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The Ways We Pay: Orthopaedics Researchers to Study Impact of Medicare Reform on Patient Care

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) will determine whether a new Medicare payment model has deepened racial and socioeconomic disparities in joint replacement care with new funding from the National Institutes of Health. Racial and socioeconomic disparities, especially among older Medicare beneficiaries, are well-documented in joint replacement care and the researchers worry this well-meaning reform could make things worse.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model in April of 2016 to improve coordination and quality of medical care for joint replacements. The model bundles all joint replacement care - from surgery to rehab - into a single payment, holding hospitals financially accountable for the quality and cost of care across that spectrum.

“The bundled payment model may motivate hospitals to adopt measures that could worsen racial and socioeconomic disparities of hip and knee replacement surgery utilization and outcomes,” said Caroline P. Thirukumaran, M.B.B.S., M.H.A., Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopaedics, Public Health Sciences, and in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research (CMSR) at URMC. “Reducing the length of stay or discharging patients to home instead of a skilled nursing facility, for example, may reduce costs, but may not be sensitive to the unique needs of underrepresented patients.”

Read More: The Ways We Pay: Orthopaedics Researchers to Study Impact of Medicare Reform on Patient Care

Dr. Laura Calvi receives the 2017 Davey Award in Cancer Research

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Laura Calvi, M.D., professor of Medicine, received the Davey Award during the 22nd Annual Wilmot Cancer Institute Scientific Symposium on Nov. 9. The award is given annually to a University of Rochester faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to cancer research.

“Laura Calvi has done seminal work on defining the cancer stem cell niche and has demonstrated the importance of the tumor microenvironment for the development of cancer," says Hucky Land, Ph.D., director of research at Wilmot, who presented the award to Calvi. "She is a highly deserving recipient of the Davey award, and we expect much more of this very exciting work from her in the future.”

Read More: Dr. Laura Calvi receives the 2017 Davey Award in Cancer Research

URMC Awarded Nearly $6 Million to Study Deadly Bone Infections

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bone infection, while relatively rare, can be debilitating and potentially fatal. In recent years, researchers in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center have made several discoveries that position them to advance new treatments and possible cures for bone infections. Now, a nearly $6 million, 5 year award from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease at the National Institutes of Health, will allow the group to create a new multidisciplinary research program devoted to studying bone infections.

The CMSR has been among the top five NIH-funded orthopaedic research centers in the nation for over ten years, and Edward Schwarz, Ph.D., Burton Professor of Orthopaedics and director of the CMSR, has been the top NIH-funded orthopaedic researcher in the nation three years running. This new grant, awarded to Schwarz and throng of researchers from across the University of Rochester and beyond, brings the center’s total forecasted earnings for 2017 to $28 million.

Of the millions of Americans who have joint replacement surgeries each year, less than five percent come away with an infection. But this minority of patients must endure a long and difficult road to recovery, if they recover at all. The vast majority of these infections are caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, including the dreaded methicillin-resistant strain (MRSA), which causes sepsis and death in 13 percent of infected patients.

Patients who survive these infections face multiple surgeries to remove infected tissue, months of strong antibiotic treatments, and a high likelihood of re-infection. For a long time, researchers have been working to understand how this bacteria evades treatment and Schwarz believes he has figured out.

Together with Karen Bentley, director of the Electron Microscopy Core at URMC, Schwarz showed that the bacteria can crawl deep into tiny channels in bones, possibly taking shelter there and later emerging to re-establish an infection. Though S. aureus was originally thought to be incapable of movement, Bentley and Schwarz, in collaboration with James McGrath, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering at URMC, and his spin-off company, SiMPore Inc., showed that this bacteria can migrate through tiny pores in membranes in the lab.

This new grant will allow Schwarz and Hani A. Awad, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedics in the CMSR, to investigate exactly how S. aureus gets into bone and develop new treatments that target those mechanisms. Microbiologists Steven Gill, Ph.D., and Paul Dunman, Ph.D., in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, will help the team develop new antibiotics to inhibit bone infection, which will be 3D printed into spacers that replace infected joint implants. Delivering the antibiotic at the site of infection may save patients’ limbs and lives.

Schwarz has also been working to understand what makes certain patients more susceptible to S. aureus infections than others, including why some patients recover relatively easily, while others die.

