2 months ago

UAH CON faculty and staff volunteer to support Tyrosinemia Society

Nursing faculty and staff members at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, are giving back to both their community and the world by supporting the Tyrosinemia Society and its new partnership with an organization called PatientsLikeMe.

The Tyrosinemia Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in the tyrosinemia community. Tyrosinemia comprises a group of rare genetic disorders that prevent the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. Usually detected in infancy through newborn screening tests, tyrosinemia occurs in one out of every 50,000-100,000 births worldwide. Without treatment, the condition can lead to liver failure, but with early detection and lifelong management, people with tyrosinemia can develop normally and live healthy lives.

UAH faculty and staff came to be involved with the society when they saw the chance to make a real difference in the lives of people with this condition.

“Faculty in the college of nursing saw a need for a non-profit advocacy organization to support the needs of families and patients affected by the four types of tyrosinemia,” says Dr. Elizabeth Barnby, Clinical Associate Professor in the CON and president of the society. “The Tyrosinemia Society supports patients and families with all four types of tyrosinemia: transient tyrosinemia, tyrosinemia type 1, tyrosinemia type 2 and tyrosinemia type 3. Type 1, 2 and 3 are rare hereditary diseases caused by enzyme deficiency on the tyrosine catabolic pathway. Transient tyrosinemia is more common, but only a transient condition that occurs most frequently in babies born prematurely. The most severe type of tyrosinemia is type 1, and it is a life-threatening disease that can take the life of a child very early in life, but if identified and treated it can become a manageable disorder.”

This year, the Tyrosinemia Society has joined forces with PatientsLikeMe (PLM), the world’s largest integrated community, health management and real-world data platform. This collaboration will give visibility to the society and its members, enabling them to learn from their peers living with tyrosinemia, and provide an opportunity for the tyrosinemia community to share their lived experiences by contributing patient-generated data. This data will ultimately be used to increase researcher knowledge of the condition through a natural history study.

“All types of tyrosinemia will benefit from a natural history study to improve our understanding of the basic disease pathophysiology,” Dr. Barnby explains. “I am very grateful that my colleagues at UAH and other institutions throughout the country and the world have chosen to volunteer their time and energy to make the non-profit Tyrosinemia Society possible. Their efforts are truly selfless and humanitarian and will make the lives of children and caregivers impacted by tyrosinemia and related disorders better.”

The society partnering with PLM represents an important leap toward providing a solid body of data that would otherwise be difficult to obtain about this relatively rare disease, significantly benefitting families affected by tyrosinemia. Developing an online community to support tyrosinemia patients and caregivers represents the first time a pediatric rare disease community has partnered with PLM, laying a foundation for other rare disease communities to follow.

Along with Dr. Barnby, other UAH volunteers supporting the society include board member Dr. Jerome Baudry, webmaster Hunter Cowing, board chair Dr. Kader Frendi, board member Dr. Angela Hollingsworth, secretary Preston Miller, vice president and treasurer Dr. Mark Reynolds and medical/scientific advisory board chair, Dr. Darlene Showalter. Dr Gordon MacGregor and Dr. Casey Norris, previous faculty at UAH, will continue to serve as well. The volunteers have become essential to supporting this cause by performing a myriad of tasks and services.

“These volunteers give their time, their talents and their hearts to the cause willingly and accept no reimbursement,” Dr. Barnby notes. “They are truly the most wonderful thing about the Tyrosinemia Society. They are making a huge difference for children throughout the world! They are building a non-profit structure of support for the families with financial grants from key stakeholders. They build web pages, answer questions, educate the public about tyrosinemia and network with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) and the NIH/Office of Rare Disease Research (NORD) to improve outcomes for patients with tyrosinemia. Some even translate, since people from all over the world contact the Tyrosinemia Society on a regular basis. We are a leader in the care of tyrosinemia doing what we can in our free time to help. And none of this would have been possible without the support of the UAH College of Nursing administration as well.”

