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Posts Tagged ‘College of Medicine and Life Sciences’

UToledo Awarded $1.1 Million Federal Grant to Advance Clean Water Technology

Searching for new ways to address the growing threat to drinking water in northwest Ohio and across the globe, Dr. Jason Huntley discovered that native freshwater bacteria can destroy toxins produced during harmful algal blooms.

The University of Toledo scientist has now received a $1.1 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to advance that research into real-world solutions.

Huntley, an associate professor in the UToledo Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, has already shown in lab experiments that biofilters using those Lake Erie bacteria can remove microcystin at levels exponentially above current exposure guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

“This grant will enable us to extend our research to the next level,” Huntley said. “We did this successfully in the lab. Now we want to scale it up and put the bacteria to work in the water treatment plant.”

Huntley

The three-year research project will take a multifaceted approach to translate Huntley’s earlier finding into technologies that safeguard the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people.

“One of our big pushes here at UToledo is to not just do science for science’s sake, but to ask questions about how it can improve human health,” Huntley said. “This isn’t just a Toledo problem. There are harmful algal blooms all across the country and all across the world. This is a solution to a global health problem.”

Water treatment plants primarily use activated carbon to capture the microcystin toxins released during some harmful algal blooms. While effective, there are drawbacks. It can be expensive, there’s a limit to how much toxin can be removed from the water and the process generates microcystin-laden waste products that have to be dealt with.

Huntley and his research team believe their bacteria could help address those issues. Biofilters could be used to treat drinking water before it reaches the tap, and the bacteria could be added to the treatment plant byproducts to degrade the lingering toxins.

It’s also an inexpensive solution.

“It’s not free, but it’s really cheap to grow these bacteria that chew up and degrade the toxins. We grow them in water, that’s it. We think we can use them to treat water coming into the treatment plant as well as eliminating toxins in the water treatment byproducts, eliminating the need to incinerate these waste products or send them to a landfill,” Huntley said.

Prior to large-scale testing at the Toledo wastewater treatment plant, researchers will work to further develop and test the biofilters in a range of conditions, such as different water pressures and temperatures.

The research team also will work to isolate and identify the bacterial enzymes that break down microcystin, with a goal of being able to produce them on an industrial scale. Some of that work will be done in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — a connection that was made during 2019’s National Lab Day at UToledo. The long-term goal is to develop water treatment tablets or droplet bottles that could be used to quickly detoxify water while boating, at family cabins or while hiking.

Huntley’s early work on this issue was funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative and the Ohio Sea Grant. The success of that research helped UToledo earn the NOAA grant.

“This is turning taxpayer money here in Ohio to federally funded grants that bring big money back to Ohio,” Huntley said.


Altered sense of taste present in half of COVID-19 cases

Nearly half of individuals who contract COVID-19 experience changes in their sense of taste, a new analysis led by a University of Toledo researcher has found.

The systematic review, published in the journal Gastroenterology, could provide yet another diagnostic hint for clinicians who suspect their patients might have the disease.

“Earlier studies didn’t note this symptom, and that was probably because of the severity of other symptoms like cough, fever and trouble breathing,” said Dr. Muhammad Aziz, chief internal medicine resident at UToledo and the paper’s lead author. “We were beginning to note that altered or lost sense of taste were also present, not just here and there, but in a significant proportion.”

Aziz and his research collaborators analyzed data from five studies conducted between mid-January and the end of March. Of the 817 patients studied, 49.8% experienced changes to their sense of taste. Researchers suspect the true prevalence could be even higher because some of the studies were based on reviews of patient charts, which may not have noted every symptom.

“We propose that this symptom should be one of the screening symptoms in addition to the fever, shortness of breath and productive cough. Not just for suspected COIVD patients, but also for the general population to identify healthy carriers of the virus,” Aziz said.

Prior research has found that a significant number of people who have COVID-19 don’t know they’ve been infected and may be spreading the virus.

Aziz and his research collaborators suspect an altered sense of taste is more prevalent in patients with minor symptoms, though more studies are needed to validate that suspicion. Even so, changes in an individual’s sense of taste could be a valuable way to identify carriers who are otherwise mostly asymptomatic.

