.

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