Post date: Wed, 08/06/2014 - 09:30

August 6, 2014. As the flu virus strengthens its annual grip on global health, the lab of Steven Wolinsky, medicine: infectious diseases, is turning to the genome rather than germs for answers.

“Understanding the genetic variation in humans associated with flu severity may contribute to better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of influenza infection,” says infectious diseases fellow Ellie Walker. “In order to perform this study, we are relying on DNA samples from individuals with documented influenza A infection.”

Those samples are being pulled from Northwestern’s NUgene biobank and from partnering genetic repositories throughout the country.

“What we do is organize our more than 11,000 DNA samples into relevant subsets for researchers to explore,” saysMaureen Smith, director of the NUgene Project. “The goal has always been to create a resource that is easily accessible.” Read more...

Post date: Sat, 08/02/2014 - 00:00

August 1, 2014. Two American aid workers sick with the Ebola virus are being brought back to the United States for treatment at Emory University in Atlanta.

A Chicago doctor is talking about the risks.

Robert Murphy, an infectious disease doctor at Northwestern who oversees a lab that tests for Ebola, tells CBS 2 that Ebola is frightening, but Emory is prepared.

“This thing is not spread by the air, like tuberculosis or SARS,” he says. “So, if they just contain the patient and everyone wears masks, goggles and have gowns it should be OK.”

But Murphy agrees public fears are understandable: “If you get Ebola even under the best conditions, such as at a good hospital here (in the U.S.) it’s about 50-percent survival (rate). Some places in Africa it’s only 10 percent survival. So, you should be nervous if you have contact with the virus.” Read more

Post date: Wed, 07/02/2014 - 15:01

June 19, 2014. Much like first responders on a scene, professionals who devote themselves to combating entrenched public health problems need to know how to navigate cultural differences and negotiate solutions in less-than-ideal situations. Without respect for the complicated histories of the countries where they will work, their ability to make an impact — to “save the world,” so to say — is diluted.

For a decade, Northwestern University’s global health minor has trained undergraduate students to succeed in this arena, producing graduates who go on to tackle international public health problems through medicine, public policy and research.

“Whether working at the U.N., as a government adviser or at an international aid organization, what are the questions we should be asking?” said Devora Grynspan, the director of International Program Development and Global Health Studies at Northwestern and also an assistant to the president for global initiatives. “We want to teach students what are the important questions you must ask — no matter where you go.” Read Full Story

Post date: Fri, 04/25/2014 - 08:29

April 22, 2014. Individuals born at lower birth weights as well as those breastfed less than three months or not at all are more likely as young adults to have higher levels of chronic inflammation that contributes to cardiovascular disease, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Northwestern researchers evaluated how levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key biomarker of inflammation, linked back to birth weight and breastfeeding duration for nearly 7,000 24- to 32-year-olds.

The research not only showed both lower birth weights and shorter duration of breastfeeding predicted higher CRP levels in young adults, and thus higher disease risk. The research also found dramatic racial, ethnic and education disparities. More educated mothers were more likely to breastfeed and to give birth to larger babies, as were whites and Hispanics.

The data points to the importance of promoting better birth outcomes and increased duration of breastfeeding to affect public health among adults. Such awareness could make a difference in eroding the intractable social disparities in adult health outcomes associated with inflammation, according to the study.

“The findings about breastfeeding and birth weight are particularly illuminating,” said Thomas McDade, professor of anthropology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and faculty fellow, Institute for Policy Research, at Northwestern and lead author of the study. Full Story

Post date: Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:59

A new medical-testing device is being prepped to enter the battle against infectious disease. This instrument could improve diagnosis of certain diseases in remote areas, thanks in part to knowledge gained from a series of investigations aboard the International Space Station on the behavior of liquids. The device uses the space-tested concept of capillary flow to diagnose infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

David Kelso, Ph.D., a researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., had been working for several years to develop a simple, inexpensive device that could be used in resource-limited settings to test for infectious diseases. When designs didn't work as expected in the lab, Kelso brought in Portland State University researcher Mark Weislogel, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator for the Capillary Flow Experiment (CFE) on the space station.

