Posts tagged with "PhD"

Pregnancy illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Black Maternal Health Crisis

Free Virtual Webinar During Black Maternal Health Week:

“The Black Maternal Health Crisis in the United States”

As this unpredicted season begins against the backdrop of Covid-19, racial unrest, and action for justice and healing – nothing is normal. The Promise Heights From the Heights virtual series will look at the challenges of the moment, offering actionable insights that you can use today. 

The third of these freevirtual webinar conversations is scheduled for Monday, April 12, 2021 from 2-3:30 pm, and will feature a message from Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, representing the 14th District of Illinois as the first woman, the first person of color, and first millennial to represent her community in Congress, and also the youngest Black woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives. The Black Maternal Health Caucus was launched by Congresswomen Alma Adams and Lauren Underwood to improve Black maternal health outcomes and to raise awareness within Congress about the problem and advocate for effective, evidence-based, culturally component policies and best practices for health outcomes for Black mothers.

Also joining our conversation, moderated by Reporter Tatyana Turner of The Baltimore SunL. Latéy Bradford, MD, PhD, University of Maryland Medical Center: Chief Resident, Family Medicine; Stacey Stephens, LCSW-C, Director, B’more for Healthy Babies, Promise Heights; and Stephanie Etienne, CNM, Certified Nurse Midwife based in Baltimore.
 

ABOUT THIS EVENT:
As stated in the Black Maternal Health Caucus/Momnibus website, “In the richest nation on earth, moms are dying at the highest rate in the industrialized world—and the rate is rising. For as dire as the situation is for all women, the crisis is more severe for Black mothers.”  More recently, the March 11, 2021 New York Times featured story, “Why Black Women Are Rejecting Hospitals in Search of Better Births” reported that, “Black mothers in the United States are 4 times as likely to die from maternity-related complications as white women.”

Black women also experience higher rates of maternal complications and infant mortality. They are twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death, and these disparities have not improved in more than 30 years. These disproportionate inequities exist regardless of income, educational level or any other demographic characteristic.  This April 12 virtual session will provide insight how to make pregnancy and childbirth safer in the U.S., amplify community–driven policy, practice and systems and enhance community organizing on Black maternal health by taking action to reduce maternal mortality and reduce morbidity related to childbirth. 
 

Click here to learn more and register for this free program

To learn more about the From the Heights series of virtual events, click here.

Funding for the From the Heights series was provided by The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kaiser Permanente

Child with phone illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Children and Screens Announces Grant

­CHILDREN AND SCREENS ANNOUNCES $100,000 GRANT SUPPORTING NEW RESEARCH INTO DIGITAL MEDIA USE AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is pleased to announce that it has awarded a grant of $100,000 to Marc Potenza, Ph.D., MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University, Yihong Zhao, Ph.D., member of the Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies at Rutgers University, and their interdisciplinary, interinstitutional team, in support of their research exploring the associations between screen media activity and brain development in school-aged children. 
 
“It is vital to investigate what ever-increasing digital media engagement means for developing brains, especially in middle childhood when children’s devices and brains are working on overdrive. Technology is advancing rapidly, and we hope to do our part to help science keep up; we are delighted to create opportunities to advance scientific research on this topic through the Institute, which I founded 13 years ago.” Dr. Pam Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development 
 
Drawing on longitudinal data from the NIH’s landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, Dr. Potenza, Dr. Zhao, and their associates intend to utilize state-of-the-art statistical methodology and predictive modeling to investigate the relationships between digital media use and changes in brain structure and function, as well as the associated clinically relevant behaviors. The study, which was proposed following the Institute’s March 2020 Digital Media and Developing Brain Research Retreat, will examine the effects of a variety of specific media-based activities and will focus on children from ages 9-12. The results of this research will yield benefits and insight not only for the research community, but also for families, clinicians, and policymakers.
 
“The advances in ‘big data’ approaches have led to an unprecedented increase in our understanding of how brain structure and function relate to specific behaviors. With the support of Children and Screens, we aim to apply novel and innovative big data approaches to ABCD data to understand how brain structure and function relate to, and importantly may be impacted by, types and patterns of screen media activity. Dr. Martin Paulus and colleagues used a portion of the first wave of ABCD data to identify patterns of cortical thinning associated with screen media activity. We hope to build off and extend this work by examining the full initial sample and subsequent waves of ABCD data to determine brain-behavior relationships with respect to youth screen media activity. We hope to communicate these findings in order to advance prevention and policy efforts that promote healthy childhood development in environments increasingly involving digital technologies.” – Dr. Marc Potenza, Grant Recipient
 
Bridging the medical, neuroscientific, social scientific, education, and academic communities, the Children and Screens’ interdisciplinary scientific research grants program was conceived as part of a larger research program to advance and support study, knowledge, and scientific collaboration. Developed in 2017, the grants program provides researchers with access to the early-stage financial support necessary to pilot worthy new projects studying the impact of children’s engagement with current and evolving technologies.
 
