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SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 - The Dish - BGS Quarterly Newsletter

Click here to read the Fall 2014 issue of The Dish.


AUGUST 15, 2014 - Making the Summer Count

(Excerpted from a Penn Medicine News Blog post by Karen Kreeger)

Every summer, the news is filled with profiles of summer student programs, and those that are aimed at increased participation by minority students in STEM are no exception.

The Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP) at Penn Medicine is one such program. Assistant Dean for Research Training Programs Arnaldo Diaz, PhD, showed me around the SUIP Research Symposium last week and introduced me to some of the 33 amazing students who were wrapping up their 10-week internships.

The 2014 SUIP cohort included students from 25 institutions throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as five students conducting research on the social sciences and humanities. In existence since 1993, SUIP has been steadily achieving its mission for the last two decades - most of the program’s students go on to complete PhD, MD-PhD, or other professional degrees. This year, 18 percent of incoming underrepresented minority graduate students in the Perelman School of Medicine are previous SUIP participants. Diaz attributes SUIP’s long-term success to Penn faculty’s strong support, excellent mentoring, and commitment to biomedical education.

Diaz, who has run SUIP since the summer of 2010, says this program is one of the most rewarding parts of his job, but also one of the most challenging: “It’s hard to choose just 30 or so students each year out of about 800 applications.” Before transitioning to an administrative position, Diaz completed an NIH postdoctoral fellowship in Ian Blair’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology at Penn.

JULY 16, 2014 - Potassium Supplements May Increase Survival in Patients Taking Diuretics for Heart Failure, Penn Study Suggests

(Excerpted from Penn News.)

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that patients taking prescription potassium supplements together with loop diuretics for heart failure have better survival rates than patients taking diuretics without the potassium. Moreover, the degree of benefit increases with higher diuretic doses. The team, including senior author Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology in Penn’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB), report their findings in a study published online July 16 in PLOS ONE.

Loop diuretics—one type of diuretic or “water pill” named after the part of the kidney it acts on—are commonly used in the treatment of heart failure (and associated lower-limb edema or swelling) to help push out extra fluid that can accumulate when the heart is not working properly. But they also flush out needed potassium, causing many doctors, but not all, to prescribe the supplements. However, its survival benefit has never been studied, and because of this lack of evidence, there is controversy about whether potassium should be prescribed to all patients receiving loop diuretics.

In a retrospective study, the researchers examined existing health care data from Medicaid between 1999 and 2007 to study approximately 180,000 new starters of loop diuretics who were prescribed supplemental potassium and an equal number of people who started a loop diuretic without the potassium supplement. The researchers found that in patients receiving at least 40 mg/day of furosemide (one form of loop diuretic), adding supplemental potassium appeared to reduce mortality by 16 percent, a large and statistically significant reduction.

Click here for the full release.

MAY 5, 2014 - Immune Cells Outsmart Bacterial Infection by Dying, Penn Vet Study Shows

(Excerpted from Penn News.)

A new study led by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has painted a clearer picture of the delicate arms race between the human immune system and a pathogen that seeks to infect and kill human cells.

The research explores the strategies by which the bacterial pathogen Yersinia, responsible for causing plague and gastrointestinal infections, tries to outsmart immune cell responses and looks at the tactics used by the immune system to fight back.

Dr. Igor BrodskyThe senior author of the paper, which appears online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is Igor E. Brodsky (shown on left), an assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiology at Penn Vet. He teamed with Penn Vet’s Naomi H. Philip,Annelise Snyder, Meghan Wynosky-Dolfi, Erin E. Zwack, Baofeng Hu, Louise FitzGerald and Elizabeth A. Mauldin. Alan M. Copenhaver and Sunny Shin of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine were also co-authors.

The researchers set out to try to solve a seeming paradox. They knew that one way Yersinia bacteria attempted to evade immune response was by using a protein called YopJ to block a key immune signaling pathway in host immune cells, the NF-κB pathway. Activation of this pathway by microbial infection causes infected cells to release signaling molecules, called cytokines, which mobilize the immune system to fight off infection. Yet, despite this strategic blockade, Yersinia infections do lead to recruitment of immune cells and inflammation, and the infected cells die.

Click here for the full release.


MARCH 3, 2014 - CONGRATULATIONS to BGS graduate Shaun O'Brien (IGG-2013) who was recently selected as a 2014-2015 American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Public Policy Fellow!

Now entering its forth year, the AAI Public Policy Fellowship Program (PPFP) is designed to provide opportunities for young scientists to become involved in policy initiatives at AAI.

Learn more about PPFP here:


JANUARY 24, 2014 - Sean Spencer Examines an Immune Response to Malnutrition

Immunology graduate Sean Spencer discusses the adaptation of innate lymphoid cells to a micronutrient deficiency in the January 24, 2014 issue of Science. The article emerged from his thesis, "Regulation of Intestinal Innate Immunity by Dietary Vitamin A" which he completed with Dr. Yasmine Belkaid. Sean is currently finishing his dual MD/PhD and will graduate in 2015.

Click here for News Archive.


Award Announcements

BGS is delighted to announce that this year’s co-recipients of the Jane M. Glick Graduate Student Teaching Award are Hongzhe Lee, Professor of Biostatistics & Epidemiology, and James (Jim) Wilson, Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Drs. Lee and Wilson have both provided long-standing, exemplary service to the BGS/PSOM/Penn core mission of educating, mentoring and training the next generation of biomedical scientists. They each received considerable praise and appreciation from their colleagues and students for their teaching and mentoring acumen, as well as for their fundamental roles in their respective graduate groups, across many years. Their dedication to these efforts exemplifies the type of scientist/educator that Jane Glick represented.

Hongzhe and Jim will be presented with this award during the BGS Graduation Ceremony, scheduled for May 19, 2014 in the BRB Auditorium. Please join us in congratulating them on receiving this award!





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