“Death following surgical site infection is not random,” said Schwarz. “By studying patient immune responses to this bacteria, we might be able to predict who will be fine and who will need extra medical attention.”

S. aureus can also become resistant to antibiotics, making it extremely deadly and difficult to eradicate. Better understanding patients’ immune reactions to the bacteria may provide new approaches to defeating it.

In an international study of more than 300 patients with infected total joint replacements, Schwarz and his team including John Daiss, Ph.D., and Chao Xie, M.D., in the CMSR, found that patients fared well if their immune systems attacked a certain S. aureus protein, and poorly if they attacked another. Patients who produced antibodies attacking autolysin, a protein important for cell division, were protected. Those who produced antibodies against a family of iron sensing determinant (Isd) proteins, which help S. aureus sap nutrients from its host, were more likely to experience sepsis and even die.

It is unclear why antibodies that attack Isd proteins are bad for patients, and Schwarz is determined to use this new funding to figure it out. He will also analyze the full complement of antibodies produced by patients infected with several types of staph bacteria to see if there are more good- and bad-cop antibodies that could help inform new treatments.

The Clinical Research Core of this program will be run by Stephen L. Kates, M.D., at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Read More: URMC Awarded Nearly $6 Million to Study Deadly Bone Infections

“Bubbles” Boost Search for Treatment to Aid Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Overby Photo

Catherine Ovitt, Danielle Benoit, and Lisa DeLouise

A scientific team at the University of Rochester is using innovative technology to discover preventative treatments for salivary gland radiation damage typical for head and neck cancer patients—and recently received a $3.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to support their investigation.

Cancer patients can lose salivary gland function during treatment for head and neck tumors. The irreversible damage, which prevents patients from producing saliva, often results in permanent dry mouth and makes it difficult to eat, speak, and swallow. The team will develop salivary gland tissues using a unique chip technology called “microbubbles,” which are tiny spherical wells or bubbles that can hold cells.

The use of the microbubble platform is based on several years of salivary gland research, led by Catherine E. Ovitt, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Genetics, a member of the UR Center for Oral Biology, and an expert in the repair and regeneration of salivary glands, and Danielle Benoit, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and an expert in drug delivery systems and hydrogel platforms for tissue engineering approaches. Together with Lisa A. DeLouise, Ph.D., associate professor of Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering, who developed and received several patents for the microbubble concept, the scientists are working as co-principal investigators on the NIH project.

Their goal is to find drugs that could be given to patients prior to radiation treatment that would prevent damage to the glands.

“Dr. Ovitt and I have shown through years of investigation that being able to develop functional salivary gland tissue for testing is the key to solving this problem,” Benoit said. “So, it’s microbubbles to the rescue.”

Expanding cells and tissue outside of the body is elusive. In this case the process involves taking salivary gland cells that have been removed from humans undergoing surgery, expanding the cells, and studying their reaction to various drugs.

A major problem, however, starts to occur as soon as the tissue is removed from the body and isolated: Cells immediately begin to lose their natural function. In the body, cells send signals and secrete proteins that are essential for their survival. In a culture plate in a laboratory, however, these signals and proteins are diluted and dispersed, making the cells no longer viable.

DeLouise’s technology at first glance looks similar to a cell culture petri dish, a round piece of silicone about the size of the large cookie. But within the dish are an arrangement of thousands of tiny round “micro-wells,” each one comprising a minuscule compartment for cell growth and tissue formation. The unique shape of each microbubble creates a niche that concentrates the cells, allowing them to proliferate and form salivary gland units.

The microbubbles come in different sizes, and the beauty of the technology is that scientists can grow cells in thousands of bubbles at one time. DeLouise can make dishes the size of a dime that include more than 5,000 microbubbles. In addition, Benoit’s lab has produced hydrogel materials that can be placed inside each microbubble that further allow the cell to maintain its structure and function.

If the team can successfully grow human salivary gland cells in the microbubbles, they say, they will also be able to rapidly test thousands of existing Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs on the salivary tissue using the microbubble technology.

“Only one treatment is currently available for radioprotection but it comes with many side effects, so most patients discontinue it,” Ovitt said. “There is a great need for additional ways to either cure or prevent this debilitating condition.”