Taste disorders are tied to a variety of viral illnesses. The review did not attempt to identify the reason that COVID-19 is causing changes in patients’ sense of taste; however, researchers theorize it could be COVID-19’s ability to bind to what’s known as the ACE-2 receptor, which is expressed in epithelial cells on the tongue and mouth.

Because the novel coronavirus was unknown prior to its emergence in January, scientists have been moving rapidly to learn more about both the virus and the disease it causes.

Aziz said the drip of new information shows the need for more scientists to dig into the impacts of COVID-19.

“A lot of things are being missed, which is why I think researchers from every field should try to look into this and see if it’s affecting their specialty in one way or another,” he said. “Who knows what systems this virus is affecting. If we can catch it earlier in the disease course, we can prevent the spread of the virus and potentially have ways of managing it.”


UToledo med, nursing students get option to graduate early

In response to the unprecedented public health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, The University of Toledo is allowing more than 275 medical and nursing students the option of graduating early.

Students in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and College of Nursing who have completed all course work, met their degree requirements and been approved for early graduation are eligible to receive their diploma starting as soon as April 17.

Students not graduating early will receive their diploma at UToledo’s previously scheduled virtual commencement ceremonies, which are May 9 for the College of Nursing and May 15 for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

The option for early graduation was approved Monday by The University of Toledo Board of Trustees with the support of President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Karen Bjorkman.

“The College of Medicine and Life Sciences is committed to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We are proud of our graduating medical students that will be joining residency programs in our region and across our nation. These soon-to-be young doctors will play an important role in meeting people’s healthcare needs.”

In order for a fourth-year medical student to graduate early, they must also enter their residency program early. After receiving their diploma, they must apply for and receive a medical license in the state in which they will be practicing.

Nearly half of UToledo’s fourth-year medical students matched with residency programs in Ohio. Students also matched in some of the hardest hit states, including New York, Michigan and California.

Nursing graduates also have the ability to quickly begin practicing. The state of Ohio recently updated its regulations to allow newly graduated nurses to receive a temporary license before taking the national standardized licensure examination which has been delayed due to the pandemic. The state of Michigan has taken similar steps.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge need for nurses, both in our region and across the country,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing. “Many of our students have expressed interest in getting out into the field ahead of the predicted surge to help relieve the strain on our healthcare system. These students are ready to practice now, and we’re proud of their eagerness to make a difference.”


UToledo medical students learn residency placements via virtual Match Day event

A total of 165 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo learned their residency placements Friday during a live-streamed, virtual Match Day event.

The annual Match Day celebration is a highly anticipated moment for medical students in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences and at medical schools across the country. Soon-to-be physicians discover at the same moment where they will spend the next three to seven years in residency as they train in their chosen specialties.

Under normal circumstances, students gather together in person with family and friends to share the experience of learning the next step in their careers. However, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need to limit large gatherings, UToledo celebrated the 2020 Match remotely.

“We know this is a very important time in the lives of our students, and one they expected to spend with friends and colleagues as they take one of the final steps before going out into the community as physicians,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We worked very hard to create something special despite the difficult realities we’re living with right now. We are so proud of this class of fourth-year students who will soon be providing care in the communities in which they’ll be practicing.”

In addition to the 165 who learned their Match on Friday, two individuals had already matched with the U.S. Armed Forces, bringing the grand total to 167.

The number of students who matched with The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences residency programs increased 30% over the previous year, while the total number of students staying in the greater northwest Ohio increased nearly 50% over the 2019 match.

“We are delighted so many of our students will be staying in our region as they begin their careers as physicians,” Cooper said. “One of our key missions is to provide a pipeline of well-trained, well-qualified physicians to care for our region’s health. It’s encouraging to see such a large increase in the number of students who matched in northwest Ohio.”

Among the other institutions where UToledo students will do their residency work are Yale, Brown, Emory, Duke, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic.


Hussain lecture to chart transformation of medical science

The great Greek physician Galen of Pergamon was one of the most influential forces in medical history, with his theories informing the profession for centuries.

Unfortunately, many of Galen’s ideas were wrong.

