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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Saving Tomorrow’s Lives

Winter 2014

Saving Tomorrow’s Lives

By: Martin Fisher
Date: February 3, 2014

Research thrives on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus


Pipet dropping liquid into test tube

Dedicated physician scientists devote enormous amounts of time and energy to medical research on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus. In fact, even as federal research funding is shrinking and less than ten percent of grants are funded, three scientists conducting extraordinary research on campus were awarded five-year research grants by the National Institutes of Health.

Finding New Treatment for Allergic Reactions

One of the projects awarded an NIH grant, led by Bruce Bochner, M.D., is the continuation of a decade-long project to understand a specific type of white blood cell, known as eosinophils. These cells, although important safeguards against parasites in places like Latin America and Africa, have little to guard against in the United States. They are often involved in allergic reactions where allergens are mistaken for parasites, injuring surrounding tissues and exacerbating existing problems like asthma. Dr. Bochner’s team is hopeful that targeting a specific protein will enable them to kill overactive eosinophils without the side effects caused by current treatments. Dr. Bochner’s 12-year-old nephew, who has an eosinophil-related gastrointestinal disorder, provides additional motivation to find a therapy.

Stablizing Sjögren’s Syndrome

Another project, headed by Antony Rosen, M.D., aims to understand the tissue damage caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that destroys patients’ salivary glands. Noting the “striking stability of the disease over long periods of time,” Dr. Rosen believes that the disease may “represent a new stable state,” as the immune system and tissue repair system counteract the disease’s effects. He and his team will examine these interactions, hoping to find new, more effective treatments for Sjögren’s.

Improving Life for Older Adults

The third grant-funded project, headed by Jeremy Walston, M.D., is attempting to determine whether mitochondria, which are essentially a cell’s power plants, could be one cause of frailty, a condition often seen in older adults. Dr. Walston’s team believes that mitochondria are impeded by low levels of inflammation as people age. As a result, despite needing even more energy to counteract the inflammation, cells produce less energy. Much more research will need to be done, but Dr. Walston is hopeful that their research will ultimately yield treatments to “help improve muscle strength and thinking ability, and lower the risk for development of chronic diseases.”

The dedication and intellect of physician scientists at Hopkins Bayview is what allows for such a thriving research community. David Hellmann, M.D., vice dean of the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, is understandably proud of our physician scientists, whom he says are “recognized among the best in the world.”

For more information about research at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, visit hopkinsmedicine.org/jhbmc/research.

Research in Action

As a hub for medical scientists from Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus has a long history of research leadership. Here are a few of the ways this research has ultimately helped save and improve hundreds of thousands of lives:

  • Treatment of burns traditionally has relied on tissue grafts. However, for patients who reject donor tissue, Johns Hopkins Burn Center director Stephen Milner, M.D., and his team have developed a new technique known as a “cultured epithelial allograft.” The technique allows doctors to grow tissue in a lab before grafting it to the patient’s skin, avoiding the risk of rejection and reducing the need for tissue donors.
     
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and during cardiac arrest, every second counts. Nisha Chandra-Strobos, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology, and other researchers are developing methods to evaluate cardiac patients much more quickly, which will provide faster, more effective treatments and more accurately predict survival.
     
  • After childbirth, many mothers suffer pelvic floor problems. In order to better understand these issues, professor of gynecology and obstetrics Victoria Handa, M.D., and her team launched the Mothers’ Outcomes After Delivery study in 2008. The initiative has produced a wealth of usable data, including the effect of childbirth on pelvic muscle strength.
     
  • Dehydration from cholera and other diarrhea-causing organisms can be life-threatening. Research to combat dehydration has continued at Johns Hopkins Bayview for more than 40 years, and was pivotal in developing oral rehydration therapy. Professor of medicine William Greenough, M.D., notes that oral rehydration therapy is credited with reducing global death rates in children from more than 8 million per year to less than 2 million per year today, and that world-renowned medical journal The Lancet considers oral rehydration therapy the most important medical advance of the 20th century.
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