The team is collaborating with Shawn D. Newlands, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., chair of the Department of Otolaryngology and member of the Wilmot Cancer Institute’s head and neck oncology team, to collect salivary tissue from consenting patients undergoing salivary gland surgery. Salivary gland cells are isolated from these tissues for seeding into microbubbles for the investigation. Additionally, Paul Dunman, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology, will provide high-throughput drug-screening expertise during the second phase of the project, which is contingent upon successful development of the human gland chips.

Read More: “Bubbles” Boost Search for Treatment to Aid Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Microbiome manipulation decelerates osteoarthritis progression

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The gastrointestinal microbiome is currently a hot topic of research concerning serious diseases affecting large portions of the world’s population.  It has been implicated in a variety of conditions such as asthma, obesity, and now osteoarthritis (OA).  Recent work presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society 2017 Annual Meeting by Eric Schott, Robert Mooney, Steve Gill, Michael Zuscik and colleagues at the Center for Musculoskeletal  Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center have shown that prebiotic manipulation of the gut microbiome may lead to decelerated progression of OA. The work utilized a mouse model of high fat diet-induced obesity along with an injury to the medial meniscus to initiate degeneration in the knee.  Specifically, mice that were fed a high fat diet along with the prebiotic supplement, oligofructose, demonstrated reduced systemic inflammation and decelerated cartilage degeneration after meniscal injury.

Prebiotic supplements are intended to nourish and support particular bacterial strains present in the gut.  This is in contrast to probiotic supplements, often found and discussed in yogurt, which attempt to confer specific bacterial cultures directly to the gut.  In the experiment reported by Schott et al, it is believed that an increased abundance of microbes from the genus Bifidobacterium, resulting from prebiotic supplementation, may be responsible for the reduction in systemic inflammation and deceleration of OA symptoms.

A link between altered gut microbiome and systemic inflammation in obesity has previously been established; however, the mechanisms by which the gut microbiome affect joint health are still largely unknown.  Schott speculates that either the increased numbers of Bifidobacteria are crowding out other inflammation-inducing strains, or that these Bifidobacteria are producing a metabolic byproduct(s) that has positive effects on the host, including supporting healthy joints. Answers to these questions may provide the first evidence connecting the gut microbiome to joint health.

Future work in the Zuscik lab will further investigate the gut microbiome in OA, without obesity as a comorbid factor.  They hope to determine if OA patients have an altered gut microbiome compared to healthy individuals.  If the microbiome is altered in OA, perhaps correction of the abnormalities will protect against or even reverse OA symptoms.  Additional clarification of the gut-joint connection may lead to novel therapeutic strategies involving the manipulation of the intestinal microbial community to treat or prevent OA.  Results from this work may help to address a clinical problem of enormous scope for which no effective disease-modifying therapy has been established.

Scientist Investigates Muscle Loss among Children with Cancer

Thursday, August 3, 2017

University of Rochester Medical Center researcher received $1.7 million to study and potentially treat the muscle loss that often plagues childhood cancer survivors as they age.

The five-year grant to Joe V. Chakkalakal, Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopaedics, is a result of a collaboration and seed funding from the Wilmot Cancer Institute, which allowed him to generate the data to obtain the larger grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Chakkalakal studies muscle stem cells in connection with skeletal muscle decline. Young cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy sometimes experience sarcopenia, the accelerated loss of lean body muscle tissue and strength. Sarcopenia-related muscle atrophy is associated with muscle stem cell loss and chronic, low-grade inflammation.

The new investigation will try to determine if childhood radiation treatments destroy muscle stem cells and thereby impair the young musculoskeletal system as it tries to mature properly. In addition, Chakkalakal is studying the factors that accelerate sarcopenia and how to prevent the systematic loss of muscle stem cells and skeletal decline caused by radiation. 

Read More: Scientist Investigates Muscle Loss among Children with Cancer

Training Grant Trainee (Anna Bird) awarded with cover for the Journal of Immunology

Monday, July 24, 2017

Training Grant Trainee (Anna Bird) awarded with the July 15, 2017 cover for the Journal of Immunolog. Congrats Anna!

Read More: Training Grant Trainee (Anna Bird) awarded with cover for the Journal of Immunology

July 27-28: Orthopaedic Research Society Upstate New York & Northeast Regional Symposium

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Orthopaedic Research Society is hosting the Upstate New York and Northeast Regional Symposium in collaboration with our Department of Orthopaedics and Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The symposium will feature attendees and presenters from 10 universities in the northeast U.S. and nearly 100 posters to be presented in 2 poster sessions. Also on offer will be career development sessions, a Keynote Presentation and other activities.

