The Scoop: A Publication of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Stem cell trial a first for pediatric traumatic brain injury

Dr. Charles Cox

Dr. Charles Cox

In conjunction with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, the Medical School has begun enrollment for the first Phase I safety study approved by the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the use of a child’s own umbilical cord blood stem cells for traumatic brain injury in children.

The innovative study is led by principal investigator Dr. Charles Cox, the Children’s Fund Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Surgery and Pediatrics, and director of the pediatric trauma program at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. It will enroll 10 children ages 18 months to 17 years who have umbilical cord blood banked with Cord Blood Registry (CBR) and have suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. The study is not designed for acute care and will only enroll participants within 6–18 months of the injury.

Although the neurologic outcome for nearly all types of brain injury (with the exception of abuse) is better for children than adults, trauma is the leading cause of death in children, and the majority of the deaths are attributed to head injury.

“Using cord blood is a critical link in the next step of UTHealth’s programmatic approach to researching stem cell therapies for brain injury,” Cox said. “Implementing this novel therapy has required strong partnerships with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the CBR Center for Regenerative Medicine and is possible through a critical infrastructure investment by the state of Texas and private philanthropy.”

To enroll in the study, parents or caregivers of patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury should contact CBR, and after consent is obtained, the information will be relayed to the UTHealth research group. If all qualifications are met, the patient will travel to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, where the cells will be processed and intravenously infused. Patients will be followed at six months, one year, and two years.

A recently completed Phase I study at UTHealth (publication in press), which investigated a bone-marrow stem cell therapy in children with acute traumatic brain injury, revealed positive safety results, Cox said.

The FDA-authorized protocol is specific to the standardized processing and storage protocol of CBR, making it the only family stem cell bank providing patients for the study.

“This study is at the forefront of research evaluating a child’s own cord blood stem cells’ ability to help facilitate the healing process after damage to nerve tissue in the brain,” said Heather Brown, vice president of scientific and medical affairs at Cord Blood Registry. “CBR is helping advance medical research for regenerative therapies by connecting the child whose family banked with CBR to appropriate researchers.”

— Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Advancement, Media Relations

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Fourth-year student wins prestigious ACEP recognition

Stewart Master

Stewart Master

Stewart Master, a fourth-year student, has received one of just 18 Medical Student Professionalism and Service Awards from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Only one student from each U.S. medical school could be nominated for the award, which recognizes those who excel in compassionate care of patients, professional behavior, and service to the community and/or emergency medicine specialty.

“He is most deserving of this award and is an excellent example of one of our school’s top graduates this year,” said Dr. Joanne Oakes, associate professor of emergency medicine and associate residency director.

Master, who grew up in Broken Arrow, Okla., graduated from Oklahoma State University.

“When I heard of the nomination for this award by our Department of Emergency Medicine, I was truly flattered,” he said. “Just to be recognized by my mentors and teachers in the department was really the highest compliment I could receive.”

As part of the accolade, Master will be invited to the ACEP’s president reception at its annual meeting in October.

“This award from the American College of Emergency Physicians marks the end of medical school with a personal achievement, and it solidifies my sense of belonging to the great students, residents, and physicians who comprise ACEP,” Master added.

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine with more than 28,000 members.

Following graduation, Master plans to complete a residency in emergency medicine, become certified as an aviation medical examiner, and continue his community volunteer work.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

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Welsh wins Thomas F. Burks Scholarship for Academic Merit

Kerry Welsh

Kerry Welsh

Kerry Welsh, a fifth-year student in the M.D./Ph.D. program, is the winner of the Thomas F. Burks Scholarship for Academic Merit for 2010–2011.

“I am very honored to receive the prestigious Thomas F. Burks Scholarship and grateful to have been selected from the many qualified candidates,” said Welsh, who is also the recipient of the Robert W. and Pearl Wallis Knox Charitable Foundation Scholarship for 2010–2011. “I will use this award to further my development and continue my pursuit of academics in the field of medical research.”

Welsh’s research is focused on the development of lactoferrin as a novel therapeutic for the treatment of tuberculosis. She plans to finish her Ph.D. this spring and complete medical school next year.

“Tom Burks was an outstanding educator and research scientist,” said Dr. George Stancel, dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “But above all else, everything he did was to help people, first as a pharmacist in his earlier years, and then through his teaching and his research here. He was a wonderful role model and exemplified all that we espouse at UTHealth, and that’s why this award bears his name.”

