Research News

Hawiger Group Reveals the Formation of Autoimmune Effector Precursors

Daniel Hawiger, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, will publish a paper in Cell Reports detailing his group’s studies on the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Two Postdoctoral Fellows, Adeleye Opejin, Ph.D., and Alexey Surnov, Ph.D., are co-authors on the publication.

The group’s research revealed a two-step process in the formation of self-reactive effector T cells, which are the key type of immune cells with potential autoimmune functions. The process starts with induction of effector precursors that express a transcription co-factor, Homeodomain only protein (Hopx). The precursors are then imprinted with multiple instructions for their subsequent terminal effector differentiation and autoimmune functions. This research may lead to new ways of blocking the autoimmune process in its early stages and could help modulate the course of more advanced autoimmune disease.

McCommis Lab Finds Diet May Reverse Heart Failure

Kyle McCommis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, recently published a paper in Nature Metabolism showing that a high fat, “ketogenic” diet could prevent or reverse heart failure caused by impaired cardiac flexibility. Using a mouse model with a genetic deletion of mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC), the researchers found that a high fat/low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet reversed or prevented heart failure in these mice. Similar results were found after a 24-hour fast or with a high fat, non-ketogenic diet.

These results indicate a important role for MPC deficiency in cardiac dysfunction and dietary manipulations that can prevent or reverse cardiomyopathy in mice and, potentially, in humans. Read the full story in Newslink.

DiPaolo Group Publishes New Findings On Stomach Cancer

Richard DiPaolo, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, published a paper in Gastronenterology detailing his group’s studies on chronic inflammation and its role in gastric cancer. The study was led by SLU M.D./Ph.D. student, Kevin Bockerstett, working closely with a SLU student in Computer Science Master’s Program, Scott Lewis. The group used a new technology, single cell RNA sequencing, to identify new cell types and new biomarkers during the early stages of cancer development. Studies were performed in mouse models of gastric cancer, and findings were confirmed in human tissue biopsies. This study provides important insight into the early steps in gastric cancer development. 

SLU Enrolls Participants in Phase III Vaccine Trial

The SLU Center for Vaccine Development began enrolling participants in a phase III trail to determine the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine, which was co-developed by Moderna and the NIAID Vaccine Research Center. The vaccine will be tested in adults 18 years and older. Approximately 30,000 participants across the country will be test in this phase of the trial. If you are interested in participating in the vaccine trial, see the SLU Vaccine Center website for full info. Read the full story in Newslink.

Dan Hoft Named to National Vaccine Advisory Council

Dan Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, was named a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. The Committee Members provide review, consultation, and recomendations to the Assistant Secretary of Health on matters relating to vaccine research and development. Dr. Hoft will serve on the committee through 2024. Read the full story in Newslink.

Vaccine Center Receives Research Institute Funding

The SLU Center for Vaccine Development was awarded funding for four different projects related to COVID-19 treatment and vaccines from the Saint Louis University Research Institute. The grants were included in the third round of funding from the Research Growth Fund. Read the full story in Newslink.

Researchers Test COVID-19 Treatment

Sarah George, M.D., Associate Professor of Infectious Medicine, is principal investigator of the St. Louis trial to test remdisivir in the treatment of COVID-19. Initial results indicate that patients given remdisivir recover ~30% faster. Read the full story in Newslink.

SLU and WU Center for Cellular Imaging Sign Collaboration Agreement

SLU has signed a collaboration agreement with the WU Center for Cellular Imaging (WUCCI), a state-of-the-art imaging facility that opened in 2015. The agreement will give SLU researchers the same access, priority, costs, and technical help afforded to WU investigators for 15 years, as well as providing access to instruments not currently at SLU for 10 years. SLU will also contribute $2.5 million towards the purchase of a new cryo-electron microscope. Read the full story in Newslink.

Potential Treatment for Morquio A Syndrome

Adriana Montano, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, recently published a paper in the Journal of Clinical Investigation detailing a multi-disciplinary study to improve enzyme replacement therapy for Morquio A Syndrome. Morquio A is an inherited metabolic lysosomal storage disorder. Read the full story in Newslink.

BioIntervene Receives Funding for Phase I Clinical Trial

Daniela Salvemni, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Henry and Amelia Nasrallah Center for Neuroscience, founded the biopharmaceutical company, BioIntervene, in 2014. The company has now received series A funding to further studies on potential non-addictive pain killers as well as begin a Phase I clinical trial. Current drug candidates are agonists to A3 adenosine receptors. Read the full story in Newslink.

SLU Psychiatrist Elected President of AAPL

William Newman, M.D., Professor and Vice Chair for Education of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, was elected President of the AAPL (American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law). His term will run through October 2020. His work with the AAPL will focus on forensic psychiatry, including mentoring students and fellows. Read the full story in Newslink.

Ray Tait to Receive Science Leadership Award

Raymond Tait, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, will receive the 2020 Science Leadership Award-Individual from the St. Louis Academy of Science. The Leadership Award is given to an individual or organization that has played an important role in the development of science and scientists in St. Louis. The awards dinner has been postponed to September. Read the full story in Newslink.

Bitter Melon May Help Fight Cancer

Ratna Ray, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology, recently published a paper in Cell Communication and Signaling detailing her studies on the cancer-fighting properties of bitter melon. Her group has found that the melon inhibits growth and reproduction of cancer cells and promotes cell death. It could be a potential natural treatment that may enhance and work together with chemotherapy and other remedies. Read the full story in Newslink.

Daniela Salvemini Named Fellow of National Academy of Inventors

Daniela Salvemin, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair of Pharmacology and Physiology was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for her research on non-opioid treatment of neuropathic pain. The NAI Fellows Program honors academic inventors who have impacted quality of life, economic development, and societal welfare in their work. Read the full story Newslink.

Enrico Di Cera Elected Fellow of AAAS

Enrico Di Cera, M.D., Professor and Chair of Biochemistry, was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fellows are elected by their peers in a two-step review process and are chosen based on their scientific accomplishments, pioneering research, and contributions to their field.. Read the full story Newslink.

NIH Continues Funding for VTEU

The SLU Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU) will continue to receive funding from the National Academy of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) from the NIH. SLU has been a VTEU member since 1989, and researchers have studied vaccines and treatments for multiple infectious diseases. Being a VTEU member allows the Center to conduct Phase 1-4 vaccine and treatment trials. Read the full story Newslink.