School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Wayne State University researchers collaborate for new treatment for tinnitus
In Headlines on January 30, 2015
Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D.

Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D.

Yong Xu, Ph.D.

Yong Xu, Ph.D.

Tinnitus, a prevalent public health problem that affects millions of people, serves as an alert system that something is wrong in the auditory system. It can be caused by a number of health conditions, side effects of medications, exposure to noisy environments or to bomb blasts. There is no cure for tinnitus, but temporary intervention treatments such as dietary modification, centrally acting medications, noise-masking, tinnitus retraining therapy, neuromonics and electrical stimulation are available to help people cope.

A team of researchers at Wayne State University is exploring a promising new treatment that may help suppress tinnitus, and has received a two-year, $421,000 grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health. The project, Cochlear Electrical Stimulation to Suppress Tinnitus, will develop an animal model that will help optimize stimulation strategies for tinnitus suppression, elucidate the mechanisms underlying cochlear electrical stimulation, or CES-induced tinnitus suppression, and guide the development of new and effective cochlear implants dedicated to tinnitus suppression.

The team, led by Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D., professor and research director of otolaryngology in the School of Medicine and professor of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Yong Xu, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, will explore a new design for cochlear implants typically used to restore hearing loss.

“Our project will introduce a novel thin-film-based cochlear implant that we hope will be more effective for optimizing tinnitus suppression,” Dr. Zhang said. “We will first explore whether cochlear electrical stimulation helps to suppress tinnitus in our animal model, then we will identify how this CES-induced suppression occurs to improve clinical trials for tinnitus management.”

“Along with electrical stimulation, the cochlear device we have developed can deliver chemical and optical stimulation,” Dr. Xu said. “This feature will provide unprecedented neural modulation capability, ultimately providing improved therapies for tinnitus and potentially other neurological diseases.”

Dr. Zhang and Dr. Xu’s ultimate goal is that their novel cochlear implant will guide them in developing new devices that will be effective in suppressing tinnitus, an often debilitating condition.

The award number for this NIH grant is 1R21DC014335-01.

Pivotal Moments Campaign will benefit research enterprise
In Headlines on January 30, 2015
Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D.

Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D.

Pivotal Moments: Our Campaign for Wayne State University is an opportunity to celebrate the moments that have defined our history and help to create new ones for our students, our university, our city and the world. Funds raised during the Pivotal Moments campaign will provide immediate resources to support students, faculty and research, with an additional goal of securing future moments through permanent endowment funding. Specifically, the primary areas of support for the School of Medicine during the Pivotal Moments campaign involve concentrations of strategic importance, including:

* Student success and achievement

* Academic excellence and faculty advancement

* Research innovation and discovery

*Community health and wellness

Each priority area has associated fundraising initiatives that will advance the school’s academic, research and clinical endeavors to improve the health of our communities.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s reputation for academic excellence is bolstered by our faculty members, who inspire, guide and mentor our students. These talented health care leaders serve as a critical bridge into the community, providing high-quality clinical care to the region, representing one in three of the “Best Doctors in America” in the metropolitan Detroit area. Additionally, faculty foster a robust learning environment, blending classroom, laboratory and clinical educational opportunities to provide students with the knowledge and experience that produces world-class physicians and researchers.

School of Medicine faculty members are also active participants in the research enterprise. Wayne State researchers have improved our lives in numerous ways, from advancing the understanding of science and biological functions to developing new treatments, therapies and protocols. While the scope of the school’s work is international, researchers play a vital role locally, investigating and addressing diseases and risk factors within our community. Fundraising priorities associated with supporting faculty will provide vital resources to fund exemplary teaching, patient-care and research, which is essential to the school’s ongoing success in recruiting and retaining leading-edge faculty and students.

The progress that Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., is making toward reversing blindness is an example of the substantial impact that a philanthropic partnership with the School of Medicine during the Pivotal Moments campaign can have for our future.  It is estimated that every five seconds someone, somewhere in the world goes blind. In 2010, the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Charitable Foundation established an endowed professorship at Kresge Eye Institute to recognize a researcher who is making a significant contribution to artificial vision and restoring vision to the blind. Endowed positions are a major fundraising priority during the campaign, as they are among the highest academic honors a university can bestow on its faculty while also providing significant financial support that may be used to help fund research, equipment, salary or travel costs.

