Every year the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biologists (FASEB) brings...
By Lisa Brown
Every year the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biologists (FASEB) brings scientists to Washington DC as part of Capitol Hill Day. Scientists from across the country meet with Congressional staff to discuss the importance of federal research funding. On March 5, 2014 scientists from 21 states met with their representatives. FASEB’s specific recommendations for funding included $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $7.6 billion for the National Science Foundation. The $32 billion recommendation for NIH funding represents fewer actual dollars (not inflation adjusted dollars) compared to 2010. More information about federal funding for basic science research is available on the FASEB website.
Three scientists from Boston University formed the State of Massachusetts delegation for Capitol Hill Day: Shoumita Dasgupta, PhD, Department of Medicine, Biomedical Genetics Section; Daniel Remick, MD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; and Douglas Rosene, PhD, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. They were escorted by Joseph McInerney, Executive Vice President, American Society of Human Genetics. The group visited the offices of Senators Warren and Markey as well as Representatives Tierney and Kennedy.
At each office the group gave specific information about how reduced funding for science was having multiple negative impacts. Individual stories were told including:
- Scientists no longer doing research because of lack of funding.
- Increased scientific publications from other countries in the Journal of Immunology compared to publications from the United States.
- International genomic sequencing initiatives (e.g. Beijing Genomics Institute) surpassing efforts at the NIH.
- Loss of funding for the Framingham Heart studies and missing a generation of data.
- Decreased funding resulting in fewer experiments to examine the devastating effects of aging. These studies require a long term, consistent commitment since aging takes place over decades and it is difficult to start and stop science.
All of the staff assured the delegation that the senators and representatives were highly supportive of increased funding for basic science research. Each agreed to submit programmatic requests to the budget committees. This will ensure that funding for basic science will be considered as an integral part of the budget process and not as a separate earmark. They also agreed to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter to be circulated to other senators and representatives advocating increased funding for NIH research. On behalf of Provost Antman, the Boston University faculty invited Massachusetts senators, representatives and their staff to come and visit the basic science labs at Boston University, and thanked them for their continued support.
BUSM has established a new endowed professorship, the Aubrey Milunsky Professor of Human Genetics. Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend the following lectures related to this opportunity.
March 11, 11 a.m.-noon, L-110
“Adam and Eve seek NextGen sequencing and functional variant analysis”
Harry Ostrer, MD, Professor of Pathology, Genetics, and Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
March 13, 11 a.m.-noon, L-110
“Genetic alterations in CARD14 in inflammatory diseases of the skin and joints: A paradigm for complex disease genetics?”
Anne Bowcock, PhD, Imperial College, London, UK
March 14, 11 a.m.-noon, L-110
“Blueprint for the genetic architecture of Alzheimer Disease: Combine big data, multidisciplinary science, and smart thinking”
Lindsay Farrer, PhD, Chief, Biomedical Genetics section, Professor, Medicine, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, BU Schools of Medicine and Public Health
March 26, 11 a.m.-noon, L-112
“Genetics and epigenetic markers of psychiatric conditions”
Edwin van den Oord, PhD, Professor and Director Center for Biomedical Research and Personalized Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University
March 27, 11 a.m.-noon, L-110
“Mineralized tissue development, disease and regeneration using zebrafish and tissue engineering approaches”
Pamela Yelick, PhD, Professor, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Tufts University School of Medicine
Submissions due Friday, March 28
Exhibit: Monday-Tuesday, March 31-April 1
BUSM Instructional Building, 14th Floor Hiebert Lounge
All students, faculty and staff at the Boston University Medical Campus are encouraged to submit artwork of any medium to the 24th annual “Art Days”, founded by former BUSM Dean Aram Chobanian to foster the support and growth of the creative arts at BUMC. The exhibition is mounted by the Creative Arts Society. See images from Art Days 2013
This is the third year of a university-wide arts initiative with an annual keyword to be used as a thematic organizer for various courses and events. The Keyword for this year is “transformation”. Transformation is marked by metamorphosis or a process of profound or radical change. See http://www.bu.edu/cfa/about/initiatives/keyword/. While there may be a special section at Art Days for display of works addressing transformation, it is also fine to submit work not related to the keyword.
Submissions are due Friday, March 28. Paintings, photos, poetry, sculpture, needlework, etc. will be accepted. Pieces should be framed if possible. Security will be provided. Works will be returned April 2. Specific instructions will be sent at a later date to those who respond to this announcement.
To be placed on the submit list or if you have any questions please contact Keith Tornheim, PhD, 638-8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leaders at Boston University and Boston Medical Center have collaborated to produce a new guide to protect patient data. The full article, by Thomas J. Moore, MD; Quinn R. Shamblin, CISM, CISSP, PMP, GIAC GCFA; Sumit Sehgal, CISSP, CISA; Robert Sprinkle, MS; Stanley M. Hochberg, MD; and Ravin Davidoff,MBBCh; can be found at http://www.bu.edu/crtimes/featurearticle.htm.
