MMI Faculty in the News
Congratulations to Dr. Janine LaSalle, recipient of one of this year’s inaugural Cultivating Team Science grant program to incentivize collaboration research awards, UC Davis School of Medicine
The Cultivating Team Science Awards will provide $100,000 annually per team ($200,000 total award) with two-year seed funds for planning, preparation and submission of large team-based applications. The awarded teams will be required to submit an initial application for a program project, U01 or equivalent grant to NIH or other federal funding agency with direct costs of at least $2 million annually by June 2022.
Dr. Janine LaSalle, professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis MIND Institute and co-director of the Perinatal Origins of Disparities Center, will lead her team’s investigation of Precision Biomarkers of Fetal Neurodevelopment and Maternal Dietary Interventions in the Perinatal Origins of Disparities Center.
Precision biomarkers of fetal neurodevelopment and maternal dietary interventions in the Perinatal Origins of Disparities (POD) Center
Despite leadership in technologically advanced biomedical research, health outcomes in the US are often more dependent on zip code than DNA code. Almost half of premature mortality in low-income US populations can be attributed to social determinants of health, including disparities in access to affordable healthy food, potable water, green space, safe housing, clean air and supportive social networks. Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, a premise originating with observations of the long-term effects of perinatal famine in humans and backed by recent advances in the fields of epigenetics and epidemiology, demonstrates that pre-conception and intrauterine exposures have lifelong consequences on health. The perinatal period, defined as pre-conception through early infancy, is thus a critical window for preventive interventions to improve social determinants of health and reduce future healthcare costs.
To address the critical scientific gap in understanding multifactorial perinatal influences on health trajectories and disparities, we have convened a multidisciplinary team to create the UC Davis Perinatal Origins of Disparities (POD) Center. POD is based on the premise that there is no “Nature versus Nurture,” but rather, health trajectories and outcomes must be understood within the context of both Nature and Nurture through cutting-edge technologies. Few research teams have simultaneously integrated data from the social, behavioral, and basic sciences to reflect the critical intersection where nature meets nurture to mitigate health disparities at the beginning of life. The POD Center will leverage expertise from genome sciences, epigenetics, human development, epidemiology, engineering, social welfare policy, and economics to identify phenotypes of health trajectories beginning prenatally that consider biological, social, behavioral, and community level data simultaneously in order to develop, validate, and disseminate preventive interventions for health disparities.
Funds provided from the School of Medicine Cultivating Team Science Award will be specifically used to develop and translate to clinical practice precision biomarkers from “liquid biopsy” of maternal blood, specifically the analysis of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) circulating in serum and plasma.
Congratulations to Drs. Maria Mudryj and Kimberly Katleba for their exciting new findings in cancer research
Congratulations to Drs. Maria Mudryj and Kimberly Katleba for their exciting new findings in cancer research. This study found that targeting androgen receptors - a type of protein that is crucial for the function of testosterone – have capacity to destroy cancer cells. A new research publication reports for the first time that a newly identified form of the protein is commonly expressed in bladder tumors and most importantly, depletion this protein target caused death of cancer cells. This collaborative project involved researchers from UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and School of Medicine.
This collaborative research by Dr. Maria Mudryj, Professor, Vice Chair of Outreach and Education, and Dr. Kimberly Katleba, post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, was published in Cancer Letters and highlighted in:
Dr. Jonathan Eisen, is one among the eleven UC Davis professors who have been elected in this year’s class of fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society.
The association elevates members to the rank of fellow in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.
The Safety Star Program was implemented to recognize campus employees who are making contributions to improve the safety culture at UC Davis. Nominees are eligible for three voting periods.
Briana Young, a Staff Research Associate in Medical Microbiology and Immunology has been chosen as the third Safety Star of 2020.
UC Davis researchers have found that combining a Western-style high-fat diet with antibiotic use significantly increases the risk of developing pre-inflammatory bowel disease (pre-IBD). The study, published July 14 in Cell Host and Microbe, suggests that this combination shuts down the energy factories (mitochondria) in cells of the colon lining, leading to gut inflammation.
“Our study found that a history of antibiotics in individuals consuming a high-fat diet was associated with the greatest risk for pre-IBD,” said Andreas Bäumler, professor of medical microbiology and immunology and lead author on the study. “Until now, we didn’t appreciate how different environmental risk factors can synergize to drive the disease.”
In this age of COVID-19, Jonathan Eisen says what we really need is a field guide to coronaviruses. We’ll need it when the next new dangerous virus appears, and we are not close.
