Around UW Medicine: News

Research | Patient Care | Education | WWAMI | Notable

For more news from UW Medicine, visit uwmedicine.org. Our website also provides a wealth of information regarding health services and other resources.

Research

DNA: in space and over time

How does 6.5 feet of DNA fold into the nucleus of a cell? How does the genome’s three-dimensional shape change over time (the 4D nucleome)? UW Medicine was awarded $12 million to help answer these and other questions at the new UW Center for Nuclear Organization and Function. Jay Shendure, M.D., Ph.D., UW professor of genome sciences and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, and William Stafford Noble, Ph.D., UW professor of genome sciences and computer science and engineering, are co-leading the investigation.

Heart regeneration: a big step forward

With a $10 million investment from the Washington Research Foundation, UW Medicine scientists are beginning phase I clinical trials of a treatment for heart muscle damage after a heart attack. UW Medicine’s Heart Regeneration Program develops and clinically tests stem-cell therapies to combat the effects of heart disease. The program is based on the research of Charles Murry, M.D., Res. ’92, Ph.D., acting director of the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and the Arra and Eva Woods Endowed Professor.

Brain implant could counteract paralysis

UW researchers are working to create an implantable device that could help paralyzed people move their limbs by interpreting their brain signals. “It would radically alter the way we might help people with stroke and spinal-cord injury,” says Rajesh Rao, Ph.D., director for the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. The research team, which includes UW Medicine neurosurgeons, will receive $16 million over the next four years from the National Science Foundation to complete the project.

UW Medicine study demonstrates vaccines are not linked to autism

New research conducted at UW Medicine demonstrates that vaccines — including those used in the 1990s that contain thimerosal — do not cause negative behaviors or brain changes associated with autism in infant primates. The researchers compared the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which does not contain thimerosal. None of the vaccines tested had ill effects, and all of the animals involved in the study developed normal social behaviors. This study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New gene-editing technique creates HIV killers

Several UW researchers have pioneered a gene-editing technique in human T cells that allows specially engineered T cells to resist HIV infection and kill HIV-infected cells, transforming these former HIV targets into HIV killers. David Rawlings, M.D., UW professor of pediatrics and chief of the UW Division of Pediatric Immunology, and Andrew Scharenberg, M.D., UW professor of pediatrics and adjunct professor of immunology, researchers at the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapy at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, published their findings in Science Translational Medicine.

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Patient Care

Heart technology, heart care

The UW Medicine Regional Heart Center was the first site in the country to deploy a new device, informally known as a “heart in a box,” in a clinical trial. The device circulates blood through a donated heart, extending the window of time the organ can remain viable outside of a body. This means that donated hearts can travel greater distances to reach those in need, increasing the number of transplant-viable donor hearts in the U.S. In addition, UW Medical Center was among the 100 best heart programs in the country in the most recent Becker’s Hospital Review.

Top performance for patients

UW Neighborhood Clinics received the William O. Robertson, M.D., Patient Safety Award from the Washington State Medical Association for an excellent vaccine safety record. And UW Medical Center again received “Meritorious Status” recognition from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, given to top-performing hospitals in the U.S.

Wearable cap suppresses growth of brain cancer cells

A battery-powered, cap-like device — when paired with temozolomide chemotherapy — was found to significantly prolong overall survival of patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma, compared with chemotherapy treatment alone. Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumor and highly aggressive. “You get almost five months’ survival benefit,” says Maciej Mrugala, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, UW associate professor of neurology, neurological surgery and medicine, holder of the Alexander M. Spence Chair in Neuro-oncology and leader of UW Medicine’s participation in the clinical trial. Patient outcomes were so favorably affected that the trial was halted early, and the findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Education

UW School of Medicine receives high rankings

For the 25th consecutive year, the UW School of Medicine maintained the No. 1 ranking in the nation in family
medicine and rural medicine training in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list of the nation’s top graduate and professional-school programs. Moreover, the School is again ranked as the nation’s best medical school for primary care, a distinction it has held for 22 of the past 23 years. Additionally, the School remains No. 2 in the nation (and No. 1 among public medical schools) in research grant funding from the National Institutes of Health.