The Tyrosinemia Society is a community of advocates, caregivers and health professionals dedicated to educating and inspiring individuals to improve health outcomes and advocate for adults and children with tyrosinemia and related disorders. The society has earned a global reputation for transforming healthcare outcomes for those affected by this disorder through education and research in collaboration with universities and healthcare industry professionals. To learn more about the society and its mission, please visit tyrosinemia.org.

PatientsLikeMe enables its members to monitor symptoms of their condition(s), share their disease experiences and treatment outcomes and learn how to improve their care through peer-to-peer interactions. Members can put their disease experiences in context and find answers to their questions by easily connecting directly with members who have the same conditions, individuals who are experiencing the same symptoms or have used similar treatments. For information about PatientsLikeMe, visit patientslikeme.com.

(Courtesy of UAH)

5 mins ago

VIDEO: Mandates return, Ivey’s frustration with the unvaccinated is shared across the nation, U.S. Capitol riot hearing begins and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Are states heading towards vaccine mandates after President Joe Biden told federal employees they have to get shots?

— Is Governor Kay Ivey’s decision to lean on vaccines and away from masks going to convince people to get vaccinated?

— Have we learned anything from the beginning of the inquiry into the U.S. Capitol riot?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at the people implying U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) wearing a bulletproof vest on January 6 is some implication of guilt. He argues everyone knows it is because Brooks has received threats for years and was almost killed at a baseball field during baseball practice with his Republican colleagues.

Watch:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 5-9AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

4 hours ago

UAH’s Baudry Lab part of efforts to target COVID with drug therapies

Two different strategies to discover and perfect pharmaceuticals active against the COVID-19 virus have attracted a half million dollars in research funding to support five institutions, including the Baudry Lab at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

The lab, led by Dr. Jerome Baudry (pronounced Bō-dre), a molecular biophysicist and the Mrs. Pei-Ling Chan Chair in the Department of Biological Sciences at UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, will receive a portion of the funding, which originates from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and from Saint John’s Cancer Institute, a private organization located in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Both awards are the recognition of our hard work and success of the last year, when we used supercomputers to identify natural products that have the potential to prevent infection by the COVID-19 virus or to prevent its replication in our cells,” says Dr. Baudry, who is also a professor of biological science.

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“We have had quite an impact, together with our collaborators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the Alabama Supercomputing Authority,” he says. “And it led us to join these two new collaborative projects and apply for these two grants, which were both awarded, which is a pretty unusual and happy outcome, as research grants are usually very difficult to obtain.”

In their segment of the new research, the UAH scientists will continue to work with chemicals found in nature, which are called natural products. Dr. Baudry is joined in the work by Maher Mansur, a senior molecular physics doctoral graduate student, and the pair are training junior scientists to help with the effort.

“Natural products are very interesting chemicals. Sometimes, the natural products can work by themselves and it leads to phytotherapy or to nutraceuticals.” Dr. Baudry says. “Sometimes the natural products are not quite powerful enough, or they can be toxic for humans. In the latter case, medicinal chemists can modify the natural products’ chemicals to become very potent and safe pharmaceuticals.”

He says that could be a likely outcome as the new research progresses.

“We will still use our supercomputers to identify natural products that appear to do well, and we will use this information coming from nature and the expertise of the chemists to ‘chisel’ the natural products to be very efficient against the virus and very safe for our cells,” Dr. Baudry says.

“So far in our research what has usually taken many years has taken a few months, and that’s why we now can go on the offensive against the virus, instead of staying on the defensive.”

There’s a synergy between modern science and ancestral knowledge in natural products that allows advancement, he says.

“Natural products are a fantastic source of chemicals and medicine, and preserving our natural history, including our knowledge about what the plants and fungi do and how they work, is very important.”