Eisen, a UC Davis Health professor of microbiology and immunology and an evolutionary biologist in the UC Davis Genome Center, is not trying to scare anyone. But he says if we better understood all coronaviruses, we could have more quickly and effectively fought back against COVID-19.
Dr. Satya Dandekar, professor of microbiology and the chairperson of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis, has received a prestigious MERIT award from the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
MERIT stands for Method to Extend Research in Time. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) presents MERIT awards to outstanding investigators for their superior competence and stellar records of scientific achievement.
Dr. Jonathan Eisen, knows he’s an unlikely champion for female representation at scientific conferences. But he also knows someone needs to point out the dearth of women who are speakers at these events.
A UC Davis study found that the damaged gut lining (known as leaky gut) in monkeys infected with chronic simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), an HIV-like virus, was rapidly repaired within five hours of receiving Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria.
The study, published today in the PNAS, linked chronically inflamed leaky gut to the loss of PPARα signaling (a nuclear receptor protein responsible for regulating cell metabolism) and subsequent damage to mitochondria - the cell’s power house.
Departmental faculty member, Andreas Bäumler, Ph.D., is one among the sixteen UC Davis researchers that have been named in the annual Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list released by the Web of Science Group, which compiles statistics on scientific publishing. The list identifies scientists and social scientists who have published multiple papers ranking in the top 1 percent by citations in a particular field and year, over a 10-year period.
Center leaders: Leigh Ann Simmons, professor and chair of the Department of Human Ecology; Janine LaSalle, professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and associate director of the Genome Center
Despite all of the incredible advances in health care technology over recent years, health outcomes in the United States are often more dependent on zip code than DNA code. The Perinatal Origins of Disparities (POD) Center will investigate why and how some groups of people are more likely to be sicker than others, and then develop ways to prevent those disparities when they often begin — pre-conception to infancy. Since the challenge of preventing health disparities will never be addressed through a single approach, the POD Center brings faculty together from a wide range of fields: genome sciences, human development, epidemiology, biomedical engineering, social welfare policy and health economics. This multidisciplinary group will examine biological, social, behavioral and community-level data simultaneously to develop, test and share prevention strategies and tools.
Research shows a new vaccine developed by UC Davis holds promise for slowing an infection that's a concern in pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
The vaccine was designed to treat cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is an infection that's spread by direct contact with saliva, urine or other bodily fluids, especially in babies and young children. It can become severe for infants and even life-threatening for people with weak immune systems.
A UC Davis team, that includes Dr. Dennis Hartigan-O'Connor, conducted the study in monkeys and found the vaccine slowed the spread of CMV for three months. The team simulated how the virus spreads in daycare centers and schools. They also targeted a viral gene that prevents the immune system from responding to the infection.
Dr. Jonathan Eisen, is one of the recipients of the ADVANCE Scholar Award recipients for 2018-19, announced by the UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.
These ADVANCE Scholars improve gender equity in STEM through their teaching, research and service and encourage research, leadership, and outreach to underserved communities and/or mentorship of underrepresented students.
The ADVANCE Scholar Awards highlight and celebrate the contributions that STEM faculty at UC Davis have made to their fields through outstanding scholarship and mentorship.
Chancellor Gary S. May has named the 2019 class of Chancellor’s Fellows, the university’s annual honors program recognizing associate professors for high achievement in the quality and excellence of research and teaching.
In this 19th year of the program, May named 10 Chancellor’s Fellows: two biologists (one who studies grapevine disease, the other how insects fly), an artist and a poet, a medical microbiologist, a molecular geneticist and a veterinary epidemiologist, a psychologist and a mathematician, and a physicist looking for “dark matter.”
The Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes and rewards Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing faculty members for their outstanding efforts in teaching and their impact on the education of the school’s students. The 2018 Teaching Award goes to Assistant Adjunct Professor Sam Sankaran-Walters.
Dr. Sankaran-Walters was nominated for her passion for teaching and as one nominee said, her heart for students. Her accessible knowledge and approachable style resonates with students who know she always wants them to succeed. She can explain complicated processes in simple terms and is a straight-shooter. One nominee likened her compassion and understanding to Betty Irene Moore, who advocated for change in health care after she experienced a potentially harmful medical error. Dr. Sankaran-Walters is a partner for students and always ready to find solutions to help them and improve the situation for others.
Dr. Renée Tsolis, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, is one of 96 new fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2018. Fellows of the American Academy of Microbiology, an honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. The new fellows will be honored at the ASM Microbe 2018 conference in June.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has a secret life. Though anti-retroviral therapy can reduce its numbers, the virus can hide and avoid both treatments and the body’s immune response.
