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Pathology Grad Students Present Results of CTSI Incubator

Christopher Farnsworth,  Ashlee MacDonald, and Eric Schott pose in  front of the podium at the Orthopaedic Research Society Meeting.Results from the 2015 CTSI Incubator project suggest there is a connection between gut microbes in obesity and impaired musculoskeletal health. Members of the Incubator project team presented results at the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) Annual Meeting this week that suggest manipulating the gut microbiome in obese animals can slow osteoarthritis and speed healing after fracture.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes have been known to delay fracture healing and accelerate erosion of joint cartilage in osteoarthritis. The 2015 Incubator project, led by Michael Zuscik, Ph.D., associate professor of Orthopaedics; Robert Mooney, Ph.D., professor of Pathology; and Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell, Ph.D., associate professor of Orthopaedics, aimed to understand how and why this occurred.

The group found that all of these negative effects of obesity were linked to changes in the gut microbiome. Feeding mice a high fat diet to mimic obesity and type 2 diabetes altered the types of bacteria in their colon, favoring pro-inflammatory bugs. This coincided with greater systemic inflammation, which may have contributed to accelerated osteoarthritis and delayed fracture healing.

Not only did the team find a link between the obese gut microbiome and impaired musculoskeletal health, but they think they can reverse it. In preliminary studies, obese mice were fed a fiber supplement that they cannot digest, but that certain helpful gut microbes love. Despite continuing to feed the mice a high fat diet, the non-digestible fiber shifted their microbiome back toward the non-inflammatory bacterial profile seen in lean mice.

That microbiome shift in the obese mice also reduced systemic inflammation, slowed osteoarthritis progression, and restored fracture healing. Essentially, the non-digestible fiber completely reversed the negative effects of obesity on the musculoskeletal system, making the obese mice indistinguishable from their lean counterparts in terms of musculoskeletal health.

Members of the Incubator project team presented these and other related results this week at the ORS Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.  Christopher Farnsworth and Eric Schott, both graduate students in Pathology, gave podium talks and Ashlee MacDonald, Orthopaedics resident, presented a talk as part of a special Late-Breaking session.  

Schott also earned a young investigator travel award to present his research about the effect of the obese microbiome on osteoarthritis at next month’s Osteoarthritis Research Society International Meeting, where he will be featured in a special session and an award ceremony.

Research Day 2016


Click for Research Day Photo Gallery

In a true showing of tenacity and innovation in the field of pathology, the Department celebrated its 36th annual Research Day on Monday, June 13 at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Research Day is annual event featuring oral and poster presentations from Pathology house staff, graduate students and trainees. The largest and most robust event yet featured 18 oral presentations by Pathology residents, fellows, and Ph.D. students and a juried poster presentation in Flaum Atrium with a total of 48 research projects on display.

Poster topics ranged from osteoarthritis and obesity to the regulation of maturation of embryonic erythroid cells as scientists presented their findings to an audience of peers and mentors alike.

This year's keynote speech was given by Scott J. Rodig, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital presented, “Novel Tissue-based Biomarkers to Guide Immunotherapy.”

The day-long showcase was followed by an awards dinner recognizing all departing residents and fellows. Special awards included the following:

Department Faculty Awards

Resident Awards

  • First Place, Oral Presentation, Nisha Patel, DO
  • Second Place, Oral Presentation, Dr. Shana Straub, MD
  • Third Place, Oral Presentation, Dr. Chad Hudson, MD, Ph.D.
  • Chief Resident Recognition, Dr. Diana Agostini-Vulaj, DO
  • Associate Chief Resident Recognition, Dr. Sapna Patel, MD

Graduate Program Awards

  • Academic Excellence Award, Cynthia Tang
  • Outstanding Research Publication Award, Allison Li
  • Outstanding Contribution, Zachary Murphy, MS
  • Travel Awards, Irina Lerman, MS, Eric Schott, MS, Melissa Glasner, Chao Xue, MS