Medical Showcase Fosters, Promotes Research Collaboration

By Ben Boulden

Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, left, talks to Bob Fitzgerald at The Showcase of Medical Discoveries. 

Dana Gaddy, Ph.D., discusses her research with one of the attendees at the Showcase.

Larry Suva, Ph.D., visits with Robert Jilka, Ph.D., at the Showcase.

June 19, 2013 | More than one significant connection was made between the dozens of UAMS physicians, researchers and invited guests gathered June 12 for a wine-and-cheese reception held to highlight bone research at UAMS and foster more opportunities for research scientists.

Dana Gaddy, Ph.D, professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics, was at the reception to represent her research team. She provided details about the biomechanics capabilities on campus to one scientist that was of immediate value to his own research. Gaddy also became aware of recent UAMS research capabilities using magnetic resonance imaging for muscle analysis that are directly applicable for her work.

“That’s two connections made that I know of and I’ve been standing in one spot,” she said. “That’s already positive. It’s also good for people from the outside community to come in and see what research strength we have on campus.”

“The Showcase of Medical Discoveries: A Focus on Bone Health” was the third of an ongoing series. The first showcase was in November and focused on cardiovascular research on campus and a second in February on nanomedicine. All three were sponsored by the UAMS College of Medicine to give its research scientists the opportunity to discuss their findings with each other, invited guests and interested students and faculty.

Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, was there on behalf of the center and its researchers.

Established in 1994, the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases has a faculty of 10 and a staff of more than 30 with a combined research experience of almost 200 years. The goal of the center is to improve the understanding of osteoporosis, the bone fragility syndrome, and develop optimal therapies for its treatment.

“There is more bone research going on at UAMS than almost any other area,” he said. “That’s a legacy that I hope we can sustain.”

Like the representatives of 10 other research teams from across the UAMS campus standing before large posters summarizing their projects, Gaddy talked with several of the 100 people at the gathering in the rotunda of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. She was part of a group looking at how aging and menopause affect bone health.

Bob and Jeanne Fitzgerald, both of Batesville, members of the College of Medicine’s Board of Visitors, attended all three showcase events.

“We’ve enjoyed them very much and really learned a lot,” said Jeanne Fitzgerald. “We’ve gone back to Batesville and told folks there about UAMS and the work we’ve seen. We’ve spread the word.”

And there’s much to talk about.

More than 30 investigators are actively involved in musculoskeletal research on the UAMS campus, comprising around 30 percent of total National Institutes of Health research funding at the university, Gaddy said.

Larry Suva, Ph.D., director of the UAMS Center for Orthopaedic Research and professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of the UAMS College of Medicine, said that percentage of NIH funding translates into about $19.5 million annually for musculoskeletal research.

Suva and several UAMS colleagues are submitting a grant application to the NIH to fund a new musculoskeletal research center at UAMS that would include technology, technical services, education, summer-long student research projects and pilot funding for new collaborative faculty projects.

“This Bone Showcase is the template for and an example of the kind of interactions that the NIH Center grant would facilitate,” he said.

Posters at the showcase, using text and graphics, described the work of many different research project groups that include dozens of basic and clinical scientists as well as trainees. They were:

·         Loss of Insulin Signaling in Osteoprogenitor Cells Impairs Structural Strength of Bone. Researchers: Jeffry Nyman, Clay Bunn, Kathryn Thrailkill, Charles Lumpkin Jr., Elizabeth Wahl, Gael Cockrell, Lindsey Clark, John Fowlkes

·         HMOX1 Is a Targeted Therapy for Myeloma-Induced Bone Disease. Researchers: Xin Li, Wen Ling, Sharmin Khan, Sathisha Upparahalli Venkateshaiah, Rakesh Bam, Bart Barlogie, Joshua Epstein, Shmuel Yaccoby

·        Understanding Bone Health Across Age and the Menopause: If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It! Researchers: Nisreen Akel, Archana Kamalakar, Robert Skinner, Frances Swain, William Hogue, Larry Suva, Dana Gaddy

·        Vitamin D Supplementation Prevents Hypocalcaemia and Cortical Bone Loss Associated with Chronic Alcohol Feeding in Female Mice. Researchers: Kelly Mercer, Rebecca Wynne, Oxana Lazarenko, Charles Lumpkin Jr., William Hogue, Larry Suva, Jin-Ran Chen, Thomas Badger, Martin Ronis

·        Abscopal Bone Marrow Stroma Suppression and Acute Death in Gut-Irradiated Mice. Researchers: Robert Griffin, Dan Jia, Roopa Halakatti, Leah Hennings, Cassie Johnson, Christina Thompson, Eduardo Moros, Sunil Sharma, Peter Corry

·        Osteocyte Control of Bone Remodeling. Researchers: Jinhu Xiong, Melda Onal, Yiying Wang, Marilina Piemontese, Rajamani Selvam, Priscilla Baltz, Stavros Manolagas, Charles O’Brien

·        Overcoming the Growing Problem of Biofilm-Associated Infection. Researchers: Mark Smeltzer, Karen Beenken, Michelle Griffin, Alice Matthews, Allister Loughran, Aga Zielinska, Allison  Anthony, Danielle Atwood, Robert Skinner, Lara Mrak, Sandra McLaren

·        Lis1 Regulates Osteoclastogenesis through Small GTPase Cdc42. Researchers: Shiqiao Ye, Stavros Manolagas, Haibo Zhao.

·        New Genes Causing Osteoporosis and Brittle Bone Disease. Researchers: Roy Morello, Roberta Besio, Milena Dimori.

·       “Holey Bones”: How Osteocytes Might Cause the Development of Cortical Bone Porosity. Researchers: Robert Jilka, Annick DeLoose, Kanan Vyas, Leslie Climer, Linda Liu, Robert Weinstein, Charles O’Brien, Stavros Manolagas.