Dr. Pan holds the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Endowed Professorship in Vision and Blindness Research, as well as a joint appointment as a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine. This generous endowment from the Dryer Foundation supported Dr. Pan as he developed a novel strategy focused on genetically converting light-insensitive inner retinal neurons into photosensitive cells, thus restoring light-sensitivity to retinas that lack photoreceptors. Using a virus that delivers a photoreceptor gene from green algae called channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), Dr. Pan found that ChR2 made the inner retinal neurons light sensitive, and that this persisted for long periods in the neurons, ultimately leading to restored responses to light in the brain’s visual cortex.

In 2011, RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a Michigan-based biotechnology company, signed a license agreement for Pan’s technique to treat blindness. The company is working to move the treatment from the laboratory to clinical application. The breakthrough therapy that Dr. Pan, along with colleagues at Salus University in Pennsylvania, has achieved could begin human trials next year, bringing hope to millions affected by blindness.

To learn more about Dr. Pan, the Pivotal Moments campaign and how philanthropy is helping the university excel in its educational, research and service missions visit: http://pivotalmoments.wayne.edu/campaign/stories.php

Pioneering study shows disease that causes sudden cardiac death in children can be prevented with new drug therapy
In Headlines on January 28, 2015
Steven Lipshultz, M.D.

Steven Lipshultz, M.D.

A recently published study with major implications for ameliorating or preventing gene-triggered hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a chronic form of heart muscle disease characterized by abnormal thickening and enlargement of the heart muscle that may also interfere with the function of the heart, suggests that pediatric cardiologists may soon be able to use drug therapy to block the onset of these abnormalities.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can cause heart failure by stiffening the heart muscle and interfering with normal heart function. The condition sometimes causes sudden cardiac death when abnormal muscle cells and scar tissue lead to dangerous heart rhythms. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common genetic disease of the heart, affecting one in 500 children. It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people and athletes.

The new study – the first of its kind and co-written by the Children’s Hospital of Michigan DMC Pediatrician-in-Chief Steven Lipshultz, M.D. – showed that in many patients carrying these genes the abnormalities did not develop, or if they did develop they improved if treated for one to three years with a calcium channel-blocking drug called diltiazem. The drug helps block the effect of the gene mutations on the growth of heart muscle fibers.

“With this study, we are opening a new chapter in the book about heart care,” said Dr. Lipshultz, who also chairs the Department of Pediatrics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “For the first time, we now have convincing evidence that drug therapy can protect patients from genetic mutations that lead to the abnormal heart development found in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a set of diseases that place affected children at increased risk for heart failure and sudden death.

“This study shows that if someone is carrying a mutated gene for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but hasn’t yet developed the disease – in other words, a patient who is ‘genotype-positive but phenotype-negative’ – we can prevent or delay the onset of the disease later in life by administering the drug therapy during the patient’s earlier years. Further, the drug may also reduce the severity of associated diseases.

“This proof-of-concept study, funded by the United States National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, is an important milestone in the development of genetically-based therapies aimed at reducing the harmful effects of cardiac mutations,” Dr. Lipshultz said.

The study, “Diltiazem Treatment for Pre-Clinical Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Sarcomere Mutation Carriers”, looked at the effectiveness of diltiazem in reducing the development of heart muscle abnormalities in 38 children and young adults with genetic mutations that can lead to eventual heart failure. The study found that after these patients were treated daily with the drug for periods ranging from 12 to 42 months, “... left-ventricular end-diastolic diameter improved toward normal” – a key step in preventing heart muscle abnormality or left ventricular hypertrophy with possible scar tissue formation, which can cause heart failure and sudden death.

The authors of the study, led by Carolyn Ho, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and including investigators from Wayne State University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Sydney Medical School, University of Navarra and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, concluded: “Pre-clinical administration of diltiazem is safe and may improve early left ventricular remodeling (preventing heart muscle growth abnormality) in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This novel strategy merits further exploration.”

Describing the breakthrough, Dr. Lipshultz said, “The gene mutations that cause the growth of too much heart muscle (hypertrophy) in children or young adults contribute to the leading cause of sudden death in young adults in the United States. But this study tells us that if you can prevent the onset or ameliorate the course of cardiomyopathy in a child with a gene mutation you may be able prevent or reduce the risk for heart failure and sudden death that will occur in some affected children.