Researchers at UC Davis Health, together with colleagues at UC San Francisco and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have found that increased crotonylation, an epigenetic mechanism that governs gene expression, might be the key to making HIV come out of hiding and become susceptible to anti-HIV drugs. Their study is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Dr. Satya Dandekar, Professor and Chair of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, is one among the three UC Davis Health faculty members who have been elected to the newest class of fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. They are among 15 UC Davis faculty to receive the honor.
Dr. Jonathan Eisen Joins Zymo Research Corp.'s Scientific Advisory Board
The Zymo Research Corp. Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Dr. Jonathan Eisen, Biologist, to its Scientific Advisory Board, effective immediately.
Dr. Jonathan Andrew Eisen currently works at the University of California, Davis. He holds appointments in the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences and in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine. Dr. Eisen's lab is located at the UC Davis Genome Center. His areas of expertise include evolutionary biology, genomics, microbiology and computational biology. He has been actively involved in the "open science" movement especially in the move towards more "open access" publishing. In addition, he is an active and award-winning science communicator.
How dietary fiber helps the intestine maintain gut health
UC Davis Health researchers have discovered how by-products of the digestion of dietary fiber by gut microbes act as the right fuel to help intestinal cells maintain gut health.
The research, published August 11 in the journal Science, is important because it identifies a potential therapeutic target for rebalancing gut microbiota and adds to a growing body of knowledge on the complex interplay between gut microbiota and dietary fiber.
An accompanying Insights / Perspectives article in the same issue of the journal describes gut microbes as “partners” in the body’s defense against potential infectious agents, such as Salmonella.
“Our research suggests that one of the best approaches to maintaining gut health might be to feed the beneficial microbes in our intestines dietary fiber, their preferred source of sustenance,” said Andreas Bäumler, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis Health and senior author of the study.
Contaminated Medical Marijuana Believed to have Killed Cancer Patient
A rare fungal infection has killed a California man undergoing cancer treatment and it’s believed he got it from medical marijuana, CBS Los Angeles reports.
The treatment left the man’s immune system compromised, but his death still surprised doctors because he was relatively young and his cancer was beatable. He was using medical marijuana to fend off the treatment’s effects. After his death, testing of 20 medical marijuana samples from across the state found the vast majority were contaminated with dangerous bacteria and fungi.
“It started with a couple patients that were undergoing very intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell therapy, and those patients were very immune-compromised,” explained Dr. Joseph Tuscano of the University of California, Davis Cancer Center.
The California man was one of those patients who was already in a very serious cancer fight. Then that fight suddenly became much more complicated with a relatively rare but particularly lethal fungal infection.
“We thought it was strange to have cases of such a bad fungal disease in such a short amount of time,” said Dr. George Thompson, a fungal infection expert with UC Davis Medical Center.
How maternal immune response to allergies may affect neurodevelopment
Researchers at UC Davis have published a study that illustrates how maternal immune activation could affect neurodevelopment in offspring.
Common characteristics that underlie many neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder suggest they may share common causes. Epidemiological and clinical studies have identified links between these disorders and a family history of immune conditions. Most notably, mothers who have experienced increased immune activity during pregnancy are more likely to have a child with one of these neuropsychiatric disorders.
Led by Paul Ashwood, professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, the study demonstrated that young mice showed increased hyperactivity and repetitive behaviors when mothers were exposed to allergens. The study findings were published in a paper entitled “Behavioral impact of maternal allergic-asthma in two genetically distinct mouse strains” in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Award for Career Excellence in Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology
Departmental faculty member, Shirley Luckhart, Ph.D., has been awarded the “Award for Career Excellence in Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology”.
Genetics and environment combine to influence autism-associated genes
Researchers at UC Davis have shown that a well-known neurotoxin (PCB 95) and a chromosomal duplication (Dup15q) have a profound impact on DNA methylation, the epigenetic process that can influence gene activity. These cumulative genetic and environmental “hits” alter the epigenetic landscape during development, altering genes linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.
“We found multi-hit, cumulative impacts that are affecting epigenetic signatures in a common group of genes involved in synapses and autism,” said Janine LaSalle, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. “This study is an example of how you can have two independent effects that, when combined, affect a larger set of genes important in the developing brain.”
Gut pathogens thrive on body’s tissue-repair mechanism
Why do some foodborne bacteria make us sick? A paper published Sept. 16 in the journal Science has found that pathogens in the intestinal tract cause harm because they benefit from immune system responses designed to repair the very damage to the intestinal lining caused by the bacteria in the first place.
