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PM&R Resident Jason Tucker selected for seed grant funding for PRP proof of concept study

Jason Tucker, M.D.

Jason Tucker, M.D.

The Foundation for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation has selected Jason Tucker, M.D., as one of three recipients of its 2013 New Investigator Award from the Richard Materson Education Research Fund.

Tucker, a fourth-year resident in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, will use the short-term seed grant of $10,000 to investigate the biological mechanism of action of an evidenced based, innovative treatment, called platelet-rich plasma, for the early stages of knee osteoarthritis.

Tucker’s proof of concept study will evaluate treatment response after ultrasound-guided platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections into the arthritic knee. Studying synovial fluid biomarkers like growth factors, inflammatory mediators and lipids as well as mesenchymal stem cells native to the joint, he and a collaborative team will compare post-treatment data with both pre-injection baseline values and clinical outcomes to provide novel correlative information that will help explain the currently unknown biological mechanism of action of PRP.

The New Investigator Award will be presented on Saturday, October 5 during the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation’s Annual Assembly in Washington, D.C.


The day Richmond Magazine featured the veteran who is VCU’s first woman discharged with a mechanical heart

In its May issue, Richmond Magazine tells the story of Army veteran Margaret Daugherty, whose transplanted heart failed after 18 years of service.

With multiple organs in danger, Daugherty was sent to the VCU Medical Center, where a Total Artificial Heart transplant offered time to regain health and strength while awaiting a new donor heart. This bridge to transplant was so successful in fact, that she has become the VCU Medical Center’s first female patient to be discharged from the hospital using a portable power supply for the Total Artificial Heart.

“Why stay in the hospital waiting?” Daugherty asks in the Richmond magazine article Life Savers. “The world is out there waiting to be experienced.”

Read the full article or watch an interview and slideshow.


The day the MCV Campus got a look at the future of neuroprosthetics

Symposium speakers

Symposium speakers included (from left) the University of Pittsburgh’s Andrew Schwarz, Ph.D., Patrick Tresco, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah, Tom Anastasio, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois-Champlain, and Col. Geoffrey Ling M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Trauma, disease or birth can leave patients unable to interact with the world around them. Researchers in the field of restorative medicine are exploring the potential of electro-mechanical devices that could serve amputees and paralytics, allowing them to use their own brain signals to drive computer-controlled prosthetics.

On March 18, leaders in the field of Brain-Machine Interface gathered on the MCV Campus to discuss recent advances in neuroprosthetics and how compatible their materials are with the human body as well as our understanding of how a patient’s brain controls these increasingly sophisticated machines.

The symposium was led off by Peter Pidcoe, PT, Ph.D., an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, who provided a comprehensive overview of the history and variety of prosthetic devices as well as their design and effectiveness.

Symposium speaker

The symposium was led off by Peter Pidcoe, PT, Ph.D., an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, who provided a comprehensive overview of the history and variety of prosthetic devices as well as their design and effectiveness.

Other speakers took the audience step-by-step through the process:

  • To understand the brain signals that control movement in normal limbs or robotic prostheses, the University of Pittsburgh’s Andrew Schwarz, Ph.D., demonstrated that signals from populations of cortical neurons in a monkey can effectively drive a robotic arm. Schwartz is a pioneer in brain-machine interfaces since the late 1980s; he also was organizer and key speaker at the Annual Aspen Brain forum in 2010 on Building a Better Brain.
  • For neural signals to drive prostheses, those signals must be converted into computer language. Neuro-computationalist Tom Anastasio, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois-Champlain, explained the mathematical bases of neural signaling. Anastasio wrote one of the first textbooks on the principles of neuro-computing.
  • To send a neural message from a living brain to a computer, an artificial interface must be implanted into neural tissue. Patrick Tresco, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah and a renowned expert on biocompatible materials, showed that long-term electrode implantation can be optimized by engineering electrodes with novel geometries and coatings.
  • The U.S. Army Med Corps’ Col. Geoffrey Ling M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, presented a compelling justification for this collaboration between biomedical research and engineering and also showed numerous film clips of patients successfully manipulating their new prosthetic limbs. In addition to serving as program manager at DARPA, Ling is a standing council member of the NINDS and heads various VA organizations for treatment of soldiers with head trauma.

The 23rd Annual Neuroscience Symposium was attended by 80 VCU faculty and students, faculty from Virginia Union University and a contingent of biomedical engineering students from the University of Virginia. It was hosted by the Society for Neuroscience’s Central Virginia Chapter, the president of which is Alex Meredith, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology.

