Dementia risk linked to over-the-counter drugs

A multi-year study links an increased risk for developing dementia to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time. Anticholinergic drugs block acetylcholine, which stimulates muscle contractions and also is involved in learning and memory. Commonly used anticholinergic-type drugs include some antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, drugs to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and drugs to treat urinary incontinence. Shelly Gray, M.S., MPH, a UW professor of pharmacy, and colleagues from the University of Washington followed the health of 3,434 seniors who had no signs of dementia at the start of their study. They tracked how many seniors were taking anticholinergic-type drugs, at what dose, and for how long, comparing this information with subsequent dementia diagnoses. The seniors are participating in a long-running joint Group Health-UW study funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Mouse model suggests genetic disposition to Ebola varies

Some people completely resist the Ebola virus; others become ill but recover; and the most susceptible succumb to bleeding, organ failure and shock. A newly developed mouse model suggests that genetic factors are behind this mild-to-deadly range of reactions. Systems biologists and virologists Angela Rasmussen, Ph.D., and Michael Katze, Ph.D., from the Katze Laboratory in the Department of Microbiology, led a multi-center team that bred laboratory mice to test the role of genetic makeup in Ebola disease. The National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories conducted the research in a highly secure biocontainment laboratory in Montana. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also participated.

Counties in U.S. lack access to opioid-abuse treatment

As of 2012, only 2.2 percent of U.S. physicians held a federal waiver to prescribe a drug, buprenorphine, that can help people stop the abuse of prescription opioid painkillers or heroin addiction. A study led by the late Roger Rosenblatt, M.D., Res. ’72, ’74, MPH, MFR, distinguished UW professor of family medicine, found that 90 percent of these physicians practice in urban counties. Most rural counties lack a physician licensed to dispense buprenorphine. The study also noted multiple barriers to the office-based treatment of patients with opioid-use disorder, including lack of adequate resources and institutional support.

Study closes many gaps in human genetic mapping

Scientists have identified the genetic causes of only about half of inherited conditions, in part because standard genome sequencing cannot map many parts of the genome precisely. Now, Pacific Biosciences has developed a new technique: single-molecule, real-time DNA sequencing (SMRT) to sequence and read DNA segments longer than 5,000 bases. Evan Eichler, Ph.D., UW professor in the Department of Genome Sciences, led a team from UW Medicine, Pacific Biosciences and two other universities in developing a high-resolution structural variation map of the human genome. They identified 26,079 segments that differed from a standard-reference human genome, and most were never before reported. Eichler predicts that, within five years, clinical laboratories may be able to use the technique to sequence a patient’s entire genome.

Some rejected hearts may be transplant-viable

One in four hearts from people who have experienced brain death are turned down by transplant teams because they appear to pump poorly. But according to new research from the UW Medicine Injury Prevention and Research Center based at Harborview Medical Center, up to half of these hearts may still be suitable for transplant if given sufficient time to recover from the flood of neurotransmitters, inflammatory chemicals and hormones released by a damaged brain. “This is a small study,” says study co-author Vijay Krishnamoorthy, M.D., senior fellow and UW acting assistant professor of anesthesiology. “But it suggests that we shouldn’t decide whether to use a heart on the basis of just one early evaluation, particularly in young people who are unlikely to have heart disease.”

Patient Care

Announcing the new Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence

The Cambia Health Foundation made a $10 million commitment to the UW Medicine Palliative Care Center of Excellence this winter. This interprofessional center was launched in 2012 under the direction of Randy Curtis, M.D., the A. Bruce Montgomery, M.D.-American Lung Association Endowed Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. With this major gift from Cambia, Curtis and his colleagues in medicine, public health, nursing and social work will be able to further their efforts in ensuring that patients with serious illness and their families receive individualized, respectful and compassionate care. This gift — the largest made by the Cambia Health Foundation to date — will support palliative care research, education and training, clinical leadership and other center priorities.