“The first thing we aim for in pediatrics is prevention, and this study describes a truly exciting prospect – the likelihood that we will soon begin treating children with a heart failure-causing gene mutation long before the development of the muscle abnormality that causes the failure.”

Dr. Lipshultz, an internationally recognized expert on pediatric cardiac care who 25 years ago led the effort to found the nation’s only NIH-funded registry of pediatric cardiomyopathy and who has published numerous studies in pediatric cardiology and pediatric oncology, described the study as “a compelling example of how clinical research can help children. Such advancements continue to create a better future for our patients.

“What’s very promising here is the idea that if you know you carry the gene, and you know you can get treated for it early, then you have a good chance of winding up with a more normal heart in spite of the genetic mutation,” he said. “More science here may be capable of transforming life with less fear and disease because hypertrophic cardiomyopathy changes the lives, routine and future of affected children and their families, and also the way the world thinks about it.

“As a pediatrician who’s treated many children with heart abnormalities that can have tragic consequences, I can’t think of a better example of how cutting-edge research is helping establish innovative care with new therapies to create better outcomes for patients right here at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.”

Exhibit celebrates history of African-Americans at the WSU School of Medicine
In Headlines on January 23, 2015
Joseph Ferguson, M.D.

Joseph Ferguson, M.D.

Chester Cole Ames, M.D.

Chester Cole Ames, M.D.

Marjorie Peebles-Meyers, M.D.

Marjorie Peebles-Meyers, M.D.

Thomas FLake Sr., M.D.

Thomas FLake Sr., M.D.

“Celebrating Diversity: An Exhibit and Lecture Series on the History of African-Americans at the Wayne State University School of Medicine” will explore the rich history and the significant contributions of African-Americans during the school of medicine’s 147-year history.

The exhibit, which kicks off with an opening reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 29, will be on display all February in the atrium of the Shiffman Medical Library, 320 E. Canfield St. At 2 p.m. each Saturday in February, guest speakers will present histories of their personal and family experiences.

“The Wayne State University School of Medicine has a rich and diverse history,” said Anita Moncrease, M.D., clinical associate professor of Pediatrics and a Class of 1984 graduate. “This exhibit will help inform the school of medicine family about the important role the school played -- and still plays -- in educating African-American physicians. It will also tell some of the stories of the people whose photos they may see on the wall or names they may overhear in passing. Over time, African-Americans who have made major contributions to the school of medicine are being forgotten. This exhibit will remind those of us who knew some of them and will introduce others just coming along to them.”

Visitors will find included in the exhibit a timeline of African-Americans’ involvement with the school of medicine. Historic points along that timeline include:

* The 1869 graduation of Joseph Ferguson, M.D., who graduated from the Detroit Medical College and became the first African-American in Detroit -- and most likely in Michigan -- to earn a medical degree. Dr. Ferguson also was instrumental in the Underground Railroad and in the movement to integrate Detroit’s public schools.

* The 1893 graduation of Albert Henry Johnson, M.D., the third African-American graduate from the Detroit College of Medicine. A century later, his twin great- granddaughters, Kimberly and Kelly Colden, graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson was one of the founders of Dunbar Hospital, the first African-American non-profit hospital in Detroit.

* In 1917 Drs. Daisy and David Northcross opened Mercy General Hospital, the first African-American hospital in Detroit.

* In 1926 Chester Cole Ames, M.D., graduated from the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery. He was the first African-American to obtain an internship in urology at a white hospital in Detroit, but was never allowed on staff. He was Detroit’s first African-American intern, resident and member of the Wayne University medical faculty. He cofounded three African-American hospitals in Detroit, but was never granted hospital privileges to practice his specialty.

* In 1943 Marjorie Peebles-Meyers, M.D., graduated from Wayne University College of Medicine, the school’s first African-American female graduate. She became the first African-American female resident and chief resident at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

* In 1960 African-American physicians Thomas Flake Sr., M.D., Class of 1951; Addison Prince, M.D.; William Gibson, M.D.; and James Collins, M.D., were appointed to the staff at Harper Hospital staff, thereby integrating the Detroit Medical Center hospital staff.

