In the News
Remembering Dr. Beth Levine
Dr. Beth Levine, UT Southwestern Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology, Director of the Center for Autophagy Research, and holder of the Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science, died Sunday after a battle with breast cancer.
An Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 2008 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Levine was a widely recognized leader in research on autophagy, a housekeeping process in which cells rid themselves of damaged constituents in order to maintain cellular health.
Dr. Levine was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1960. After graduating magna cum laude from Brown University in 1981, she received her medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1986, followed by a residency in internal medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She was a postdoctoral fellow in infectious diseases and virology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1989 through 1992 and worked as an Assistant Professor and then as an Associate Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons) until 2004. That year she was recruited by UT Southwestern to become Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Jay P. Sanford Professor in Infectious Diseases. Seven years later, Dr. Levine became Director of UTSW’s Center for Autophagy Research.
Dr. Almandoz publishes recent study in Clinical Obesity
Shelter-in-place orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19 put unusual strains on people with obesity, making it more difficult for them to eat properly and manage their weight, according to a UT Southwestern study.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Obesity, surveyed 123 weight management patients at the UT Southwestern Weight Wellness Program and a community bariatric surgery practice. In addition to less exercise and more stress eating, most patients also reported increased anxiety and depression.
“You don’t have to contract the virus to be adversely affected by it. The major strength of this study is that it is one of the first data-driven snapshots into how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced health behaviors for patients with obesity,” says Jaime Almandoz, M.D., MBA, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern who authored the study. Almandoz is also medical director for the UT Southwestern Weight Wellness Program, a multidisciplinary weight management and post-bariatric care clinic.
Drug combination could eliminate side effects of once-popular diabetes treatment
A new UT Southwestern study shows how an effective but largely abandoned treatment for Type 2 diabetes could be used again in combination with another drug to eliminate problematic side effects.>
In a study published this month in Cell Metabolism, researchers show how adding a second, experimental drug referred to as Compound A activates a receptor in fat cells and certain immune system cells called the G protein-coupled receptor 120 (GPR120) to complement the effects of rosiglitazone and allow a lower dose to be used.
“The very low dose we used in this study showed no side effects – no weight gain, no fluid retention – in mouse models,” says Dayoung Oh, Ph.D., senior author of the study, assistant professor of internal medicine, and a researcher in UT Southwestern’s Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research.
Three approved drugs can curb COVID-19 virus replication
Three drugs that are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other international agencies can block the production of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in human cells, according to computational and pharmaceutical studies performed by UT Southwestern scientists.
Developing new pharmaceuticals could take months, even with rapid approval, according to study leaders Hesham Sadek, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine, molecular biology, and biophysics; John W. Schoggins, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology; and Mahmoud Ahmed, Ph.D., an instructor of internal medicine. Thus, the UTSW researchers are testing drugs that are already approved by the FDA or other international agencies to see if they can attack this virus.
Recently, Sadek and his colleagues published a study in the same preprint server that used computer modeling to screen thousands of FDA-approved drugs for their ability to fit into the binding pocket of SARS-CoV-2’s main protease, an enzyme that the virus uses to chop up long strands of viral proteins.
ID Faculty publish COVID-19 Pharmacologic Treatments in JAMA
The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) presents an unprecedented challenge to identify effective drugs for prevention and treatment. A recent article "Pharmacologic Treatments for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)" published in JAMA by James Cutrell, M.D. and others in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine. The speed and volume of clinical trials launched to investigate potential therapies for COVID-19 highlight both the need and capability to produce high-quality evidence even in the middle of a pandemic.
TB produces cough-triggering molecule
The bacteria that cause the deadly lung disease tuberculosis appear to facilitate their own spread by producing a molecule that triggers cough, a new study led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers shows. The findings, published online today, in Cell, could lead to new ways to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, which is responsible for the death of more than 1.5 million people per year worldwide.
People have known since ancient times that coughing is a primary symptom of tuberculosis and that cough allows for the spread of disease from person to person. However, the cause of tuberculosis-related coughs has been unclear says study leader Michael Shiloh, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in UTSW’s Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Infectious Disease and Department of Microbiology. The prevailing hypothesis has been that coughing is triggered by infection-induced lung irritation and inflammation, but this has never been definitively proved.
Internal Medicine Innovation Tank
To promote innovation in care delivery, health education, and patient experience, the Clinical Compensation Committee created the Innovation Tank, a competition modeled after Shark Tank to encourage internal investment in faculty development as facilitators of change.
Congratulations to all our finalists: Dr. Rebecca Vigen, Dr. Sarah Wingfield, Dr. Jessica Voit, Dr. Caitlin Siropaides, Dr. Jaclyn Albin, Dr. Swee-Ling Levea, Dr. Laila Castellino and Dr. Kamalanathan Sambandam.
Faculty were invited to submit their ideas to the Innovation Tank Committee, who then selected 13 semi-finalists. These semi-finalists were matched up with ‘celebrity coaches’ (Drs. Gary Reed, Ethan Halm, and Kavita Bhavan) who then gave personalized feedback about how to improve their ideas prior to the semi-finals poster competition at the Wellness Symposium. The celebrity judges were only supposed to pick five finalists who would present to ‘igniters’ (Drs. W.P. Andrew Lee, Jonathan Weissler, Byron Cryer, Kavita Bhavan, and Roberto de la Cruz) that have the ability to help them make their idea a reality, but found all the ideas to be so good they ended up awarding six finalists, each whom received $10,000 to execute their ideas.
Protein associated with Alzheimer's also causes dysfunction in fat cells
A protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease in the brain also causes problems in the body’s fat cells, where it invades the cells’ energy centers, increasing obesity and the risk of diabetes, according to a study published online today in Nature Metabolism.
Amyloid precursor protein (APP) – which some consider the evil player in the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s disease – shows up at far higher levels in fat cells in mice and humans who are obese, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Philipp Scherer, Director of UT Southwestern’s Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research and Professor of Internal Medicine and Cell Biology.
Criteria for clinical trials needlessly excluding patients
Federal regulations may keep lung cancer patients out of clinical trials simply because these patients are on medications that might affect the electrical system of the heart. Drilling into the details quickly turns up reasons to think these regulations may be preventing a substantial proportion of patients from participating in clinical trials. There may be alternatives, and researchers and physicians should explore them.
These are the conclusions of a team of researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center that included members of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Their findings, published in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer in November, might help break down barriers for patients to participate in important, potentially lifesaving clinical trials. The barriers currently exclude thousands of patients.
“This issue comes up all the time in my practice,” said Dr. David Gerber, who treats lung cancer patients and is a Professor of Internal Medicine and Population and Data Sciences. He is one of the study’s authors and has been studying clinical trial eligibility criteria for a decade.
2020-2021 Parkland Medical Staff Election Results
Congratulations to Dr. Eugene Chu, Division of Hospital Medicine-PHHS, who was recently elected to Vice President of the Medical Staff at Parkland for the 2020-2021 term. Also elected as Members-at-Large were Dr. Matthew Leveno, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Christian Mayorga, Jr., Division of Digestive and Liver Diesease, and Dr. Kehinde Odedosu, Division of Hospital Medicine-PHHS.