Read More: July 27-28: Orthopaedic Research Society Upstate New York & Northeast Regional Symposium

URMC Leading National Efforts to Give Patients a Bigger Voice in Their Care

Thursday, July 6, 2017

In the national drive to improve health care quality and value, physicians are looking for clues from a source that hasn’t been heard from yet, but that could yield important new breakthroughs: the patients themselves.  

Health care systems in the U.S. and around the world are collecting and analyzing patients’ perspectives on their care, using computer programs that instantly capture and archive the data. Patients’ input on what worked for them – and what didn’t – is creating a kind of health care “trip advisor.” But rather than being an online reference for other patients, this tool will be a road map for doctors as they seek the best care pathways for future patients.

Judith Baumhauer, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, writes about the impact of computerized patient assessments in the July 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In her perspective article, “Patient Reported Outcomes – Are They Living Up to Their Potential?”, Baumhauer examines how medical centers around the world are working to capture the assessments’ full potential, amid the challenges of incorporating them into busy clinical environments.

Read More: URMC Leading National Efforts to Give Patients a Bigger Voice in Their Care

Significant Racial Disparities Persist in Hospital Readmissions

Monday, June 26, 2017

A new study in the journal Health Affairs shows that, despite being designed to more effectively manage care and control costs, black patients enrolled with Medicare Advantage are far more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after a surgery than those enrolled on traditional Medicare.  Furthermore, significant disparities continue to exist in readmission rate between black and white Medicare patients. 

 “Our findings suggest that the risk-reduction strategies adopted by Medicare Advantage plans have not succeeded in lowering the markedly higher rates of readmission for black patients compared to white patients,” said Yue Li, Ph.D. an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study.  “More research will be needed to understand which managed care approaches may be effective in reducing 30-day readmissions for white and black beneficiaries, and why existing Medicare Advantage plans do not seem to be successful in reducing racial disparities.”

While the majority of Medicare beneficiaries received their care through traditional Medicare, in 2015 approximately 30 percent of beneficiaries (or 16 million people in the U.S.) are enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans.  Private insurers have a tremendous incentive to create programs that help patients better manage their care and reduce hospital use.  

Gene and Stem Cell Therapies May Help Heal Fractures

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hani Awad, Ph.D.,?URMC researchers partnered with Cedars-Sinai colleagues on a study that tested a new method for repairing severe fractures in laboratory animals. The new technique combines ultrasound, stem cell, and gene therapies to cue bone to regenerate itself. Researchers believe the technique may someday replace bone grafting as a way to mend severe fractures.

On average, about 100,000 people in the U.S. experience severe fractures that fail to heal each year. The current standard of care for these injuries often involve long hospital stays, repeated surgeries, and still result in long-term disability. 

While bones are usually able to repair themselves in the case of small cracks and fractures, severe breaks and fractures leave too big a gap for bones to fill on their own. In these cases, missing bone may be replaced by bone from another place in patient’s body, which is painful and may cause infection at the donor site, or by a piece of bone from a cadaver, does not always integrate well with the patient’s bone because it is dead tissue.

The new fracture-healing method published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, helped bones regenerate across large gaps in leg fractures of laboratory animals. Hani Awad, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, tested the healed fractures in Center for Musculoskeletal Research’s state-of-the-art Biomechanics Lab with the help of Jayne Gavrity, a biomechanical and imaging engineer in the CMSR. According to Awad, the newly formed bone was as strong as the patient’s own bone grafts, suggesting the new procedure could replace the painful grafting procedure.

To heal the fractures, the team filled the fracture gaps with a scaffold of collagen, a structural protein the body normally uses to make bone. Over two weeks, stem cells were recruited to the scaffold in the fracture site. Then the team delivered a gene to the stem cells that would turn them into bone-creating cells. The gene was delivered with the aid of microbubbles that create tiny holes in the stem cell membrane and enable entry of the gene into the cells when they are hit with pulses of ultrasound.

This technique, which improves upon other investigational therapies that are costly, painful, and increase risk of infection and tissue damage near the fracture site, was able to completely heal leg fractures in the laboratory animals in just eight weeks.

