School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Gomez-Lopez lab earns Ferring Innovation Grant to study peptide in preterm birth prevention
In Headlines on September 3, 2015
Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Ph.D.

Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Ph.D.

Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Ph.D., has won a one-year, $50,000 Innovation Grant from the San Diego-based Ferring Research Institute to fund the work of a doctoral student through Oct. 31, 2016, on the project “The Role of Exendin-4 in the Prevention of Preterm Birth.”

Dr. Gomez-Lopez is an assistant professor in the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Microbiology and Immunology. She is also director of the Perinatal Immunobiology Unit of the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch at WSU. Her lab investigates the immune mechanisms that lead to obstetrical complications, with a special focus on preterm birth and novel strategies to prevent the syndrome.

The Ferring Research Institute awarded five Innovation Grants from 200 applications based on scientific merit, specifically the novelty of the target and its proposed mechanism of action, and the availability of biological and chemical tools to enable validation. The institute is the global peptide therapeutics research center for Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

“Inflammation is the only well-established cause of preterm birth. Our previous research in mice demonstrates that anti-inflammatory drugs reduce the rate of preterm birth by dampening inflammation at the maternal-fetal interface, where direct communication occurs between the mother and developing fetus. However, in many cases drugs that prevent preterm birth in mice cannot be prescribed to pregnant women,” Dr. Gomez-Lopez said. “Therefore, we propose that a peptide, such as Exendin-4, will safely rescue preterm birth and improve neonatal outcomes by dampening the effects of inflammation.”

She joined the School of Medicine in 2012 following a postdoctoral fellowship in Reproductive Immunology with the University of Adelaide in Australia. Dr. Gomez-Lopez is a member of WSU’s Perinatal Initiative.

“I am very thankful to have received this grant and am excited to use the funding to study new strategies to prevent inflammation-induced preterm birth. It is an excellent and humbling experience to receive recognition for the hard work and dedication put forth by my team,” she said. “I would like to thank my collaborators, Dr. Roberto Romero (chief of the PRB and a WSU professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics) and Dr. Sonia Hassan (WSU associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health, and professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology) for their participation, guidance and advice, all of which have contributed to the success of my laboratory. I would also like to thank my team members for their drive and dedication, as these characteristics play a major role in achieving our scientific goals.”

Students, graduate present School of Medicine programs at National HIV Prevention Conference
In Headlines on September 2, 2015
Elyse Schultz, Class of 2018

Elyse Schultz, Class of 2018

Caleb Vanderveen, M.D., Class of 2015

Caleb Vanderveen, M.D., Class of 2015

Sarah Atkinson, Class of 2016

Sarah Atkinson, Class of 2016

Two Wayne State University School of Medicine students and one alumnus will present projects at the National HIV Prevention Conference hosted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in December.

The Dec. 6-9 meeting will gather scientists, public health officials, community workers, clinicians and people living with HIV from a variety of organizations to share expertise to prevent infections, strengthen care and reduce disparities. More than 1,200 abstracts were submitted to the conference this year.

The presentations cover information born out of time spent volunteering in a program that provides HIV prevention services to inmates housed in Wayne County jails.

“We have all been so excited to watch as the program has evolved over time and more and more students become involved,” said the Class of 2016’s Sarah Atkinson, who served as the initiative’s coordinator in her second year. “The relationships with organizations have grown, and hopefully we have been helping them out as students as much as they have helped with our educations and perspective on all the different kinds of situations patients may be in.”

The program is led by Dana Rice, Dr. P.H., who directs the school’s Master of Public Health practicum and is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

“The students are very excited, as they have never presented at a conference and this is the premiere conference on domestic HIV issues,” Dr. Rice said.

Elyse Schultz, a Class of 2018 M.D./M.P.H. candidate, will give a talk titled “Medical students support HIV prevention program in local jail,” co-written by Atkinson and Class of 2015 graduate Caleb Vanderveen, M.D.

Schultz is one of many medical students trained as HIV testers and counselors through the School of Medicine’s STI/HIV Initiative, a student organization and Co-Curricular Program. Trained students are given the opportunity to practice their new skills by volunteering for local organizations and programs, like that in the Wayne County jails.

“There, medical students contribute to the jails’ unique HIV prevention program, and benefit in gaining experience working with a unique at-risk population. It is very rare for medical students – or even medical professionals -- to have exposure to incarcerated populations during their training, so this program is unique,” Schultz said. “It provides medical students an awareness of how they may integrate public health programs into their future careers.”

