Faculty News Weekly Round-Up: October 27

October 27, 2017 by   |   Leave a Comment

UVA School of Medicine Faculty News Weekly Round-Up
October 27

• An End to Dieting for People with Type 2 Diabetes?

For people with type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, the prescription is typically “lose weight.” But maybe not for much longer.

Daniel Cox, PhD, AHPP, has received $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to test an alternative strategy. Cox developed the approach after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, in which the body produces insulin, but can’t use it properly.

“I knew myself,” he said. “I’d been trying to lose weight forever, and that wasn’t going to happen.”

His new, tri-pronged approach aims to use blood glucose monitoring to “educate, activate and motivate.” The underlying principle is that making people more aware of changes in their glucose levels may encourage them to avoid foods that spike their blood sugar and help them appreciate the benefits of physical activity. With that information, he hopes, they will be better equipped to manage their diabetes – possibly without the need to lose weight or even take medication.

Cox is Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at UVA School of Medicine.

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• Exercise Discovery Could Save Lives of Sickest Patients

A new discovery about how exercise helps protect us from disease could one day dramatically reduce the death rate among the sickest and most gravely injured.

People suffering from severe trauma or the full-body infection known as sepsis often develop multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, or MODS. MODS is a primary cause of death in intensive care units, killing up to 80 percent of patients who develop it.

Zhen Yan, PhD, is researching how an antioxidant by which exercise protects the body from disease might help prevent MODS.

“[Our] data suggests if everything is true, if this can indeed provide protection against sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction, that would imply that 80 percent of deaths in the clinical ICU could be cut in half,” Yan said.

The research has been published online in Free Radical Biology & Medicine. UVA School of Medicine faculty contributing to the study include the following:

– Yan, Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
– Ashish Sharma, MBBS, PhD, Assistant Professor of Research in Surgery
– Borna Mehrad, MBBS, Professor of Microbiology
– Brian Annex, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
– Alexander Klibanov, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
– Victor Laubach, PhD, Professor of Surgery
– Shayn Peirce-Cottler, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering

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• Researcher Lands $450K Grant to Study Gut Bacteria’s Role in Breast Cancer

Melanie Rutkowski, PhD, can envision a day when doctors prescribe a specific diet to prevent the spread of breast cancer. A day when doctors could identify women at high risk for breast tumors just by examining the bacteria in their guts.

And now the Susan G. Komen organization has awarded her $450,000 to fund pioneering research that could make that happen.

Over the next three years, the grant will let Rutkowski expand our understanding of the relationship between the microbiome – the microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies – and the immune system’s response to breast cancer. She will seek to determine if chronic disruption of the microbiome, possibly caused by diets heavy in processed foods, fats and sugar, is hurting the immune system’s ability to battle breast tumors – and perhaps even facilitating the cancer’s spread through the body.

Rutkowski said, “What our research is suggesting is that these microbes that live within us, when they are unbalanced, they can dramatically influence disease progression, making the tumors more aggressive and ultimately result in the inability of the immune system to eliminate the tumor.”

Rutkowski is Assistant Professor of Microbiology at UVA School of Medicine.

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