The Scoop: A Publication of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Medical School readies for April 25 walk

March for Babies

The Medical School is gearing up to support the Houston March of Dimes with the March for Babies Sunday, April 25. President Larry Kaiser is the March of Dimes Houston walk chair, and Memorial Hermann Healthcare System is the presenting sponsor.

Medical School walkers can sign up online with a number of established teams. UTHealth and Memorial Hermann walkers will meet between 8 and 9 a.m. on the morning of the walk at the University of Houston’s Robertson Stadium for a pre-walk breakfast and will re-convene afterward for lunch.

The goal for UTHealth is 500 walkers and to raise more than $25,000 to help in the March of Dimes’ fight against premature births.

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Research shows modified adult stem cells may be helpful in spinal cord injury

Dr. Qi-lin Cao

Dr. Qi-lin Cao

Department of Neurosurgery researchers have demonstrated in rats that transplanting genetically modified adult stem cells into an injured spinal cord can help restore the electrical pathways associated with movement. The results are published in the Feb. 24 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

In spinal cord injury, demyelination, or the destruction of the myelin sheath in the central nervous system, occurs. The myelin sheath, produced by cells called oligodendrocytes, wraps around the axons of nerves and helps speed activity and insulate electrical conduction. Without it, the nerves cannot send messages to make muscles move.

The research team, led by Dr. Qi-lin Cao, principal investigator and associate professor of neurosurgery, discovered that transplanted adult stem cells (oligodendrocyte precursor cells or OPC) from the spinal cord could become oligodendrocytes. The new cells helped restore electrical pathways of the spinal cord and, therefore, function, in a process called remyelination.

Cao said two important discoveries were isolating precursor cells from the adult spinal cord and, prior to transplanting them into the spinal cord, genetically modifying them to express ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), a protein that encourages nerve growth. In preliminary experiments, also published in this paper, CNTF was shown to facilitate survival and differentiation of OPCs in cell culture.

“Most importantly, the evidence of remyelination was shown to exactly coincide with the anatomical localization of these motor pathways in spinal cord white matter,” Cao said. “These latter data provide confidence that the mechanism by which the grafted OPCs are enhancing functional recovery is through remyelination.”

Previous studies by the team and other researchers have shown that grafted OPCs survive after grafting into an injured spinal cord and increase movement recovery, but the mechanical connection to remyelination had only been theorized. In this research, results showed that there was significantly enhanced behavioral recovery, return of electrophysiological conduction, and ultra-structural evidence of remyelination.

The clinical significance is two-fold, Cao said: “First it confirms what has been suggested by these and other authors that stem cell grafting in attempts to remyelinate an injured spinal cord is a viable therapeutic strategy. Secondly, it strongly cautions that optimal recovery using such an approach will require more than simply grafting naïve precursor cells.”

Funding for the research was supported by the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke, the National Center for Research Resources, and TIRR Foundation’s Mission Connect.

Co-investigators of the study were Dr. Dong Kim, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, and Dr. Scott Whittemore, professor of neurological surgery at the University of Louisville and director of Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

— Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Institutional Advancement, Media Relations

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Rashid recognized for leadership skills

Dr. Rashid Rashid

Dr. Rashid Rashid receives the AMA Foundation Leadership
Award in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rashid Rashid, a third-year dermatology resident, was named one of this year’s AMA Foundation’s Leadership Award winners.

Presented in association with Pfizer Inc, Rashid and five other residents received the award at the Excellence in Medicine Awards Dinner and AMA National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C, March 1.

Rashid said he was “excited and humbled” to receive the honor and described his leadership style as that of discovering new ways to encourage others to do good.

“The idea is to focus on things which surpass the expectations of residency. In particular, the goal is to take advantage of this window of education and explore opportunities to mentor and set an example in areas outside of residency. We are all residents, and I encourage everyone to try and do a little more outside of residency. We did it as med students, and now we can do even more. Volunteer in clinics, tutor, take the lead in health care initiatives, and discover all the potential we as residents have outside of providing direct medical care,” he said.

Recognized for outstanding leadership skills, Rashid has mentored over a dozen students/physicians toward their first publications and regularly volunteers at community health fairs and free clinics. And as the result of this award, Rashid said he will expand the scope of his involvement.

“I used to think it was enough to be a mentor, set an example, and be a good physician. However, now it has become just as critical to become active at the governmental level, either locally or nationally,” he said.

As part of the award, Rashid received a trip to the AMA national conference to build upon his leadership skills.

“I was impressed by the amount of support the AMA has for physicians,” he said. “I think a lot of what they do at AMA, and what we physicians can tap into, is under recognized or underemphasized in medical school and in residency. It is good to know that this large organization exists to work for physicians and sometimes acts as a counterbalance to private financial interests that operate in the healthcare system with strong influences in D.C. Finally, I hope my trip allowed me to improve my leadership skills, and in particular, my communication skills.”

Rashid’s medical interests include skin cancer, skin disease, and hair/nail disease, and he also has an interest in effective information transfer and practice logistics to facilitate improved patient care. He has authored multiple book chapters and peer-reviewed manuscripts.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

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Students seek supplies for spring break outreach visit

Children from Las Yescas elementary school in The Valley

Children from Las Yescas Elementary School in The Valley
will be among those visited by Medical School students during
their Spring Break outreach trip.

