Thursday, April 17, 2014

USA Medical Research Aboard NASA Launch

A PP5 protein developed by researchers at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will launch into space on April 18, 2014, as part of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station. Dr. Richard E. Honkanen (pictured above), professor of biochemistry at the USA College of Medicine, is the lead researcher on the PP5 project.
A protein developed by researchers at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine will launch into space on April 18, 2014, as part of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station. The enzyme, a protein phosphatase called PP5, will launch on the Falcon 9 rocket and is contained in the DragonLab, the cargo craft attached to the top of the rocket.

The protein will be placed in incubators on the International Space Station, and after a period of approximately 3.5 months it will return to Earth. The protein is one of 92 proteins – produced by several laboratories in the United States, England and Germany – that are being delivered to the station.

According to Dr. Richard E. Honkanen, professor of biochemistry at the USA College of Medicine and lead researcher on the PP5 project, PP5 is considered a validated target for anti-tumor drug development. “Our studies in the past 15 years have revealed that PP5 is over-expressed in human breast cancer,” he said. “In mouse models of tumor development, the over-expression of PP5 aids tumor growth.”

At the cellular level, Dr. Honkanen said PP5 appears to provide a survival advantage to cancer cells in low oxygen. “This may help the cancer cells stay alive in the early stages of metastatic disease,” he said. “Therefore, an inhibitor of PP5 may kill metastatic cancer cells before they start growing into new tumors.”

However, Dr. Honkanen said the development of PP5-specific inhibitors has proven very difficult. “To aid the development of PP5-specific inhibitors we desire detailed information about the active site, the part of the enzyme where catalysis occurs.”

PP5 acts to catalyze the removal of phosphate from proteins that control cell growth and survival. The removal of phosphate turns on processes that allow cancer cell growth and proliferation. “If we inhibit this key step,” he said, “we hope to prevent cancer cell growth/survival.”

The International Space Station, which serves as a microgravity research laboratory, will use the proteins to grow large crystals of PP5. This will allow Dr. Honkanen’s lab to utilize an emerging technology called neutron crystallography, a very powerful technique for protein structure determination. “For neutron crystallography, we need very big crystals, and to date this has not been done,” he said. “In theory, we will be able to grow bigger crystals in space than we can on Earth.”

Dr. Mark Swingle, a research associate in Dr. Honkanen’s lab, previously worked with Dr. Eva Ciszak at NASA to develop methods to make crystals of PP5. Their pioneering studies rebuilt PP5 at the molecular level using complex computer programs. Dr. Honkanen hopes neutron crystallography will provide an even higher (atomic level) resolution.

“Positions of hydrogen atoms in a protein structure can be directly determined with much greater precision and confidence by neutron crystallography,” Dr. Honkanen said. “The ultra high-resolution structure will help us design and synthesize specific inhibitors.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

USA OB-GYN Hosts Annual Conference

(pictured from left) Dr. David Lewis, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at USA; Dr. Craig Towers, associate professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; Dr. Brian Brocato, instructor, department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tennessee in Memphis; and Owen Bailey, USA Children's & Women's Hospital administrator.




The University of South Alabama Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology hosted its 23rd annual conference April 10-11, 2014, in Daphne, Ala.

According to Catherine Hanks, event organizer, the conference had approximately 200 attendees, including physicians, medical students, advanced practice nurses, physician asisstants, nurses, ultrasonographers and social workers. "It was a great conference and we look forward to next year," she said.

USA speakers included Dr. Susan Baker; Dr. Donna Bennett; Dr. Fabien Eyal; Dr. Suzy Figarola; Ruth Kennedy, CRNP; Dr. David Lewis; Dr. Charles McCathran; Amy McRae, BSN, MAJ, JD; Cynthia Messer, CNM, MSN; Jeff Morris, BSN, RN; Dr. Rodney Rocconi; Dr. Robert Stauffer; Becky S. Tate; and Dr. Stephen Varner.

Guest speakers included Dr. Brian Brocato, OB/GYN instructor at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, who will join the USA Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology on Aug. 1, 2014; Dr. Gale Y. Blakley, national medical director for United Healthcare Group in New York; and Dr. Craig V. Towers, associate professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Med School Café - 'Advancing Cardiovascular Care in Women with Breast Cancer'

The April Med School Café lecture will feature Dr. Clara Massey, professor of internal medicine and director of the division of cardiology at the University of South Alabama.

Her lecture, titled “Advancing Cardiovascular Care in Women with Breast Cancer,” will take place April 30, 2014, at the USA Faculty Club on USA’s main campus. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m., and the presentation begins at noon.

Dr. Massey will give an update from the American College of Cardiology’s 8th Annual Heart of Women’s Health Symposium that took place in January.

“Just as we are celebrating the advancements in treatment for breast cancer, we are learning that many breast cancer survivors are developing cardiovascular complications from their treatment five to 10 years later,” Dr. Massey said. “Chemotherapy, adjuvant therapy for prevention of recurrence, and radiation therapy all have potential adverse effects on the heart.”

During the talk, Dr. Massey will discuss ways to prevent cardiovascular consequences of breast cancer therapy.

The Med School Café lecture and lunch are provided free of charge, but reservations are required. For more information or to make reservations, call Kim Partridge at (251) 460-7770 or e-mail kepartridge@health.southalabama.edu.

Med School Café is a free community lecture series sponsored by the USA Physicians Group. Each month, faculty from the USA College of Medicine share their expertise on a specific medical condition, providing insight on the latest treatment available.

Massey MSC Teaser from USA Health System on Vimeo.

Monday, April 14, 2014

USA Welcomes Dr. Lynn Batten

Dr. Lynn Batten recently joined the University of South Alabama department of pediatrics as the director of the division of pediatric cardiology. Prior to her appointment, she was in private practice with Cardiology Associates in Mobile.

Dr. Batten graduated from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and conducted her pediatric residency training at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where she also served as pediatric chief resident. She completed her fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, La.

“We are excited about Dr. Batten's joining our full time faculty,” said Dr. David Gremse, professor and chair of pediatrics at the USA College of Medicine. “Her excellent relationship with the community, as well as with her patients and their families will greatly add to the clinical services we provide in the department of pediatrics.”

She has been an active member of USA’s pediatric department as an adjunct faculty member and has been an active member of the medical staff at USA Children's and Women's Hospital since 2000.

“Her outstanding teaching skills will contribute to the success of our medical students and pediatric residents,” said Dr. Gremse.

Dr. Batten is board certified in Pediatric Cardiology by the American Board of Pediatrics. She is also licensed in both Alabama and Mississippi.

To make an appointment with any USA Physician, call (251) 434-3711.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

USA Children's & Women's Hospital Hosts Local Goodness 2013


University of South Alabama Children's & Women's Hospital's inaugural Local Goodness fundraising event was held Sunday, April 6, 2014 at the Alabama Cruise Terminal. Local Goodness helped raise funds to redesign the Evaluation Center, the hospital's emergency department that sees over 35,000 patients annually, almost 90 percent of them children. Click here to view more photos from the event.