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SIU med school administrator to expand diversity promotion efforts – The State Journal-Register

Posted: August 14, 2017 at 1:42 am

Dean Olsen Staff Writer @deanolsenSJR

Expanding a program that cultivates high school students interest in the medical profession and helping future doctors avoid unconscious bias are among the goals of a new associate dean at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

This job will give me the opportunity to be a collaborator, a change agent, Dr. Wendi Wills El-Amin said.

Wills El-Amin, 46, a family medicine physician, began her new role Aug. 1 as associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion. She previously was an academic strategist in SIUs department of medical education and treated patients through the department of family medicine.

The Springfield resident succeeded Dr. Wesley Robinson McNeese, who helped launch SIUs office of diversity, multicultural and minority affairs in 2001.

McNeese, 69, who is African-American, is a Christian minister who pastors a Springfield church. He has been hired to work part-time on diversity initiatives throughout the SIU system, including the campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville.

Wills El-Amin, who also is African American, was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Houston, Texas. She said she will take on McNeeses role of mentoring minority medical students. Among other duties, she also will oversee the Physician Pipeline Preparatory Program, or P4, which McNeese founded in 2009.

The P4 program enrolls Springfield-area high school students interested in potential careers as doctors. The after-school program provides mentors and exposure to the medical field.

Wills El-Amin said she would like to expand the program so parts of it reach students in the elementary and middle-school grades. Many of these young people would benefit from learning that a career as a doctor is a possibility, she said.

Wills El-Amin said her most influential teacher was in third grade a woman she knows today as Mrs. Creole.

She was the teacher who really made me believe I had a lot of potential, El-Amin said.

McNeese and Wills El-Amin come from different backgrounds.

McNeese said he grew up very poor in East St. Louis. He was salutatorian of his high school class and served in the Air Force in Vietnam before working as a journalist in East St. Louis and a paramedic.

He enrolled at Illinois State University at age 30 and later took part in SIUs Medical/Dental Education Preparatory Program (MEDPREP) before earning his medical degree at SIU and working a decade as an emergency room doctor. He now is a father of four. His new title with SIU will be system executive director for diversity initiatives.

Since McNeese began his work on diversity at SIU, the school has definitely made strides in the percentage of minority students enrolling and graduating as doctors, he said.

SIU currently ranks in the top 3 percent to 4 percent of medical schools nationwide when it comes to the percentage of black students graduating, he said, though the share of doctors who are black nationwide 4 percent remains low.

The P4 program, which has served many students who are minorities since its inception, could produce medical students for SIU eventually, McNeese said.

Its a grow-your-own type of idea, he said.

Wills El-Amin, the mother of three girls, grew up the daughter of an internal-medicine physician, but like McNeese, she said she experienced racism as she grew up and as a professional.

She earned a bachelors degree from Hampton University in Virginia and a medical degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., before completing a family medicine residency at the University of Texas at Houston.

She joined SIU in 2013 and before that was director of the University of Virginias cancer center disparity initiative and the outreach center on health disparities. She is chairwoman of the womens health section for the National Medical Association, an organization of African American doctors.

Wills El-Amin said she will work to help all SIU medical students, minority and non-minority, understand how the health of their patients can be influenced by factors outside the exam room. Those factors, known as the social determinants of health, can include poverty, education and crime.

She said she also wants to equip medical students with tools to avoid burnout a common problem among the ranks of physicians. Im very invested in cultivating resiliency, she said.

Unconscious biases can shape the way doctors interact with patients, Wills El-Amin said. She said she plans to use data on those biases to shape the curriculum for medical students and create a different approach when theyre dealing with their patients.

The medical schools staff already has received some training on eliminating institutional racism. That training will continue and will promote equitable treatment regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, Wills El-Amin said.

My approach is more of how to teach people cultural humility, she said.

Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean and provost of the medical school, said McNeese has done an excellent job for the school. Kruse said Wills El-Amin is an accomplished medical educator. She has a focus in her heart on the students.

