UTHSC Graduate Research Assistant Sarah Neuner Receives $172,480 Grant for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Research

A $172,480 grant from the National Institute on Aging, an NIH subsidiary, will allow graduate research assistant Sarah Neuner to identify genes that may influence a person’s likelihood for  developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

A $172,480 grant from the National Institute on Aging, an NIH subsidiary, will allow graduate research assistant Sarah Neuner to identify genes that may influence a person’s likelihood for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Although gene mutations that cause early onset Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, the vast majority of cases result from what is known as “sporadic,” or late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD), which has no known cause.  Sarah Neuner’s research focuses on identifying currently unknown genes that influence a person’s likelihood of developing LOAD.

Neuner, a graduate research assistant in the lab of Catherine Kaczorowski, PhD, in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $172,480 from the National Institute on Aging, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The award will be used to support a project titled, “Identification of Genetic Modifiers of Neuronal Deficits and Memory Failure in Alzheimer’s Disease.” The award will be distributed over four years.

Identifying those genes that modify susceptibility to LOAD in human studies has proven challenging, in part due to large genomic variability in individuals. In contrast, animal studies suffer from the opposite problem – too little genetic diversity, as most traditional studies utilize one inbred Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model. Therefore, Neuner and her collaborators have developed a new panel of AD mice that model some of the genetic complexity of human populations, which is thought to contribute to the “sporadic” nature of the disease. In this project, the research team will measure memory function as well as clinically relevant markers of AD in this panel throughout their lifespan in order to determine which strains are more or less prone to developing AD. Results from these tests will be used to pinpoint the region or regions in the genome that contain genes influencing the susceptibility and/or resistance of an individual strain to AD. Once these genes have been identified, gene therapy tools will be used to prevent or reverse AD-related memory deficits. Research outcomes, combined with insight from analysis of available human datasets, will allow researchers to prioritize candidates with the best potential to translate into treatments for use in human populations.

If successful, this research may uncover new therapeutic targets that can be used to delay, prevent, or cure Alzheimer’s disease in humans. They may also be useful as “biomarkers” to identify individuals who are at high risk, enabling earlier detection and treatment, which would ultimately result in better outcomes for both patients and their families.

“I am extremely fortunate and thankful to have received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Aging, which will provide support for my doctoral training over the next four years,” said Neuner. “My mentor, Dr. Catherine Kaczorowski, and the co-sponsor of this award, Dr. Rob Williams, will provide training on research design, ethics, grantsmanship, and additional career development opportunities that are essential for progressing towards a career as an independent scientist. Working closely with Drs. Kaczorowski and Williams in the development of this project has allowed me to learn from experts in the three fields I am very interested in – aging, Alzheimer’s disease and genetics – and combine the two in new ways. This award is especially important to me because it will help me achieve my goal of making significant contributions to the field of Alzheimer’s disease genetics and to the understanding of the mechanisms causing this disease.”

The National Institute on Aging remains committed to understanding the aging process and prolonging life. It is the primary agency that supports and conducts Alzheimer’s research. For more information, visit www.nia.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

UTHSC Graduates 698 Health Care Professionals in May

Rosie Ann Riley (left) will receive her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UT Health Science Center in May, embarking on her third career, while her daughter, Ivy Lace Riley, will graduate Magna Cum Laude in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Jackson State University.

Rosie Ann Riley (left) will receive her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UTHSC in May, embarking on her third career, while her daughter, Ivy Lace Riley, will graduate Magna Cum Laude in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Jackson State University.

Former Marine, UTHSC Pharmacy Student Earns Doctorate Same Month That Daughter Earns Bachelor’s Degree

At ceremonies on May 15, 22 and 29, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will graduate a total of 698 health care professionals. [Read more...]

Lori S. Gonzalez, PhD, Appointed Vice Chancellor of Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs at UTHSC

Lori S. Gonzalez, PhD

Lori S. Gonzalez, PhD

Steve J. Schwab, MD, chancellor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has named Lori S. Gonzalez, PhD, vice chancellor of Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs. Dr. Gonzalez joins UTHSC from the University of North Carolina General Administration, the North Carolina higher education authority, where she served as special advisor to the chief academic officer. As the chief academic officer of UTHSC and its statewide campuses, Dr. Gonzalez will report directly to the chancellor. She is expected to assume her new responsibilities, working from UTHSC’s main campus in Memphis, on July 1. [Read more...]

Unite Holds Informational Event to Raise Awareness of Importance of Inclusion on Campus

From left, Ben Edwards, M1; Peter Duden, M1; Maggie Joyce, Office of Equity and Diversity; and Nikki Dyer, Student Academic Support Services, offered information at the recent Unite event.

From left, Ben Edwards, M1; Peter Duden, M1; Maggie Joyce, Office of Equity and Diversity; and NaKeshi “Nikki” Dyer, Student Academic Support Services, offered information at the recent Unite event.

Unite, a student organization concerned with improving the visibility, strength and support of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) community on campus, held an information event in the lobby of the 920 Madison Building recently.

Unite joined with Student Academic Support Services (SASS) and the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) to put the event on. While volunteers from Unite provided resources and information about the group, OED and SASS staff offered information about local LGBTQI resources and ways to be an ally.