In addition to the research funds awarded as part of the retreat program and those granted to explore the impacts of digital media during the current health crisis, Children and Screens’ regular Tips for Parents newsletter provides evidence-based, practical advice for families coping with the unprecedented realities of the pandemic, including changed economic circumstances, health concerns, lockdowns, social distancing, remote learning, and working from home. Each newsletter features insights from world-renowned experts, who share tips and advice about managing screen time, social media use, gaming, technology addiction, privacy, parenting, and more.
 
In addition, our popular, bi-weekly Ask the Experts virtual workshop series features dynamic conversations among international, interdisciplinary experts in the field of digital media and child development. Each discussion explores a different digital media challenge associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and presents families with current scientific research, clinical advice, and practical, evidence-based advice. Panelists include leading parenting experts, former AAP Presidents, top child and adolescent psychiatrists, high-impact journal editors, leading researchers, well-known authors, and others. To date, the series has reached parents, researchers, educators, clinicians, government agencies, and public health professionals in over 30 countries and all 50 states.
 
About Children and Screens:
Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness.

Film illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Unforgettable Foreign Films

10 Foreign Films with the Most Unforgettable Love Stories

By Roberta Seret, PhD

I have two loves – literature and film. The most powerful love stories jump off the pages or off the screen, narrating different types of love turmoil, journeying through danger and obstacles to find love. The best love stories occur when love triumphs over evil. 

In the past twenty years, I have taught film through my NGO at the United Nations and at New York University. It is a love story that captures my students the most. Their 10 favorite love stories in foreign films deceit different ways of loving, but they all try to overcome these obstacles to find it. Although they may not always get their happy ending, it’s always worth the risk:

1.     JOJO RABBIT – (New Zealand) 2019, director Taika Waititi. During World War ll, ten-year-old Jojo is being brainwashed as a Hitler Youth. Strangely, his mother allows this, for it is her only way to protect him. We see how deeply a mother loves her son as she prepares him to be independent. Simultaneously, the director expresses his love for the future of children to do what’s right.

2.     HONEYLAND – (Republic of Northern Macedonia) 2019, directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary and Best Feature Film, this story recreates a Paradise Lost and its destruction by a greedy man. Love for beauty and nature, and the desire to recapture it, is represented by honey – becoming extinct – and man’s inhumanity to lose it.

3.     NEVER LOOK AWAY – (Germany) 2018, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Based on the life of the famous painter, Gerhard Richter, the director recreates the artist’s search for Truth. It is only through love for Art that the artist can find peace. It is this tumultuous search that pushes him/her to create.

4.     CAPERNAUM – (Lebanon) 2018, director Nadine Labaki. Lost children, abandoned, hungry, and forced to go against their conscience, are victims of war-torn Lebanon and Syria. The director opens her heart by using her hand-held camera to capture how children suffer in their struggle to survive. It is through her love for these children that we understand and want to help. 

5.     FACES PLACES – (France) 2017, directors Agnes Varda and JR. At 89-years-old and one year before her death, famed filmmaker, Agnes Varda embarks on a road trip to show her appreciation to the people of France. As a token of her deep love, she offers them a new type of art – photos of themselves – while she is making a film of their acceptance. Photography mixes with cinematography, the moving image fuses with still art, to show the director’s love for people and give them Art. 

6.     LION – (India/ Australia) 2016, director Garth Davis. The true story of 5-year-old Saroo, who gets lost on a train in India and cannot communicate in a different dialect to return home. He is placed in an orphanage and adopted by a couple from Tasmania, Australia. Twenty-five years later, his obsession to find his biological mother is proof of his filial love.

7.     TONI ERDMANN – (Germany / Romania) 2016, director Maren Ade. A father loves his ambitious, modern daughter and wants to help her understand what happiness and love are. But the generational gap proves to be stronger than his quest. Despite his struggles and sacrifices, she answers when she sings Whitney Houston’s song, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

8.     PHOENIX – (Germany) 2014, director Christian Petzold. Nelly survives World War II because she is obsessed at Auschwitz to be loved again by the man she loves. She does return to him but disfigured, and he does not recognize her. Deceitfully, he schemes to help her survive the traumas of her past. But as she learns the truth, will her love forgive him?

