2012 March Spotlight: Experimental Medicine
Experimental Medicine is the study of the pathogenesis and treatment of disease. Modern experimental medicine represents a rapidly growing body of knowledge involving the determination of disease processes and the development of appropriate therapies.
Here at UBC, the Experimental Medicine program was first opened in 1987 and has since expanded to an incredible 125 PhD students, 66 MSc students, 3 MD/PhD students and 193 supervisors, making it the largest program in the Faculty of Medicine. Members of the Department of Medicine direct research programs in a wide range of basic and clinically relevant areas. Specialties within this program are extremely broad, and include cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, infectious disease, medical immunology, medical oncology, molecular biology, nephrology, neurology and respiratory medicine.
The broad range of disciplines represented in the program is highly apparent if one attends the annual Experimental Medicine Student Research Day. An incredibly diverse group of researchers came together in November of 2011 for this exciting event, which included a keynote talk from Experimental Medicine graduate Dr. Brendan Marshall, as well other poster and oral presenters on topics ranging from stem cells, to food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa, to transcriptional profiling of asthma patients. Taking part in the annual research day is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about the numerous disciplines represented in the program and catch up with colleagues from research institutions from all over Vancouver.
Generally, first year Experimental Medicine students will take part in both the MEDI501 (Molecular and Cellular Biology of Experimental Medicine) and MEDI502 (Experimental Medicine Methodology) courses. These courses include a broad overview of the cellular and molecular functions of normal tissues and specific disease processes, as well as a period of lab rotation and overview of grant and fellowship proposal writing.
The Experimental Medicine program is not all work however, and includes numerous social events each year. Last year there was both a summer grill and Christmas party, as well as a variety of other social events outside of these.
Infiltrating monocytes trigger EAE progression, but do not contribute to the resident microglia pool. Ajami B, Bennett JL, Krieger C, McNagny KM, Rossi FM. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Jul 31;14(9):1142-9
Y-box binding protein-1 induces the expression of CD44 and CD49f leading to enhanced self-renewal, mammosphere growth, and drug resistance. To K, Fotovati A, Reipas KM, Law JH, Hu K, Wang J, Astanehe A, Davies AH, Lee L, Stratford AL, Raouf A, Johnson P, Berquin IM, Royer HD, Eaves CJ, Dunn SE. Cancer Res. 2010 Apr 1;70(7):2840-51
Loss of CD34 leads to exacerbated autoimmune arthritis through increased vascular permeability. Blanchet MR, Gold M, Maltby S, Bennett J, Petri B, Kubes P, Lee DM, McNagny KM. J Immunol. 2010 Feb 1;184(3):1292-9.
Eric Pesarchuk is a PhD candidate in his 3rd year of study with Dr. Vince Duronio. One area of research in this lab is the protein MCL-1, a pro-survival member of the BCL-2 family that is classically studied in the context of apoptosis regulation and is over-expressed in several cancers. The Duronio group was the first to describe a novel function of MCL-1 with regards to maintenance of genomic integrity and signal transduction in the DNA damage response (DDR) pathway. Eric’s project is focused on functionally characterizing the mechanism of MCL-1 in DDR. Firstly, Eric is using coimmunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry techniques to identify novel protein binding partners of MCL-1 following DNA damage. As well, Eric is using a new cell line that allows for conditional knockout of MCL-1 to investigate this protein’s requirement in additional DDR signaling events and recruitment of repair factors to sites of DNA damage. Since BCL-2 family members are increasingly being targeted for cancer therapy, it is critical to understand these proteins’ full functionality and perhaps specifically target MCL-1 due to its unique roles. Eric was also recently elected as the Experimental Medicine Student Representative and encourages peers to approach him with any comments or questions so that ideas can be implemented to better serve the student body.
Kim Snyder is a second year graduate student in Dr. Kelly McNagny’s lab at the Biomedical Research Centre. Research in the McNagny lab focuses on the role of CD34 family members CD34, podocalyxin and endoglycan in development and disease. Kim’s research focuses specifically on the CD34-related sialomucin Podocalyxin (gene name Podxl), which is important in regulating cell adhesion, migration, and polarity of hematopoietic progenitors and vascular endothelia. In breast cancer, it has been shown that Podocalyxin is overexpressed on a subset of highly aggressive, lymph node-negative tumors and its expression has been strongly associated with poor overall survival. Overexpression of Podocalyxin on breast cancer cells results in the production of microvilli, loss of cell polarity and a highly invasive phenotype in vitro. Using Podxl-targeted shRNA vectors to knock down Podocalyxin expression in highly invasive and metastatic breast cancer cells, Kim is working to elucidate the role that podocalyxin plays in tumor progression and metastasis of aggressive breast cancers.
Malihe Poormasjedi is a second year Ph.D. student at Dr. Aziz Ghahary’s lab in International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries (ICORD). She has joined the Burn & Wound Healing Laboratory in January 2011 after obtaining her Masters degree in Biotechnology from University of Tehran, Iran. Research in Ghahary’s lab is related to not only different aspects of wound healing, from developing non-rejectable skin composite to treat non-healing wounds, such as pressure ulcers and diabetic wounds, but also to establishing novel methods for preventing hypertrophic scars after burn injuries. Malihe’s project focuses on incorporating anti-fibrotic drugs into nanofibers to develop a new generation of wound care products having anti-fibrotic properties. Application of these wound care products will improve the wound-healing outcome and increase the quality of life in burn patients.
Ben Paylor is a 3rd year PhD Candidate in Dr. Fabio Rossi’s lab at the Biomedical Research Center. His research is focused on understanding the role of tissue-resident PDGFRa+ Sca1+ mesenchymal progenitors in the development of cardiac fibrosis. Work in his lab has highlighted the role of a similar cell population in skeletal muscle regeneration, and preliminary data is highly supportive of their importance in the heart. Elucidating the complex interactions between different tissue-resident progenitor subsets has provided much needed insight into regenerative processes in other tissues, and could offer novel therapeutic pathways for treating cardiac pathologies. Outside of his lab duties, Ben is involved in coordinating the UBC FLOWcore facilities’ and involved in a wide-variety of science communications projects.