UW Medicine: more services

Earlier this year, UW Medicine made two major expansions to its medical services. The first is the opening of the new UW Medicine location in Ballard. The Ballard location offers comprehensive, coordinated primary care at the latest UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinic, as well as sports medicine and physical therapy services, courtesy of Northwest Hospital & Medical Center’s experts in The Sports Medicine Clinic and Advanced Manual Therapy. Urgent-care services are slated to open in June.

The second expansion is the creation of the UW Medicine Virtual Clinic, available to almost everyone in Washington state. People may now consult with a physician or nurse practitioner about minor illnesses via phone or online video for a flat fee of $40, any time of the day or night, seven days a week. They will receive a medical diagnosis and information on how to treat the issue at home, plus direct referrals for additional care and prescriptions, if appropriate.
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Top school, top honors

In March, U.S. News & World Report released its 2016 rankings of American medical schools. The University of Washington School of Medicine is again ranked the nation’s best in primary care, an honor held for 20 of the last 21 years, as well as No. 1 in both family medicine and rural medicine training for the 24th consecutive year. In addition, it was first among public medical schools and second in the nation only to Harvard for receipt of research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Of eight medical disciplines reviewed, the UW School of Medicine ranked in the top 10 in seven. In addition to family medicine and rural medicine, these are: AIDS (No. 4); geriatrics (No. 8); internal medicine (No. 8); pediatrics (No. 8); and drug and alcohol abuse (No. 10). The School’s MEDEX Northwest program for training physician assistants ranked No. 11 in the country, and bioengineering, a specialty that crosses two disciplines — medicine and engineering — received a No. 9 ranking.


Idaho WWAMI graduate recognized

Recent graduate Norkamari Shakira Bandolin, M.D. ’14, was selected by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) as a 2014 National Outstanding Medical Student. Bandolin was one of five recipients nationally to receive the award. The ACEP acknowledged Bandolin’s demonstrated humanism and professionalism, scholarly achievements and leadership and service.


Epic Measures

Well-known in global health circles, Christopher J. L. Murray, M.D., D. Phil., is a health economist and the head of the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. With the release of Epic Measures by Jeremy Smith, his name may reach a significantly wider audience. In the book, released this spring, Smith chronicles Murray’s path — from the hospital his family ran in Niger when he was a child, to Harvard, to Oxford University, to the World Health Organization — and eventually to the University of Washington. Conversational in tone, Smith’s book focuses both on Murray’s inspirations as well as the magnitude of his work: changing healthcare for everyone, through better health evidence.

Nora Disis, M.D., Fel. ’93, named inaugural editor-in-chief of JAMA Oncology

The JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network is launching its first new journal in many years: JAMA Oncology. The journal’s first editor is UW Medicine faculty member and oncologist Nora Disis, M.D., Fel. ’93, the Athena Distinguished Professor of Breast Cancer Research. The magazine will publish important cancer-related research through original investigations, opinion and clinical reviews. “We could not be more fortunate than to have Nora Disis as our inaugural editor-in-chief,” said Howard Bauchner, M.D., editor-in-chief of JAMA and the JAMA Network. “She is an internationally renowned investigator and a superb clinician.”

Fellows named to American Association for the Advancement of Science

Two faculty — Jeffrey Chamberlain, Ph.D. ’85, and Rainer Storb, M.D., Fel. ’68 — have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which selects members whose “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.” Chamberlain, the McCaw Endowed Chair in Muscular Dystrophy, was recognized for his contributions to understanding and developing therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Storb, a founding member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, was elected for contributions to the field of bone marrow transplantation.

Prostate cancer researchers honored

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has honored emeritus urology faculty Paul Lange, M.D., director of the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research and Pritt Family Endowed Chair in Prostate Cancer Research (right), and Robert Vessella, Jr., Ph.D. (left), with the Lifetime Achievement Award. They were recognized for meritorious, career-long achievements in prostate cancer research, including pioneering work on the PSA test.