Wills El-Amins annual salary as associate dean will be $210,000. The salary for McNeeses salary for his new job was unavailable. His salary as a medical school associate dean was $210,000, according to SIU officials.

Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected], 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

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SIU med school administrator to expand diversity promotion efforts – The State Journal-Register

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith

Editorial: The growth of regenerative medicine – Concord Monitor

Posted: August 14, 2017 at 1:41 am

The field is called regenerative medicine, technology that shows promise of repairing or replacing human organs with new ones, healing injuries without surgery and, someday, replacing cartilage lost to osteoarthritis.

New Hampshire could become one of the centers of the new industry and become the next Silicon Valley, says Manchester inventor Dean Kamen. The governor and Legislature, however, arent doing what they need to make the potential economic and intellectual boom more likely.

Sever the spinal chord of a zebra fish, an aquarium standby, and it will regrow in a couple of weeks. Remove a limb from a salamander, and it will grow another one indistinguishable from the first. And even some humans, especially when young, can regrow a new fingertip and fingernail on a digit severed above its last joint. Medical science is moving ever closer to performing such wonders.

3-D bioprinters that use biologic materials instead of printer ink are already printing replacement human skin. A University of Connecticut scientist and surgeon believes it will be possible to regenerate human knees sometime in the next decade and regrow human limbs by 2030.

At Ohio State University, a team has succeeded in using genetic material contained in a tiny microchip attached to skin and, with a tiny, Frankenstein-like zap of electricity, reprogram skin cells to produce other types of human cells. Turn a skin cell into say, a vascular system cell, and it will migrate to the site of a wound, spur healing and restore blood flow. Convert skin cells to brain cells and, with a few more steps, it could help stroke victims recover. The technologys potential is enormous.

Kamen created the portable insulin pump, and he and his team at DEKA Research in Manchesters millyard produced the Segway human transporter, a device that provides clean water in places that lack it, an external combustion engine that will soon heat and power part of the states mental hospital, and other inventions. Their track record helped Kamen and DEKA beat out plenty of other applicants to win $80 million in federal funds to found ARMI, the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester. Total funding is now just shy of $300 million.

The governments aim is to spur technologies that could be used to treat injured soldiers but whats learned could aid everyone and make New Hampshire a mecca for scientists, production facilities, pharmaceutical companies and more. DEKA will not create the new technologies but use its inventing and engineering expertise to help companies scale up and speed up regenerative medicine technologies so they can be brought to the market more quickly at an affordable cost.

The states university system has partnered with DEKA to train students who will one day work in the biotech field. The educational infrastructure is in place, but its handicapped by the states sorry funding of higher education. New Hampshire regularly ranks last or next to last in state support and its students carry the most debt of any in the nation.

To make New Hampshire the biotech mecca Kamen envisions will require lawmakers to better fund higher education, support the regenerative manufacturing institute and make housing available. A high-tech company that wants to come to New Hampshire cant do so if its workers cant afford a home.

Regenerative medicine is expected to become a massive economic engine, one that will create jobs and improve lives while lowering health care costs. The Legislature should be doing all it can to make sure that at least some of that engine is designed and made in New Hampshire.

Originally posted here:
Editorial: The growth of regenerative medicine – Concord Monitor

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith

Gene Therapy is Finally Here, But Who Will Foot the Bill – Wall Street Pit

Posted: August 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Human protein-coding genes number from 20,000 up to 25,000.

If just one of these genes gets altered or a code gets missing, it can be fatal to an individual.

In fact, approximately 30 per cent of infant mortality at birth in developed countries are caused by genetic disease. Almost 50 per cent of all miscarriages worldwide are due to chromosomally defective fetus.

Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization, over 10,000 human diseases are linked to single gene mutation alone. Among these monogenic diseases are thalassaemia, sickle cell anemia, haemophilia, Fragile-X syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Huntingtons disease.

