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July Research Highlights

A Roundup of the Latest Medical Discoveries and Faculty News at Cedars-Sinai

Hypertension Elevates Risk for More Severe COVID-19 Illness

Hypertension more than doubles the risk of hospitalization related to Omicron infection, even in people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to a new study led by Joseph E. Ebinger, MD, and Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The risk is especially widespread given that nearly 1 out of every 2 adults in the U.S. have hypertension. The findings are published in the journal Hypertension. Read more>


Study Reveals New Understanding of Intervertebral Disc Cells

Cedars-Sinai investigators have uncovered new insight into the developmental process of the intervertebral disc that could help lead to the advancement of more targeted treatments for back pain. Using single-cell RNA-sequencing technology, the team identified two previously unknown populations of notochordal cells in adults that were previously believed to disappear in childhood. The study is published in the journal iScience and led by Dmitriy Sheyn, PhD. Read more>


Howard Sandler, MD, Elected President of ASTRO

Howard Sandler, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, has been named president-elect of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). Sandler will begin his term as president-elect in October, followed by single-year terms as president, chair and then immediate past chair of the ASTRO Board. Sandler currently serves on the Board of Directors as chair of ASTRO’s Government Relations Council. Read more>


Antibiotics Affect Male and Female Gut Microbiomes Differently

In a new study, researchers in the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) Program found that antibiotics have sex-specific effects on the gut microbiome makeup of male and female laboratory rats. The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, could have implications for using the drugs in humans to treat or prevent bacterial infection. The study was led by Ruchi Mathur, MD, and Mark Pimentel, MD. Read more>


New Director of Obesity Medicine at Cedars-Sinai

Cedars-Sinai’s new director of Obesity Medicine in the Department of Surgery, Amanda Velazquez, MD, is determined to help prevent and treat Type 2 diabetes and obesity in the Latinx community. In Los Angeles County, 29.4% of Latinxs are obese, compared with 17.6% of white people. Latinxs in the U.S. also are more likely to become diabetic. They have a 50% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to white people, who have a 40% chance. Read more>


Cedars-Sinai Lung Transplant Outcomes Rated Outstanding

A new report on lung transplantation success rates confirms that Cedars-Sinai patients experienced one-year survival outcomes of 91.49%, an achievement above the national average of 89.46%. Lung transplantation at Cedars-Sinai—a collaboration between the Smidt Heart Institute and the Comprehensive Transplant Center—is characterized by innovations that are changing the landscape of cardiothoracic surgery and care. Read more>


The Human Side of AI: Predicting Spine Surgery Outcomes

Spine surgeon Corey Walker, MD, in collaboration with Jason Moore, PhD, chair of the Department of Computational Biomedicine, is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict which patients are most likely to successfully manage their pain post-surgery, and which patients might need additional assistance. The algorithm makes a prediction based millions of data points and then tests its own predictions against new subsets of data. Read more>


Radiation Oncology Expert Joins Cedars-Sinai Cancer

Marc Botnick, MD, a board-certified radiation oncologist with more than 20 years of experience managing all cancer types, has been named regional medical director for Radiation Oncology at Cedars-Sinai Cancer. Botnick will support the development of a regional radiation oncology strategy and promote the growth, development and integration of enterprisewide radiation oncology services and protocols across Cedars-Sinai Health System. Read more>


Graduate School Marks 10th Commencement Milestone

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences marked its 10th commencement with the Class of 2022. Seven students graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical and Translational Sciences, 14 graduated with a Master's Degree in Health Delivery Science and three graduated with a Master's of Science in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. Sixty-six doctorates have now been awarded, along with 73 Master's Degrees. Read more>


Hyperactivation of the Immune System May Cause Post-COVID Syndromes

Cedars-Sinai investigators have proposed a theory for how SARS-CoV-2 infects the body. Their hypothesis, published in Frontiers in Immunology, could explain why some people still have symptoms long after the initial infection. The study is led by Moshe Arditi, MD, executive vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics for Research, part of Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s. Read more> 


Three-Step Treatment Strategy for Pancreatic Cancer

A research team led by Arsen Osipov, MD, program lead in the Pancreatic Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic, discovered a novel three-step treatment that disrupts the pancreatic tumor microenvironment in laboratory mice. The preclinical study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterology, is the first to identify synergistic effects of targeting both inside the cell and the tumor microenvironment outside of the cells. Read more> 


Pediatrics Investigator Receives Top Cedars-Sinai Award

Moshe Arditi, MD, executive vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics for Research, part of Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children's, has received this year's Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM)­­—the highest honor bestowed by Cedars-Sinai. Arditi received the PRISM award for his seminal discoveries related to a syndrome that some children develop after becoming sick with COVID-19. Read more>


Study shows gene expression in cancerous bladder tumors differs by race  

A new study led by Cedars-Sinai Cancer investigators shows for the first time that gene expression differs by race in patients with high-risk non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. The discovery, published in the peer-reviewed journal Urologic Oncology, was led by Sungyong You, PhD, associate professor of Surgery and Biomedical Sciences. Read more> 


COVID-19 Vaccination Plus Prior Infection Creates Long-Lasting Immunity

People infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 who later receive two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have elevated antibody levels that last at least 10 months, according to a new study led by Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Smidt Heart Institute. The results are published in the journal BMJ Open. Read more> 


COVID-19 Immunity Test Inventor: ‘It’s Not Just About Antibodies’

The research team led by Stanley C. Jordan, MD, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center’s Human Leukocyte Antigen and Transplant Immunology Laboratory, has developed a rapid test that goes beyond measuring antibody levels. The test measures patients’ immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. Cedars-Sinai has filed a patent application for this novel test. Read more> 


Stroke Biomarker, Health Equity Expert Joins Cedars-Sinai

Alexis Simpkins, MD, PhD, a stroke expert whose research focuses on acute stroke treatment and prevention, advanced brain imaging, and improving health equity in patient care and diversity among trainees in stroke, has joined the faculty in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai as director of Vascular Neurology Research and the Stroke RNA, Imaging, and Protein Predictors for Patient Tailored Treatments (SkRIPT) Program. Read more> 


COVID-19 and Cancer: Researchers Work to Understand Immune Responses

COVID-19 united the scientific world in seeking to understand the disease and finding means to treat and prevent it, but there still are many questions about the impact of COVID-19 on people with cancer. In this Q&A, Jane Figueiredo, PhD, of Cedars-Sinai Cancer, shares progress made in understanding immune responses in people with weakened immune systems. Read more> 


Fatty Pancreas Can Cause Pancreatic Cancer

Fat accumulation in the pancreas is an understudied condition that can lead to pancreatic cancer, according to a new paper by Cedars-Sinai investigators published in EBioMedicine. The study, led by Emily Truong, MD, internal medicine resident physician, Stephen Pandol, MD, professor of Medicine, and Christie Y. Jeon, ScD, research associate professor of Medicine, describes two main mechanisms thought to cause pancreatic steatosis. Read more>


Pathogens Training Prepared Cedars-Sinai for COVID-19

A paper recently published in the journal Health Security described how, prior to the pandemic, staff participated in a federal training program that focused on special pathogens. The preparation helped when COVID-19 hit and the Special Pathogens leadership team was able to train more than 1,200 Cedars-Sinai healthcare workers. The study was led by Jonathan D. Grein, MD, director of hospital epidemiology. Read more>


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