Schultz, who served as the program’s student coordinator last year, is especially interested in supporting sex education and sexually transmitted disease prevention. “To have such a valuable role as a medical educator with patients in a one-on-one setting is an excellent opportunity for students early in their medical training, especially as it allows us to become active in the prevention of the spread of HIV. Further, the program provides students experience in the skills of taking a sexual history and becoming very comfortable discussing related topics with tact, accuracy and openness,” she said. “It is fulfilling to empower persons and populations who have often otherwise been disempowered and undereducated.”

Her colleague, Dr. Vanderveen, will present a poster co-written by Atkinson on “MD student-designed service learning elective in HIV.”

Dr. Vanderveen was among the first cohort of medical students trained in HIV prevention to then volunteer at the jails. He is a first-year Family Medicine resident at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a public and academic hospital that cares for underserved populations in south Los Angeles.

With Dr. Rice, he helped design curriculum for a fourth-year medical school elective aimed at students interested in HIV and Community Medicine.

“I also spent time volunteering at the Horizons clinic, and those two experiences exposed me to unique socioeconomic issues that affect people with HIV. I learned how devastating of a disease it can be and also how it can affect patients both medically and socially and how the HIV community has had to advocate over decades for a right to medical care,” he said. “These experiences inspired me to want to do more to train myself for the future to effectively provide HIV care, but also to use what I've already learned in medical school to make a difference with some of the most disadvantaged patients in our society.”

One half of the elective is spent working in the HIV clinic at Henry Ford Hospital, and the other is spent experiencing the public health aspects of HIV, including in the Wayne County jails.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be recognized for this. It's amazing to be given the opportunity to present my project with a community of like-minded healthcare providers,” Dr. Vanderveen said. “I want to thank Dr. Dana Rice for helping plan the elective and her amazing work in the School of Public Health, and Co-Curricular Programs Director Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D., for helping to arrange my rotation at Henry Ford and for helping to sustain many of the community opportunities at Wayne State University.”

WSU scientists discover mechanism for air pollution-induced liver disease
In Headlines on September 2, 2015
Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D.

Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D.

A research team led by Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D., at the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics has discovered that exposure to air pollution has a direct adverse health effect on the liver and causes liver fibrosis, an illness associated with metabolic disease and liver cancer.

Dr. Zhang, associate professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and of Immunology and Microbiology, and his group have been studying the adverse health effects of air pollution from a unique perspective. While the major research efforts in the field were focused on the effects of air pollution on lung tissues and cardiovascular system, the Zhang lab studied the pathological effects and stress mechanisms of air pollution on the liver, the major organ of detoxification and metabolism. Their work demonstrated that inhalation exposure to high-concentration airborne particulate matter PM2.5 has direct effects on the liver, triggering liver fibrosis, a pathological condition characterized by accumulation of the extracellular matrix protein collagen that occurs in most types of chronic liver diseases.

PM2.5 is fine airborne particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometers. It is a complex mixture of particles and gases from gasoline and diesel engines, together with dust from wear of road surfaces, tires and brakes. PM2.5 is the major and most toxic component of air pollutants in the real-world air environment of intensive traffic or industrial activity. Recent epidemiological studies confirmed that populations exposed to high-level PM2.5 are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and metabolic disease.

Dr. Zhang said that PM2.5 pollution has major impact on the public health for the general population in urban areas, such as Detroit, one of the most PM2.5-polluted cities in the United States, according to annual air quality reports by the American Lung Association.

Dr. Zhang’s group, in collaboration with a research group at the Ohio State University College of Public Health led by Qinghua Sun, M.D., Ph.D., professor and assistant dean for Global Public Health, performed both short-time and long-term inhalation exposure of animal models to real-world PM2.5. After a 10-week exposure, the animals developed liver fibrosis. Utilizing molecular, cellular and pathological approaches, the team discovered the stress sensor on the cell membrane that initiates PM2.5-triggered stress signals and the mediators inside the cell that transduces the signaling. The PM2.5-triggered inflammatory stress responses promote collagen deposition -- a hallmark of fibrosis -- in the liver through activating the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) signaling. This work will soon be published in the Journal of Hepatology. The ahead of publication edition of the paper is on line at

“Our work has a major impact on medical care and health policy-making for the populations under air pollution environment,” Dr. Zhang said, “Liver fibrosis is an advanced stage of chronic liver injuries caused by chronic hepatitis viral infection, obesity, alcoholism or autoimmune diseases. Our work defined that air pollution, specifically PM2.5 pollutant, is an independent risk factor of liver fibrosis. This is very significant in terms of identifying new health risk factors and understanding liver diseases. The molecular and cellular mechanisms we revealed in this work have very important implications in clinical disease diagnosis and treatment associated with air pollution.”