”The finding is important because it explains how some enteric pathogens can manipulate mammalian cells to get the oxygen they need to breathe,” said Andreas Bäumler, a professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “It also offers new insight into developing strategies targeting the metabolism of the intestinal lining to prevent the expansion of harmful bacteria in the gut, a situation that is exacerbated by the overuse of antibiotics.”
A healthy large intestine is mostly free of oxygen, and the beneficial microbes residing there thrive in this anaerobic environment. In contrast, enteric pathogens, such as Escherichia coli in humans or Citrobacter rodentium in mice, need oxygen to survive.
Bäumler’s team discovered how these pathogens change the gut environment to favor their own growth.
“Enteric pathogens deploy virulence factors that damage the intestinal lining and cause diarrhea,” Bäumler said. “To repair the damage, the body accelerates the division of epithelial cells that form the intestinal lining, which brings immature cells to the mucosal surface. These new cells contain more oxygen and wind up increasing oxygen levels in the large bowel, creating an environment that allows gut pathogens like E. coli to outcompete the anaerobic-loving resident microbes.”
Bäumler’s research has important implications for developing new treatment strategies that target factors that compromise the intestinal-lining function or bolster microbiota composition to offer either resistance or assistance to invading pathogens.
“The rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria has become a major public health threat worldwide, Bäumler said. “As more bacterial strains do not respond to the drugs designed to kill them, the advances made in treating infectious diseases over the last 50 years are in jeopardy.”
This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified three drug-resistant organisms – Clostridium difficile, Carbapenem enterobacteriaceae and Neisseria gonorrhoeae – as requiring urgent attention, and in May, a report commissioned by the UK government predicted that by 2050 antimicrobial-resistant infections could claim 10 million lives a year and cost up to $100 trillion from the global economy.
Understanding how gut pathogens manipulate the body’s natural defense mechanisms to grab hold and contribute to abnormal states within and beyond the GI tract is a burgeoning area of research at UC Davis. Scientists from schools and colleges across the campus are investigating antibiotic resistance as well as the influence that gut-flora imbalances have on many conditions, including brain health and behavior, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, GI cancers, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, autism, arthritis and asthma.
Antibiotics increase nutrient availability for pathogens
UC Davis study details how treatment with antibiotics increases availability of oxidized sugars to generate nutrients that benefit the growth of bacterial pathogens.
The research on antibiotics has traditionally focused on the mechanisms by which they contribute to controlling the growth of bacteria as well as on the development of new drugs. But it has also been known that, paradoxically, some bacterial pathogens can benefit from the consequences of antibiotic treatment in causing disease. However, the mechanisms behind this relation remain elusive.
Antibiotics enable pathogens to breath in the gut
Antibiotics are essential for fighting bacterial infection, but paradoxically, in some instances they can make us more prone to developing diarrhea. That is because antibiotics don’t just kill “bad” bacteria; they can also kill the “good” ones normally residing in our gut to protect us from pathogens. However, the mechanisms by which our resident gut microbes confer protection against pathogens, such as Salmonella, remain poorly understood. In a paper published April XX, 2016, researchers from UC Davis and UT Southwestern figured out why.
Our body absorbs nutrients in the small intestine, but our digestive tract cannot break down natural fibers from vegetables. Thus fibers pass through into the large intestine, which is teaming with beneficial microbes that are specialized on breaking down this plant material into a short organic acid, termed butyrate. To generate energy for water absorption, our cells lining the large intestine then use oxygen to burn microbe-derived butyrate; that’s how we consume fiber. A team led by Dr. Baumler found that when mice were given antibiotics, the beneficial microbes were depleted along with butyrate, thus preventing the cells lining the large intestine to consume oxygen, which dramatically increased oxygen availability in the gut lumen. Unlike our beneficial microbes, which specialize on growing in the complete absence of oxygen, Salmonella was able to benefit from the resulting increase in oxygen availability, which drove a bloom of the pathogen in the gut after antibiotic treatment. Thus by preventing beneficial microbes from providing nutrition for the cells lining our large intestine, antibiotic treatment can make us more susceptible to Salmonella infection. This finding will help to devise strategies to prevent this unwanted side effect of antibiotic treatment.
Shirley Luckhart: Outstanding Teacher and Mentor
For outstanding teaching and mentoring, molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart has been named the recipient of the 2016 “Award for Excellence in Service to Graduate Students,” sponsored by the UC Davis Graduate Student Association.
“This is a wonderful surprise,” said Luckhart, professor with the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and adjunct professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
She will receive the award on April 8 at the annual Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Student Award Banquet.
