On Jan. 21, UT Southwestern held its 58th annual Medical Student Research Forum, which encourages students’ interest in pursuing professional research. UTSW medical students Henry Chen, Vishal Gokani, Christopher Johns, and Patrick Lynch were selected as oral presenters. Fifty-eight research projects were picked to display during the poster session out of 120 entries. Students worked under the guidance of UTSW faculty mentors. Faculty judges selected Jordan Franklin, Jaskeerat Gulati, Lakshmi Menon, Abhinav Thummala, Kristyn Williams, and Jonathan Vachon as poster presentation winners. Flip through the gallery below for a look inside the forum.
Henry Chen, medical student
Project: “Evaluating T Cell Activation and Polarization Impact in the Development and Progression of Morphea”
Synopsis: Morphea is an autoimmune skin disorder that can cause disfigurement and functional deficiencies due to hardening of the skin. Little is understood about the underlying cause of this disease, resulting in a lack of targeted therapies. Our project goal is to identify markers within the blood of patients with morphea. Some recent studies in our lab have shown dysregulation in the cell line that mediates inflammatory processes in the affected tissue. By identifying markers in the blood, we hope to learn how the body is responding at a systemic level to the disease.
Vishal Gokani, medical student
Project: “Advancement of Intraosseous Saline Wash and Mesenchymal”
Synopsis: A loss of blood flow to bone results in osteonecrosis, which occurs in the hip, shoulder, or knee. To treat osteonecrosis, we can inject intraosseous needles, wash out necrotic debris, and inject mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that regenerate bone. Our goal was to determine the optimal injection method for maximal washing and MSC distribution. We found that increasing the distance between the needles, increasing the number of needles, and using fenestrated needles with pores on the sides improved washing efficiency and MSC dissemination. In patients suffering osteonecrosis, washing and MSC injection with this new method will stimulate new bone formation.
Christopher Johns, medical student
Project: “Aspirin Use is Associated with Improvement in Overall Survival and Recurrence-free Survival in Inflammatory Breast Cancer Patients”
Synopsis: Inflammatory breast cancer is an extremely aggressive breast cancer that frequently results in metastatic disease and has poor outcomes for many patients. Aspirin use has been associated with improved survival in various aggressive cancers, but it has never been looked at in inflammatory breast cancer. We wanted to see if patients that started taking aspirin after their inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis, for a prolonged period of time, would have improved outcomes over those that did not. Based on our data, there was evidence that aspirin use was associated with fewer distant recurrences and improved survival.
Patrick Lynch, medical student
Project: “Artificial Intelligence-based Organs at Risk (OAR) Contouring for Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) Radiotherapy”
Synopsis: Many cancer patients receive high-powered focused radiation beams as a therapy to treat their cancer. In order to do this effectively, clinicians must manually delineate where both the cancer and human structures – such as eyes and the nerves that supply them – to maximize beams of radiation hitting cancer while avoiding key structures. This project is investigating using artificial intelligence to help us to delineate these key structures, since AI will be able to do this task with greater speed, and perhaps even greater accuracy.