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News - 2011

Is H3N2 the new H1N1?
Galveston County Daily News, Dec. 13, 2011
Since July, UTMB's Joan Nichols has been monitoring a new H3N2 flu strain that is circulating in pigs and has infected a cluster of people in Iowa — a development that has raised concerns about a replay of the H1N1 outbreak. Nichols, the associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory, is among the world's small corps of flu researchers. She said she doesn't anticipate a major outbreak of severe illness, but said this is one to watch.


New discovery bonds to anthrax spores, not just anthrax bacteria
Medical News Today, December 8, 2011
A new study has shown previously unseen details of an anthrax bacteriophage — a virus that infects anthrax bacteria — revealing for the first time how it infects its host, and providing an initial blueprint for how the phage might someday be modified into a tool for the detection and destruction of anthrax and other potential bioterror agents. The bacteriophage, known as Bacillus anthracis spore-binding phage 8a (or SBP8a, for short), is too small to be seen with a conventional light microscope. To create a portrait of the virus, researchers employed cryo-electron tomography. UTMB assistant professor Marc Morais is senior author of a paper on the study now online in Virology. The news also appears on HealthCanal.com, PhysOrg.com, mediLexicon and Science Codex.


Right out of a movie — serum works against virus
National Journal, Oct. 20, 2011
It’s just like a movie – a mysterious and deadly virus emerges from the jungle; there’s no cure and no vaccine. Researchers try a highly experimental treatment made from human serum, and it works. Continuing to receive coverage is the research on monkeys infected with the deadly Hendra virus responding to a new treatment in which they were given human antibodies. The study’s findings are published in Science Translational Medicine. The news also appears in Red Orbit and Sudan Vision.


Breakthrough in Hendra vaccine
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 20, 2011
Monkeys infected with the deadly Hendra virus responded to a new treatment in which they were given human antibodies, which UTMB researchers have called a "major step forward in combating the virus." In the study… more >>


Universal flu vaccine undergoes testing
Texas Medical Center News, October 1, 2011
A universal flu vaccine that could eliminate the need for an annual flu shot has proven safe when tested on humans. Researchers at UTMB, in collaboration with biotechnology company VaxInnate, tested the vaccine candidate, VAX102, on healthy adults and found it to be safe and to also produce an immune response, indicating it affords a degree of protection. more >>


Universal flu vaccine in the works
KTRK-TV (Ch. 13, Houston), September 7, 2011
What if you could take a flu shot just once and it kept working no matter how the flu viruses changed? Dr. Christine Turley has been working on the universal flu vaccine at UTMB for five years. She’s done the first in-humans tests of it. “By the second dose of vaccine, 100 percent of… more >>


Researchers create new experimental vaccine against chikungunya virus
Guidry News, August 12, 2011
A research team led by UTMB’s Scott Weaver has developed a new candidate vaccine to protect against chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that produces an intensely painful and often chronic arthritic disease that has stricken millions of people in India, Southeast Asia and Africa. … more >>


NIH renews support for Chopra plague vaccine research
Guidry News, August 10, 2011
The National Institutes of Health has awarded UTMB’s Ashok Chopra $1.7 million over the next five years, renewing NIH support for his efforts to find new ways to fight plague. The organism that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, has been the focus of Chopra’s research since just after the… more >>


Universal flu vaccine could mean one shot for life: UTMB, others zero in on vaccine against all strains
Houston Chronicle, August 8, 2011
Researchers from Galveston to Europe are reporting progress on a universal flu vaccine, a shot that would provide protection for years, maybe even a lifetime, against all seasonal and pandemic strains of the virus. Making flu immunization like those for measles or tetanus is finally within reach,… more >>


UTMB vaccine clinical trials showing promise
Galveston County Daily News, July 21, 2011
A universal influenza vaccine has safely produced an immune response in humans. If proven effective, the vaccine could eliminate the practice of creating a new flu vaccine annually. The clinical trials were led by UTMB researchers with biotechnology company VaxInnate and funded by a $9.5 million… more >>


UTMB-led researchers awarded $7.8 million for Gulf spill study
Science News, July 7, 2011
In an effort to determine the vulnerability of affected Gulf Coast communities following last year's BP oil spill, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has awarded a five-year $7.85 million grant to a consortium of university researchers and Gulf Coast community groups led by UTMB… more >>


UTMB researchers awarded $4.8 million to develop Argentine hemorrhagic fever vaccine
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), April 23, 2011
In this week's installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB's Norbert Herzog and David Niesel report that scientists now believe all simian immunodeficiency virus strains across Africa diverged from a common ancestor between 32 thousand and 78 thousand years ago. It's likely that SIV infected humans many times in history and one or more of these viruses turned into HIV. But before the colonization of Africa, infected hunters most likely died before the virus could spread.