"He came by the lab, we ran two or three experiments for him, and he explained to us that the problem had to do with capillary flow," Kelso says. "Our mindset was that gravity would pull fluids through the device, but his mindset, due to his work in microgravity, was to use capillary action. His experience and work in zero-G was invaluable; he could look at something and not be constrained to just seeing the effects of gravity but other effects that we were blind to." Full Story

Post date: Thu, 04/17/2014 - 08:08

April 15, 2014. Andrew Peters, a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine first-year student, has been named a 2014 Luce Scholar to live and work in Asia.

Peters is one of 18 young American leaders to receive the prestigious award, which gives highly qualified American students a professional and cultural experience in East or Southeast Asia. Recipients are placed in a 10-month internship that relates to their academic background.

Peters plans to conduct neurolinguistic research on aphasia or other language disorders.

He is particularly interested in speech disorders, an area where medicine and linguistics overlap. He currently studies speech disorders as a member of Northwestern’s Aphasia and Neurolinguistics Research Laboratory. Although Peters aims to pursue this research interest, he views working with patients as the primary focus of his future career.Read more

Post date: Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:03

March 28, 2014. Last year, Julian D’Achille, MD’08, MPH, spent four days in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with surgeons from across the country performing more than 36 operations, including hernia repairs, cyst removals and breast biopsies.

“The patients we interacted with were incredibly grateful for what seemed like very minor procedures to us,” he said. “The doctors and nurses eagerly absorbed the knowledge and information that we provided. In turn, they taught us a lot about practicing medicine in an environment where resources are scarce, where treating one patient may mean the same treatment is not available for the next patient who needs it.”

Dr. D’Achille attributes this passion for international health to his global health experiences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Read more...

Post date: Tue, 03/25/2014 - 09:12

March 25, 2014. With such ambitious goals as helping cure cancer and eradicating pervasive disease, some of the most talented scientists in the country from the emerging field of synthetic biology are breaking new ground at Northwestern University.

The hot field of synthetic biology uses tools and concepts from physics, engineering and computer science to build new biological systems. Newly understood genomic sequencing and advances in molecular biology, as well as the ability to work at much smaller scales, have accelerated the work.

A group of five young researchers in this field includes Northwestern scientists from a range of disciplines -- chemistry, biology and engineering -- working with an interdisciplinary approach to solve pressing challenges in global public health and environmental stewardship.

The scholars, at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Feinberg School of Medicine, put Northwestern on the map as a national leader in this growing area of study, joining early pioneers such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Much of the research focuses on reprogramming cells by changing their DNA. In this way, researchers are working to engineer biology much as they engineer high-tech machines, creating new and environmentally friendly fuels and less expensive and more potent drugs and biological therapies. Some such approaches utilize successful solutions found in nature as inspiration for designing artificial systems. These scholars also reflect on the ethical issues of the technology they employ. Read more...

Post date: Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:05

March 21, 2014. Students interested in commercializing medical products are encouraged to check out a new course this spring through the Levy Entrepreneurial Institute. The course, Commercialization Lab, will place students on teams to consult with tech transfer companies curated by Northwestern's Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO). This new course offers students an experiential learning opportunity to work directly in the commercialization process for innovative, pre-commercial medical product technologies. Students will be placed on four-to-five member teams based on their skills, experience and interests. Each team will function as consultants working with select Northwestern tech transfer companies curated by Northwestern’s INVO (Innovation and New Ventures Office). Each company will present their technology on the first day of class, after which students will select their top three choices and will be matched by the faculty advisers on a first come basis. Once matched, students will work with their respective companies to build a complete company investor deck that will be delivered to a panel of industry and finance experts at the end of the term. The insights from this hands-on course will be most beneficial to students with an interest in entrepreneurship, product design, intellectual property, early stage financing and medical product marketing.

Link to Course

Post date: Mon, 03/24/2014 - 09:17

While the ACA has the potential to improve access to care and narrow the chasm between who gets good health care and who does not in this country, access begins with understanding. Hispanic Americans, the fastest growing minority in this country, may be hampered from the start. Stopping the crippling disparities Hispanic Americans face in pain management can only occur once the language barriers and misconceptions are addressed.

The first hindrance is in the language itself, and this occurs in the very naming of the site through which Hispanic Americans should sign up for benefits. Since there is no direct translation for the word “healthcare” in Spanish, the Spanish language counterpart of is This translates to being “careful” with health. It’s not exactly the same meaning. Not only may access get lost in translation, but pain management could, too. Read more...