Donations are now being accepted for an outreach visit by UT Medical School students and the UT Mobile Clinic to schools in the Los Fresnos Central Independent School District in the Texas Valley.

Students are seeking gently used/new school supplies, clothes, and books for their trip to Las Yescas Elementary School, La Encantada Elementary School, Riverside Middle School, and Rio Hondo Elementary School. While there, the Medical School students will host two health fairs and talk to the students about healthy living and careers in science and medicine.

    Specific items the group is seeking includes:
  • New/gently used school supplies (backpacks, pens/pencils, erasers, notebooks, folders)
  • New/gently used children’s toys and books
  • New/gently used shoes of all sizes and types
  • New/gently used clothing from babies to adults
  • Exercise and sports gear (jumpropes, balls, bats)
  • Accu-Check glucometer test strips (to use at the health fair for diabetes screening)
  • Any personal hygiene supplies (shampoo, toothbrush/toothpaste, brush, deodorant, lotion)

The deadline for donations is March 23, and drop-off boxes are located in the Leather Lounge. Students also are willing to pick up items. Contact William J. McKee for any questions.

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Distinguished lecturer

Dr. John Byrne, Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D., and Dr. Cheves Smythe

Assistant Dean for Research Affairs and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy Dr. John Byrne, left, and Dr. Cheves Smythe, right, founding dean of the Medical School, welcome Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of the Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, before her talk at the Cheves Smythe Distinguished Lecture in Education and Geriatric Medicine March 10.
— Chris Matula, Office of Communications, Medical School





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Events to Know

March 12

The Department of Pathology has 18 podium/poster presentations accepted to the U.S. and Canadian Academy of Pathology Meeting March 20–26 in Washington, D.C. Come see a preview of these outstanding presentations.
10 a.m.–Noon, MSB Leather Lounge.
Awards presentation to follow at Noon in MSB 2.024.

March 15

Department of Biochemistry Seminar Series: Dr. David Gorenstein (Institute of Molecular Medicine) presents, “Thioaptamers and Proteomics for Diagnostics and Therapeutics: Immunomodulation.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

March 17

Dr. Raul Silva (New York University School of Medicine) presents, “Considerations for Developing a Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Division.”
Noon, Harris County Psychiatric Center Auditorium.

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Josh Samuels, assistant professor of internal medicine, presents, “Hypertension and Obesity in Adolescents.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 18

Match Day.
10:45 a.m., Webber Plaza.

The Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences lecture: Dr. Kristy O. Murray, School of Public Health, presents, “Discovery of Persistent Infection Among Patients with West Nile Virus.”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB 3.301.
Lunch will be provided for the first 50 attendees. For details, contact Linda Gilbert.

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. Kumaran Ramamurthi (Center for Cancer Research/NIH) presents, “Morphogenesis in a bacterium.”
4 p.m., MSB 3.301.
Reception to follow in MSB 1.180.

Neurobiology and Anatomy Seminar Series: Dr. Kimberly Huber (UT Southwestern) presents, “Control of Synapse Development and Plasticity by Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.135.

Neuroscience Research Center sponsors Brain Night for Children.
6–8 p.m., The Health Museum, 1515 Hermann Drive.

March 22

Department of Biochemistry Seminar Series: Dr. Chen Dong (M. D. Anderson Cancer Center) presents, “Regulation of Immunity.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

Medical School Art Wall Artist Reception.
4–7 p.m., MSB ground floor.

March 23

Medical School Art Wall Artist Lecture.
Noon, MSB 2.103.
Lunch available for the first 50 people.

Deadline for donations for student spring break outreach trip to Texas border.
Drop-off boxes in MSB Leather Lounge and near elevators.
For more details, contact William McKee.

March 25

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Jacob Langer (University of Toronto) presents, “Controversies in the Management of Hirschsprung Disease.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. Peter Baumann (Stowers Institute for Medical Research) presents, “Telomerase Biogenesis and function.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.103.
Reception to follow in MSB 1.180.

Neurobiology and Anatomy Seminar Series: Dr. Kresimir Josic (University of Houston) presents, “Correlation Transfer and Coding in Neuronal Populations.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 26

PM&R Alliance Grand Rounds: Dr. Brent Masel (UTMB) presents, “Brain Injury as a Disease.”
Noon, MSB B.605.

March 29

Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Anthony Muslin (Washington University School of Medicine) presents, “Novel Molecular Insights into Pathological Cardiac Remodeling.”
4–5 p.m., MSB 2.135.

March 31

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Kevin Finkel, professor of internal medicine, presents, “Update on Renal Vascular Disease.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

April 1

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Timothy Nunez (Brooke Army Medical Center) presents, “Advances in Combat Casualty Care and Their Application to Civilian Trauma Care.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. C. Mark Ott (NASA-Johnson Space Center) presents, “Microbial risk assessment for the spaceflight environment.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.103.
Reception to follow in MSB 1.180.

Deadline to order faculty regalia for commencement.
For details, contact Jamie Munsinger, 713.500.5167.

April 9–10

Medical School Homecoming and Reunion.
For registration and details, visit the Web site.


Dr. James Grotta, chair of the Department of Neurology, was honored by the American Heart Association Houston affiliate with its medical award.

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