Spikes and torpedoes

In the SARS CoV-2 research grant awarded by St. John’s Cancer Institute, Dr. Baudry’s team is working with Dr. Venkata Mahidhar Yenugonda, director of Saint John’s Cancer Institute Experimental Therapeutics Research Program. Dr. Yenugonda is an internationally known medicinal chemist who is leading the project.

“In this first project, we are going to identify molecules that have the potential to bind to the virus’ spike protein,” says Dr. Baudry. “That protein is on the outer surface of the coronavirus, which leads to its crown-like appearance and name, ‘crown’ being ‘corona’ in Latin.”

The virus’ spike protein allows it to attach to the cell, which is the first step in infection.

“Our strategy is to design a molecule that binds to the spike protein, preventing the virus from attaching to cells, and therefore preventing infection,” says Dr. Baudry.

In the other, NIH-funded project, the Baudry Lab is working with Dr. Jennifer Golden, the project’s lead principal investigator, who is an assistant professor and the associate director of the Medicinal Chemistry Center at The University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Jeremy Smith, the Governor’s Chair Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville and director of the UT/ORNL Center for Molecular Biophysics; and Dr. Colleen Jonsson, director of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Regional Biocontainment Laboratory in Memphis.

The project uses promising compounds that might attack COVID-19’s polymerase inhibitors.

“These potential drugs torpedo some proteins that the virus forces the infected cell to make,” Dr Baudry says. “These proteins are indispensable for the virus to re-assemble itself in the infected cell and then to leave to infect new cells. If we can block that process, the virus cannot infect new cells in the body and it is doomed.”

Essential research

UAH has mobilized resources for research vital to establishing a strategy in the fight against COVID-19 and other, new viruses that may appear down the road, Dr. Baudry says.

“I have worked on COVID-19 with senior scientists and graduate students in my UAH lab, and it has established us on the research map, and UAH was present to help in many ways,” he says. “UAH students should know that if they do research here, they can be in the spotlight, that we do work at the very top level in the nation.”

The Alabama Supercomputer Facility, a state resource located in Huntsville, has been a valuable partner.

“I think it is important for the region, and indeed for all Alabamians, to know that their support of science, of research and development, and of universities pays dividends and goes a long way,” he says.

Discovering therapeutic pharmaceuticals is essential to helping COVID patients as the pandemic evolves, Dr. Baudry says.

“The vaccines are here and they are, literally, life savers,” he says.

“Now there are new variants coming all the time, in particular with mutations of the spike proteins we are going after, and we all have started to hear about variants such as Delta, which is more contagious than the original strains, or Epsilon, which may be partially resistant in some cases to vaccines.”

New vaccines probably can be created relatively quickly to address variants, he says.

“But there is still an immense need for pharmaceuticals, not vaccines, because pharmaceuticals could be used to fight new strains of the virus while new vaccines are being developed against new strains,” Dr. Baudry says.

“The nation’s effort has been supporting vaccines, with a remarkable success, and we are now kind of switching gears to augment our arsenal with pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals and vaccines are not duplicating each other, they complement each other.”

The ultimate goal is to achieve a protocol much like exists for the flu, where vaccines help keep the disease in check but antivirals like Tamiflu are available to treat vaccinated patients with breakthrough infections or the unvaccinated who get ill. Tamiflu has as its starting material shikimic acid, which is present in the pods of star anise.

“The situation with COVID-19 can very well be similar: a vaccine that overall works very well and medications to help those who still get sick,” Dr. Baudry says. “And what we learn in this work against COVID-19 will also be a very important source of knowledge in case a new, different virus appears down the road.”

(Courtesy of UAH)

5 hours ago

Summer attendance booming at Alabama Power Preserves

The summer months are the perfect time of year to get out and appreciate the beauty of Alabama’s lakes and rivers. With 65 public-use spaces across 12 reservoirs, Alabama Power’s Preserves offer the chance for everyone to enjoy a day in the great outdoors.