“For nearly 2,000 years we were practicing medicine like it was the stone age. There was nothing scientific about it,” said Dr. Syed Tasnim Raza, a cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Columbia University Medical Center.

Thankfully real scientific discovery eventually won out, helping to lead medicine into the cutting-edge field it is today.

Raza, who has spent the last decade studying the history of medicine after more than three decades as a heart surgeon in Buffalo, N.Y., will outline those radical changes at the 11th annual S. Amjad Hussain Visiting Lecture in the History of Medicine and Surgery at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17.

Dr. Syed Tasnim Raza

The lecture, to be held in Health Education Building Room 110 on UToledo Health Science Campus, is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested; email hscevents@utoledo.edu or call 419.383.6300.

One of Galen’s primary mistakes was assuming the anatomy of animals he dissected was wholly applicable to humans. For 1,300 years, no one dared question him.

“The thinking was, ‘If Galen said it, it has to be true,’” said Raza. “We need to have the strength to challenge conventional wisdom, dogma and current thinking to improve and continue to change.”

The S. Amjad Hussain Visiting Lecture in the History of Medicine and Surgery was created in honor of Hussain, professor emeritus of cardiovascular surgery and humanities, emeritus member of the UToledo Board of Trustees, and columnist for The Blade.

“Dr. Tasnim Raza has had a deep interest in the history of medicine and has just finished a book manuscript on the history of heart surgery. He is a man who is well versed in not only in the subject of surgery, but also in the arts and humanities,” Hussain said. “The study of history of medicine is important because it shows us the distance we have covered and the path we have traversed to reach the present. History being a continuum, we cannot chart a future unless we know the past.”

In part, the lecture series helped further inspire Raza’s interest in the history of medicine after he came to Toledo in 2013 to hear author Wendy Moore speak about her biography of the 18th century Scottish physician Dr. John Hunter.

Raza’s sister has also presented the Hussain lecture. Dr. Azra Raza, a well-known oncologist and cancer researcher, and Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center, visited Toledo in 2017.

Azra Raza will join Tasnim Raza in Toledo to kick off a book tour for her forthcoming title “The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last.”


Toxic algae may be more dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions

Toxins produced during harmful algal blooms may be more harmful to people than previously known.

Researchers at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences sought out to examine how microcystin might affect individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a widespread condition that is frequently asymptomatic. They found the toxin can significantly amplify the disease at levels below what would harm a healthy liver.

The study, published last month in the journal Toxins, follows earlier research from UToledo that found clear evidence that microcystin exposure worsens the severity of pre-existing colitis. Microcystin is a by-product of the cyanobacteria found in what is commonly known as blue-green algae.

“The take home message from our research is there are certain groups of people who need to pay extra attention and may be more susceptible to microcystin toxins. We may need to explore special preventative guidelines for those people in terms of how much microcystin they are exposed to through drinking water or other means,” said Dr. David Kennedy, an assistant professor of medicine at UToledo and one of the study’s lead authors.

Aided by nutrient runoff and warming waters, seasonal blooms of blue-green algae are flourishing across much of the United States. Not all algal blooms produce toxins, but many do.

Dr. David Kennedy, left, and Dr. Steven Haller examined how microcystin may be more dangerous for those with pre-existing conditions.

Potentially dangerous concentrations of microcystin have been found this year in ponds in New York City’s Central Park, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, reservoirs in California, and a portion of Lake Erie’s coastline near Toledo.

While no human deaths have been linked to microcystin in the United States, deaths have been reported elsewhere — most notably among a group of kidney dialysis patients in Brazil. There also have been reports this year of pet dogs dying after exposure to blue-green algae in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

With annual blooms becoming more frequent and intense, researchers in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences wanted to better understand how the toxins might affect people already suffering from conditions that affect organ systems microcystin is known to attack, such as the liver.

“It’s a gray area in terms of what microcystin is really doing to you if you have a pre-existing disease state. Are you more susceptible? Are we going to have to go back and re-evaluate what we consider safe in a person with a pre-existing disease state? It’s important we start providing answers to these questions,” said Dr. Steven Haller, UToledo assistant professor of medicine.