9.     IDA – (Poland) 2013, director Pawel Pawlikowski. Ida embarks on a spiritual journey to choose between a life of love and family, or God and religion. As she voyages toward the answer, she learns about her history and what the material world can offer. But she keeps repeating, “And then?” She realizes it is love for God and the spirit that can offer her the truest love.

10.  CASABLANCA – (USA/ Morocco) 1942, director Michael Curtiz. This is the best love story of all. For those who will see this film for the first time, I am jealous. This is an American movie made in Morocco with an anti-Hollywood ending. It shows and answers what is true love? What we see on the screen is a love that hurts – for all of us. And yet, love must be experienced, and this film must be seen!

Roberta Seret, Ph.D., is the director of Advanced English and Film at the United Nations for the Hospitality Committee and Founder of the NGO at the United Nations, International Cinema Education. She is the author of the Transylvanian Trilogy, with Love Odyssey releasing March 23, 2021. Visit her website for more information.

AC_LatinoCovid by Allison Christensen for 360 Magazine

Antibody Cocktail May Prevent Symptomatic COVID-19 Infections

An antibody cocktail being tested at UVA Health and other sites was able to block 100% of symptomatic COVID-19 infections among people exposed to the virus, early results from the clinical trial suggest.

In addition, those who developed asymptomatic infections accumulated far less virus in their bodies than usual and saw their infections resolve within a week, according to interim data released by the cocktail’s manufacturer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

“This is the first treatment shown to prevent COVID-19 after a known exposure, and offers protection for unvaccinated individuals caring for a family member with COVID-19,” said UVA Health’s William Petri Jr., MD, PhD, one of the leaders of the trial at UVA. “We expect that Regeneron will file for Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA so that this drug can be used outside of the context of a clinical trial.”

Antibodies for COVID-19

The phase 3 clinical trial aims to determine if the antibodies will prevent COVID-19 infection in people who have been exposed but not yet developed the disease. This is known as “passive immunization.”

Regeneron’s new analysis, which has not yet been published in a scientific journal, looked at outcomes in approximately 400 trial participants. Of 186 people who received the antibodies, none developed symptomatic COVID-19. Of the 223 who received a placebo, eight developed symptomatic COVID-19, the company reports.

Asymptomatic infections occurred in 15 of the antibody recipients and in 23 of the placebo recipients. Overall rates of infection, including both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections, were approximately 50% lower in the antibody group.

Among those who developed infections, placebo recipients had, on average, a peak viral load (the amount of virus in the body) that was more than 100 times greater than antibody recipients. The antibody group also recovered more quickly–all the infections resolved within seven days, while 40 percent of infections in the placebo group lasted three to four weeks, Regeneron said.

The cocktail also appears to shorten the duration of viral shedding, the time when the virus is being manufactured in the body. The viral shedding period was nine weeks among antibody recipients and 44 weeks among the placebo recipients. While people with COVID-19 are not infectious for this entire time, reducing the duration of viral shedding may shorten the period when they can spread the disease.

There were more adverse events reported among placebo recipients than among antibody recipients – 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Regeneron attributed this to the larger number of COVID-19 infections in the placebo group.

There was one death and one COVID-19-related hospitalization in the placebo group and none in the antibody group. Injection-site reactions were reported among 2 percent of both groups.

“We are profoundly grateful to the nurses and staff of the UVA COVID-19 clinic, led by Dr. Debbie-Anne Shirley,” Petri said. “Their day-to-day support made our participation in this trial possible.”

About the Clinical Trial

Phase 3 clinical trials, such as the one under way at UVA, examine the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and treatments in large numbers of people. Positive results in the phase 3 trial could spur the federal Food and Drug Administration to make the antibody cocktail available for post-exposure COVID-19 prevention.

The antibody cocktail is not a vaccine and is not expected to provide permanent immunity to COVID-19.

The team conducting the study at UVA is led by Petri and Shirley and includes Gregory Madden, MD; Chelsea Marie, PhD; Jennifer Sasson, MD; Jae Shin, MD; Cirle Warren, MD; Clinical Research Coordinator Igor Shumilin; assistant Rebecca Carpenter; and COVID-19 Clinic nurses Michelle Sutton, Elizabeth Brooks, Danielle Donigan, Cynthia Edwards, Jennifer Pinnata, Samantha Simmons and Rebecca Wade.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

Woman at Computer by Mina Tocalini for 360 Magazine

UVA’s DNA Discovery

Scientists have identified a group of drugs that may help stop a leading cause of vision loss after making an unexpected discovery that overturns a fundamental belief about DNA.

The drugs, known as Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, or NRTIs, are commonly used to treat HIV. The new discovery suggests that they may be useful against dry macular degeneration as well, even though a virus does not cause that sight-stealing condition.

