UW study reports evidence of structural brain changes in diet-induced obesity

The tendency to regain weight lost through dieting and exercise is the single largest obstacle to successful obesity treatment. Body weight is controlled by complex interactions between hormones and neurons in the hypothalamus. Michael W. Schwartz, M.D., Res. ’86, UW professor of medicine, director of the UW Medicine Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence and the Robert H. Williams Endowed Chair in Medicine, and his colleagues studied the results of a high-fat diet in the brains of mice and rats. They found evidence of very early and lasting injury to a specific part of the hypothalamus in these animals. Using brain imaging, they also found signs of similar damage in the same area of the brain in obese humans. Their paper, “Obesity Is Associated with Hypothalmic Injury in Rodents and Humans,” was published in the Jan. 3, 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Gamers help unlock the structure of an HIV protein

Retroviral protease is a protein that is key to the reproduction of HIV. Scientists have spent years trying to decipher its crystal structure, a first step in developing therapies that might stop the protein’s growth. Now they have taken a giant step forward through the development of Foldit. This video game, designed by UW faculty, challenges spatially savvy players to design and predict protein structure. When gamers were given the retroviral protease problem, it took them only a few days to develop a solution of sufficient quality to support scientific work. David Baker, Ph.D., UW professor of biochemistry and adjunct professor of bioengineering, was among the authors of the study. Results were recently published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. Read more at Or play Foldit at

Insulin spray and Alzheimer’s disease

In a small study conducted by UW researchers, insulin supplied through a nasal spray was found to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The study was undertaken by Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., UW professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and her colleagues at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. The researchers tested people with Alzheimer’s before and after the trial for memory, cognition and functional ability. Of those receiving insulin rather than a placebo, two-thirds to three-quarters showed improvement. A larger study is scheduled to begin in summer 2012.

Patient Care

Harborview and Northwest: Level 1 Stroke Centers

The Department of Health and the state of Washington have designated Harborview Medical Center and Northwest Hospital & Medical Center as Level 1 Stroke Centers. The hospitals are two of only four facilities in King County to qualify as Level 1 Stroke Centers: comprehensive centers that excel in treatment and in providing treatment-related and educational resources for other regional facilities The Level 1 designation was created by the new Washington State Emergency Cardiac and Stroke System, which also establishes Level 2 Primary Stroke Centers and Level 3 Acute Stroke Capable designations. These facilities include UW Medicine’s Valley Medical Center (Level 2) and UW Medical Center (Level 3).

Robotic surgery helps defeat liver cancer

Generally speaking, the less invasive a surgery, the faster a patient’s recovery time. At UW Medical Center, James Park, M.D., became the first surgeon in the Pacific Northwest to use the da Vinci surgical robot — a high-precision instrument that drastically reduces the area of incision — to remove part of a liver in a patient with cancer. Learn about one of Dr. Park’s recent cancer cases; visit, and search for “Colehour.”

American Academy of Sleep Medicine honors UW Medicine Sleep Center

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has named the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center an Academic Program of Distinction — one of six in the country to be so designated. The center has the only Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited sleep fellowship program in a four-state region, and it educates medical students, residents and fellows about sleep medicine diagnosis and treatment. Diagnostic and treatment services also are offered at UW Medical Center and several UW Neighborhood Clinics.


Students have research and community impact through investigative projects

Before they graduate, all M.D. students must complete an independent investigative inquiry (III), a research or service requirement that provides them with the opportunity to ask — and answer — questions related to practicing medicine. Family, friends and faculty saw the fruits of the III at a poster session held Nov. 17. Many students’ posters came out of longitudinal learning experiences undertaken over the summer, either through the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program or the Global Health Immersion Program. These programs give students hands-on training in service projects in rural, urban underserved or global communities. The posters reflected many timely issues in healthcare: from educating communities about diabetes, to preventing falls in the elderly, to malaria, to contraception and unintended pregnancies, to head injury/head safety in teen sports.


Local doctors, local legends

A number of Washington physicians (alumni, faculty or both) were nominated by members of Congress and honored as local legends by the National Library of Medicine as part of a larger celebration of female physicians. Our congratulations to Margaret D. Allen, M.D. (cardiothoracic surgery/tissue engineering), Wylie G. Burke, M.D. ’78, Res. ’81, Fel. ’82 (internal medicine and medical genetics), Ann C. Collier, M.D., Res. ’81 (internal medicine), Carla J. Greenbaum, M.D., Res. ’84 (family medicine), Gail P. Jarvik, M.D., Fel. ’91 (medical genetics), Ramoncita R. (Raye) Maestas, M.D. ’83, Res. ’86 (family medicine), Bonnie W. Ramsey, M.D., Res. ’79 (pediatrics), and Christina M. Surawicz, M.D., Res. ’76, Fel. ’80 (internal medicine).