Luckhart, whose expertise includes molecular cell biology and biochemistry of malaria parasite transmission, was singled out for creating a thriving lab environment and her drive to help her students succeed.
Cells sensing hostile takeover by pathogens also sound alarm to alert immune system
Researchers at UC Davis have discovered an unexpected link between how the immune system sounds an alarm when its cells are taken over by pathogens during an infection and how an inflammatory response is triggered.
The finding of this novel link, published in the journal Nature on March 23, is important because it helps researchers understand how a cell senses bacterial or viral infection, and how these pathways are linked to inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Waking up HIV - Two compounds show great potential to rouse latent virus
Highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has helped millions survive the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Unfortunately, HIV has a built-in survival mechanism, creating reservoirs of latent, inactive virus that are invisible to both HAART and the immune system.
The study was published in PLoS Pathogens Journal
Internships move UCD doctoral students beyond academia
Some doctoral students at the University of California, Davis, are going far beyond campus labs and academia. They are engaging in practical work at a leading pharmaceutical company, studying air pollution for a state agency and researching malaria in Uganda.
Congratulations to Dr. Michael J. Leibowitz, professor, Medical Microbiology & Immunology as he was one of 6 UC Davis professors in newest class of AAAS fellows
The association announced the new class on Monday (Nov. 24). The membership elected 401 new fellows in all, in recognition of their contributions to innovation, education and scientific leadership. UC Davis, with its six new members, now has a total of 152 AAAS fellows.
Surprising discovery: HIV hides in gut, evading eradication
Researchers at UC Davis have made some surprising discoveries about the body's initial responses to HIV infection. Studying simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the team found that specialized cells in the intestine called Paneth cells are early responders to viral invasion and are the source of gut inflammation by producing a cytokine called interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β).
Though aimed at the presence of virus, IL-1β causes breakdown of the gut epithelium that provides a barrier to protect the body against pathogens. Importantly, this occurs prior to the wide spread viral infection and immune cell killing. But in an interesting twist, a beneficial bacterium, Lactobacillus plantarum, helps mitigate the virus-induced inflammatory response and protects gut epithelial barrier. The study was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
One of the biggest obstacles to complete viral eradication and immune recovery is the stable HIV reservoir in the gut. There is very little information about the early viral invasion and the establishment of the gut reservoir.
"We want to understand what enables the virus to invade the gut, cause inflammation and kill the immune cells," said Satya Dandekar, lead author of the study and chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis.
"Our study has identified Paneth cells as initial virus sensors in the gut that may induce early gut inflammation, cause tissue damage and help spread the viral infection. Our findings provide potential targets and new biomarkers for intervening or blocking early spread of viral infection," she said.
Breast versus bottle feeding in rhesus monkeys
Infants receiving different diets after birth develop distinct immune systems
Dr. Dennis Hartigan-O'Connor recently had a study published in Science Translational Medicine on September 3, 2014, researchers from the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) at UC Davis and from UC San Francisco have shown that breast-and bottle-fed infant rhesus macaques develop different immune systems.
Diet has a strong influence on the intestinal microbiota in both humans and animal models. It is well established that microbial colonization is required for normal development of the immune system and that specific microbial constituents prompt the differentiation or expansion of certain immune cell subsets. Nonetheless, it has been unclear how profoundly diet might shape the primate immune system or how durable the influence might be. We show that breast-fed and bottle-fed infant rhesus macaques develop markedly different immune systems, which remain different 6 months after weaning when the animals begin receiving identical diets. In particular, breast-fed infants develop robust populations of memory T cells as well as T helper 17 (TH17) cells within the memory pool, whereas bottle-fed infants do not. These findings may partly explain the variation in human susceptibility to conditions with an immune basis, as well as the variable protection against certain infectious diseases.
U.S. News' ranks UC Davis Medical Center programs among the nation's best
UC Davis Medical Center has ranked as one of the nation’s best hospitals for 2014-15 in 10 adult medical specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The annual U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings, released July 15, recognize hospitals that excel in treating patients with the most serious and challenging injuries and illnesses.
“The results of the U.S. News & World Report survey reflect the excellence and compassion of everyone here who cares for our patients,” said Ann Madden Rice, chief executive officer, UC Davis Medical Center.
New Insights into how genes turn on and off
Dr. Janine LaSalle, Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, in conjunction with researchers at the University of British Columbia, have shed new light on methylation, a critical process that helps control how genes are expressed. Her paper, titled "The human placenta methylome" was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
In addition to enhancing our understanding of epigenetics, this work could influence cancer research and help illuminate how environmental toxins affect fetal development.