The other two major types of genetic disorders are chromosomal and complex disorder, where theres mutation in two or more genes.

Genetic disease is not also simply inherited, our environment is another factor that can trigger mutation. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are classified as multifactorial inheritance genetic disorders.

Considering all these, one would expect that the world will be welcoming the revolutionary gene therapy with wide-open arms.

Yet, UniQures Glybera has been recently withdrawn from the European market in spite of its promising one-time cure for lipoprotein lipase deficiency (LPLD).

LPLD is a rare genetic disorder characterized by the bodys lack of lipase, which is an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides from the blood. The deficiency results to recurrent abdominal pain, fat deposits in the skin (xanthomata), and repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis. LPLD is known to affect one person in a million. However, UniQures Glybera costs as much as $1 million per patient. Since the drugs introduction in 2012, only one patient has been subscribed to the treatment.

Another genetic drug that offers one-time cure for Adenosine Deaminase Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (ADA-SCID) is GlaxoSmithKlines Strimvelis. ADA-SCID is an inherited genetic condition characterized by a damaged immune system. People with SCID are prone to persistent and recurring infections since they absolutely have no immune protection from microbes. Symptoms begin to appear in a babys first 6 months of life, and afflicted infants hardly reach two years of age without treatment.

GlaxoSmithKlines Strimvelis can cure the genetic disease and save precious lifes. But the $700,000 drug had only a couple of sales in 2016 and another two expected this year. With this disappointing development, GSK might simply sell its rare diseases unit.

Data shows that the prices of the current gene therapy in the market are too hard if not impossible for most families to reach, especially since it has to be a one-time payment. And health care systems which only pay on monthly basis are not of much help to pharmaceuticals, which have made such enormous investments to formulate genetic cures.

Is there real hope?

Many drug companies still think so.

Pfizer, Sanofi, and Shire are now also making the revolutionary pursuits. And GSK has not completely given up as it strives to use its gene therapy platform in the development of cure for more common genetic illnesses.

Yes, at the moment, the whole picture may appear dim. But, by creating new business models, the leading companies in the biopharmaceutical industry if they are really serious about doing something in relation to rampant increases in drug prices, can start by creating a business model which is first based on humanism and then their respective bottom lines.

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Gene Therapy is Finally Here, But Who Will Foot the Bill – Wall Street Pit

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith

A Novel Form of Gene Therapy Can Treat Diabetes With Genetically Modified Skin Transplants – Big Think

Posted: August 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Researchers from the University of Chicago have successfully completed a proof-of-concept studywhere they managed to treat obesity in mice using a new type of gene therapy that utilized skin transplants. Human skin transplantation is a well-established clinical approach that has been used for the treatment of burns. However, using it as a vehicle to deliver genetic treatments for non-skin diseases could be revolutionary.

There are several reasons why skin stem cell therapy can be applicable to a broad type of diseases. The skin is the largest human organ, providing an easy access to cells needed for genetic treatments. The skin enables easy monitoring for potential off-target mutations resulting from the CRISPR intervention, as well as easy removal of such mutations, should they occur. Most importantly, proteins that are secreted by epidermal cells can reach the blood circulation and achieve desired therapeutic effects for the entire body.

In the study published this month, titledEngineered Epidermal Progenitor Cells Can Correct Diet-Induced Obesity and Diabetes,the scientists genetically engineered skin cells to be able to deliver GLP1 (glucagon-like peptide 1) – a hormone which regulates blood glucose. Then they developed a surgical procedure which allowed them to successfully engraft the new skin onto a mouse host. Finally, the genetically modified cells had a mechanism for releasing GLP1, which was regulated by a small amount of antibiotic that was fed to the mice. The treated group of obese mice significantly reduced their body weight and insulin resistance, compared to the control group.

