School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Dr. Ho-Sheng Lin apppointed interim chair of WSU Otolaryngology
In Headlines on August 29, 2014
Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D.

Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D.

Professor Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D., has been appointed interim chair of the Wayne State University Department of Otolaryngology effective Sept. 1.

He will serve as interim chair while a search committee continues to identify candidates for the permanent position. Dr. Lin replaces Robert Mathog, M.D., who has served as chair since 1977 and announced his intention to step down as chair last spring.

“Dr. Lin’s experience and his history of engagement with faculty within his and other departments make him the ideal physician to lead the department during this period of transition,” Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H, M.B.A., said in announcing the appointment Aug. 29.

Dr. Lin is a 1994 graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine.

After an internship and residency in general surgery at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in 1996, he completed a residency in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in 1999. From 1999 to 2000, he served as chief resident in the department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at New York University Medical Center, and in 2002 he completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology in the Department of Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

He joined the School of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery in 2002, and was named professor in 2012.

“I am extremely honored and privileged to have been selected for this position,” said Dr. Lin, a Plymouth, Mich., resident. “I look forward to working together with everyone and to lead the department during this transitional period.”

He is the leader of the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Team for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and chief of otolaryngology for the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, Dr. Lin has served on the Surgery Performance Improvement Committee and the Medical Staff Operations Committee, and as vice chief of otolaryngology for Detroit Receiving Hospital.

Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and a diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners, he is a member of the Society of Robotic Surgery, the International Surgical Sleep Society, the American Sleep Association, the Association of VA Surgeons, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the American Head and Neck Society and the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Lin also serves as director of residency recruitment and the First Year Curriculum Committee for the Department of Otolaryngology. He has served as a member of the Faculty Senate since 2002.

Dean's Town Hall meeting set for Sept. 10
In Headlines on August 29, 2014
Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D.,M.P.H., M.B.A.

Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D.,M.P.H., M.B.A.

Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., will hold the second of this year’s three Town Hall meetings Sept. 10 beginning at 5 p.m.

The presentation, which will provide updates on key developments at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, will take place in the Green Lecture Hall in Scott Hall. The dean also will take questions from the audience.

The Town Hall is open to all faculty, staff and students.

The meeting will be web streamed live at a URL that will be announced later so that those who cannot attend may view it at their location. Viewers will be able to submit questions in the chat area during the webcast.

Previous Town Hall meetings can be viewed at

Study reveals brain needs dictate slow pace of childhood development
In Headlines on August 29, 2014
Lawrence Grossman, Ph.D.

Lawrence Grossman, Ph.D.

Harry Chugani, M.D.

Harry Chugani, M.D.

Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D.

Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D.

Researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine contributed key elements to a collaborative study that explains why children grow so slowly compared to mammalian counterparts by showing that the brain is gobbling up the most resources when body growth is slowest.

The study, published in the Aug. 25 issue of the weekly journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, explains why a 5-year-old’s brain uses almost twice the glucose as that of a full-grown adult. Glucose is the energy that fuels the brain.

The study is the first to pool existing positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging brain scan data captured by WSU Professor of Pediatrics, Neurology and of Radiology Harry Chugani, M.D., who directs the PET Center at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. PET scans measure glucose uptake and MRI scans measure brain volume.

“The importance of this work is that it pooled information generated both here and elsewhere to construct the most accurate picture to date of glucose use by the brain at different ages, showing the remarkable result that fully two-thirds of all the energy available to the body is used to build the brain at about ages 4-5,” said Lawrence Grossman, Ph.D., director of Wayne State’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics. “What is more, this allocation of energy is subsidized by reducing growth to the slowest childhood rate. Only later does growth resume, including a ‘spurt’ to catch up.”

At age 4, the brain burns through resources at a rate equivalent to 66 percent of what the entire body uses at rest, said the study authors.

The study brought together current and former WSU faculty members who already had worked for several years on the evolution of the energy-producing systems in mitochondria, the main energy producers in cells. That former collaboration formed the background for the current project. Dr. Grossman, an expert on mitochondria, and former faculty member Derek Wildman, Ph.D., provided an energy metabolism and an evolutionary context to the project.

