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Vital Signs


This section includes brief accounts of selected Dartmouth research projects on biomedical and health-policy issues.

Rooting out resistance

Worldwide every year, malaria kills more than 2.7 million people and pneumonia more than half a million—so it's worrisome indeed that they are proving to be increasingly resistant to antibiotics. But biochemical studies conducted at DMS, using brewer's yeast as a surrogate disease model, has pinpointed the mutations responsible for the diseases' drug-resistance. The work, conducted in the lab of Bernard Trumpower, Ph.D., may lead to a new generation of more effective drugs. It was the cover article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

It's elementary

Increasing numbers of children are living, and attending school, with chronic health conditions—from asthma and diabetes to cancer and AIDS. But little has been known about the impact of that trend on the children themselves, on their classrooms, and on their teachers. So a DMS team led by pediatrician Ardis Olson, M.D., surveyed 384 educators in 23 elementary schools. They reported that teachers have an overall positive attitude, "though concerns about specific diseases and issues exist." The findings were published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Pick a good preceptor

It's the advice given to every wide-eyed first-year college student: pick your courses based on how good the professor is. Now it's been validated as good advice for residents in pediatrics, too. DMS pediatrician Diane Kittredge, M.D., was coauthor of a study, published in Ambulatory Pediatrics, which concluded that two-thirds of current pediatric residents are satisfied with the required primary-care portion of their training— and that the most satisfied residents were more likely to say they had a good mentor. The findings were based on anonymous surveys completed by 1,155 pediatric residents at 36 hospitals nationwide.

Analyze this

A team of Dartmouth researchers has developed an algorithm that might someday be used to analyze blood for diagnostic purposes. The process puts data from a mass spectrometer, a device that generates a molecular fingerprint of biological samples, through a series of calculations to distinguish healthy blood from diseased blood. In the study population, the algorithm detected ovarian cancer with virtual 100% accuracy and prostate cancer with about 95% accuracy. Conducted by M.D.-Ph.D. student Ryan Lilien and two computer scientists, the study was published in the Journal of Computational Biology.

A simply super finding

One can almost picture this phrase tripping off Julie Andrews's tongue in Mary Poppins: "Superparamagnetic vascular contrast agent." But try instead picturing it as a promising new agent that can be used in MRI studies to quantify brain blood volume. DMS radiologist John Dunn, M.D., and colleagues described their "simple, repeatable method of imaging brain microvascular volume" in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. The hope is that it can be used in longitudinal studies of angiogenesis—the body's ongoing regeneration of blood vessels.

Axe the arsenic

Arsenic—long a favorite of whodunit characters bent on murder—had recently been looked at by oncologists as a promising antitumor agent. But a new study has sent arsenic back to the pages of mystery novels. Though the metallic element is poisonous in large doses, smaller doses had been shown to be bene- ficial against leukemia. But in an in vivo study on mice with skin cancer, published in Toxicological Sciences, administration of small doses of arsenic was found to actually make tumors grow faster and spread more widely. The work was done by Aaron Barchowsky, M.D., a former member of the DMS faculty who is now at the University of Pittsburgh, with colleagues at Dartmouth and the University of Oklahoma.

Battling bioterrorism

DMS researchers are training their sights on bioterrorism, and their ammunition is gene transfer technology. Graduate student Catherine Ackley—working with Christopher Lowrey, M.D., a hematologist and a member of the pharmacology department, and others—described progress in developing DNA-based vaccines in a paper for Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. While admitting that gene therapy is still in its infancy, Ackley and her colleagues feel that "it may be useful as a defensive strategy against bioterrorism agents, including infectious microbes and toxins."

Inflammatory insight

New research from a physiology group at Dartmouth has identified an intriguing target for manipulation of the body's response to inflammation— a receptor designated CD163. The researchers studied 18 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery and reported finding significantly increased postoperative levels of CD163. "These findings show CD163 to be rapidly mobilized in response to systemic inflammatory stimuli," they wrote. The lead author of the paper, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, was Jonathan Goldstein, a 2003 DMS graduate; the work was done in the lab of Paul Guyre, Ph.D.

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