Ancient HIV
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), April 23, 2011
In this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel report that scientists now believe all simian immunodeficiency virus strains across Africa diverged from a common ancestor between 32 thousand and 78 thousand years ago. It’s likely that SIV infected humans many times in history and one or more of these viruses turned into HIV. But before the colonization of Africa, infected hunters most likely died before the virus could spread.


On the front vs. infectious disease: UTMB still fighting threats to human health
Houston Chronicle, April 24, 2011
In this guest editorial, UTMB’s Scott Weaver, director of UTMB’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and scientific director of the Galveston National Laboratory, discusses how the battle against infectious disease has always been a priority at UTMB – from the 19th-century days when sailing ships from around the world brought not only cargo into the port of Galveston, but also rats and mosquitoes harboring exotic viruses and bacteria – to today, when UTMB’s GNL houses an infectious disease program described by Science magazine as one that "may well become the center for tropical medicine in the world."


Take steps to grow our scientific workforce
Galveston County Daily News, April 21, 2011
In this guest column, UTMB’s Clifford Houston writes about the T-STEM Center based at UTMB and the wide array of math and science enrichment services it provides to the region’s middle and high schools — including the one-week summer Biomedical and Health Careers Summer Academy for high school students, for which the application deadline is Friday.


UTMB awarded $4.8M to develop vaccine
Galveston County Daily News, April 20, 2011
UTMB researchers, in partnership with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., have received a five-year $4.8 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to produce a new, safer vaccine candidate for Junin virus. Coverage also appears on KHOU.com and in Guidry News.


Accolades — James LeDuc, PhD
Texas Medical Center News, April 15, 2011
James LeDuc, Ph.D., director of the Galveston National Laboratory and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, met recently in Washington, D.C. with other top virologists from more than a dozen countries to establish the Global Virus Network, a new consortium dedicated to identifying and combating some of the world's most dangerous new and existing viral threats. The network was the brainchild of Robert C. Gallo, M.D., director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who is widely known for his discovery of the first human retroviruses, co-discovery of HIV and the development of the HIV blood test. Among the group's goals are to build a network of world experts to help combat viral threats and to build international alliances to conduct research in a more comprehensive manner.


Ebola haemorrhagic fever
The Lancet, March 5, 2011
Thomas W. Geisbert, of UTMB’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, is a co-author of a paper that describes all aspects of the Ebola virus — locations of outbreaks throughout the world in human and simian populations, clinical manifestations, route of infection, host immune response, etc.


Smart superbugs
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), April 9, 2011
In their weekly radio show Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert K. Herzog and David W. Niesel talk about how "superbugs" — bacteria that are hard to kill — are a rampant problem in hospitals.


Scientist gives insect-borne disease to wife during sex, makes virological history
New York Magazine Daily Intel, April 8, 2011
Continuing coverage of a fascinating discovery: UTMB’s Andrew Haddow, a medical entomologist, and Dr. Robert Tesh, a veteran virologist, worked with vector biologist Brian Foy of Colorado State University to uncover the first documented case of human sexual transmission of an insect-borne disease. The paper, scheduled for May 2011 publication in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, was e-published ahead of print last week.


Tuberculosis researchers to converge on UTMB
Guidry News, April 8, 2011
Texas is home to one of the largest and most active communities of researchers working to find ways to fight tuberculosis. Many of those scientists and clinicians are coming to UTMB April 11 for the Texas Tuberculosis Research Symposium, a daylong gathering of biomedical investigators from major TB research programs throughout the state.


Sex after a field trip yields scientific first
Science Now, April 6, 2011
UTMB’s Andrew Haddow, a medical entomologist and Robert Tesh, a veteran virologist, worked with vector biologist Brian Foy of Colorado State University to uncover the first documented case of human sexual transmission of an insect-borne disease.


NASA studies the body’s ability to fight infection
Health Magazine Daily, March 29, 2011
Continuing coverage: UTMB’s Dr. Roberto Garofalo, principal investigator of the Mouse Immunology-2 (MI2) experiment and professor in UTMB’s Department of Pediatrics, is researching RSV infections in children using experiments conducted on mice that have traveled into space onboard NASA’s space shuttle Discovery.