The Preserves are protected lands around Alabama Power lakes created to enhance natural resources and allow the public to enjoy the rich, ecological diversity of the state. Sites have a variety of amenities, including boat launches, picnic tables, grilling areas, fishing piers, weigh stations, hiking trails and swimming areas.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Flat Rock Park on Lake Harris, which features hiking, fishing, swimming and picnicking areas, had more than 4,000 visitors. D.A.R.E. Power Park on Lake Martin, which has similar amenities, was visited by more than 1,500 people.

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Explore The Preserves by Alabama Power along Alabama lakes from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Attendance numbers at our parks have been higher this year than we’ve seen in the past, especially over the holidays,” said Sheila Smith, Alabama Power land supervisor. “Visitors are telling us that they’re looking for outdoor activities closer to home and day trips they can enjoy with the entire family, so we are extremely pleased to provide these facilities for our communities. We’re even seeing visitors traveling to our parks from other states and areas over 100 miles away.”

To learn more or find a Preserve near you, visit apcpreserves.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Dr. Daniel Sutter: Shower freedom goes down the drain

The 1992 Energy Policy Act authorized imposition of energy and water efficiency standards on household and commercial products. Consumers have not been thrilled with the new products. As Jeffrey Tucker puts it, “Anything in your home that involves water has been made pathetic, thanks to government controls.”

President Trump repealed regulations on showers, but the Biden administration proposes to reinstate them.

Dozens of products now use significantly less water and energy. For example, showers cannot use more than 2.5 gallons per minute and toilets are limited to 1.6 gallons per flush. While described as efficient, efficiency here is used in an engineering and not economic sense.

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For engineers, efficiency involves using the least water or energy to accomplish a task. Department of Energy (DOE) engineers define showering, flushing waste or cleaning dishes, determine the minimum amount of water or energy needed for this, and only allow products meeting this standard to be sold.

Economists define efficiency in terms of consumer preferences. Consumer sovereignty is the basis on which we judge the economy’s performance. With the economic freedom and competition, manufacturers must cater to consumers. We get the showers and toilets we like.

The Energy Policy Act shifted control over product design from consumers to the DOE. All products have numerous dimensions of performance. Consumers choose products based on their personal tastes. Quality is also balanced against the cost because higher quality costs more; we do not always buy the best product on the market. DOE standards prioritize one dimension – energy or water use – over others.

Not surprisingly then, many consumers view the “efficient” products as worse. President Trump picked up on this during his 2016 campaign: “You have sinks where the water doesn’t come out. … You have showers where I can’t wash my hair properly, it’s a disaster!”

The government of a free country serves the citizens. The restriction of consumer choice can only be justified if it makes consumers better off in some way. Saving water is a bogus rationale.

For starters, households account for only a small fraction of water use. Furthermore, water-saving products do not always use less water: people end up repeatedly flushing low-flush toilets. But most significantly, water does not disappear when it runs down the drain. Property-treated wastewater can be safely discharged into a river or lake and remains part of the natural cycle.

“Saving water” amounts to reducing the demand on water and sewer systems. Delivering clean water to households requires the use of resources, and the cost is higher when water must be shipped great distances like in western states. Government supplies most water to Americans: cities operate water and sewer systems with the Federal government building large scale water delivery projects and funding most wastewater treatment plants.

Cities, however, generally supply water to households at an artificially low price. And Uncle Sam does not charge users the full cost of water delivered from large projects. Consequently, increased water use strains municipal water and sewer systems.

Elected officials are terrible at building, maintaining, and upgrading infrastructure. Replacing water mains is not an exciting way to spend tax dollars. Efficient household appliances provide a back-door way to avoid investing in water and sewer infrastructure.

Alternatively, suppose cities charged for water based on the full cost and used the proceeds exclusively for maintaining and expanding capacity. Americans wanting a surround shower delivering walls of water would pay a sizable bill every month, but the payments would cover the cost of providing extra water. Americans could enjoy shower freedom.

