The NIH research resources center will provide Tulane with a five-year grant of $4.3 million to establish a center to prepare stem cells taken from the bone marrow of adult humans and rats using a standardized protocol, ensuring quality of the cell lines and distributing them to scientists worldwide who are conducting gene therapy research and exploring ways to use stem cells to repair damaged tissues. The cells will be used in non-clinical research, meaning they won't be injected into humans.
Darwin Prockop, director of the Tulane Center for Gene Therapy, says the new center holds great potential for pushing forward research by providing scientists with adequate supplies of stem cells that are standardized, which helps in comparing results from many different experiments. His team of researchers received the grant because of techniques they developed which allow them to take small samples of stem cells and grow nearly limitless numbers of identical cells in the laboratory. Those cells, Prockop says, can then be induced to develop into specific cells needed to treat damaged areas of the body.
"Each stem cell has the remarkable property to divide and produce a perfect copy of itself," Prockop said in a prepared statement. "Stem cells have the ability to develop into a variety of cells that are present in the body, such as a bone, nerve, heart or other type cell, that may repair damaged tissue." Stem cell therapy shows great potential in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, osteoartritis and brittle bones as well as injuries to organs such as the heart, lungs and spinal cord, he says.
The NIH says research has shown the multipotential cells appear to be able to differentiate into different cell types, including bone, cartilage, neurons and fat; in animal studies, such cells have migrated into bone, cartilage, lung, skin, liver and brain tissues. Adult stem cell research in general has been stymied by a lack of high-quality standardized cells and the expense of producing such materials, says Dr. Judith Vaitukaitus, director of NCRR. "This center, with the emphasis on quality control and standardized methods, will move this promising research forward," she says.
A Taste for Helping
More than two dozen local chefs will prepare their best dishes for a fundraiser to fight hunger at the Taste of the Nation 2003 culinary extravaganza from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. July 13 at the Crown Plaza Astor New Orleans Hotel (739 Canal St.).
The fundraiser, sponsored by the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, is presented by American Express and Jenn-Air, and supported by local sponsors including Brown Forman, Arrow Sysco Foods and Gambit Weekly. Those who attend the event will be treated to food prepared by 25 of the city's chefs in addition to wine, other libations, live music and a silent auction.
Tickets are $50 in advance or $60 at the door and are available at Martin Wine Cellar or by calling 525-1100.
All proceeds from the event will be given to organizations that fight hunger, with 70 percent being distributed to local groups Second Harvesters Food Bank, Bread for the World and My House; 10 percent going to Baton Rouge Food Bank; and 20 percent being used for international relief efforts.
Just in Case
The state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is distributing $1.6 million to Louisiana's hospitals to develop preparedness response plans that can be put into action if there is a bioterrorism attack.
DHH, working through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, will give the money to Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA), which will distribute amounts ranging from $1,000 to $13,000 to hospitals across the state. The response plans will outline ways the hospitals can accommodate surges in incoming patients, methods to ensure quick and accurate identification of biological threats and treatments of them, and an infrastructure that will allow hospitals throughout Louisiana to collaborate on emergency planning and response efforts.
The U.S. Congress in June passed legislation that authorizes federal matching funds to help Louisiana parishes establish or improve mosquito abatement programs in order to combat the West Nile Virus.
Under the legislation, introduced to Congress by Rep. Chris John and Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu, the Centers for Disease Control will provide up to $100,000 per recipient in matching funds used to bolster or establish mosquito abatement programs.
The program was proposed in response to last year's outbreak of West Nile, which killed 25 people in Louisiana and made another 329 ill. Although no new human cases of the virus have been reported in 2003, state officials have found the virus in 52 dead birds and 94 mosquito pools in 34 parishes.
Spreading the Health
Tulane University's Department of Family and Community Medicine has received a grant of more than half a million dollars for a three-year program to enhance the delivery of medical services across the state.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration announced the training grant of $566,000, which includes development of distance learning and Web-based technology to share information with doctors in rural as well as urban areas in Louisiana. The grant also focuses on attracting more Tulane medical students to become family physicians in rural areas of the state where access to primary care services is lacking.
Richard Streiffer, chairman of family and community medicine at Tulane, says Louisiana has the second worst statistics in the nation in terms of health indicators, and he attributes much of it to problems of access to primary care in some parts of the state. To make matters worse, he says, the percentage of primary care physicians who set up practice in rural Louisiana is declining.
Family medicine, which is exclusively dedicated to primary care, is the second-largest medical discipline in the United States and the one most Americans identify as their main provider of medical care.
Honor for Eason
Dr. James Eason, a transplant specialist at Ochsner Clinic Foundation, has been appointed to the United Network for Organ Sharing Liver and Intestine Transplantation Committee. He will represent a region that includes all transplant centers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Puerto Rico through June 2005.
The committee he will serve on considers medical, scientific and ethical aspects of liver and intestine organ procurement, allocation and sharing.
Eason currently is the section head for Ochsner's Multi-Organ Transplant Center and director of abdominal transplant.
Fontenot to Head MCLNO
Dr. Cathi E. Fontenot has been named medical director for the Medical Center of Louisiana New Orleans and its Charity and University hospitals.
The new medical director, a Lake Charles native, knows the systems she will be administering inside and out. She graduated from LSU School of Medicine in 1984 and completed her internship and residency at Charity Hospital. She was appointed chief resident and clinical instructor in internal medicine three years later.
Fontenot takes the post after serving as section chief of comprehensive medicine and vice chair of the Department of Medicine for Clinical Affairs at the LSU School of Medicine. She has been named among "Top Doctors in New Orleans" by New Orleans Magazine three times and has been honored as a "Distinguished Women in Medicine" by the Orleans Parish Medical Society. In 1999, she was named medical director of the LSU Musician's Clinic, a collaborative effort that provides musicians and artists access to medical care.
The Greater New Orleans Immunization Network Mobile Unit has scheduled several clinics where parents can obtain free immunizations for children ages birth to 18. Parents should bring each child's immunization record to the clinic. For more information, call 733-3268.
The mobile unit will set up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 1 and 22, and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 8 and 29 and Aug. 5 at Walgreen's (1203 Hwy. 190, Covington); from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 2 and 19, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 9 and 30 at Walgreen's (1260 Front St., Slidell); 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 3, 17 and 24, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 10 and 31 at Toys-R-Us (4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero); from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 7 and 28 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 21 and Aug. 4 at Clearview Mall in Metairie. The unit also will set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 12 at the West Jefferson Fitness Center near Oakwood Shopping Center in Gretna; from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 14 at Walgreen's (801 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner); 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 15 at Toys-R-Us at Bullard and I-10 in New Orleans East; from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 16 at Robert Fresh Market (4001 Canal St.); from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 23 at PMMH (5620 Read Blvd.); from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 25 at Balestra's (7902 Hwy. 23, Belle Chasse); and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 2 at New Orleans Kids First (3512 Louisa St.).