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May 1, 2015

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Message from Paul Ramsey

UW professor recognized for his contributions to science and medical research

Dear Colleagues:

It was with great pleasure that I heard this week that Stanley Fields, UW professor of genome sciences and medicine and adjunct professor of microbiology, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Stanley Fields, UW professor of genome sciences and medicine and adjunct professor of microbiology
Stan Fields

Stan, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, develops biological assays to analyze the functions of proteins, often using yeast as a model for assays that can be applied to proteins from any organism. He is most widely known for inventing a technique, with his colleague Ok-Kyu Song, that has transformed biology. This molecular biology technique, the two-hybrid system, permits the study of protein interactions in the cell. Given one protein that a researcher is interested in, the method identifies other proteins that bind to it. With advanced sequencing and automated procedures, the approach now permits the analysis of protein interactions on a dramatically large scale. The method has application to diverse scientific fields, from neuroscience to cancer research.

Stan’s work continues to focus on developing technologies, in particular those that analyze protein function. This is a challenging area—determining protein function remains difficult due to the range of biochemical activities that proteins display, the many modifications a protein can undergo, and the multiple forms of a protein that a single gene can produce. Yet it is one of the most important quests in science—proteins, one of the major building blocks of life, are the center of significant ongoing studies at UW Medicine and elsewhere throughout the world.

Stan, who will be inducted in a ceremony Oct. 10 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a wonderfully curious and energetic scientist whose work has had substantial worldwide impact. In addition to his research, he is passionate about mentoring and supporting young researchers and engaging young people in scientific careers. We are very fortunate to have him on our faculty. Congratulations, Stan, for a well-deserved honor!


PGRamsey Signature2

Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington


Research links depression, diabetes to increased dementia risk

Diabetes and major depression are common in Western populations and as many as 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus also have depression.
Davydow Dementia

In newly published research from UW Medicine, depression and type 2 diabetes were each associated with an increased risk for dementia. The risk was even greater among individuals diagnosed with both depression and diabetes, according to work led by UW School of Medicine researchers. The findings appeared April 15 in JAMA Psychiatry. Wayne Katon, a noted researcher on the associations between depression and chronic disease, was the lead author of the study, which was published posthumously. For more information, see the article in HealthDay.

No sign of heart muscle repair after stem cell injections

As the patients' damaged hearts were fitted with a ventricular-assist device, the UW researchers injected bone marrow stem cells.
Stem Cells

A small study by University of Washington researchers found no sign that bone-marrow stem-cell injections stimulated repair in the damaged hearts of patients awaiting transplantation. The results were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Cardiology. April Stempien-Otero, UW associate professor of medicine, was the paper’s lead author. In recent years, a number of studies have suggested that injecting damaged hearts with stem cells from bone marrow may help the heart muscle heal and improve its function. In animal studies, such injections have stimulated new blood-vessel formation, reduced scarring and strengthened heart contractions. Subsequent small studies in humans have, in some cases, indicated improved function in patients' hearts. For more information, see the article in HS NewsBeat.

Children with rare leukemia associated with poor prognosis have better-than-expected outcomes after tailored treatment

Brent Wood, UW professor of laboratory medicine and pathology
Brent Wood

Brent Wood, UW professor of laboratory medicine and pathology, presented the first of the plenary scientific session abstracts at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in December. Wood led a study evaluating the outcome of pediatric patients with T-lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) enrolled in the largest trial of this disease conducted to date. The study documents the overall excellent outcome modern chemotherapy can provide and demonstrates that a previously identified subset of the disease is no longer prognostically significant. The practical significance is that pediatric T-ALL should no longer be considered a poor outcome subset of acute leukemia, and laboratory measures of response are the best way to direct future therapy. For more information, see the study abstract.

Other research news:

Clinical Care

Cardiac-arrest awareness law will protect student athletes

Hank Pelto, UW acting assistant professor of family medicine, screens a youth soccer player for heart conditions at the UW Medicine Sports Medicine Center at Husky Stadium. Photo credit: Clare McLean
SCA Lay Pelto

Washington state’s student athletes gained a measure of safety when Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Act. About 1 in 250 young athletes has a heart disorder that heightens the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The new law aims to inform sports-playing students, their parents and coaches about warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. The law requires sports-playing students and their parents to sign a form annually before athletic participation begins, affirming that they have reviewed online information about symptoms, prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac arrest. For more information, read the article in HS NewsBeat.