Although President Trump often spoke about regulations on consumer products, the shower rule was only repealed last December. Deregulation in 2017 would have given Americans time to upgrade their bathrooms, rendering the reimposition less relevant.

Reimposition of the shower rule is not official yet. Like with all proposed regulations, the DOE must accept public comments on the rule. I try to avoid prognostication, but I suspect that public comments will have little impact on the final decision.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

7 hours ago

USA College of Nursing receives $1.9 million grant to boost nursing diversity

Increasing the diversity of the nursing workforce is a key focus of the University of South Alabama College of Nursing, which recently received a $1.9 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the advancement of diversity in the nursing field.

The grant will fund a new initiative known as the EMPOWER project, which will serve two purposes. First, it will advance USA’s goal of educating a more diverse nursing workforce. Second, it will reduce health disparities in underserved communities.

EMPOWER will concentrate on recruiting, retaining and graduating bachelor of science in nursing students of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. This is the first time USA’s College of Nursing has received the HRSA workforce diversity grant, which focuses on educating and supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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The College of Nursing EMPOWER Project Director, Dr. Shanda Scott, assistant professor and director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Co-Project Director Dr. Christina Thompson, assistant professor of maternal child care, partnered to apply for the HRSA grant. Additional College of Nursing faculty members supporting this grant initiative are Dr. Nerkissa Dixon, assistant professor of adult health nursing, Dr. Loretta Jones, assistant professor of adult health nursing, and Dr. Dedra Reed, assistant professor of community mental health nursing.

“We are very excited to receive this significant funding to start the EMPOWER project,” Scott noted. “We plan to recruit, retain and graduate undergraduate nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds that will one day serve rural and underserved populations. We are striving to increase the number of minority students entering the nursing workforce. Understanding the needs of diverse student populations is critical for student retention through graduation.”

Research shows that to advance health equity, there’s a need to improve diversity in the nursing profession, Scott said.

“We understand that a more diverse healthcare workforce can reduce health disparities,” Scott explained. “Research has shown that by strengthening the skills and diversity of the nursing workforce, patients receive better healthcare.”

USA is one of 32 institutions of higher education nationally to be funded through this HRSA four-year award.

“I am proud of USA’s College of Nursing faculty who are leading this project to increase opportunities in nursing education for students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities,” said Dr. Heather Hall, dean of the College of Nursing. “The program will be developed to include recruitment, retention, and graduation goals that will provide a pathway for students of backgrounds underrepresented in nursing. It is vital for the nursing profession to include a more diverse nursing workforce to strengthen the understanding and awareness of the needs for individual patients.”

Under the EMPOWER project, 10 traditional BSN students will be in the first cohort. The grant funding will aid a total of 100 students over the four-year period. All grant recipients will receive a scholarship for tuition, books and fees, and a monthly stipend for personal expenses like food and gas.

“The scholarship will be paid annually, and students will receive additional funds each month from the stipend with a goal to alleviate some of their financial burden,” Scott said. “Our students must drive to attend their mandatory 8-12-hour clinical rotations located at various hospitals. Through the stipend, we are addressing these basic needs.”

It was determined by the EMPOWER project team that, in order to be successful, the initiative needs to include mentoring, peer tutoring, career, faculty and professional mentorship for each of the students in the cohort.

“As students navigate through the nursing program, they will participate in a clinical immersion experience at the USA Simulation Lab and through the community health partner, Franklin Primary Health,” Scott said. “We would like students to engage in learning experiences to enhance their knowledge regarding the care of culturally diverse and underserved patients. The students will also participate in academic success workshops to include test taking, resilience and mindfulness sessions”

The funding allows the South’s College of Nursing to receive holistic review training and a faculty mentorship plan to help with the recruiting and retention of minority faculty members.

“Increasing diversity of both students and faculty in the USA College of Nursing will prepare graduates to meet the important workforce needs,” Scott said. “The initiative’s goals align with the mission of the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.”

For more information about EMPOWER, send an email to shaston@southalabama.edu.