A review of four different health insurance databases suggests that people taking these drugs have a significantly reduced risk of developing dry macular degeneration, a condition that affects millions of Americans.

“We are extremely excited that the reduced risk was reproduced in all the databases, each with millions of patients,” said Jayakrishna Ambati, MD, a top macular degeneration researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “This finding provides real hope in developing the first treatment for this blinding disease.”

Targeting Macular Degeneration

The new discovery comes from Ambati; Fred H. Gage, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; and collaborators around the world. The work rewrites our understanding of DNA, revealing for the first time that it can be manufactured in the cytoplasm of our cells, outside the cell nucleus that is home to our genetic material.

The buildup of a certain type of DNA in the cytoplasm, Alu, contributes to macular degeneration, the researchers found. This buildup appears to kill off an important layer of cells that nourishes the retina’s visual cells.

Based on this discovery, the researchers decided to look at drugs that block the production of this DNA, to see if they might help prevent vision loss. They analyzed multiple U.S. health insurance databases – encompassing more than 100 million patients over two decades – and found that people taking NRTIs were almost 40% less likely to develop dry macular degeneration.

The researchers are urging further study to determine if these drugs or safer derivatives known as Kamuvudines, both of which block a key inflammatory pathway, could help prevent vision loss from dry macular degeneration.

“A clinical trial of these inflammasome-inhibiting drugs is now warranted,” said Ambati, the founding director of UVA’s Center for Advanced Vision Science. “It’s also fascinating how uncovering the intricate biology of genetics and combining it with big data archeology can propel insights into new medicines.”

Ambati, of UVA’s Department of Ophthalmology, previously determined that NRTIs may help prevent diabetes as well.

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS. The research team consisted of Shinichi Fukuda, Akhil Varshney, Benjamin J. Fowler, Shao-bin Wang, Siddharth Narendran, Kameshwari Ambati, Tetsuhiro Yasuma, Joseph Magagnoli, Hannah Leung, Shuichiro Hirahara, Yosuke Nagasaka, Reo Yasuma, Ivana Apicella, Felipe Pereira, Ryan D. Makin, Eamonn Magner, Xinan Liu, Jian Sun, Mo Wang, Kirstie Baker, Kenneth M. Marion, Xiwen Huang, Elmira Baghdasaryan, Meenakshi Ambati, Vidya L. Ambati, Akshat Pandey, Lekha Pandya, Tammy Cummings, Daipayan Banerjee, Peirong Huang, Praveen Yerramothu, Genrich V. Tolstonog, Ulrike Held, Jennifer A. Erwin, Apua C.M. Paquola, Joseph R. Herdy, Yuichiro Ogura, Hiroko Terasaki, Tetsuro Oshika, Shaban Darwish, Ramendra K. Singh, Saghar Mozaffari, Deepak Bhattarai, Kyung Bo Kim, James W. Hardin, Charles L. Bennett, David R. Hinton, Timothy E. Hanson, Christian Röver, Keykavous Parang, Nagaraj Kerur, Jinze Liu, Brian C. Werner, S. Scott Sutton, Srinivas R. Sadda, Gerald G. Schumann, Bradley D. Gelfand, Fred H. Gage and Jayakrishna Ambati.

Jayakrishna Ambati is a co-founder of Inflammasome Therapeutics, iVeena Holdings, iVeena Delivery Systems and DiceRx; a full list of the authors’ disclosures is included in the paper.

The research was supported by UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund, the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute and many other generous contributors. A full list is included in the paper.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

Science Tech Illustration by Gabrielle Archuleta

Blood Discovery Research x UVA

Blood Discoveries Advance Effort to Grow Organs, Battle Cancer 

New Research Reveals Important Insights Into How Our Bodies Make Blood 

CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A.– Pioneering research into how our bodies manufacture the cells that make blood has moved us closer to regrowing tissues and organs. These findings also may let doctors grow the cells for transplantation into people to battle cancer, blood disorders and autoimmune diseases.

Researcher Karen K. Hirschi, PhD, of the Department of Cell Biology and Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, has developed a simple and efficient way to generate “hemogenic endothelial cells.” These cells are the first step in the production line of blood cells, and Hirschi’s new findings provide a blueprint for creating them outside of the body.

“By studying how hemogenic endothelial cells develop normally, we gain the insight needed to generate them in the lab,” Hirschi said. “Now that we have established a method to produce human hemogenic endothelial cells outside of the body, we will continue to improve their production and function as we learn more about the mechanisms that promote their normal development.”

Building Blood-Making Factories

Hirschi’s latest work, published in a pair of scientific papers, offers important insights into how hemogenic endothelial cells form, and how they ultimately give rise to the cells that directly manufacture blood.