Dr. Moncrease said visitors will find that many of the same barriers that African-Americans seeking careers in medicine faced a century ago continue to be roadblocks. At one time, she said, with the exception of Howard University College of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, two historically African-American universities, the school of medicine graduated more African-American physicians in the country than any other college.

“The personal stories of Drs. Joseph Ferguson, Marjorie Pebbles-Meyers and Charles Whitten are very interesting,” said Dr. Moncrease, an alum of the Black Medical Association and member of the Post Baccalaureate Program Admission Committee. “Their contributions to medicine in the face of racism, segregation and discrimination are lessons that everyone can take something away from. It is my hope that these personal stories will inspire visitors to want to learn more about them, other African-American alumni and African-American health care in Detroit, especially through attending the Saturday lecture series.”

Dr. Moncrease said the exhibit could not have been developed without the contributions of many people, including school staff, and especially Dedra Seay-Scatliffe, a member of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“So many times people don’t know their history, so others will come along and lay claim to the positive aspects of it,” said Dr. Moncrease, who describes history as one of her passions, after God and family. “Because you don’t know your histories, others make you think you have not made a contribution in order to make you feel small. Knowing your history puts everyone on a level playing field, not because you can change the past but because you can learn from it and determine your own future.

“Learning history helps me respect others because I have a better understanding of what they have gone through in order to be where they are today, added Dr. Moncrease, who serves as the historian of her church, Hartford Memorial Baptist. “A physician can only truly know what is wrong with his or her patient by taking a good history. If they do not, they have an excellent chance of misdiagnosing and mistreating their patient. The physician can do a lot of tests to assist them with making the right diagnosis, but they could have saved themselves and the patient a lot of time and money by just taking a good history.”

The “Helping Hands: The African-American Health Care Experience in Southeastern Michigan” exhibit will also be on display, courtesy of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project and the University of Michigan. The exhibit provides a historical context for understanding the African-American experience with health care, the health professions and the health sciences in southeastern Michigan.

CMMG's Leonard Lipovich talks RNAs in second Australia guest teaching stint
In Headlines on January 23, 2015
Drs. Kevin Morris, left, and Leonard Lipovich in Sydney, Australia.

Drs. Kevin Morris, left, and Leonard Lipovich in Sydney, Australia.

The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, hosted Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty member Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D., in September and October for the second installment of an instructional collaboration with the university’s School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences’ Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Kevin Morris, Ph.D.

Dr. Morris works on the role of non-coding RNA in epigenetic regulation of gene expression in human cells, and has two affiliations bridging the Pacific Dr. Morris’ primary laboratory is at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and more recently he acquired a joint affiliation at the UNSW, where he hosts a burgeoning and highly productive group of honors and graduate students.

Dr. Lipovich, an associate professor at the WSU Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics and the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology received UNSW’s Visiting Faculty Fellowship in 2013, teaching a two-week, hands-on practical in UNSW’s undergraduate core molecular biology and genomics course that year. In his 2014 visit, he taught three half-day computational labs and three related one-hour theory lectures for the same undergraduate genomics course.

During his 2014 visit, he also guest-lectured about his research in a freshman course on gene regulation and epigenetics, and, together with researcher Marianne Farnebo, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, who was visiting the Morris laboratory during her sabbatical, spoke as part of the university’s popular Friday biological sciences seminar series for faculty, postdocs and students. Dr. Lipovich had additionally given a fellowship guest seminar at UNSW in 2013, and delivered two invited lectures at The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, also in Sydney, over the course of his two recent academic visits to Australia. Faculty, postdocs, and graduate students comprised most of the audiences.

The stints all spotlighted Dr. Lipovich’s work on primate-specific long non-coding ribonucleic acids, or lncRNAs, in human breast cancer and the three major international post-genomic consortia in which he is a co-investigator.

One, ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements; www.encodeproject.org), is an international consortium that serves as the official successor to the original Human Genome Project. Dr. Lipovich also is in his second decade of working with the Japan-based Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome (FANTOM) Consortium, and in early 2014 he joined the CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) Consortium, singlehandedly bringing all three major international efforts to Wayne State through his laboratory.