Researchers discover molecular target for the bacterial infection brucellosis
Dr. Renee Tsolis’ research group has uncovered a potential drug target for the development of an effective therapy against the debilitating, chronic form of the bacterial disease brucellosis, which primarily afflicts people in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
Paul Ashwood co-author on 2 autism related papers
Dr. Paul Ashwood, a professor in Med Micro and a researcher in the MIND institute, is co-author on two papers published in July:
- Identification of specific fetal antigens attacked by maternal antibodies
- Findings of how exposure to prenatal maternal antibodies affects behavior, development in offspring
UC Davis researchers discover how cells distinguish friend from foe
Dr. Andreas Baumler, Professor in the department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis, and his team have shown how the innate immune system distinguishes between dangerous pathogens and friendly microbes. Like burglars entering a house, hostile bacteria give themselves away by breaking into cells. However, sensing proteins instantly detect the invasion, triggering an alarm that mobilizes the innate immune response. This new understanding of immunity could ultimately help researchers find new targets to treat inflammatory disorders. The paper, titled "Manipulation of small Rho GTPases is a pathogen-induced process detected by NOD1" was published in Nature on March 31.
Diseases on the move because of climate change
Dr. George Thompson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, was interviewed as part of a USA today article highlighting how climate change is affecting the movement of infectious diseases across the United States. Dr. Thompson is a specialist on Valley Fever, which has seen a ten-fold increase in infections since 1998.
Dr. Andreas Baumler finds key to growth of "bad" bacteria in inflammatory bowel disease
Scientists have long puzzled over why “bad” bacteria such as E. coli can thrive in the guts of those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), causing serious diarrhea. Now UC Davis researchers have discovered the answer—one that may be the first step toward finding new and better treatments for IBD.
Dr. Thompson given IDSA award
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has awarded Angie Gelli, PhD of the Department of Pharmacology, and George R. Thompson, MD a faculty member in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, the 2012 Program committee Choice Award for their work on invasion of the central nervous system by Cryptococcus spp.
Their work was highlighted at an awards presentation on the opening night of the conference held in San Diego, CA during which only 4 presentations were honored for outstanding scientific research.
Together, Dr.'s Gelli and Thompson were able to determine the role of a secreted metalloprotease that is required for invasion into the central nervous system and hope to further characterize both the activity and expression of this enzyme in a human cohort in future studies.
BRCMS awards Aicha Toure for best poster presentation
The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students has awarded Aicha Toure best poster presentations in the discipline of Immunology for her poster titled: “Increased Proliferation of Intestinal Epithelial Cells In Early SIV Infection.” Aicha is a senior undergraduate student who is majoring in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Medical Microbiology. During the 2012-13 academic year she is participating in an undergraduate research internship in the lab of Dr. Satya Dandekar in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, and is investigating changes in intestinal epithelial integrity during SIV infection.
Cases of Valley fever on the rise
Dr. George Thompson, assistant professor and assistant director of the coccidioidomycosis serology laboratory, comments on the rising number of cases of Valley Fever seen throughout the central valley.
UC Davis-led conference promotes new collaborations in Brazil
An interdisciplinary delegation of researchers and educators, led by UC Davis, met this month at the Integrated Biological Networks Driving Disease Outcomes conference in Uberlândia, Brazil, to explore new opportunities for collaboration with the Brazilian Research Network in the biomedical and translational sciences.
Co-chairs of the conference were Satya Dandekar, professor and chair of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis School of Medicine, and Luiz Goulart, a professor at UFU's Institute of Genetics and Biochemistry and visiting professor in UC Davis' medical microbiology and immunology department.
MMI Department Chair Receives RISE Award
Satya Dandekar, Professor and Chair of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, has been awarded funding from the new Research Investments in Sciences and Engineering (RISE) program to conduct innovative, multidisciplinary research in areas of strategic importance to California, the nation and the world.
Established by the UC Davis Office of Research earlier this year, the program has awarded a total of $10 million to support 12 research projects over the next three years. Five projects are led by UC Davis Health faculty. See the story here.
Med Micro researcher receives grant from American Heart Association
Dr. Arina Marijke Keestra, an Assistant Project Scientist in Andreas Baumler’s laboratory, received a prestigious National Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association, a four-year award totaling $ 308,000. The National Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association supports highly promising beginning scientists in their progress toward independence by encouraging and adequately funding research projects that can bridge the gap between completion of research training and readiness for successful competition as an independent investigator. The long-range goal of Dr. Keestra’s research supported by the National Scientist Development Grant is to elucidate pathways of innate immunity that can distinguish harmless microbes from pathogens, thereby enabling the host to mount responses that are commensurate with the threat.