Writing in the prestigious journal, Science, she and her team reveal a key trigger that causes the endothelial cells to “transdifferentiate,” or turn into blood-making factories, during embryonic development. These blood-making (i.e. hemogenic) endothelial cells generate hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) that have long been used for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Typically, they are taken from sources such as an individual’s bone marrow, but doctors would like to be able to manufacture them quickly and easily for patients on demand. “Generating human hemogenic endothelial cells in the lab from each patient that needs HSPC is the first step toward patient therapies for blood disorders,” Hirschi said.

In a paper published nearly simultaneously in Cell Reports, Hirschi unveils a blueprint for creating the hemogenic endothelial cells, the source of HSPCs, outside of the body. The secret is a substance called retinoic acid. You may have heard of retinoic acid in association with beauty products, but in this case its responsibilities include triggering genes to cause “hematopoietic transition”–to put more vascular endothelial cells in the business of making blood by producing HSPCs.

The new insights provided by the work “will improve our ability to apply developmental insights to the generation of distinct endothelial cell subtypes for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” the researchers write in their new paper. “In addition, our system could likely be developed further to optimize the generation of transplantable HSPCs from human hemogenic endothelial cells for clinical therapies.”

The approach offers several advances over existing means, including being quicker and less expensive, the researchers note.

“We hope our continued efforts will move us closer to treating both vascular and blood disorders,” Hirschi said. “These studies highlight the importance of basic cell and developmental biology research as a foundation for devising strategies for patient-specific clinical therapies.”

Hirschi was recruited from Yale in 2019 to join the faculty in the Department of Cell Biology, which has long been interested in addressing how embryos develop and applying this basic knowledge to the repair and regeneration of damaged tissues and organs.

Findings Published

The Science paper was authored by Dionna M. Kasper, Jared Hintzen, Yinyu Wu, Joey J. Ghersi, Hanna K. Mandl, Kevin E. Salinas, William Armero, Zhiheng He, Ying Sheng, Yixuan Xie, Daniel W. Heindel, Eon Joo Park, William C. Sessa, Lara K. Mahal, Carlito Lebrilla, Hirschi and Stefania Nicoli. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants F32HL132475, U54DK106857, 1K99HL141687, R01HL130246, R56DK118728, R01HL146056. R01HL128064, R01DK118728 and R01GM049077) and the American Heart Association (grants 19PRE34380749 and19TPA34890046).

The research team responsible for the Cell Reports paper consisted of Jingyao Qiu, Sofia Nordling, Hema H. Vasavada, Eugene C. Butcher and Hirschi. That work was supported by NIH grants HL128064, U2EB017103, R01-AI130471 and R01-CA228019; CT Innovations grant 15-RMB-YALE-04; Department of Veterans Affairs Merit Review award I01BX002919; the Swedish Society for Medical Research; and a Stanford Dean’s Fellowship.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

Gym Illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

UVA on Battling Diseases by Exercise

A top exercise researcher and colleagues at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have launched an ambitious effort to understand the whole-body benefits of exercise so that doctors can use that information to prevent and treat disease.

Zhen Yan, PhD, and his collaborators aim to identify the sources, functions and targets of the molecules that provide exercise’s well-documented health benefits. By understanding this, doctors will better understand how exercise helps fend off disease, and they may be able to design drugs to mimic those benefits for people who cannot exercise, such as those with limited mobility. The cutting-edge research could open new doors both for preventing and treating many common illnesses, the researchers hope.

“No one would dispute that physical activity or regular exercise is the best measures for health promotion and disease prevention,” said Yan, director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “In fact, the health benefits of exercise are way beyond our imagination. The underlying reasons for the superb health benefits of exercise are being uncovered by many talented and passionate scientists around the world.”

Understanding How Exercise Improves Health

The UVA researchers have recently joined a national consortium seeking to create a “molecular map” of exercise benefits. Known as the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, or MoTrPAC, the group includes researchers at top institutions across the country, including Harvard, Duke, Stanford and Mayo Clinic.

The consortium came about after the National Institutes of Health invited Yan and a dozen other prominent scientists to a roundtable discussion in 2010 about the future of exercise research and the obstacles that stood in its way. The NIH then set aside almost $170 million for MoTrPAC’s research – believed to be the agency’s largest-ever investment into the mechanisms of how physical activity improves health and prevents disease.

“The program’s goal,” Yan explained, “is to study the molecular changes that occur during and after exercise and ultimately to advance the understanding of how physical activity improves and preserves health.”