Xiaoyang Wu, one of the authors of the study, says in an interview for ResearchGate:

We established a novel mouse to mouse skin transplantation system to test skin gene therapy. [] Our proof-of-concept work demonstrated its possible to use engineered skin grafts to treat many non-skin diseases. Clinical translation of our findings will be relatively easy, as skin transplantation in human patients has been well established and clinically used for treatment of burn wounds for many years.

Skin grafts are an exciting new avenue to explore for genetic treatments of diseases. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of gene therapy, the procedure is minimally invasive, and it has already been tested and proven safe.

More here:
A Novel Form of Gene Therapy Can Treat Diabetes With Genetically Modified Skin Transplants – Big Think

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko

Pfizer’s push into gene therapy adds more jobs in Sanford – News & Observer

Posted: August 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is expanding its facilities in Sanford to accommodate the companys push into gene therapy.

The state Department of Commerce announced earlier this week that Pfizer would invest $100 million in the site and create 40 jobs there within three years. The average annual salary for the new positions will be $97,500, much higher than Lee Countys average annual wage of $38,250.

If it meets those goals, Wyeth Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizers, will receive a $250,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund and a local incentive of up to $1,412,715 over five years.

The announcement comes a week after Gov. Roy Cooper visited Pfizers facilities in Sanford and a year after Pfizer bought Bamboo Therapeutics, a Chapel Hill startup. Pfizer also bought Bamboos gene therapy manufacturing facility, which Bamboo had acquired from UNC-Chapel Hill in January, 2016.

Gene therapy is an emerging technology that attacks the disorder by repairing mutated genes. Pfizer will use technology to introduce genetic material into a patients body so as to compensate for defective or missing genes.

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Pfizer’s push into gene therapy adds more jobs in Sanford – News & Observer

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith

Gene therapy skin grafts for obesity and diabetes – BioNews

Posted: August 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

A proof-of-concept study in mice has demonstrated how skin grafts could deliver gene therapy for obesity and diabetes.

‘We think this platform has the potential to lead to safe and durable gene therapy, in mice and we hope, someday, in humans, using selected and modified cells from skin,’ said senior author Dr Xiaoyang Wu of the University of Chicago, Illinois.

The technique explores the potential of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1), a hormone which could help to treat conditions like diabetes and obesity. GLP1 reduces appetite and stimulates the release of insulin to lowerblood sugar, butdoes not last long in the blood and is challenging to deliver orally.

The researchers used CRISPR to edit skin stem cellstaken from newborn mice. They inserted a modified version of the GLP1 gene, designed to increase the duration of the hormone, and a genetic’switch’ to turn the gene on in the presence of an antibiotic.

They grew the skin stem cells into a skin organoid, and grafted them onto mice. When the mice were fed small amounts of antibiotic, theysuccessfully produced modified GLP1, which lasted for three months, and showed higher levels of insulin and lower levels of glucose.

The researchers also tested feeding the mice a high-fat diet. Compared to controls, the mice with modified GLP1 skin grafts put on less weight.

Dr Wu said the skin graft method could be safer than using engineered viral vectorsto edit genes in patient’s own tissues, as viruses ‘may cause a very strong immune reaction and inflammation in vivo.’ He added that lab-grown skin grafts have been used clinically for some time to treat burns, and have been proven safe.

Being able to control the gene expression using a drug would also allow doctors to calibrate how much of the enzyme enters a patients bloodstream.

‘We think this can provide a long-term safe option for the treatment of many diseases,’ Dr Wu said. ‘It could be used to deliver therapeutic proteins, replacing missing proteins for people with a genetic defect, such as haemophilia. Or it could function as a metabolic sink, removing various toxins.’

Dr Jeffrey Millman of Washington University, St Louis, who was not involved in the study, told The Scientist that more research would be needed to ensure that neither the genome editing nor the stem cell culturing method inadvertently introduce dangerous mutations.

Continued here:
Gene therapy skin grafts for obesity and diabetes – BioNews

Recommendation and review posted by Fredricko


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