UW Medicine and CoMotion partner with Kineta to advance discovery


UW Medicine and CoMotion, UW’s collaborative innovation hub, have partnered with Kineta, Inc., a Seattle biotechnology company focused on the development of new therapies for autoimmune and infectious diseases. This non-exclusive partnership, named the Alliance for Innovation in Therapeutics, will identify, fund and develop promising new therapeutics emerging from the UW’s research centers, with the goal of increasing the number of novel drug therapies advanced toward commercialization. The objective is to advance UW Medicine discoveries and speed the development process to bring important new therapeutics to market. For more information, read the article in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Other clinical news:

  • Gene therapy shows promise for rare immune disorderU.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2015
    Gene therapy may benefit children and teens with a rare immune disorder called Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, a small study finds. An accompanying editorial, co-written by Hans Ochs, UW professor of pediatrics, immunology and rheumatology, is quoted.
  • New genetic tests for breast cancer hold promiseNew York Times, April 21, 2015
    Mary-Claire King, UW professor of medicine (medical genetics) and genome sciences, whose work led to the discovery of a gene that carries an added risk for breast cancer, has called for testing to be offered to all American women 30 and older.
  • No link between MMR and autism, major study concludesThe Guardian, April 21, 2015
    Research involving a cohort of 95,000 children is the latest to contradict the findings of discredited gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. An editorial by Bryan H. King, UW professor and vice chair, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, was referenced in the story.
  • Autism risk linked to early pregnancy diabetesHuffington Post, April 21, 2015
    A new study of more than 320,000 babies links autism to gestational diabetes in early pregnancy. Annette Estes, who directors the UW Autism Center and was not involved in the research, comments.

Education and Training

Health Sciences' students pushed to ask big-picture questions in IPE program

Michelle Averill, UW acting assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, facilitates a discussion with medical student Chris Cao and others. Photo credit: Jeff Hodson
Michelle Averill

Hundreds of UW Health Sciences students participated in the final session of the yearlong Interprofessional Education Initiative (IPE) program recently. The topic was pediatric dental caries, or tooth decay, a major public health problem. The exercise was part of an effort to help second-year graduate professional students consider the root causes of a larger health issue rather than focusing solely on the individual patient. About 650 students from the six Health Sciences Schools participated. Previous sessions included a case study about a patient who suffered heart failure and who didn't want medical treatment; a session on veterans and health care; and a case study of Doris, a patient with diabetes. For more information, read the article.

WWAMI Regional News

WWAMI medical education program expanding in Idaho

Melissa (“Moe”) Hagman, associate program director of the Boise Internal Medicine Residency Program, advising fourth-year medical student with patient during clinical exams. Photo credit: Clare McLean
Boise Medical Center

The Idaho Legislature approved funding for 10 seats authorized during the previous two legislative sessions for Idaho students to study at the UW School of Medicine as part of the WWAMI program. The legislature also provided funding for five additional WWAMI seats, bringing the number of Idaho’s first-year WWAMI medical school seats to 35 next fall. With the new seats, Idaho will have 140 medical students at all levels studying through the WWAMI program up from 80 just three years ago. For more information, listen to the story on Idaho Public Radio.

Other WWAMI news:

  • Fund local WWAMI programSpokesman-Review, April 26, 2015
    A letter to the editor looks at the Legislature's approach to medical and higher education in Spokane, noting, "It's not all bad news in Olympia. The House budget supports both the UW expansion and WSU's efforts to accredit a new medical school."
  • Washington Legislature wraps up -- for nowSpokesman-Review, April 25, 2015
    The money for WSU to seek accreditation for its new school and for UW to continue its Spokane program remain unsettled in the various operating budget proposals.
  • Senate budget would 'spell the end' for UW's medical program in SpokanePuget Sound Business Journal, April 15, 2015
    The recently unveiled Senate Republicans' budget proposal has University of Washington officials worried about the future of UW's rural medical education program in Spokane.


Two UW faculty named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Stanley Fields and David Kaplan
Online News Collage

Stanley Fields, UW professor of medicine and genome sciences, and David B. Kaplan, UW professor of physics and director of the UW-based Institute for Nuclear Theory, were elected as 2015 fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. Fields and Kaplan join Pulitzer Prize-winner Holland Cotter, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, Nike co-founder Philip Knight, Nobel Prize-winner Brian Kobilka, Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and novelist Tom Wolfe in the 2015 academy class. For more information, see the article in UW Today, or read this week’s message from Paul Ramsey.