UC Davis dermatologist among scientists honored with Presidential award
Emanual Maverakis, assistant professor of dermatology at UC Davis School of Medicine, joins a highly select group later this month in a White House ceremony honoring recipients of this year's Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
Immune System weaves cobweb-like nanonets to snag intestinal microbes
A team of researchers led by Dr. Charles Bevins has found that human alpha-defensin 6 (HD6) -- a key component of the body's innate defense system -- binds to microbial surfaces and forms "nanonets" that surround, entangle and disable microbes, preventing bacteria from attaching to or invading intestinal cells.
UC Davis Microbiologist leads study to identify HIV vaccine target
Dennis Hartigan-O'Connor, a new assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology, is the principal investigator of a study that has identified a potential new target for developing therapies or vaccines for HIV.
Shirley Luckhart receives outstanding mentor award
Congratulations to UC Davis molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) and a graduate student advisor with the UC Davis Department of Entomology! She’s just received a 2012 Outstanding Mentor Award from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research. Luckhart, an international authority on malaria, was nominated through a joint effort of her 15-member lab, and supported by former students, postdocs and faculty colleagues. Writing letters of support were doctoral candidates Anna Drexler and Elizabeth Glennon; postdoctoral scholar Nazzy Pakpour; and MMI associate professor Maria Mudryj. Read what her lab members said about her here.
UC Davis MIND Institute researchers present on autism at AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver
Janine LaSalle, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Isaac Pessah, Director of the UC Davis Children's Center for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention led a symposium on relationships between genetic, epigenetic and environmental influences on the development of autism in children during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, Feb. 16 -18 in Vancouver, Canada.
The research findings of Dr. LaSalle indicate that exposure to even low levels of flame retardants may affect the brain of a developing fetus and possibly contribute to autism. This story was also covered by MyHealthNewsDaily.com and IrishTimes.com.
Dr. Eisen elected as a fellow in American Academy of Microbiology
Jonathan A. Eisen, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis Health, has been elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology, the honorific leadership group of the American Society for Microbiology, which is the world's oldest and largest life-science organization.
Barbara Shacklett's research highlighted in Science Daily
Dr. Shacklett’s paper titled "Myeloid dendritic cells isolated from tissues of SIV-infected Rhesus macaques promote the induction of regulatory T cells" is highlighted in the February 14th edition of Science Daily. The paper was published in the January 28, 2012 issue of AIDS.
Research led by Paul Ashwood has been honored by Autism Speaks as one of the top 10 Research Achievements of 2011
Dr. Ashwood’s paper titled "Elevated plasma cytokines in autism spectrum disorders provide evidence of immune dysfunction and are associated with impaired behavioral outcome" found significantly altered adaptive cellular immune function in children with autism spectrum disorders that may reflect dysfunctional immune activation, and that these alterations may be linked to disturbances in behavior and developmental functioning. It was published in January 2011 in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. A link to Dr. Ashwood's paper can be found here.
Dr. Thompson and Dr. Pappagianis paper cited as Top Ten Paper
Dr. George Thompson and Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis were coauthors on a paper recently cited as one of the top 10 papers in clinical mycology at the 51st Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) attended by over 10,000 medical professionals. Their paper describes abrogation of an IgG response in patients treated very early for coccidioidal infection, and defines the mechanism as the indirect suppression of the IgG antigen CTS1 with fluconazole administration. Their report was the first observation of this phenomenon in mycology. A link to the paper can be found here.
Med Micro Signs Agreement with Universidade Federal de Uberlandia, Brazil
An Agreement of Cooperation between the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology and the Universidade Federal de Uberlandia (UFU), Brazil has been approved by both institutions. The Agreement will promote scientific scholarly activities, research collaborations and international understanding through the exchange of visiting scholars at both institutions. Dr Luiz Goulart, a Visiting Professor from UFU has been based in Med Micro since 2009. It was through his efforts that this agreement was established. Dr Goulart commented “I am very pleased that I have been able to be a part of the process in deepening the relationship between both institutions.”
Dr. Pomeroy elected to Institute of Medicine
Congratulations to Dr. Claire Pomeroy who has been elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the nation’s highest honors in health and medicine.
Dr. Pomeroy comments on role of social factors in U.S. health care
In this opinion piece, Dr. Pomeroy, Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences, Dean of the School of Medicine, and Medical Microbiology & Immunology faculty member, comments on the critical need to address the social determinants of health as part of health-care reform.