Data breaches have made big news in recent months, and Boston-area hospitals are not immune. It is well known that hackers stole personal financial data, including credit card numbers, for millions of customers at Target and Neiman Marcus. The threat to private medical information, however, often comes from low-tech carelessness, not hackers – lost smartphones, laptops or paper documents. In 2009, a Mass General Hospital employee misplaced paper records on the MBTA with information on 192 MGH patients, which subjected the institution to $1 million in federal fines.
Tracking patient data in databases and spreadsheets is an essential part of both clinical practice and biomedical research. Even when used for legitimate purposes, however, all protected health information (PHI) is subject to HIPAA Privacy and Security rules. Databases revealing PHI must be on an encrypted, passport-protected device. PHI identifiers range from the person’s name and phone number to his fingerprints and facial photo.
Ways to Protect Sensitive Information:
1. Once all identifiers have been stripped from a dataset, it is no longer HIPAA-protected. Consider labelling patients with unique identifying numbers that are not part of PHI, linked to a master code stored on a separate, secured computer.
2. Nowadays, much work time is spent on portable devices: easy to use, easy to lose. Tablets, laptops, flash drives, and smartphones with access to PHI must be password-protected and encrypted, which greatly reduces the risk of a breach.
3. Email containing PHI must be sent securely. BU provides a secure email solution known as DataMotion SecureMail. BMC email automatically detects and encrypts BMC email containing PHI, but users should add the word “secure” to the subject line before sending PHI outside BMC.
4. When off-site, use only an approved secure remote access method when accessing sensitive information, especially when logged onto public wi-fi or travelling abroad.
5. Finally, training colleagues in proper security techniques is essential to protecting valuable and private patient data.
When patients and research subjects allow us to collect and store private information about themselves, they have a right to expect that we will keep those data secure and use them only for clinical and research purposes. Following these simple steps will help all of us adhere to this responsibility.
For additional information on how to secure devices visit http://www.bu.edu/infosec/howtos/securing-your-devices/
Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers have demonstrated the potential of using a virtual computer environment for distance healthcare education for an international audience that often has limited access to conventional teaching and training. In this pilot project led by John Wiecha, MD, corresponding author of the study and associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, a virtual world was created in which participants engaged in a learning activity by creating virtual avatars of themselves to navigate through a three-dimensional computer environment and engage in educational activities. This study currently appears online in BMC Medical Education.
In many developing nations, access to traditional health care education can be limited as professionals may lack financial resources and live and work in remote areas with poor infrastructure or in a conflict zone. However, with the increase in Internet coverage in the past few years, distance learning has become an important way to offer health care professionals in these areas the opportunity to increase their clinical and research skills.
However, many current online platforms for training and exchanging ideas like webinars and online discussion boards are two dimensional and limit the way educational information can be designed according to the researchers.
A virtual world (VW) is an immersive, online environment that functions in real time for shared experiences and the exchange of ideas and information. Participants in the project navigated the VW as avatars or three-dimensional representations of themselves. They were able to follow the course director through a series of learning stations with questions and discussions occurring in real time.
“We created and delivered, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Geneva Foundation for Medical Educational Research Foundation, an interactive lecture on population control, for students from around the world,” says Wiecha. “The easy exchange of ideas with people from all over the globe gave the course a uniquely collaborative feeling. The program was successful and highly rated by participants, demonstrating the great potential for this new mode of highly interactive distance education pedagogy,” he added.
Also contributing to this study were Marloes M. Schoonheim, PhD, from the Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research and Robin Heyden from the education consulting company Heyden Ty.
BUSM students: Do you have questions about renting an apartment?
Join BUMC Housing Resources Manager Barbara Attianese and Steve Handler from Beacon Realty Properties as they provide an overview on how to rent an apartment and information on housing resources.
All About Renting in Boston
- Thursday, Feb. 27
- Noon-1:30 p.m., L-112 or
- 5:30-7 p.m., Keefer Auditorium
Steve has worked in his family business, Beacon Realty Properties LLC, in Boston since graduating from Syracuse University in 1988. He estimates to have signed over 4,000 residential leases in the City of Boston and will discuss the current rental housing market, what to expect and the process you will need to go through in order to secure housing.
After the presentation Barbara and Steve will answer questions about renting in Boston.
Louis Sullivan, MD, BUSM Class of 1958, knows what it means to “break ground,” the title of his recently published autobiography. His journey took many twists and turns beginning as an African-American growing up in segregated Georgia, coming north for medical school in predominantly white Boston, becoming chief of hematology on the Medical Campus, serving as founding dean and first president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, all the way to being named U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, Dr. Sullivan has been a pioneer.
“Lou Sullivan is an intellectual giant,” said BU President Emeritus and BUSM Dean Emeritus Aram Chobanian, MD, introducing Dr. Sullivan. “He is also a giant at bringing people together to improve and advance health care and the medical profession.” Dr. Sullivan, a member of BUSM’s Dean’s Advisory Board, read passages from his book describing his early years in Blakely, Ga. and his years at the School of Medicine as well as when he was a faculty member leading the section of hematology.