In the seven major medical programs ranked by the report, the UW School of Medicine ranked in the top 10 in all of them: not just No. 1 in both family medicine and rural health, but also No. 5 in pediatrics, No. 7 in internal medicine, No. 8 in women’s health, No. 8 in geriatrics, and No. 8 in drug and alcohol abuse. Other highlights from the report include the ranking of the bioengineering program, run jointly with the College of Engineering, at No. 9, and the master’s program in occupational therapy and rehabilitation medicine at No. 14.

Family medicine residency: No. 1

UW Medicine’s family medicine residency program was named No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Doximity.com, an online physicians’ network. The three-year family medicine residency program — one of 477 family medicine programs in the U.S. — prepares medical-school graduates to practice in urban and rural locations and provides a broad spectrum of clinical skills.

Fostering innovation in physician training

The UW School of Medicine was one of 20 medical schools in the nation selected to join the Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium. Over the next three years, each will receive an award from the American Medical Association to accelerate change and foster innovation in physician education and training. The School will use this grant to further WWAMI curriculum renewal and development. Michael Ryan, M.D., Res. ’89, Chief Res. ’90 (internal medicine), Fel .’93 (nephrology), associate professor of medicine and associate dean for curriculum, is the principal investigator.

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WWAMI

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

A new WWAMI partner: Gonzaga University

It was announced in February that Gonzaga University will partner with the UW School of Medicine to enhance and expand medical education and research in Spokane, Wash. This fall, the UW School of Medicine in Spokane will welcome its largest-ever entering class — 60 students — to dedicated facilities on the Gonzaga University campus. For more information, please visit washington.edu/spokane/medical-school.

UW School of Medicine Spokane student creates concussion protocol

Kenley Unruh, a second-year medical student at the UW School of Medicine Spokane, has created a sports concussion protocol to prevent injured players in small school districts from returning to the game before they are ready. Unruh’s project is part of the Targeted Rural Underserved Track (TRUST) program, in which UW medical students create a program to assist the rural communities where they receive their training. Unruh worked with his preceptor, Andrew Castrodale, M.D. ’94, who lives and practices in Grand Coulee, Wash., to design and launch his project at Lake Roosevelt High School.

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Notable

Reuters’ “most influential” list

“The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds,” an annual report released by Thompson Reuters, a global news and information company, recently highlighted researchers whose work was most cited by their peers between 2003 and 2013. More than a dozen researchers from UW Medicine and UW Health Sciences were designated as scientific leaders in areas that include protein design, cancer, immunology and genome sciences. The report also identifies the “Hottest Researchers of Today,” whose papers were cited at extraordinarily high levels in 2013 and 2014. Four of 19 scientists identified in this category from around the world work with the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), and all are affiliated with the Department of Global Health: IHME Director Christopher Murray, M.D., D.Phil.; Alan D. Lopez, Ph.D.; Mohsen Naghavi, M.D., MPH, Ph.D.; and Theo Vos, M.D., Ph.D.

Houra Merrikh receives Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise

Houra Merrikh, Ph.D., UW assistant professor of microbiology, is one of this year’s recipients of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, given by the Vilcek Foundation to immigrants who have overcome significant challenges and demonstrated exceptional achievements. Iranian-born Merrikh fled with her family to Turkey; a Texas couple befriended her and helped her come to the U.S. An interest in biochemistry and basic research eventually led Merrikh to UW Medicine, and her lab has made major contributions to understanding how cells attempt to avoid DNA damage.

New president of the Washington State Medical Association

Ray Hsiao, M.D., Res. ’06 (internal medicine), Fel. ’07 (psychiatry), UW associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the UW School of Medicine Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training Program, has been elected president of the Washington State Medical Association.

William Catterall receives national pharmacology award

William A. Catterall, Ph.D., UW professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology, is the 2016 recipient of the Robert R. Ruffolo Career Achievement Award in Pharmacology, given by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Catterall discovered sodium and calcium channel proteins; his work shifted the paradigm in ion channel research, and he is a leading investigator in exploring the structure, function and molecular pharmacology of voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels.

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