The liver is an important target organ and a key player in disease development under high-level PM2.5 exposure. Automobile drivers who experience long-time daily road traffic and car manufacturing employees should pay more attention to the markers or liver enzymes that indicate liver disease, Dr. Zhang said. “Physicians or health care professionals should monitor liver pathology and consider preventive therapeutic strategies for liver disease for populations and patients in urban air pollution environments.”

Previous publications from the Zhang group related to the effects of air pollution on the liver were the subjects of editorial focus or commentary in the American Journal of Physiology and Journal of Hepatology.

Dr. Zhang is the project’s principal investigator. Other researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine who contributed to this work include the paper’s first author, Ze Zheng, Ph.D.,  and Xuebao Zhang, research associate; Jiemei Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics; Aditya Dandekar, Ph.D.; Hyunbae Kim, research associate; and Yining Qiu; Ph.D. The project is funded by that National Institutes of Health’s National Environmental Health Science Institute (grant Nos. ES017829, ES018900, ES019616), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (grant No. DK090313), and American Heart Association grants (grant No. 0635423Z, 09GRNT2280479).

Second annual Update in Rheumatology Conference set for Oct. 31
In Headlines on September 1, 2015

The Wayne State University School of Medicine will present the second annual Update in Rheumatology Conference on Oct. 31 at the Dearborn Inn.

The conference, sponsored by the WSU Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, will run from 7:15a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The schedule for the day is below:

7:15 to 8 a.m.: Registration and continental breakfast.

8 to 8:10 a.m.: Welcome and introduction by Marie-Claire Maroun, M.D., WSU assistant professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, and course director.

8:10 to 8:50 a.m.: “Potpourri of Common Clinical Scenarios,” presented by Felix Fernandez Madrid, M.D., Ph.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Rheumatology.

8:50 to 9:30 a.m.: “Rheumatoid Arthritis,” presented by David Fox, M.D., University of Michigan professor of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Rheumatology for the University of Michigan Health System.

9:30 to 9:45 a.m.: Break.

9:45 a.m. to 10:25 a.m.: “Pregnancy in Rheumatic Autoimmune Diseases,” presented by Dr. Maroun.

10:25 to 11:05 a.m.: “Evaluation and Treatment of Common Shoulder and Elbow Conditions,” presented by Ivan Madrid, M.D., clinical assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery for the New York University Langone Medical Center.

11:05 to 11:45 a.m.: “Hyperuricemia: New Concepts of an Old Disease,” presented by Bernard Rubin, D.O., M.P.H., WSU clinical professor of Internal Medicine and division head of Rheumatology for the Henry Ford Health System.

11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.: Lunch.

12:45 to 1:25 p.m.: “When the Joint Hurts, The Heart Cries: Cardiac Manifestations of Rheumatic Diseases,” presented by Mahir Elder, M.D., WSU clinical associate professor of Internal Medicine; medical director of the Cardiac Care Unit and chief of Cardiology – Ambulatory Services Program; assistant program director of Interventional Fellowship; and director of Endovascular Medicine for the Detroit Medical Center University Hospital.

1:25 to 2:05 p.m.: “Psoriatic Arthritis,” presented by Angelia Mosely-Williams, M.D., WSU associate professor of Internal Medicine and chief of the Rheumatology Section for the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center.

2:05 to 2:45 p.m.: “The Internist’s Headache: Temporal Arthritis,” presented by Malini Venkatram, M.D., WSU assistant professor of Internal Medicine and associate director of the Division of Rheumatology.

2:45 to 3 p.m.: Break.

3 to 3:40 p.m.: “Osteoporosis: Challenges in Therapy,” presented by Wael Taha, M.D., WSU assistant professor of Internal Medicine and director of the Endocrine Fellowship Training Program.

3:40 to 4:20 p.m.: “Fibromyalgia: What Do I Need to Know,” presented by Mark Lumley, Ph.D., WSU professor of Psychology and director of Clinical Psychology Training.

4:20 to 4:45 p.m.: Panel discussion.

4:45 p.m.: Closing and evaluation.

The cost for the conference is $100 for practicing physicians, $75 for nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses, and $25 for medical residents. Fellows and medical students may attend at no charge.

To register for the conference, visit For more information, contact Therese Johnson at 313-577-1180 or                     

Dr. Shirish Gadgeel named 2015 Kales Award recipient for research efforts
In Headlines on September 1, 2015
Shirish Gadgeel, M.D.

Shirish Gadgeel, M.D.

Shirish Gadgeel, M.D., professor of Oncology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and leader of the Thoracic Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, has been named the recipient of the 2015 Kales Award in Oncology from Karmanos for his significant research initiatives.

The award recognizes Dr. Gadgeel for his article, “Safety and activity of alectinib against systemic disease and brain metastases in patients with crizotinib-resistant ALK-rearranged non-small-cell lung cancer (AF-002JG): results from the dose-finding portion of a phase 1/2 study,” which was published in The Lancet Oncology in 2014.

