Faculty Makes Its Mark in Research

Jan 14, 2013 12:00 AM

Author: Phil Sahm


From seminal research that identified a previously unknown but critical role of proteins in cellular disease, to the discovery of a way to fight inflammation without increasing patients’ risk for infection, our faculty made its mark in basic science and clinical research in 2012. Following is a sampling of their work, all with one goal in mind: improving the health and lives of people everywhere.

Jan. 31- Study shows high hospital utilization by children with neurological impairment

Feb. 2- Gene Mutation Linked to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Scientists from the University of Utah and the University of California at San Francisco discovered that the mutation of a gene encoding a ketone body transporter triggers accumulation of fat and other lipids in the livers of zebrafish.

March 29- A new breast cancer susceptibility gene: American Journal of Human Genetics highlights Huntsman Cancer Institute’s discovery of new breast cancer susceptibility gene.

March 30- University of Utah scientists reveal insight into how a key protein protects against viral infections, sheds light on the cellular mechanisms involved in flu resistance, and opens up potential new avenues of research for anti-viral medications.

April 9- Researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute find new leukemia drug, offering hope for alternate treatment for patients who have developed resistance to standard treatment.

May 24- U of U-led study is the first to identify proteins’ critical function in cellular disease processes.

June 28- U of U human geneticists perform analysis for international research collaboration regarding a gene that controls how the body responds to influenza virus, helps to reduce the impact of infection

July 27- U researchers participate in an U.S. Food and Drug Administration feasibility study and partner with DJO Global to develop a prosthetic implant for returning war veterans who have lost limbs.

July 30- University of Utah researchers in the departments of neurology and human genetics, in collaboration with researchers at Duke University Medical Center, have discovered next-generation sequencing technology for rare disorder-alternating hemiplegia of childhood.

Aug. 9- Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers produce multiple discoveries during study of the genetic makeup of a rare cancer affecting adolescents. The discoveries could lead to better, more targeted treatment.

Aug. 14- U of U scientists win $16 Million NIH grant to research blood clots in people with diabetes and other metabolic disorders. School of Medicine investigators will use funding to establish translational research center for studying molecular and cellular causes of thrombosis.

Aug. 17- Researchers from University of Utah College of Pharmacy produce moving images of protein complex critical to targeting anti-cancer drugs. This advancement has significant implications for discovering new therapies that could attack cancer without damaging the DNA of healthy cells.

Sept. 6, 2012- University of Utah researchers have identified genes known as transcription factors involved in red blood cell production and cell metabolism in cancer tumor cells.

Sept. 10- U of U study opens door to understanding adult brain plasticity and gives new insight into regulation of adult nerve cell generation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates many aspects of behavior, mood, and metabolism.

Sept 24- Five years after winning a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to set up a center to study HIV, the University of Utah has been awarded $21.8 million more to develop ways to image and understand the structural biology of the virus and cells that it infects.

Nov. 9- First two grants for U's new School of Dentistry will focus on drug addiction, pain regulation and reward systems. Research will be a priority as program readies to open doors to students next year focusing on drug addiction and pain regulations and functions in the brain.

Nov. 12- University of Utah medical researchers have identified a way to treat inflammation while potentially minimizing a serious side effect of current medications: the increased risk for infection, with the potential to fundamentally change how drugs for arthritis, and potentially many other diseases, are made.

Nov. 16- A new discovery from researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah concerning a fundamental understanding about how DNA works will produce a “180-degree change in focus” for researchers who study how gene packaging regulates gene activity, including genes that cause cancer and other diseases.

Nov. 26- Researchers at the U come across a possible new treatment for childhood cancer. The discovery of the new drug has high potential to treat Ewing sarcoma.

Nov. 29- A clinical trial by researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute delivers good results in patients who have developed resistance to standard treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia. HCI researchers were part of a team that found a potent oral drug to treat the disease.

Dec. 6- Migraine auras turn up the volume of the senses. U neurologist’s study shows that the flashing lights, tingling arms, and other symptoms of the auras that some migraine sufferers experience are caused by a wave of nerve cells that fire uncontrollably. The discovery may lead to new treatments and understanding of chronic migraines.

Dec. 27- Adding a widely used cholesterol drug to traditional antimalarial treatments decreased neuroinflammation and protected against cognitive impairment in a mouse model of malaria, a University of Utah researcher and his Brazilian collaborator reported in PLOS Pathogens. The finding suggests that statins such as lovastatin are worth considering for clinical trials in cerebral malaria in people.


Phil Sahm

Phil Sahm is the science writer for University of Utah Health Care and Health Sciences