Dr. Jeffrey Actor, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is Welsh’s adviser. “I am delighted that Kerry was chosen to receive this distinguished award,” Actor said. “Kerry exemplifies many of the values that Dr. Burks held high, including a strong desire to excel in the field of translational medical research. Dr. Burks was a strong mentor, leading by example, who holds a special place in my thoughts as a guiding administrator who had positive influence on the academic faculty. I know he would be proud of Kerry’s accomplishments, much as we are.”

InterFaculty Council established the scholarship to honor the memory of Dr. Thomas Burks (1938-2001), who began working at UTHealth in 1971 and served as its executive vice president for research and academic affairs from 1991 to 2001. Burks is remembered as an outstanding researcher, an inspirational teacher, an academic leader, and a friend to faculty and students.

“In the future, I believe others will look at Kerry as a role model for what we want our graduates to be, and I know that Tom would feel the same way,” Stancel said.

— Greg Rutzen, Office of Advancement, University Communications

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UT Physicians at Sienna Village offers free cardiac screenings Feb. 12

UT Physicians logo

Free cardiac health screenings will be offered at UT Physicians at Sienna Village 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. Appointments must be made in advance by calling 713.486.1200.

The screenings will include body mass index, blood pressure, carotid artery ultrasound, and blood tests that include total cholesterol and a comprehensive metabolic panel.

Participants must be 18 years or older and must fast for at least 10 hours prior to the blood draw.

UT Physicians at Sienna Village is located at 8810 Highway 6, Suite 100 in Missouri City in the HEB Shopping Center.

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For the health of it

Kelly Garner, of CLAMC, gets information about the Century Health Study from Linh Trinh, a research coordinator for cardiology, during the annual UTHealth Wellness Fair Jan. 26 in the Leather Lounge.

Kelly Garner, of CLAMC, gets information about the Century Health Study from Linh Trinh, a research coordinator for cardiology, during the annual UTHealth Wellness Fair Jan. 26 in the Leather Lounge.
— Dwight C. Andrews, Office of Communications, Medical School





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February 3

11th Annual BioResearch Product Faire.
10 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Marriott Medical Center Ballroom.
For more details, visit the website.

Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences lecture series: Dr. Sudhir Paul, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, presents, “Catalytic Antibodies and Covalent Vaccination for Intractable Diseases.”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB B.605.
Feel free to bring your lunch. For more information, contact Linda Gilbert.

February 7

Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Matthew Rasband (Baylor) presents, “The functional organization of axons in health and disease.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.135.

February 8

Madelene Ottosen, Clinical Trials Resource Center, presents, “Clinical Trial Budgeting and Billing.”
1:30–4 p.m., UT Professional Building, Suite 1100.55.
This course reviews the mechanics, tools, and policies of developing a clinical trial budget and ensuring appropriate clinical trial billing. Register here.

February 9

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Stephen Tyring, visiting professor of dermatology, presents, “Tropical Dermatology.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

February 10

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Michael Yaakovian, UT MIST fellow, presents, “Laparoscopic Colon Surgery: Past, Present and Future.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

The University of Texas at Houston Police Department: “Hostile Intruder Awareness.”
10 a.m., MSB 3.001.

February 16

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Ronald Rapini, chair of the Department of Dermatology, presents, “Skin Lesion Self-Assessment.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

February 17

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Taylor Riall (UTMB) presents, “Timing of Cholecystectomy for Complicated Gallstone Disease: Translation of Population-Based Data into Clinical Practice.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences lecture series: Dr. Eric Thomas, associate dean for healthcare quality, presents, “Measuring and Improving Teamwork in Healthcare.”
Noon–1 p.m., MSB B.605.
Feel free to bring your lunch. For more information, contact Linda Gilbert.

The Richard S. Ruiz, MD Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science Grand Rounds: Dr. Samuel Masket (UCLA) presents, “Goar Lecture: Cataract.”
3:30–5:30 p.m., Raye and Ed White Conference Center, 6400 Fannin, 19th Floor.

February 24

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. Brijesh “Billy” Gill, assistant professor of surgery, presents, “Surgeon, Heal Thyself.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Seminar Series: Dr. Carolina Barillas-Mury (Investigator/Chief, Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section, NIAID) presents, Plasmodium- mosquito interactions that determine malaria transmission.”
4 p.m., MSB 2.103.

March 2

Clinical Trials Resource Center: “Research Financial Management.”
7:30 a.m.–4 p.m., IMM.
This special one-day course will cover best practices in financial management for clinical trials including budgeting, billing, and financial accountability. Registration is required.


Please disregard the earlier announcement of Jan. 7th. We regret that the CCTS will not be able to fund new K12 awards this year.

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