The consortium is looking at exercise benefits in both humans and animal models. Initial animal research was conducted at Harvard, the University of Iowa and the University of Florida. In the latest round, UVA is joined by the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The vast amount of information collected as part of the project so far has poised the UVA team to make “unprecedented” advances, Yan reports. He and his multi-disciplinary team will employ advanced computer algorithms to sift through the heaps of data to identify specific molecules to study. They will then conduct state-of-the-art research in lab mice using gene editing, combined with a wide range of functional assessment, including muscle, cardiac, metabolic and cognitive/mental functions. This will let them determine the effects the molecules have and lay a foundation for doctors to harness the molecules to benefit human health in the future.

Yan’s team will work closely with colleagues at Stanford, who will conduct advanced “multiomics” analyses, meaning they will bring together data on genes, cellular proteins and much more to obtain a more holistic understanding of exercise’s benefits to the body.

UVA’s research team includes Yan, of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center and the Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology and Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics; Wenhao Xu, PhD, of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology; Chongzhi Zang, PhD, of UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics, the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Matthew Wolf, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center; Thurl Harris, PhD, of the Department of Pharmacology; and Alban Gaultier, PhD, and John Lukens, PhD, both part of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG).

“It is well known that exercise is one of the best treatments for mood disorders,” Gaultier said. “We are excited to test the group discoveries using animal models of anxiety and depression.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for team science,” Zang said. “I am happy to work with colleagues at UVA and across the country and use data-science approaches to unravel the complex molecular effects of exercise.”

UVA’s effort has received almost a half-million dollars in backing from the NIH’s fund for MoTrPAC’s research.

“Our research team encompasses exceptional talents. The collective wisdom and expertise of the team at UVA and MoTrPAC will allow us to reach a level that we would not be able to reach by an individual,” Yan said. “It is an unprecedented opportunity in our lifetime to tackle this incredibly important question to mankind.”

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

MORE: Exercise may help prevent deadly COVID-19 complication.

Challenger: The Final Flight

By Cassandra Yany

On Wednesday, Netflix released “Challenger: The Final Flight,” a four-episode docuseries about the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

The doc was directed by Daniel Junge and Steven Leckart, and executive produced by JJ Abrams and Glenn Zipper. It provides a complete look at the events leading up to the takeoff and includes interviews with family members of the seven astronauts who died in the explosion.

According to CNN, the series uses archival footage and home videos, along with interviews from officials and crew members to shed light on the poor decision-making and systemic failures that led up to the disaster, as well as the aftermath that followed.

Challenger took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on January 28, 1986. Just 73 seconds after it launched, the shuttle began breaking apart, due to malfunctioning O-rings in the rocket boosters, which hardened as the temperature decreased. NASA had reportedly known about this damaged hardware for months prior, according to Vanity Fair.

The purpose of mission STS-51-L was to deploy a satellite to study the approaching Halley’s Comet, but it had been delayed multiple times because of technical difficulties.

The crew was one of NASA’s most diverse to date, as reported by the New York Post. One of the astronauts was a teacher, so school children across the country watched in class as the shuttle went down, engulfed by a huge, ominous cloud of smoke. The explosion devastated the nation, especially all of the young children who had watched it live.

Nearly thirty-five years later, we remember the passengers who lost their lives on that dreadful day:

Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire who learned of the Teacher in Space Project— NASA’s plan to fly an educator into space. NASA had hoped that this would help increase public interest in the space shuttle program. 

Along with 11,000 others, McAuliffe applied in 1984 to be the first teacher to communicate with students from space. She was chosen as one of two finalists from New Hampshire, then was selected to be part of the STS-51-L crew by a Review Panel in Washington, D.C.

McAuliffe took a year off from teaching to train for the space shuttle mission. While in orbit, she was planning to conduct experiments in chromatography, hydroponics, magnetism and Newton’s laws. She also would have taught two 15-minute classes— one providing a tour of the spacecraft, the other about the benefits of space travel— which would have been broadcasted to students on closed-circuit TV. 

The nationwide excitement of having McAuliffe in space was a significant reason why the explosion had such a lasting impact on the country, and was especially upsetting for young students who watched the takeoff or extensive coverage in class. 

Gregory Jarvis

Gregory Jarvis was an engineer for Hughes Aircraft who served as Payload Specialist 2 on Challenger. In 1984, he was one of two employees from the company that were selected for the Space Shuttle program. 

Jarvis was originally supposed to make his shuttle flight in April 1985, but was rescheduled to early January 1986, then rescheduled again, landing him a spot on the STS-51-L crew. From space, he planned to conduct experiments on the effects of weightlessness on fluids. 