“The project came out of a National Science Foundation grant, ‘Evolutionary origins of the brain energetics and adaptive plasticity of humans,’ awarded to the late Distinguished Professor Morris Goodman, Ph.D., who was one of the founders of molecular evolution and one of our most distinguished faculty members,” Dr. Grossman said. “Most of the authors of the PNAS paper, at WSU and elsewhere, were principals on that collaborative grant, which ran for five years. The published work encompassed one of the goals of that grant.”

Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and of Neurology Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D., also contributed to the paper, “Energetic costs and evolutionary implications of human brain development.”

The Wayne State University collaborators were from Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, University of Illinois, George Washington University, Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University.

The findings support a longstanding hypothesis in anthropology that children grow so slowly compared with our closest animal relatives, and are dependent for so long, because the human body needs to shunt a huge portion of its resources to the brain during childhood, leaving little to be devoted to body growth. It shows that energy funneled to the brain dominates the human body’s metabolism early in life, causing humans to grow at a pace more typical of a reptile than a mammal during childhood. It also helps explain some common observations that many parents may have.

“Our findings suggest that our bodies can’t afford to grow faster during the toddler and childhood years because a huge quantity of resources is required to fuel the developing human brain,” said Christopher Kuzawa, Ph.D., first author of the study and a professor of anthropology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “As humans we have so much to learn, and that learning requires a complex and energy-hungry brain."

“After a certain age it becomes difficult to guess a toddler or young child’s age by their size,” Kuzawa said. “Instead you have to listen to their speech and watch their behavior. Our study suggests that this is no accident. Body growth grinds nearly to a halt at the ages when brain development is happening at a lightning pace, because the brain is sapping up the available resources.”

It was previously believed that the brain’s resource burden on the body was largest at birth, when the size of the brain relative to the body is greatest. The researchers found instead that the brain maxes out its glucose use at age 5.

The study was funded by the United States National Science Foundation’s Biological Anthropology Program.

New molecular mechanism shows promise for treating, curing hereditary neurological disease
In Headlines on August 28, 2014
Sokol Todi, Ph.D.

Sokol Todi, Ph.D.

A Wayne State University School of Medicine study published in Nature Communications this month outlines the discovery of a new molecular mechanism that illustrates how cells regulate the degradation of proteins, which could be used to treat or cure Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3.

The neurological genetic disorder also known as Machado-Joseph Disease and SCA3/MJD is perhaps the most common dominantly inherited ataxia in the world, said study principal investigator Sokol Todi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and neurology.

“SCA3/MJD is a progressive loss of full control of bodily movements. It arises from the expansion of a region of the ataxin-3 protein beyond normal levels from 12 to 42 to over 60 repeats of the amino acid glutamine,” Dr. Todi said. “Such expansions affect several areas of the brain and the spinal cord. It is unknown how mutations in ataxin-3 cause SCA3/MJD.”

Hereditary ataxias are a group of chronic and progressive neurological disorders affecting coordination, according to the National Ataxia Foundation, and usually appear in middle adult life and progress over several decades. SCA3 results from a specific genetic defect that leads to impairment of nerve cells in the brain and nerve fibers carrying messages to and from the brain, the NAF says, resulting in the degeneration of the cerebellum, the coordination center of the brain, and related regions. A gene test can accurately detect the presence of the mutation.

“In this scientific report, we discovered a new molecular mechanism through which to get rid of the ataxin-3 protein, which could be utilized to treat or cure SCA3/MJD,” he added.

A prevailing hypothesis on the road to treatments or cures for neurodegenerative diseases is that getting rid of neurotoxic proteins can be a therapeutic route, Dr. Todi said. His lab’s study provided evidence on how to get rid of one such toxic protein, ataxin-3, which is regulated by ubiquitin-binding site 2, or UbS2, on its N terminus.