Co-senior authors, Dan Gazit, Ph.D., D.M.D., co-director of the Skeletal Regeneration and Stem Cell Therapy Program in the Department of Surgery and the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, and Gadi Pelled, Ph.D., D.M.D., assistant professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai, hope this technique will be useful in humans, but more studies are needed to determine this.

The study was featured in Science Magazine, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the paper can be found in PubMed.

Susanne Pritchard Pallo | 6/12/2017

Stem Cells May Be the Key to Staying Strong in Old Age

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have discovered that loss of muscle stem cells is the main driving force behind muscle decline in old age in mice. Their finding challenges the current prevailing theory that age-related muscle decline is primarily caused by loss of motor neurons. Study authors hope to develop a drug or therapy that can slow muscle stem cell loss and muscle decline in the future.

As early as your mid 30s, the size and strength of your muscles begins to decline. The changes are subtle to start - activities that once came easily are not so easy now – but by your 70s or 80s, this decline can leave you frail and reliant on others even for simple daily tasks.  While the speed of decline varies from person to person and may be slowed by diet and exercise, virtually no one completely escapes the decline.

“Even an elite trained athlete, who has high absolute muscle strength will still experience a decline with age,” said study author Joe Chakkalakal, Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at URMC.

Chakkalakal has been investigating exactly how muscle loss occurs in aging mice in order to figure out how humans might avoid it.    

In a study, published today in eLife, Chakkalakal and lead author Wenxuan Liu, Ph.D., recent graduate of the Biomedical Genetics Department at URMC, define a new role for stem cells in the life long maintenance of muscle. All adults have a pool of stem cells that reside in muscle tissue that respond to exercise or injury – pumping out new muscle cells to repair or grow your muscles. While it was already known that muscle stem cells die off as you age, Chakkalakal’s study is the first to suggest that this is the main driving factor behind muscle loss.

To better understand the role of stem cells in age-related muscle decline, Chakkalakal and his team depleted muscle stem cells in mice without disrupting motor neurons, nerve cells that control muscle. The loss of stem cells sped up muscle decline in the mice, starting in middle, rather than old age. Mice that were genetically altered to prevent muscle stem cell loss maintained healthier muscles at older ages than age-matched control mice.

Read More: Stem Cells May Be the Key to Staying Strong in Old Age

CMSR Trainee Receives People's Choice Award at 2017 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, developed by The University of Queensland, challenges students to describe their graduate research in three minutes or less to a general audience using nonspecialist terms and only one PowerPoint slide. On May 11, 2017, eight finalists from various academic departments across campus competed in the University of Rochester’s 3MT competition. CMSR trainee, Sarah Catheline, won the People’s Choice Award for her presentation entitled, “Inhibiting Inflammaging to Treat Osteoarthritis (OA).” Catheline is a Pathology PhD student working in the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Jonason. Her research focuses on defining the role of the IKKβ/NF-κB signaling pathway in the onset of osteoarthritis in aging.

Read More: CMSR Trainee Receives People's Choice Award at 2017 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition

Musculoskeletal Researchers Engage Local Under-Represented Students in Science

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Since January of 2017, a group of students and faculty in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center have been mentoring under-represented or economically disadvantaged teens in Rochester. The so-called MedClub holds monthly hands-on science lessons and provides guidance to middle and high school students in the Greater Rochester area who are interested in science or medicine.MedClub members pose at Champion Academy

MedClub grew out of a partnership between the CMSR and the Champion Academy, an extreme mentoring and empowerment initiative led by Rochester City School District alumnus and Super Bowl champion Roland Williams. The Champion Academy is a year-round program that aims to instill its 300 student participants with character and “unbreakable belief” that they can achieve their dreams, whatever they might be.

For a handful of those students, like Nigel King, a 10th grader enrolled in Champion Academy, the dream is to become a doctor or scientist. “I joined MedClub to further my knowledge of medicine because of my mom,” said Nigel. “She has diabetes and I almost lost her three times, so that made me want to know more about her disease.”

Once a month, about 30 students take a break from regular Champion Academy programming to join MedClub. These students get a chance to perform hands-on science experiments ranging from owl pellet dissections to learning how drugs can be delivered in hydrogels. The students also get some insider knowledge about medical and graduate school from MedClub mentors. In February, the students toured the CMSR and got a behind-the-scenes peek at life in a lab.