Smoking your genes
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), March 26, 2011
In their weekly radio show Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert K. Herzog and David W. Niesel discuss a new study that shows how smoking can lead to such a wide array of cancers — such as kidney, colon, bladder, and pancreatic. The study looks at how smokers’ gene expression is altered by smoking.


Respiratory syncytial virus inhibits a critical lung anti-inflammatory protein
Biotechdaily.com, March 24, 2011
Continuing to receive coverage: Investigators at UTMB analyzed tissues from children with RSV infections as well as results from experiments conducted on mice.


Deadly Chinese outbreaks linked to new virus
Homeland Security News, March 21, 2011
A new virus that appears to cause a lethal disease came to light in 2006 when villagers in Anhui Province in central China began dying. In December 2009, Xue-jie Yu, an expert on tick-borne disease at UTMB, isolated from a patient’s blood a new phlebovirus. The news also appears in Medical News Today, Guidry News, Bio-Medicine, RedOrbit, LabSpaces.net, ScienceDaily, E Science News, Science Codex, and Infection Control Today.


Pump for perfect blood sugar
Medical Discovery News, March 19, 2011
In their weekly radio show, UTMB’s Norbert K. Herzog and David W. Niesel discuss the development of a new device for people with Type 1 diabetes. The device, not yet available, will automatically administer correct levels of insulin and glucogen based on readings from an implanted sensor.


Smoking incense
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), March 12, 2011
UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss the dangers of the synthetic marijuana products available for sale at gas stations, smoke shops and on the internet.


Faculty Accomplishments, Dr. Cristiana Rastellini
Message from the Provost, March 15, 2011
It is my pleasure to announce that Cristiana Rastellini, MD, Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Internal Medicine, and Microbiology and Immunology and Director of Cellular Transplantation and Transplant Research, has been named one of the 10 most powerful mothers working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by Working Mother's magazine. The award recognizes the accomplishments of the most powerful moms in the country whose inspiration extends far and wide to women and girls. Those selected have at least one child living at home who is 18 years old or younger. Past recipients are from a variety of backgrounds and include First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, as well as high-ranking military and corporate women, and women academicians and researchers.


LeDuc founding member of virus group
Galveston County Daily News, March 10, 2011
James LeDuc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, recently met in Washington, D.C., with top virologists from more than a dozen countries to create a new consortium dedicated to identifying and combating viral threats. LeDuc said the new Global Virus Network “offers an excellent opportunity for scientists here at UTMB, and especially those in the Galveston National Laboratory, to collaborate with virologists from around the world to address some of the most serious diseases threatening humankind.” The news also appears in Guidry News Service.


Sick mice, boiling bubbles: Weird science rides shuttle
MSNBC.com, March 8, 2011
NASA’s space shuttle Discovery left the International Space Station after delivering not just supplies and equipment, but dozens of scientific experiments. Something about spaceflight can make astronauts sick &mdsash; they become more susceptible to infections during flight and immediately afterward, scientists have found. A new study that Discovery’s flight made possible is looking into why this may be, with the aim of keeping astronauts healthy and protecting Earthbound folks with vulnerable immune systems, such as the very old and the very young. The project leader is UTMB’s Roberto Garofalo. The news also appears on Yahoo! News, LiveScience and space.com.


Director of Galveston National Laboratory is founding member of new world virus group
UTMB, March 9, 2011
GALVESTON, Texas — James LeDuc, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, joined the world’s top virologists in establishing a new consortium dedicated to identifying and combating new and existing viral threats.

LeDuc, who also is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, along with representatives from more than a dozen countries, met recently in Washington, D.C. to form the Global Virus Network. The group will be a global clearinghouse for information regarding some of the world’s most dangerous viruses.


Key mechanism of childhood respiratory disease identified
ScienceDaily, March 8, 2011
UTMB Health researchers have identified a critical part of the process by which one of the world’s most common and dangerous early childhood infections, respiratory syncytial virus, causes disease. The discovery could lead to badly needed new therapies for RSV, which in 2005 was estimated to have caused at least 3.4 million hospitalizations and 199,000 deaths among children under five worldwide. The paper appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Lead authors are Dr. Antonella Casola and Dr. Roberto Garofalo. Other authors include Yashoda Hosakote, Dr. Paul Jantzi, Dr. Dana Esham, Heidi Spratt and Alexander Kurosky. The news also appears in Bio-Medicine, HealthCanal, Guidry News, R&D Magazine, e!Science News and Daily India.


