Transformative awards for Mocarski's malleable cells, lung fibrosis

The National Institutes of Health has announced a five-year, $1.9 million Transformative Research Award to Emory virologist Edward Mocarski, PhD for his work on how the mechanisms of programmed cell death can be subverted. Mocarski is Robert W. Woodruff professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Vaccine Center. His research, which originated in probing how cells commit suicide when taken over by viruses, could lead to advances in regenerative medicine and organ transplant. The grant, funded through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is one of nine “high-risk-, high-reward” Transformative Research Awards (13 recipients) announced by the NIH on October 6. In the same group this year, Thomas Barker in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University received a Transformative Research Award for his research on mechanosensors + pulmonary fibrosis. The Transformative Research Award program supports “exceptionally innovative, unconventional, paradigm-shifting research projects that are inherently risky and untested.” Emory has achieved only one other TRA since the program was established in 2009: Shuming Nie's project on imaging to guide cancer surgery. “This Transformative award was made possible because of the creative and engaged graduate students and postdoctoral fellows I have had working with me at Emory,” Mocarski says. In 2011, Mocarski, working with former graduate student William Kaiser and Emory geneticist Tamara Caspary showed that two complementary forms of programmed cell death, necrosis and apoptosis, can be genetically excised from mice, leaving a viable animal with a functioning immune system. These findings are yielding additional fruit. Mocarski’s research indicates that cells from these genetically altered mice are unexpectedly malleable, in that they are easier to reprogram into induced pluripotent stem cells. Once reprogrammed, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) can be directed to become cells of almost any tissue, making them promising potential tools for the treatment of many diseases. The genetically altered mice are also less susceptible to deadly inflammation and more readily accept bone marrow transplants. The Transformative project’s aims are to exploit these findings and test the ability of drugs that interfere with programmed cell death to facilitate tissue regeneration, iPS cell reprogramming and transplant.      

Cancer metastasis: isolating invasive cells with a color change

At Winship Cancer Institute, Adam Marcus and Jessica Konen have developed a tool for probing how invasive cells are different, which could lead to new ways to fight cancer metastasis. In the video, check out how they track the behavior of apparently devious "leader cells".

Tools for illuminating brain function make their own light

Hey optogenetics fans, cut (or temporarily put aside) the fiber optic cable. Flexible tools allow the choice between activation by light or an external chemical.

labor and delivery

Emory University Hospital Midtown rings in New Year with new babies

Elijah Jacobs Westbrook and mom, LaSonta Westbrook

Twins Sidney and Taylor Mency and mom Jazmin Mency

Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) rang in 2011 with some new bundles of joy. The hospital’s first baby of the New Year was born at 1:35 am. Little Elijah Jacobs Westbrook made his surprise appearance about six weeks early, says his mother, LaSonta Westbrook. The 4 lb., 6 oz. little boy was quickly greeted by his three big sisters, who enjoyed seeing him through the nursery window. As the first boy in the family, Westbrook says Elijah can expect lots of “mothering” from his sisters.

A little more than an hour later, EUHM welcomed its first set of twins in 2011. At 2:49 a.m. and 2:58 a.m., twin girls Sidney and Taylor Mency were born. Also a little early, mom Jazmin Mency says the gift of her girls is a wonderful way to begin the New Year.

The hospital ended up delivering 14 babies on January 1, 2011 (including the three mentioned), a busy way to kick off the New Year.

Emory University Hospital Midtown features a comprehensive maternity center that combines all maternity services on one floor, including labor and delivery, mother-baby suites and general and special care nurseries. Its design reflects the hospital’s unique philosophy of developmentally supportive care, encouraging family involvement and ensuring optimal infant development.

EUHM opened the first neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the Southeast in 1981, and currently, it serves as the Emory Regional Perinatal Center, one of five centers in the South designated to care for high-risk infants. With a Level III-designated NICU, the hospital’s skilled neonatal nursery staff has the expertise and technology to care for and treat almost any medical or surgical complication in sick and premature infants.

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