Other students, like Nigel, hope that MedClub can give them a foundation of knowledge to help them reach their goals. Eighth grader Shakira Jones hopes to someday become a geriatric nurse after caring for her grandmother who battled breast cancer. She believes joining programs like Med Club now will give her a leg up later.

Nigel and Shakira are among seven Champion Academy students who will continue scientific training in URMC’s Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) this summer. MedClub mentors encouraged the students to apply for the NYS-funded summer science program for under-represented students and helped them with their applications.

Alayna Loiselle, Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopaedics in the CMSR who spearheads MedClub, feels the program also benefits the mentors. Partnering with the Champion Academy offers CMSR graduate students the chance to directly interact with high-risk youth in our community, and learn to be mentors.

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for our graduate students to expand their mentoring and teaching skills,” said Loiselle. “Seeing the enthusiasm that the MedClub students have for science is a great reminder to the mentors of how fortunate we are to be able to conduct science as a career.”

Edward Schwarz, Ph.D., Burton Professor of Orthopaedics and CMSR director added, “MedClub is a perfect symbiosis that is changing hearts and minds, while educating the next generation of medical professionals in Rochester.  I’m very grateful to Roland Williams and the amazing staff at the Champion Academy for this remarkable partnership.  We are thrilled to provide a portal for these kids and young professionals to continue their quest for scientific and medical knowledge, which will ultimately help them achieve their dreams.”

Inclusion of under-represented individuals has been a mission of the CMSR since its inception in 2000. MedClub is funded through 2021 as part of the Enrichment Program in the CMSR’s NIH-funded Resource-Based Center for Musculoskeletal Biology and Medicine grant (P30 AR069655)

Susanne Pritchard Pallo | 5/24/2017

CMSR Arthritis Investigators Recognized at the 2017 OARSI Meeting in Las Vegas

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Abstracts submitted by Dr. Fadia Kamal and Eric Schott were among the nine highest rated at the 2017 Osteoarthritis Research Society International Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada April 27-30. They both orally presented their work during the Award and Keynote Plenary session at the opening of the conference, and were announced as Young Investigator Travel Award winners at the conclusion of the session. Dr. Kamal, a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics, presented her groundbreaking work identifying Gbeta/gamma and its regulation of G-protein coupled receptor signaling as a novel therapeutic target in posttraumatic osteoarthritis. Eric Schott, a PhD trainee in the Department of Pathology, described his findings implicating the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis in the context of obesity, and described how manipulation of microbial communities is protective. Both were provided $1000 to defray travel expenses and are to be featured on the society’s web site.

Read More: CMSR Arthritis Investigators Recognized at the 2017 OARSI Meeting in Las Vegas

Tour of URMC stem cell lab

Thursday, April 27, 2017

URMC's stem cell laboratory allows scientists to advance research into bone repair, new vaccines, and therapies for neurological diseases. Get a close-up look at the Upstate Stem Cell cGMP Facility, which is unique in Upstate New York.

Read More: Tour of URMC stem cell lab

University Honors 6 URMC Recipients with 2017 Witmer, Meliora and Staff Community Service Awards

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Witmer Award 

The Witmer Award for Distinguished Service is presented to staff members whose careers have been characterized by outstanding and sustained contributions to the University. 


Administrator II, Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Center for Musculoskeletal Research

With 43 years of service and well-demonstrated dedication, creativity and positivity, Janet Cushing is described by colleagues as the “go-to person” in her department.

Cushing started her career at the University in 1974 as a laboratory technician in medical/radiation and biology and biophysics, before joining the Department of Orthopaedics in 1979. She played a key support role in the growth of the research enterprise that culminated in the formation of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research in 2001. Over the past 15 years, her responsibilities increased as the center continued to expand. In 2008, Cushing was promoted to Administrator II, managing the day-to-day operations of the center.

“It is not an exaggeration to state that Janet was a steady force and a key factor in the success that we collectively enjoyed,” writes Hani Awad, Ph.D., professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, who nominated Cushing for the award. 

She is responsible for the post-award management of a research portfolio in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, which as of fiscal year 2016 exceeded $7 million annually.

“Simply put, Janet’s contribution to the enterprise is woven into the fabric of what the Center for Musculoskeletal Research is today,” writes Mike Zuscik, Ph.D., associate professor Orthopaedics, Pathology and Biomedical Engineering, in a letter supporting Cushing’s nomination.