UW assistant professor named 2015 recipient of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

Brian Shirts, UW assistant professor of laboratory medicine
Brian Shirts

Brian Shirts, UW assistant professor of laboratory medicine, has received a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. The grant is awarded each year to early career scientists whose projects have the potential to significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Damon Runyon Foundation earmarks this award for exceptionally creative thinkers with “high-risk/high-reward” ideas who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. Shirts seeks to empower patients who have been diagnosed with rare genetic mutations (variants of uncertain significance, or VUS) to actively participate in family tree pedigree building to understand their own genetic risk for cancer and other diseases. For more information, see the press release.

Hertz Foundation awards prestigious fellowship to UW graduate student

Katherine Xue
K Xue

Katherine Xue, a UW graduate student in biology and genome sciences, received the prestigious Hertz Fellowship, awarded annually to support up to five years of graduate study in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences. Awardees represent many of the top universities in the country and were chosen for intellect, ingenuity and potential to bring meaningful improvement to society. Xue is broadly interested in evolutionary biology and has worked on research projects in biochemistry, microbiology and molecular genetics. As a graduate student, she is applying frameworks from theoretical evolutionary biology to problems in medicine and ecology.

UW professor of genome sciences receives Biemann Medal

Michael J. MacCoss, UW professor of genome sciences
Online News 5-1-15

Michael J. MacCoss, UW professor of genome sciences, received the Biemann Medal from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. The Biemann Medal recognizes significant achievement made in the early stages of a career. MacCoss was recognized for his contributions to the field of proteomics. Bioinformatics tools developed by the MacCoss laboratory facilitate many different aspects of mass spectrometry data analysis. This includes tools for liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) feature finding, spectrum library searching, peak detection and post-processors for peptide database searching. MacCoss also championed the nonprofit Chorus Project, a simple web application for storing, sharing, visualizing and analyzing spectrometry files.

UW fellow receives 2015 Perkins Coie “Award For Discovery”

Lucrezia Colonna, a postdoctoral fellow in rheumatology

Lucrezia Colonna, a postdoctoral fellow in rheumatology, has received the Perkins Coie 2015 “Award for Discovery.” Colonna plans to use the award to continue her research on investigating the protective role of intracellular complement C3 in the prevention of lupus autoimmunity. Lupus is a common, potentially lethal, complex autoimmune disease affecting more than 5 million patients worldwide. To date there is no definitive treatment for lupus and current therapies rely on immunosuppressive drugs that need to be administered for a patient’s entire life. In an effort to develop treatments and therapies for lupus and other conditions characterized by the accumulation of dying cells in tissues, Colonna’s research focuses on why serum C3-deficient individuals do not invariably develop lupus. The “Award for Discovery” is part of Perkins Coie’s commitment to support translational research at the UW School of Medicine.

Other awards news:

  • Kanwar Thind, a UW undergraduate, and Sunny Uppal, a recent UW graduate, were each awarded Society for Vascular Surgery Foundation Student Research Fellowships for projects they will undertake this summer with Gale Tang, UW assistant professor of vascular surgery. Thind will study the “Role of MMP2 in p27 knockout vascular smooth muscle cell migration.” Uppal will study the "Effect of hypoxia on p27 knockout vascular smooth muscle cell phenotypes." Both projects will further understanding of the role of p27 on arterial remodeling in response to injury.
  • Eric Konnick, a UW fellow in molecular genetic pathology and former resident in anatomic and clinical pathology, received the Association for Molecular Pathology Young Investigator Award for his abstract "Incidental detection of Myelodysplastic Syndrome by Germline Next-Generation Sequencing Cancer-Risk Panel Testing." The mission of the award is to encourage junior investigators to ask important original questions, design sound, controlled experiments with a clear rationale, and present the results clearly in a poster format.


Ovarian cancer alliance tabs UW doc to co-lead ‘dream team’

Elizabeth Swisher, UW professor of obstetrics and gynecology

A national alliance of cancer-focused groups recently announced the formation of a ‘dream team’ dedicated to ovarian cancer research and an investment of $6 million over three years to pursue therapies. The team will be co-led by Elizabeth Swisher, UW professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and Alan D’Andrea of the Gene Therapy Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Cancer genetics and hereditary cancers are the focus of Swisher's clinical and research work. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer. Approximately 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and 14,000 die of the disease. For more information, see the article in HS NewsBeat.