“When I came to medical school my plan was to be a family doctor like my hero Dr. Griffiths in Georgia,” he recalled. “But like most medical students my plans changed from year to year based on my contact with the many outstanding faculty at the School. I thought I wanted to be a surgeon after spending time with Lamar Soutter (BUSM professor of surgery), but then I held a retractor to a liver for three hours during an operation and decided that was not for me.”
He talked of his plan to become chair of the Department of Medicine at BUSM, but was recruited back to Atlanta to help establish a medical school for poor and minority students at Morehouse College his undergraduate alma mater. He shared how he developed a relationship with George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, which resulted in his being asked by President Bush to join his cabinet.
Dr. Sullivan currently serves as chair of the National Health Museum in Atlanta and of the Washington, DC-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health professionals.
Following Dr. Sullivan’s talk he signed copies of his book and joined by his wife, Ginger, was greeted by students, faculty, staff and former colleagues and classmates at a reception.
Researchers Find Changes to Protein SirT1 Can Prevent Excess Metabolic Stress Associated with Obesity, Diabetes, Aging
Studies have suggested that the protein SirT1 may be protective in metabolic diseases and the effects of aging, and diminished SirT1 activity has been reported in various disease models including diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Maintaining a normal level of this protein may be effective in preventing obesity- and age-related diseases.
Metabolic stress caused by obesity, diabetes and aging increases a small molecule, glutathione that reacts with SirT1, inhibiting its activity. In a recent paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, BUSM researchers have demonstrated that by changing three of the amino acids on SirT1 they could produce a “super-sirt” which functioned normally despite the metabolic stress.
“In the process of preventing the effects of the stress occasioned by metabolic excess typical of obesity, diabetes and aging, the enzyme function of SirT1 can be destroyed by the very metabolic stress it is trying to overcome,” says Richard Cohen, MD, professor of medicine and director of the section of vascular biology at BUSM. “This study establishes that stresses associated with excess metabolism can be circumvented by changing the protein, or by preventing the glutathione reaction with the protein.”
Dr. Louis Sullivan, BUSM ’58, will be discussing his newly published autobiography, Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine, on Monday, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m. in the 670 Albany Street Auditorium, First Floor.
A 1958 graduate of BUSM and former faculty member who currently is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, Dr. Sullivan is the founding dean and first president of Morehouse School of Medicine (now president emeritus). He served as Secretary of Health and Human Services during the George H. W. Bush administration. He is chair of the board of the National Health Museum in Atlanta and the Washington, D.C.–based Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professionals. He also is author of The Morehouse Mystique: Becoming a Doctor at the Nation’s Newest African American Medical School (with Marybeth Gasman).
Dr. Sullivan has many annecdotes to share about his experiences in Washington, D.C., dealing with the burgeoning AIDS crisis, PETA activists, and antismoking efforts, along with his efforts to push through comprehensive health care reform decades before the Affordable Care Act. His interactions with political figures, including Thurgood Marshall, Jack Kemp, Clarence Thomas, Jesse Helms and the Bushes, capture a time in recent history.
A reception and book signing will follow in the auditorium foyer.
- Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine, Lecture and book signing
- Dr. Louis Sullivan, BUSM ’58
- Monday, Feb. 10
- 4 p.m.
- 670 Albany Street Auditorium, First Floor
Type 1 diabetes is a genetically-driven autoimmune disease of pancreatic beta-cells, whose origins remain unknown. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) discovered that skin cells from patients with type 1 diabetes display abnormal activity triggered by immune response mechanisms to environmental stimuli like a viral infection. These findings currently appear online in PLoS One.
They found that these cells acquire elevated levels of calcium when exposed to either cytokines or fat. In humans, cytokines or cell signalling molecules essential to the body’s immune response, increase with the onset of infection as does an excess of fatty acids when people are sick and stop eating, a common occurrence in children when they get viruses.
“This is significant as it is known that a viral illness usually precedes the development of type 1 diabetes in children but no one knows why it should be related,” says Barbara Corkey, PhD, Zoltan Kohn Professor of Medicine at BUSM and vice chair for Research in the Obesity Research Center at BMC. “Our findings that diabetic cells have a different sensitivity as indicated by higher levels of calcium to an environmental event such as a virus, may help to explain why the onset of type 1 diabetes might be triggered by an environmental stimulus as well as a genetic predisposition.”
In fact, their data showed that skin cells from relatives of people with type 1 diabetes who are not afflicted with type 1 diabetes themselves display an intermediate calcium response to circulating signaling molecules. These data suggest that a unique environmental stimulus may interact with a genetic trait to initiate diabetes.
“Determination of this trait before development of diabetes could help to identify susceptible individuals prior to disease onset,” adds Corkey.