Read More: University Honors 6 URMC Recipients with 2017 Witmer, Meliora and Staff Community Service Awards

Danielle Benoit is Rochester's 'Young Engineer of the Year'

Friday, April 7, 2017

Benoit in the lab

Danielle Benoit, recipient of the Young Engineer of the Year
award from the Rochester Engineering Society, in her lab with
PhD students Yuchen Wang and Maureen Newman.
(Photos by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester).

Each year, Danielle Benoit leaves her Therapeutic Biomaterials Lab at the University of Rochester to host the Annual Benoit Laboratory Lemonade Stand at the Rochester and Brighton public markets.

Benoit and her students serve lemonade and explain their work on childhood cancer therapies as part of a national effort organized by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which has helped fund her research.

“Most people don’t realize that treating cancer in children is much different from treating cancer in adults,” says Benoit, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “At the same time, funding for childhood cancer research is woefully miniscule, compared to the money that goes into studying adult cancers.”

Benoit’s community outreach is one reason she is the recipient of the 2016 Young Engineer of the Year Award from the Rochester Engineering Society. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in and contributions to the profession by young engineers in the Rochester region and promotes the importance of engineering practice to society.

Benoit, who joined the University in 2010, is an international leader in developing therapeutic biomaterials with applications in bone and salivary gland regeneration and treating dental caries and childhood cancers.

“Her work is creative, and transformative,” says Diane Dalecki, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “She is a true and creative engineer, applying principles of classical chemical engineering and materials science to new biomedical applications in medicine.”

This has resulted in numerous patents; several federal, state, foundation and industry grants – including a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award -- and such professional awards as the 2015 Young Innovator Award in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering.

Benoit also is “an outstanding educator, dedicated to training the next generation of engineers,” Dalecki says. Benoit teaches a core biomaterials course for undergraduates and courses in biomaterials and drug delivery for graduate students. She annually mentors students working on senior design projects and undergraduates who participate as Xerox fellows in a summer research program.

Benoit with Students

Benoit demonstrates the properties of fluids to
elementary school students visiting her lab.

"Danielle is an outstanding faculty member, whose research in new biomaterials will have a large impact on therapeutics for a number of diseases and whose teaching and service demonstrate her dedication to the educational and outreach missions of the Hajim School," says Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the school.

Benoit's community outreach also includes inviting an elementary school class to her laboratory each year for a day of learning and hands-on experimentation. “Importantly, Dr. Benoit always involves her whole lab in these events, thereby instilling the importance of community outreach to the next generation of engineers in training,” Dalecki says.

Seventh Annual CMSR Symposium/Regional ORS Event - Save the Date

Thursday, April 6, 2017

1st ORS Upstate NY & Northeast Regional Symposium Sponsored by Orthopaedic Research Society University of Rochester School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics, Center for Musculoskeletal Research University of Rochester Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Thursday - Friday, July 27 - 28, 2017

 

Read More: Seventh Annual CMSR Symposium/Regional ORS Event - Save the Date

CMSR Trainees Receive New Investigator Recognition Awards (NIRA) at the 2017 Annual ORS Meeting

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The New Investigator Recognition Awards (NIRA) are presented to ten trainees during the ORS Annual Meeting for their work as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The NIRA competition commences with an open call for scientific abstract submitted for presentation at the ORS Annual Meeting. T

Read More: CMSR Trainees Receive New Investigator Recognition Awards (NIRA) at the 2017 Annual ORS Meeting

2015 CTSI Incubator: The Gut Microbiome Affects Musculoskeletal Health

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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.

Read More: 2015 CTSI Incubator: The Gut Microbiome Affects Musculoskeletal Health

Dr. Benjamin Ricciardi joins UR Medicine/Highland Hospital

Monday, March 20, 2017

UR Medicine/Highland Hospital welcomes Benjamin F. Ricciardi, M.D., as Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. Ricciardi, an orthopaedic surgeon, specializes in total knee replacements and total hip replacements. He will see patients and perform surgery at Highland Hospital.

Ricciardi recently completed a European Fellowship in hip reconstruction with the ME Müller Foundation. He completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery and a fellowship in adult reconstruction and joint replacement at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City where he also served as a research fellow in the mineralized tissue laboratory.