In the liver study, researchers examined how chronic, low-level exposure of microcystin affected mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared to mice with healthy livers.

At microcystin ingestion levels below the No Observed Adverse Effect Level for healthy mice, analysis showed significant exacerbation of liver damage in mice with fatty liver disease. Researchers observed no liver damage in mice who started the experiment with healthy livers.

“Current exposure limits from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for humans are based off studies done in healthy animals,” Haller said. “The results of this study suggest there may be a need to review those guidelines for people with pre-existing conditions.”

They also noted major differences in how microcystin was processed by the kidneys in the two test groups.

In mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, elevated levels of microcystin were found in the blood plasma, but were not detectable in the plasma of healthy mice. Mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also excreted far less microcystin in their urine.

The differences seen in how microcystin was processed between the two test groups suggests that kidney function may play an important role in the increased susceptibility of the mice with pre-existing liver disease.

“This may be highly relevant to help us understand the deaths that occurred in kidney dialysis patients, and point to the need to pay particular attention to at-risk patient populations as we design preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies,” Kennedy said.

The results from the liver study build on prior work from Kennedy and Haller looking at how microcystin exposure might affect individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, another common condition that impacts an estimated 1 million Americans.

In that study, published in June, the researchers demonstrated that exposure to MC-LR prolongs and worsens the severity of pre-existing colitis, contributing to significant weight loss, bleeding, and higher numbers of signaling molecules that cause inflammation.

“Based on this data we’re coming up with insights into how we can potentially treat exposures if they do occur,” Kennedy said. “This is giving us a number of insights into how we might help patients, especially patients who are vulnerable or susceptible if there was an exposure.”

The lead author of the paper published in August was doctoral student Apurva Lad. Doctoral student Robin Su was the author on the paper about inflammatory bowel disease published in June.

 


UToledo study identifies first potential biomarker for POTS, a rare condition that causes rapid heartbeat and potential fainting

New research from The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences strongly suggests postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is an autoimmune disorder and may help pave the way for a simple blood test that could help physicians diagnose the condition.

POTS is characterized by large increases in heart rate and sometimes decreases in blood pressure when standing up. That can cause lightheadedness, heart palpitations and even loss of consciousness. In addition to fainting, POTS patients also regularly suffer from a litany of additional symptoms, including fatigue, pain, gastrointestinal issues, bleeding disorders, anxiety and brain fog.

About 3 million Americans are believed to be affected, but because of its wide-ranging and seemingly unrelated symptoms, POTS is notoriously difficult to identify.

“The trouble with diagnosing POTS is that it’s currently principally a clinical diagnosis. It’s based on history, the absence of other illness as well as the finding of increase in heart rate when standing. There is no blood test right now to aid in the diagnosis. It can be an incredibly frustrating process for patients,” said Dr. Blair Grubb, Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences and director of electrophysiology services at The University of Toledo Medical Center.

In the largest study of POTS patients to date, published Monday, Sept. 9, in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Grubb and UToledo research collaborators found 89 percent of patients they examined had elevated levels of autoantibodies against the adrenergic alpha 1 receptor.

“People have suspected an autoimmune connection for years, and other small-scale studies have suggested it,” said Grubb, one of the world’s foremost experts in syncope and disorders of the autonomic nervous system. “We did a much larger cross-section of patients than has ever been done before, and found that almost all of them tested positive for autoimmune antibodies. That’s a significant finding.”

None of the 55 patients who participated in the study had another recognized autoimmune disorder. Fifty-two were female, with an average age of 30.

Researchers screened the patients’ blood for autoantibodies against nine receptors. A handful of patients showed elevated levels against all nine. But it was the prevalence of adrenergic A1 subtype receptor autoantibodies that make their findings so intriguing.

“I think that we have identified a biomarker. We now might have the ability to diagnosis this, or at least have an inkling. Like other autoimmune disease, we can take a blood sample and detect if there are increased levels of autoantibodies present. According to our results, autoantibodies against this particular receptor should be present in about 90 percent of patients with POTS,” said Dr. William Gunning, a professor of pathology in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and the paper’s lead author.