For more information about the conference, contact Alex Meredith at mameredi@vcu.edu or Ruth Clemo at rclemo@vcu.edu.


The day Dr. Read reported on the frequency of a misdirected shot of adrenalin

An epinephrine auto-injector is a fast-acting shot of adrenalin that can be self-administered to help normalize blood pressure and make breathing easier in the event of anaphylactic shock. But new findings in the April issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology by an international team of researchers suggest that the incidence of unintentional injection with epinephrine auto-injectors is increasing.

According to Edward J. Read Jr., M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, who led the VCU portion of the study, the projected rate of unintentional injections is one in 50,000. However, the true figure is likely much higher than indicated in the study which only looked at published reports.

The team examined reports in peer-reviewed medical journals published within the past 20 years and identified 69 incidents of unintentional injection of epinephrine. About 70 percent of them had occurred within the past six years.

The typical auto-injector has the appearance of a large pen. Misuse occurs when users try to inject themselves or another person with the wrong end of the device, inadvertently injecting their thumb or finger instead. The shot is usually administered to a patient’s leg.

“The consequence for the person receiving the unintentional injection is not usually too severe. The bigger risk may well be the ‘lost dose,’ the fact that the epinephrine is no longer available to administer properly to the person urgently needing it,” said Read.

“Our findings reinforce a widely held belief that the current self-administration devices for anaphylaxis are not particularly user-friendly,” said Read. Read, together with a team of researchers from various institutions, is working with Richmond-based company Intelliject, Inc., to develop an epinephrine delivery system specifically designed to address these concerns and to minimize the likelihood of unintentional injections, as well as other use errors.

Read more about the phenomenon and Read’s ongoing research to try to further delineate the true number of unintentional injections.

Read the abstract.


The day Alex Meredith discovered that auditory regions of the brain convert to the sense of touch

Adult animals with hearing loss actually re-route the sense of touch into the hearing parts of the brain. In study findings published online in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 23, the team reported a phenomenon known as cross-modal plasticity in which a damaged sensory system is replaced by one of the remaining ones. In this case, the sense of hearing is replaced with touch.

“One often learns, anecdotally, that ‘grandpa’ simply turned off his hearing aid because it was confusing and no longer helped. Our study indicates that hearing deficits in adult animals result in a conversion of their brain’s sound processing centers to respond to another sensory modality, making the interpretation of residual hearing even more difficult,” said principal investigator Alex Meredith, Ph.D., a professor in the VCU Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.

“These findings raise the possibility that even mild hearing loss in adult humans can have serious and perhaps progressive consequences,” Meredith said.

The findings provide researchers and clinicians with insight into how the adult brain retains the ability to re-wire itself on a large scale, as well as the factors that may complicate treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

The findings could have implication for the about 15 percent of American adults who suffer from some form of hearing impairment. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Read more here.


The day VCU researchers identified genetic causes of pediatric brain tumors

An extremely aggressive brain tumor known as a medulloblastoma typically originates in the cerebellum, the area of the brain responsible for the coordination of voluntary movement and helps maintain balance and muscle tone. Unfortunately, treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause severe developmental and cognitive deficits.

Recently published findings in Nature Genetics may one day help researchers develop a therapy to target the specific pathway and block the genetic changes from occurring, possibly preventing tumor growth.

The discovery that genetic alternations to a molecular pathway result in the growth of medulloblastomas was reported by the VCU Medical Center’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Program. The team looks globally at the tumor-specific genetic changes that transform normal brain cells into cancerous cells, giving rise to pediatric brain tumors – the leading cause of death from childhood cancer.

“Ultimately, we hope to develop tests that will tell us, based on the patterns of gene alteration in a patient, which tailored treatment they will most benefit from and which treatment protocol will most effectively eradicate their tumor,” said Timothy E. Van Meter, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Neurosurgery. Van Meter, together with Gary Tye, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at the VCU Medical Center’s Harold F. Young Neurosurgical Center, is collaborating with investigators with the Labatt Brain Tumor Center at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada, on several projects. “Conducting research in pediatric brain tumors is challenging because statistically meaningful, clinically relevant studies require more patient samples than most centers have available to study,” said Van Meter. “Therefore, scientists such as myself form large collaborative networks — like the one we formed for this study — pooling resources and patient materials.”

In this study, the team examined approximately 200 medulloblastoma specimens and characterized alterations in DNA on chromosomes.The VCU team consulted and provided medulloblastoma clinical samples and data.

Read more here.

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Updated: 04/29/2016