The study co-authors, including research assistant Jessica Blount and postdoctoral fellow Wei-Ling Tsou, Ph.D., have been working on the concept for two years. “The overall thought on how to get rid of this protein with toxic properties had been in the back of my mind for five or more years. As we worked on some other projects, clues came up that directed us toward this specific approach,” Dr. Todi said.

The scientists will now work to further validate the findings to pursue the design of molecules for therapeutic purposes.

“Ubiquitin-binding site 2 of ataxin-3 prevents its proteasomal degradation by interacting with Rad23,” was published in the Aug. 21 issue of the journal. WSU doctoral student Gorica Ristic, fourth-year medical student Michelle Ouyang and Cancer Biology Graduate Program doctoral student Aaron Burr, and two scientists from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Department of Biochemistry and Neuroscience Research Center, also contributed to the report.

The work is supported by grants from the National Ataxia Foundation and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (R00NS064097, R01NS08677 and R00NS073936) and a T32 training slot (CA009531).
Undergraduates complete 10-week research fellowship with Cancer Biology Graduate Program
In Headlines on August 26, 2014
The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program's 11 participants presented research posters August 8.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program's 11 participants presented research posters August 8.

Ten undergraduate students from Yale, Cornell, Villanova and other universities and one incoming graduate student have finished a 10-week stint with researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute as part of the Cancer Biology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

The purpose of the program is to introduce promising undergraduate students to cancer research and encourage advanced studies and careers in the field.

Thanks to long-standing support provided by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit through the Cancer Research Philanthropic Fund on behalf of Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Forman and a new grant from the DMC Foundation, the undergraduate students were paired with a mentor scientist who provided hands-on exposure to the basics of a research laboratory and the research process.

Students performed research projects designed to yield new findings related to cancer etiology, detection, treatment and more. Students were expected to maintain records of their research, participate in laboratory meetings and departmental programmatic seminars and attend weekly lectures on basic cancer biology taught by the Cancer Biology Graduate Program’s doctoral students.

The program concluded with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow Poster Day held August 8 in the Margherio Family Conference Center, where the fellows presented posters describing their research accomplishments to faculty, students and staff.

A significant number of the program’s alumni have gone on to pursue graduate education in cancer biology through the Cancer Biology Graduate Program.

This year’s fellows were:

Evan Arbit, Michigan State University

Ginette Balbin-Cuesta, Marygrove College

Evan Bylett, Michigan State University

Keith Cordner, Michigan State University

Anthony Guastella, Oakland University

Sarah Kimball, Cornell University

Brian Myung, Villanova University

Thomas Ridella, University of Notre Dame

Syed Tariq-Un Nabi, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Mercy Ude, Yale University

Lucas Wilson, Michigan State University

Researcher receives $50,000 grant from Sky Foundation for pancreatic cancer research
In Headlines on August 25, 2014
Rafael Fridman, Ph.D.

Rafael Fridman, Ph.D.

Rafael Fridman, Ph.D., professor of pathology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, has been awarded a second-year $50,000 grant from Sky Foundation Inc., to fund his pancreatic cancer research. This brings the total funding from Sky Foundation for Dr. Fridman’s research to $100,000.

Dr. Fridman and his research colleague, Howard Crawford, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are collaborating to investigate what causes pancreatic cancer cells to become so deadly and resistant to chemotherapy. Their research focuses on the actions of a unique family of genes, known as Discoidin Domain Receptor, or DDR, kinases that act as sensors of the cancer microenvironment. These kinases signal a response to a web of collagen that is abundant in pancreatic cancer tissues and plays a critical role in the survival of tumor cells.

The research has the potential to identify DDRs as new targets for intervention.

“We are extremely grateful to receive another $50,000 grant from the Sky Foundation for our pancreatic cancer research,” Dr. Fridman said. “This funding will help us to clarify the expression and role of DDRs in experimental models of pancreatic cancer and in human tumor samples. It will also help determine the therapeutic effects of targeting DDRs in pancreatic cancer models. We hope that our research will one day contribute to the expansion of new drugs to help stop this deadly disease.”

The Sky Foundation Inc. is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research for the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

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