Unite meets at noon on Thursdays in the conference room across from the SASS office in the General Education Building. Interested students, faculty and staff from all the colleges at UTHSC are welcome to join.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OED and SASS offered Safe Zone training in March. The workshop was an open, nonjudgmental and safe forum geared toward helping people of all backgrounds understand how to create a supportive safe zone for LGBTQI individuals. Safe Zone training will probably be offered again in June.

NaKeshi “Nikki” Dyer, MS, NCC, educational specialist with SASS, helped connect Unite with OED for the informational event and future collaborations. “In my position, I am fortunate to work with many students from various colleges around campus. Our goal is to help students reach their academic goals,” she said. “Students may encounter challenges in their academic performance that are not related to their academic ability, but to personal issues. Sometimes this includes relational difficulties with significant others, gender identity and gender expression concerns. I am glad that we have an active student group like Unite on our campus. It is a great community of support for many students here.”

“Higher education institutions realize an advantage through diversity and inclusive practices as it relates to who participates through engagement and performance,” said Michael Alston, EdD, assistant vice chancellor for Equity and Diversity at UTHSC. “The student group UNITE is demonstrating that engagement and performance in the academic setting is open to all students.”

For more information about Unite, contact Colby Passaro at rpassaro@uthsc.edu.

Minority High School and College Students Invited to UTHSC For Two-Day Biomedical Mentoring Symposium

As many as 100 high school and college students are being invited to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) on March 26 and 27 for a biomedical mentoring symposium for minority and underserved students. [Read more...]

Program Designed by UTHSC Medical Students Instructs Area High School Students about Sexually Transmitted Infections

S2S yearbook photo (2)

Some of the more than 80 Student-2-Student Memphis members. The medical students volunteer to teach Shelby County high school students about sexually transmitted infections.

Student-2-Student Memphis Aims to Reduce Infection Rates Among Area Youth

Medical students from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) are going back to high school to help make Shelby County teens healthier. [Read more...]

UT Brand Added to Largest Hospital in Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

New signage featuring the UT logo is unveiled.

New signage featuring the UT logo is unveiled at Methodist UT Hospital.

The bright orange UT logo unveiled Wednesday, Feb. 25, on exterior signage at the largest and most comprehensive hospital in the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system is a striking symbol of a successful partnership that started more than a decade ago and continues to grow.

That partnership between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system supports a multidisciplinary  collaboration among physicians and clinical teams, and brings the most advanced medical care to patients in the Mid-South.

Members of the UT board of trustees, in Memphis for their winter meeting, joined administrators and dignitaries from Methodist and UTHSC for a luncheon and unveiling of the impressive signage at the main entrance of Methodist University Hospital, which is now Methodist UT Hospital.

“Placing the UT initials on the downtown Methodist hospital building and reframing the name as Methodist UT Hospital reflects the convergence of the UTHSC and Methodist missions and visions,” said UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD. It is the first time in more than a decade that the UT initials appear on a Memphis hospital.

More than 300 physicians are currently in training in Methodist facilities, and more than 1,865 medical and surgical specialists have been trained in these locations since the partnership began. Methodist UT and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the major facilities in the hospital system, are core teaching hospitals of UTHSC, along with five other core teaching partners across the state – Regional One Health and the VA Medical Center in Memphis, the UT Medical Center in Knoxville, Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, and the Saint Thomas Health system in Nashville.

Faculty members from UTHSC make up a significant complement of the physicians and clinicians who provide care at Methodist UT Hospital while teaching the next generation of health care professionals in the clinical and hospital setting. The hospital is also home to UT Methodist Physicians, an academic physician practice group created in 2013 as an outgrowth of the partnership between the university and the hospital.

Chancellor Schwab welcomed the guests and praised the collaborative effort, which bolsters recruitment of top-quality physicians, fosters clinical research, and provides venues to train UTHSC students. All of these will boost national rankings for both entities and further their commitments to provide world-class care for all.

From left, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare CEO Gary Shorb, UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD, and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President and COO Michael Ugwueke share congratulations after the unveiling.

From left, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare CEO Gary Shorb, UTHSC Chancellor Steve Schwab, and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President and COO Michael Ugwueke share congratulations after the unveiling.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare CEO Gary Shorb; Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare President and COO Michael Ugwueke, MPH, DHA, FACHE; and Methodist UT Hospital CEO Jeff Liebman, DDM, MBA, addressed the group before the unveiling, offering statistics that reflect the success of the partnership and its benefits to both entities. In 2014, there were 165 UT-affiliated attending MDs at Methodist UT Hospital, accounting for 7,387 inpatient admissions and 2,360 inpatient surgeries. The intent is to continue to grow those numbers.

Plans are also under way to establish or expand residencies and fellowships in oncology and emergency medicine. Areas of expertise, including transplant medicine, stroke and neurological care, oncology, radiology, and thoracic surgery, have flourished as the partnership has grown.

New signage that includes the UT brand is planned throughout the hospital at a cost of about $600,000.

Gold Humanism Honor Society at UTHSC to Participate in National Solidarity Day on February 13

Excellent patient care remains a top priority for health care professionals who are both established and in the making. On Friday, Feb. 13, about 20 medical students from three University of Tennessee College of Medicine campuses in Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga will participate in National Solidarity Day. [Read more...]