Dick Scobee

Dick Scobee earned his pilot wings in 1966 and served as a combat aviator in the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

After the war, Scobee graduated from the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School and became an Air Force test pilot. He was the commander on Challenger and died a lieutenant colonel.

Judith Resnik

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Judith Resnik worked as a design engineer in missile and radar projects at RCA (Radio Corporation of America). There, she performed circuit design for the missile and surface radar division. She later developed electronics and software for NASA’s sounding rocket and telemetry systems programs. 

Resnik qualified as a professional aircraft pilot in 1977 and was recruited into the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1978. She was one of six women selected for the program out of 8,000 applicants. At NASA, and piloted the Northrop T-38 Talon, trained intensely, conducted research, and developed different systems and software. 

Resnik served as a mission specialist on the maiden voyage of Discovery in 1984 for her first space flight from August to September. During this flight, she operated a shuttle’s robotic arm (which she created), and deployed and conducted experiments on a solar array wing to determine if there was a way to generate additional electric power during missions. She was the second American woman in space and the first Jewish woman in space. 

Resnik was a mission specialist on Challenger. After the explosion, further examination of the cockpit shows that her Personal Egress Air Pack was activated, indicating that she may have been alive after the cockpit separated from the vehicle to activate it. Her body was the first to be recovered from the crash by Navy divers. 

Ellison Onizuka

Ellison Onizuka served as a flight test engineer and test pilot for the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s. After attending the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School from 1974 to 1975, he became a squadron flight test engineer there and worked as a manager for engineering support in the training resources division. 

In 1978, Onizuka was selected for the astronaut program and later worked in the experimentation team, orbiter test team, and launch support screw for the STS-1 and STS-2. At NASA he also worked on the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory test and revision software team. 

Onizzuka’s first space mission was one year before the Challenger explosion, on the mission STS-51-C on the shuttle Discovery. This was the first space shuttle mission for the Department of Defense, and he became the first Asian American to reach space. 

Onizuka was a mission specialist aboard Challenger. Similar to Resnik, it is speculated that he could have been alive when the cockpit separated from the vehicle because his Personal Egress Air Pack was also activated. When he died, he held the position of lieutenant colonel, but was later promoted to the rank of colonel. 

Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair received his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976 and became nationally recognized for his work in laser physics. After graduation, he worked as a staff physicist at the Hugh Research Lab in Malibu, CA. 

McNair was one of the ten thousand applicants to be selected in 1978 for the NASA astronaut program. He became the second African American astronaut in 1984 when he flew as a mission specialist for STS-41-B on Challenger from Feb. 3-11. 

McNair later served as a mission specialist for STS-51-L. During this flight, he had planned to record the saxophone solo for a song he had worked on with composer Jean-Michel Jarre for his upcoming album Rendez-Vous. This would have been the first original piece of music to be recorded in space. 

McNair was also supposed to participate in Jarre’s Rendez-Vous Houston concert through a live feed from Challenger. To honor McNair, Jarre dedicated the last song on the album to him and subtitled it “Ron’s Piece.”

Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith served in the Vietnam War, then attended U.S. naval Test Pilot School. After graduation, he was assigned to the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland, where he worked on the A-6E TRAM and Cruise missile guidance systems. In 1976, later returned to NTPS for 18 months as an instructor. 

Smith was selected for the astronaut program in May 1980, in which he served as a commander in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, the Deputy Chief of Aircraft Operations, the Technical Assistant to the Director, and the Flights Operations Directorate. 

Smith was the pilot for Challenger, and was set to pilot another mission the following fall. His voice was the last heard on the flight deck tape recorder with his final words being “Uh oh.”

All seven passengers were awarded with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.

Peaceful Relationships in Turbulent Times

3 Steps You Can Start Using Right Away

Are these scary times taking a toll on your most intimate relationship?

If so, you’re not alone.

Fear and stress can lead to impatience and anger. And before you know it, you’re in a gut-wrenching argument with the person you love—right when you need each others’ support and companionship the most. 

Then if these painful disconnects go unresolved, you can find yourselves drifting apart. In China, the divorce rate shot up when quarantines were relaxed, and we’re already hearing the same in this country.

But it’s not from spending too much time together in the current lockdown. It’s because we’re not good at maintaining true closeness when we’re frightened.

From decades of helping people have happier, more fulfilling relationships, we offer these three steps for alleviating fear and amplifying love—even in highly stressful times. 

Step #1: De-escalate yourself—before you try to de-escalate the argument

It’s natural to want to de-escalate the friction between you right away. But we recommend focusing on de-escalating yourself first.

This is not just taking a few breaths or counting to ten, although that’s useful. It’s a deliberate shift in your self-talk that dissolves your distress enough that your caring heart and clear mind come back to the forefront. 