A graduate of Weill Cornell Medical College, Ricciardi received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Colby College. “We are pleased to welcome Dr. Ricciardi to our Orthopaedic Center of Excellence at Highland,” said Dr. Bilal Ahmed, Associate Medical Director for Highland Hospital. “Our community relies on Highland for high quality care in orthopaedics, and Dr. Ricciardi will be a key member of our team.”

Read More: Dr. Benjamin Ricciardi joins UR Medicine/Highland Hospital

Q & A Former KL2 Scholar Wakenda Tyler: Balancing Orthopaedic Surgery and Rare Cancer Research

Friday, March 17, 2017

I recently sat down with Wakenda Tyler, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Orthopaedics and 2010 recipient of a CTSI KL2 Career Development Award, to discuss how the KL2 award affected her research and to see what she’s working on now.

Q: How did the CTSI KL2 Career Development Award impact your research?

A: It was really important funding because it was the first point in my career where I had enough support to dedicate significant time to research. As an orthopaedic surgeon, it's hard to carve out that time. Being funded by the KL2 let people in my department know that I needed to have protected time for research.

Q: What made you want to pursue a research career on top of being an orthopaedic surgeon?

A: I love the clinical side of things, but I also really enjoy being able to participate in the growth and development of the field. If all clinicians only did clinical practice, the field would never really change. We would continue doing the same clinical things - some of which are working, some of which are failing. I think that research is important to driving the field forward in an intellectual way.

Read More: Q & A Former KL2 Scholar Wakenda Tyler: Balancing Orthopaedic Surgery and Rare Cancer Research

Bones made to order at University of Rochester, thanks to 3-D printers

Friday, February 24, 2017

Imagine getting a made-to-order bone implanted in your body that's composed of your own cells.

Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have been developing a procedure to use 3-D printing and stem cells from the patient to create bones made of regenerated tissue.

This multi-step procedure still has a ways to go before it is tested on humans and can become part of the services provided by URMC's Center for Musculoskeletal Research. But it's the latest example of how 3-D printing, which is increasingly finding its place in manufacturing, is leaving its mark in medicine.

“It is changing the way we do a lot of things,” said Hani Awad, who is associate director of the center and professor of biomedical engineering with a specialty in tissue engineering.

Biomedical research, as it is being done in this initiative, is an important component of the medical center's identity.

Read More: Bones made to order at University of Rochester, thanks to 3-D printers

The next frontier in quality care measurement: How patients feel

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When patients visit Dr. Judy Baumhauer in hopes of getting rid of bunions—a painful, bony bump that develops at the base of the big toe—they often have just one question: Will surgery help?

The answer varies from patient to patient, said Baumhauer, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center. A highly useful tool for determining the most effective treatment is a patient survey from Promis, or Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System, composed of questions about the patient's quality of life and ability to function.

“I listen to their concerns about their bunion, we look at X-rays together, and then we look at their Promis scores,” said Baumhauer, who has researched the tool extensively and sits on the board of directors for the Promis Health Organization. If the Promis results show a patient is functioning well, then surgery is unlikely to help. That knowledge allows her to confidently tell a patient that nonsurgical treatment is the best option.

Read More: The next frontier in quality care measurement: How patients feel

Teamwork toward a 'Perfect Bullet' for Leukemia

Monday, January 9, 2017

Imagine thatadrugis “oil”andthe human bodyis “water.”Aconduitwould beneeded to steer cancer drugsthrough the bodytoselectively targetcancer cells, wherever theyreside.

Ifa buddingWilmot Cancer Instituteinvestigation pans out, a nanoparticle-based delivery system might be exactlythe conduit thatscientists havebeen looking for, thetrio of young researcherssay.

 

Benoit Frisch Fasan

Rudi Fasan, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemistry;Danielle Benoit, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering;andBen Frisch, Ph.D.,a research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology,are working together to improve the treatment ofacute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the deadliest types of blood cancersbecause it often relapsesafter initial therapy.

They each bring a different scientific discipline and adistinct role to the project.

Fasan developsnew drugs and new methods to make them more effective. In this case, he discovered and modified asmall-moleculeanti-cancerdrug derived from a natural plant source related to the magnolia tree.After testingseveral different chemical forms of the compound,he is studyingthe correct potency andability topreciselydestroycancer cells.

Read More: Teamwork toward a 'Perfect Bullet' for Leukemia