Dr. Gadgeel was a joint author of the article with Leena Gandhi, M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School.

The Kales Award in Oncology is given annually to WSU faculty members with membership at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. It is supported by the Drs. Anthony and Joyce Danielski Kales Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Cancer Research Endowment. Selection is based on a comprehensive review of published articles within the previous year.

One of the major developments in the field of thoracic oncology in the last few years has been the identification of driver genetic alterations. Targeting these genetic alterations has provided clinical benefit for advanced lung cancer patients. One such alteration is ALK translocation. The first generation ALK inhibitor crizotinib has provided meaningful clinical benefit. However, almost all patients eventually have disease progression, particularly in the brain.

“There was a need to identify a drug that could provide benefit to ALK-positive patients who had disease progression on crizotinib,” Dr. Gadgeel said. “Alectinib is a more potent inhibitor of ALK and in pre-clinical studies had shown clinical benefit in tumors resistant to crizotinib. We therefore conducted a phase I trial to establish the appropriate dose and assess preliminary efficacy in ALK positive NSCLC patients who had disease progression on crizotinib.”

The results of the study were very promising and led to the drug receiving breakthrough designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Roche, the sponsor of the drug, has recently filed a new application to get the drug approved for these patients. The results of Dr. Gadgeel’s study form an important component of this application.

“This award is for the best publication by a Karmanos faculty member,” Dr. Gadgeel said. “I have tremendous respect for the scientists and clinicians at Karmanos, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. To be judged by my peers to have published the most important or the best publication among the ones published by this esteemed faculty means a lot to me. Receiving this award has not only been extremely satisfying, but also has provided a huge incentive to work even harder as a clinician scientist.”

Dr. Gadgeel will share his research at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29 during grand rounds. During the presentation, he will receive a plaque and monetary award.

Registration now open for Sept. 26 Update in Infectious Diseases Conference
In Headlines on September 1, 2015

The Wayne State University School of Medicine will present the third annual Update in Infectious Diseases Conference on Sept. 26 at the Greektown Hotel and Casino in Detroit.

Sponsored by the WSU Department of Internal Medicine, the conference runs from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

The conference schedule includes:

7:45 to 8:15 a.m.: Registration and continental breakfast.

8:15 to 8:30 a.m.: Opening remarks by Pranatharthi Chandrasekar, M.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and director of the conference.

8:30 to 9 a.m.: “Epidemiology and Management of Skin and Soft Tissue Infection,” presented by Marcus Zervos, M.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and division head of Infectious Diseases for the Henry Ford Health System.

9 to 9:30 a.m.: “HIV Infection for Non-HIV Doctors,” presented by Jennifer Veltman, M.D., WSU assistant professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

9:30 to 10 a.m.: “Hepatitis C: Interferon-free Treatment at Last,” presented by Lawrence Crane, M.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

10 to 10:30 a.m.: Panel question-and-answer session.

10:30 to 10:45 a.m.: Break.

10:45 to 11:15 a.m.: “Antimicrobial Stewardship,” presented by Sorabh Dhar, M.D., WSU assistant professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

11:15 to 11:45 a.m.: “Clostridium Difficile Infection and Fecal Transplantation,” presented by Teena Chopra, M.D., M.P.H., WSU assistant professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases; associate corporate director of Infection Prevention, Epidemiology and Antibiotic Stewardship for the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University; and director of Infection Prevention, Epidemiology and Antibiotic Stewardship for Kindred Hospital.

11:45 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.: Panel question-and-answer session.

12:05 to 1 p.m.: Lunch.

1 to 1:30 p.m.: “Community Acquired Pneumonia,” presented by Patricia Brown, M.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases; and WSU school associate chief of staff for Medicine for the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center.

1:30 to 2 p.m.: “Emerging and Re-emerging Viral Pathogens – Influenza, Ebola and More,” presented by Keith Kaye, M.D., M.P.H., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases; corporate vice president of Quality and Patient Safety, and corporate medical director of Infection Prevention, Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Stewardship for the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University.

2 to 2:30 p.m.: “Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” presented by Jonathan Cohn, M.D., WSU professor of Internal Medicine and of the Division of Infectious Diseases; and director of the Adult HIV Program and Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center MATEC-Michigan.

2:30 to 3 p.m.: Panel question-and-answer session.

3 to 3:15 p.m.: Evaluation and closing.

Cost for the conference is $75 for practicing physicians and $60 for medical residents and other health care professionals. Students may attend at no charge.

Visit to register. For more information, contact Tina Poole at 313-577-1180 or

Older Articles