Social factors play huge role in U.S. health.
Dr. Maverakis receives NIH Director's New Innovator Award
Dr. Emanuel Maverakis has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. The NIH Director's Award programs are designed to reinvigorate and advance science and medicine by enabling investigators to pursue entirely new directions in research, with an emphasis on risk taking and innovation.
New genetically engineered vaccines target Rift Valley Fever
Tilahun Yilma, a Med Micro faculty, is lead author reporting the development of two genetically engineered vaccines to combat the mosquito-borne Rift Valley fever, devastating to livestock and so far confined to Africa and the Middle East.
Chuck Bevins paper featured in New York Times Story
Dr. Chuck Bevins recent paper linking Male infertility to a missing protein was featured in a story in The New York Times. The paper was published in the July 20, 2011 edition of Science Translational Medicine.
Jonathan Eisen's PLoS ONE paper featured in The Economist
Dr. Jonathan Eisen's recent article in PLoS ONE is featured in the March 24th edition of The Economist. The paper discusses Dr. Eisen's pursuit of expanding our understanding of the diversity of life.
Claire Pomeroy to be honored as Safety Net Hero
Dr. Claire Pomeroy, Chief Executive Officer of UC Davis Health, UC Davis Vice Chancellor for Human Health Services and Dean of the School of Medicine, will be honored as a “Safety Net Hero” at the upcoming Spring Break 2011 fundraiser.
Researchers within Med Micro working to find a cure for HIV
In a letter from UC Davis Health CEO and UC Davis Medical School Dean Claire Pomeroy, Medical Microbiology faculty members Satya Dandekar, Barbara Shacklett and Richard Pollard are highlighted for their efforts in finding a cure for the HIV virus.
Med Micro places 12th out of 96 Microbiology departments for NIH funding in 2010
The UC Davis School of Medicine rose to 37th place among 134 schools of medicine in the United States in an annual ranking based on the amount of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funds received over the course of a year. UC Davis School of Medicine ranked particularly high in basic sciences, including microbiology (12th out of 96 surveyed).
Paul Ashwood paper highlighted by NIEHS
Dr. Paul Ashwood’s research into children with autism spectrum disorders is featured in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Newsletter (March 2011).
Renee Tsolis Appointed to NIH study Section
Renee Tsolis has been appointed to Vaccines Against Microbial Diseases Study Section, Center for Scientific Review, NIH, effective July 1, 2011-June 30, 2015. Dr Tsolis was nominated because of her demonstrated competence and achievements as evidenced by the quality of her research accomplishments, publications and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.
Claire Pomeroy named 2011 Businesswoman of the Year
Sacramento Metro Chamber announced that Claire Pomeroy, Faculty member of MMI, Dean of the UC Davis Medical School and CEO of the UC Davis Health, is its "2011 Businesswoman of the Year." The chamber recognized her for helping make UC Davis "a major contributor to the health care industry and economy of the Sacramento region."
Shirley Luckhart's contribution recognized in Time Magazine
Time magazine selected the "malaria-proof mosquito," developed with the contributions of professor Shirley Luckhart as one of its 50 Best Inventions of 2010.
Andreas Bäumler recognized with top biology paper of 2010
The Scientist selected a study co-written by Andreas Baumler, professor and vice chair of research for the department, as the top paper in biology in 2010.
Barbara Shacklett discusses her work with HIV controllers
Barbara Shacklett discusses her work with HIV controllers and announces the launch of three new clinical studies on women (controllers) in the Bay Area of Northern California.
Paul Ashwood featured in Autism Speaks
Research from Dr. Paul Ashwood was featured in this year's newsletter from Autism Speaks.
New research identifies environmental risk factors for autism.
Andreas Baumler to serve on NIH study section
Dr. Andreas Baumler has been appointed to serve on the NIH Host Interactions with Bacterial pathogens Study Sections, Center for Scientific Review for the period July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014. Members are selected for this Study Section on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors.
Kathy DeReimer to receive NIH New Innovator Funding
Congratulations to Kathy DeRiemer for being awarded a 5 year NIH grant to support her research on Tuberculosis.
Barbara Shacklett appointed to AIP and ANRS study sections
Barbara Shacklett has been appointed to two Study Sections: National Institutes of Health: AIDS Immunology and Pathogenesis ("AIP") Study section (2009-2013; and The French National AIDS Research Agency, ANRS: Study Section CSS1, Host-Virus Interactions (2009-2012).