It starts with noticing what’s going on inside you and then naming it for what it is. 

For instance, as soon as you recognize that you’re upset, you might say to yourself: “Yikes. My stomach is in knots. I’m raising my voice. I’m reacting as if the person in front of me is an enemy, not my beloved. I obviously got triggered and might be over-reacting… Hmmm…” 

When you do that, your neurobiological self starts calming your inner fear-fest and restoring your ability to think clearly and connect warmly—which puts you in the right place to approach your partner again

One way to know you’re ready to reconnect is that your desire to get back to love will be louder than your impulse to be defensive and right.

Step #2 — Restore the loving connection between you—before you get into a conversation

It’s so tempting to launch into discussing whatever went awry so you can fix it quickly. But don’t! 

The pain of an argument comes from the disconnect between the two of you—not from the issue that triggered it.  

Here’s our favorite way to restore our connection before we talk: 

Whoever’s ready first (that was usually Paige early on) approaches the other gently and says: “I’m sorry for my part.” And then Don would say: “I’m sorry for my part, too.” And as you might imagine, the distance would melt, and within seconds we were in the full embrace of love again.

Of course, this only works when it’s 100% genuine, and it might take some practice to discover what works for the two of you. But when you do, the subsequent conversations will go much better.

Step #3 —  Listen and speak to create deeper understanding—before discussing what to do next time

We got this step very wrong in our early years. 

As soon as we were back in sync, we’d start talking about what to do differently—thinking that’s how we’d avoid reigniting the problem. Logical, yes. But it usually backfired. We’d start arguing again, or, if we agreed on a solution, it wouldn’t stick.

In time, we found that a real resolution only emerged from a full conversation. That meant having a compassionate, level-headed exchange where the goal of our listening and our speaking was to understand each other better. 

This requires listening with a genuine curiosity about your partner’s experience of whatever went awry and why it was so upsetting. When practiced with patience, this kind of listening makes it safe for your beloved to speak openly and honestly.

Your speaking also wants to be compassionate. Meaning, while being honest about what upset you, you’re choosing language and tonality that are easy for your beloved to hear without getting triggered again. That means describing your feelings and perspective without blame.  

Pitfall alert!

During this mindful make-up conversation—especially in these ultra-stressful times—it’s easy to slip back into criticizing your partner, defending yourself, or shutting down again. If that’s what happens (which we know it can) just go back to Step #1. De-escalating yourself again, and then… You get the idea.

These three steps—de-escalating yourself first, then restoring your loving connection, followed by listening and speaking for deeper understanding—provide a framework for creating patterns of communication that yield an ever-deepening bond of love. 

We know the quest can be messy, especially now. Still the potential for experiencing new dimensions of extraordinary love is well worth it.

About

Paige Marrs, PhD, and Don Marrshave been joyfully married for over 33 years and have worked together since the day they joined their lives. They co-authored two how-to memoirs, both of which teach through story. Their most recent book, Grabbing Lightning: The Messy Quest for an Extraordinary Lovereveals their messy, intimate journey to a love greater than either of them knew to reach for. Paige and Don have offered their program, The Love Conversation® Approach, for more than a decade to provide couples and singles the tools needed to resolve their challenges so they can experience the depth of love they yearn for. You can learn more or sign up for their newsletter, LoveNotes, at www.TheLoveConversation.com.

360 MAGAZINE, Nicole Avena, PhD

Top Five Tips For Avoiding Colds and Flu This Season

1. Take It Easy. Stress is a sure way to compromise your immune system. Be sure to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and making time to rest and restore in order to keep your stress levels at a minimum.

2. Take Vitamin C. Supplementing your diet with Vitamin C is a great way to ward of colds and flu. We don’t typically get enough Vitamin C from our diets alone, so a supplement is often the best way to go. Vitafusion makes a Vitamin C gummy that is easy to take, and a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C.

3. Avoid Closed Places. Cold and flu viruses spread via the air, so try to avoid spending too much time indoors where there may be people who are sick (like shopping malls). Try to get outdoors as much as you can, as the brisk air can be great for your health and also very refreshing.

4. Wash Your Hands, and Face. Washing your hands is a no-brainer, but don’t forget to wash your face! We often touch our face with our hands, and germs can be sitting there just waiting to invade. 

5. Use Sanitizer. Keeping your work and home areas clean of viruses is important. Use sanitizer to wipe down the places where germs might be lingering, such as door knobs, bathrooms, faucet handles, and keyboards.

Nicole Avena, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She is the author of several books, including Why Diets Fail, and What to Eat When You’re Pregnant.