Gunning and Grubb say much more research is needed. However, this study adds significantly to the evidence that POTS is an autoimmune disorder — and it shows it may be possible to give physicians unfamiliar with the condition an easy way to test for it.

“What this does is prove the concept,” Grubb said. “Other studies had used very expensive research tests. What we used are the same kind of testing methods that would be used by regular hospitals. We wanted to do something that would potentially be a test applicable to the general population, not just a research test.”

While Gunning and Grubb caution they’re still investigating the precise methods by which POTS is established, their study does raise the possibility that existing immune modulating medications could be a viable therapeutic method for some patients.

The study was supported by funding from the Dysautonomia Advocacy Foundation, the Life as a Zebra Foundation, and the Virginia Lounsbury Foundation.


Physician who explored space to give College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement address May 10

Dr. Scott Parazynski, a pioneering explorer, inventor, astronaut and physician, will deliver the commencement address at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences’ graduation ceremony Friday, May 10.

A total of 238 degrees will be awarded: 166 doctor of medicine degrees, nine doctor of philosophy degrees, 59 master’s degrees, and four graduate certificates.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Scott Parazynski

“I am beyond thrilled to come celebrate this great milestone with the healers of the @UToledoMed Class of 2019!” Parazynski wrote on Twitter after he was announced as the commencement speaker.

Parazynski, who earned a medical degree at Stanford Medical School, can easily lay claim to being one of history’s most well-traveled explorers.

He has ascended Mount Everest, spent more than eight weeks orbiting the Earth and more than 47 hours on spacewalks with NASA, visited Antarctica, and conducted scientific research beneath the surface of one of the globe’s highest lakes in Chile.

Parazynski also served as the personal onboard physician for the late John Glenn when the former senator returned to space in 1998, and has founded multiple research and development companies.

“It is an honor to have Dr. Parazynski address our graduates,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “Dr. Parazynski was selected by a committee of medical students and faculty from a national pool in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments both professionally and through personal explorations.”

The College of Medicine will award Parazynski an honorary doctor of science.

One of Parazynski’s current projects is with Fluidity Technologies, a company he founded to focus on developing disruptive control devices for everything from drones to surgical robots


Accreditation restored to UToledo’s Physician Assistant Program

The University of Toledo’s Physician Assistant Studies Program has been granted full accreditation in recognition of the high-quality education provided to students in a program that meets or exceeds national standards.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) notified the University in a letter sent April 11 that its accreditation has been restored. The program is now on accreditation-continued status, which is in effect until its next review in September 2027. The program had been on accreditation-probation status.

“We are proud ARC-PA recognized our efforts to enhance the quality of our PA program and continually improve on our processes and procedures,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We have remained committed to our students in the program throughout this process and are happy to share this positive outcome with them.”

“We are pleased with this outcome and I want to thank the leadership from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, College of Graduate Studies and the Provost’s Office for their efforts to develop and implement an action plan focused on enriching the academic experience for the students in our Physician Assistant Studies Program,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said.

The University’s accreditation status is:

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the University of Toledo Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of Toledo. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARCPA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be 2027 September. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.


UToledo medical students to learn residency placements at Match Day event

More than 150 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo will learn on Friday, March 15, where they will carry out their residencies on the way to becoming attending physicians.

The annual Match Day event is a highly anticipated ceremony for graduating medical students across the country. At precisely noon, UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences students will join thousands of students from other medical schools across the country in tearing open envelopes that contain their match.

“Match Day is very exciting for our students and the faculty and staff who support them,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “It is the culmination of four years of intense training and now the graduating seniors find out where their next phase of residency training will occur.”

The 2019 Residency Match Reception will begin at 11 a.m. at the Stranahan Theater’s Great Hall. The event is by invitation-only.

Medical students spend months interviewing with hospitals and universities across the country to determine where they want to spend the next three to seven years of their medical training.

Students rank their top institutions, and academic and community-based health systems rank their top student choices. A computer algorithm administered by the National Resident Matching Program then matches students and residency programs together.

Residents are licensed physicians who care for patients under the supervision of attending physicians while they continue to train in their chosen specialty.

Last year, 157 UToledo fourth-year medical students matched into positions in 23 medical specialties.