Charles W. Bodemer Lecture, “Abortion in NYC before Roe v. Wade: Lessons from the Archives” with Kathleen Powderly, May 4

The Charles W. Bodemer Lecture is sponsored by the Department of Bioethics & Humanities. Kathleen E. Powderly, director of the John Conley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, will talk about her work with the hospital archives of women’s experiences of abortion in New York City in the years prior to Roe v. Wade. The lecture is 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., in T625, UW Health Sciences Center. View the flier.

Global Health Career Week, May 4-11

The Department of Global Health has a full week of events for anyone interested in global health. The marquee event is the Global Healthies Award Ceremony on Monday, May 11. There is also a career fair with more than 20 organizations, a trivia night with King Holmes, and several information sessions and discussions. For more details, visit globalhealth.washington.edu/ghcareer2015.

John Fox Memorial Lecture, “From efficacy to impact: modeling and measuring the impact of HIV interventions,” with Geoff Garnett, May 12

The John Fox Memorial Lecture and EPI 583 seminar is sponsored by the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health. Geoff Garnett, deputy director, Data and Metrics, Integrate Delivery, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, works to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health programs. The history of approaches to understand the population level impact of HIV interventions will be reviewed along with descriptions of current studies to improve the information available to manage programs. The lecture is 3:30 to 4:50 p.m., K-069, UW Health Sciences Center. View the flier.


Continuing Medical Education

Visit Continuing Medical Education for information on upcoming classes.

In the News
Articles that feature UW Medicine and Health Science  faculty staff, students and trainees.

  • Activists trying to stop work on new UW animal lab, Seattle Times, April 24, 2015
    Animal-welfare activists have launched a national campaign to try to halt construction of a new animal lab on the University of Washington campus.
  • Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying, Washington Post, April 24, 2015
    There's a quiet medical crisis going on in this country: the number of women dying in childbirth. Research from the UW's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is cited.
  • Sensitivity to stress shaped during first 2 years of life, UW study finds, Seattle Times, April 22, 2015
    A new study of abandoned Romanian children shows that placement in a foster home before their second birthday affected how well they responded physically to stress later. Katie McLaughlin, director of the UW Stress & Development Laboratory, is quoted.
  • At-home saliva test gauges breast and ovarian cancer risk, U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2015
    What if you could determine your risk for breast or ovarian cancer in the comfort of your own home, by way of a low-cost saliva test? One California startup is offering just that. Mary-Claire King, UW geneticist who discovered BRCA1, is quoted.
  • Giant youth parties, fueled by alcohol and the Internet, face a crackdown, New York Times, April 20, 2015
    Cities and towns from Keene, N.H., to Panama City Beach, Fla., are reconsidering or canceling gatherings that have been tolerated or encouraged in the past. Megan Moreno, UW associate professor of pediatrics, is quoted.
  • How to beat 6 everyday infection spreaders, MSN.com, April 20, 2015
    The key to staying safe -- and sane -- in a world crawling with germs is knowing which ones are worth worrying about. H. Hunter Handsfield, UW clinical professor of medicine, is quoted. [This is on the sixth page of a six-page gallery]
  • For first time in decades, FDA to revisit how it regulates homeopathic products, Washington Post, April 18, 2015
    After problems within the industry in recent years, the Food and Drug Administration says it wants to revisit how it oversees homeopathic products. Jennifer Jacobs, UW clinical assistant professor of epidemiology, is quoted.
  • Candy Crush marathon sends gamer to the hospital, ABC News, April 17, 2015
    A team of doctors is warning gamers and parents about the potential bitter dangers of overdoing it in the game's sugar-sweet world. UW research on the psychological effects of virtual-reality worlds is cited.
  • The autism advantage for Microsoft, KUOW 94.9FM - Puget Sound Public Radio, April 17, 2015
    Marcie Sillman talks with Annette Estes, the director of University of Washington's autism center, about employing people with autism.
  • 5 common misdiagnoses for men, MSN.com, April 17, 2015
    The scary truth is that sometimes your doctor is just plain wrong. Take five common misdiagnoses for men, some of which could lead to facing the knife unnecessarily. UW research on unnecessary appendectomies is cited.
  • Obesity substantially ups prostate cancer risk in African-American men, KING 5 News, April 16, 2015
    Seattle researchers have discovered a new risk factor for prostate cancer related to race: obesity. Wendy Barrington, UW assistant professor at the School of Nursing, is quoted.