After speaking at an off-campus bioinformatics club in Sydney about lncRNA datasets in the UCSC Genome Browser, Dr. Lipovich was interviewed about lncRNA and primate-specific genes in human evolution for two episodes of Diffusion Radio, a podcast and radio show that airs throughout Australia. The episodes were broadcast by four radio stations in New South Wales and along the Victoria/South Australia border, and were also made available as a podcast online.

(Listen to the interview here).

Next, Dr. Lipovich will use his five-year, $2.3 million National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award, which he received in September 2014, to test a hypothesis that could lead to breakthrough methodologies to improve health. The project will identify primate-specific lncRNAs that are functional in cell growth and cell death, within the framework of human estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. The goal of the project, which has broad relevance to other nuclear hormone receptor pathways in human disease, is to reveal the extent to which non-conserved RNA genes contribute to cancer pathogenesis in humans.
March 21 5K run/walk benefits Student-Run Free Clinic and Street Medicine Detroit
In Headlines on January 23, 2015

Just as they combine to assist the homeless and underinsured, the Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic and Street Medicine Detroit have teamed up this year to host a 5K run/walk to raise funds to support the efforts of both student organizations.

Proceeds from the March 21 run/walk will benefit Michigan’s first student-run free medical clinic and the Street Medicine Detroit mobile clinic.

The event will begin with registration and check-in at 7:30 a.m. in the Visitor’s Center at Fort Wayne in Detroit. The run/walk will begin at 9 a.m. with the run, followed by the walk starting at 9:15 a.m. An awards ceremony for the top three men and top three women taking part in the 5K run will be held at 11 a.m.

The registration fee is $25. Those registering by March 1 will be guaranteed an event T-shirt and medal. All participants will be provided with snacks following the 5K. To register for this year’s Street Run 5K Run/Walk, visit www.frankclinic.org/streetrun5k or register the morning of the event at the registration/ check-in table.

“The Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic and Street Medicine Detroit both appreciate the value of providing primary health care services to Detroit's medically uninsured and those otherwise unable to obtain health care,” said Cara Crawford-Bartle, a second-year medical student involved with the clinic. “We are excited to team up with a like-minded organization, and by doing so, we hope to reach a larger number of people with which we can share our visions and garner support. Funds raised by the event will be split evenly between the groups and utilized to further our endeavors. By working together we also hope to set the stage for future collaborative efforts allowing both groups to provide the best possible care to patients.”

“From our perspective, we were fortunate enough to be asked and welcomed by the Student-Run Free Clinic to jointly host this 5K,” said fourth-year Jonathan Wong, founder and president of Street Medicine Detroit. “Ever since we started Street Medicine Detroit, the clinic was a model organization for us as we began to think about our mission and how we might carry out that mission at an operational level. So it's particularly meaningful for us to partner with the clinic for this event.”

While organizers have not yet mapped out the course, there is a paved path through Fort Wayne that likely will be used for as much of the run/walk as possible. Organizers selected the Fort Wayne location after holding the run/walk for several years on Belle Isle to offer a change of scenery for participants.

“We are excited to bring this event back after a brief hiatus and look forward to implementing new ideas, like the option to participate as a four-person team,” Crawford-Bartle said. “We are confident that the SRFC-SMD Street Run 5K will be enjoyable for runners and walkers alike and we look forward to seeing everyone there.”

The Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic and Street Medicine Detroit serve the needs of the medically underserved in Detroit. With the help of Wayne State University School of Medicine and Mercy Primary Care, the student-run free clinic offers a high-quality, non-emergent, primary care resource to the medically uninsured in the city while providing an opportunity for medical students to gain experience in cultural, competent medicine in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity.

Street Medicine Detroit’s mission is to ensure access to quality medical care for Detroit’s unreached homeless population by bringing the clinic directly to patients. The chapter is run by Wayne State medical students partnering with local social service organizations to provide weekly outreach at shelters and occasionally on the street. Street Medicine Detroit is committed to a multidisciplinary approach to medicine in which patients are offered preventive and primary care, and access to local housing and health resources.

For more information on the 2015 Street Run 5K Run/Walk, contact Cara Crawford-Bartle at 313-444-5490 or srfcsmdstreetrun5K@gmail.com.

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