NASA studies the body’s ability to fight infection
ScienceDaily, March 6, 2011
Research has shown that the body's immune system is compromised during and after spaceflight. In order to better understand why the body’s mechanisms to fight off infection are weakened, scientists flew 16 mice into space for Discovery’s mission. "The goal of our experiment is to discover what triggers and leads to an increased susceptibility to an infection," said Roberto Garofalo, principal investigator of the Mouse Immunology-2 experiment and a professor in the department of pediatrics at UTMB Health. The news also appears on the NASA website.


Naked truth about scanners
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), March 5, 2011
UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss whole body X-ray-based scanners in this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News. "Two new imaging technologies are being used: Millimeter wave and Backscatter. Millimeter wave scanners use radio waves which have no proven adverse health effects. The other, Backscatter, uses extremely low levels of X-rays to detect objects under a person’s clothing. It’s this technology that some groups argue is harmful to our health." MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


Most powerful moms in STEM
Working Mother, March 3, 2011
UTMB Health Dr. Cristiana Rastellini is named one of the 10 most powerful mothers working in science, technology, engineering and math. She has pioneered pancreatic islet transplantation (lifesaving for diabetes patients) and made strides developing the first artificial intestine.


Powerful microscope helps scientists safely view dangerous pathogens
Texas Medical Center News, March 1, 2011
Badly damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the cryo-electron microscopy laboratory at UTMB Health is returning to full operations. The lab’s W.M. Keck Center for Virus Imaging is the first in the world equipped to provide biosafety level-3 protection — containment and decontamination systems that allow scientists to work safely with agents that may cause serious or lethal disease. The article features UTMB’s Scott Weaver, Michael Sherman and Stanley Watowich.


Portion of ‘Jeopardy’ winnings to go to UTMB
Galveston County Daily News, March 1, 2011
A portion of Watson’s million–dollar prize will help fund UTMB Health’s "Discovering Dengue Drugs — Together" project, a massive computational effort running jointly on IBM "It has been very exciting to have two of the world’s most advanced computing resources support our research to find cures for dengue disease," said UTMB’s Stan Watowich, associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology and lead scientist for the medical branch’s "Discovering Dengue Drugs — Together" project. The news also appears in the Houston Business Journal, Guidry News, Information Week, KTRH-AM (link unavailable) and the Chicago Tribune.


Google Parkinson’s
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Feb. 26, 2011
Up to two percent of people over 65 get Parkinson’s disease, report UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News. One way people get Parkinson’s is through inheriting, in particular, mutations in a gene on chromosome 12. Recently Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, learned he has the mutation. Brin has launched a $50 million effort to speed up the development of new treatments or even a cure should he develop Parkinson’s in his lifetime. MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


3 selected for UT Academy
Feb. 23, 2011
Three University of Texas Medical Branch faculty members are the newest members of the University of Texas Academy for Health Science Education, an organization of distinguished scholars recognized for teaching excellence.

The University of Texas Medical Branch members are Norbert Herzog, professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology; Dr. Ronald Levy, professor of anesthesiology, neuroscience and cell biology; and Dr. Patricia Rogers, professor of pediatrics and family medicine.

The three are among the 12 new members chosen from all six UT health institutions.


Faculty Accomplishments: M&I Faculty Member Inducted into UT Academy of Health Science Education
Feb. 21, 2011
Dr. Herzog is currently Associate Dean for Recruitment and Special Programs in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He is also a member of UTMB’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and the WHO Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases.


Debunking the 5-second rule
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Feb. 19, 2011
A lot of people believe that if you pick up food dropped on the floor in under three to five seconds, it’s safe to eat; however, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel found a study showing this is a myth in this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News. "Within five seconds, bacterial transfer has already occurred. … The safest rule is food that lands on the floor should go in the trash." MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


Smoking drugs
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Feb. 12, 2011
In this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss medical marijuana and the drug’s history of therapeutic use.


$5M microscopy lab brings tiny bugs into focus
Galveston County Daily News, Feb. 9, 2011
Badly damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the cryo-electron microscopy laboratory at UTMB Health is returning to full operations. The lab’s W.M. Keck Center for Virus Imaging is the first in the world equipped to provide biosafety level-3 protection — containment and decontamination systems that allow scientists to work safely with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “agents that may cause serious or lethal disease through the inhalation route of exposure.” The ability to see into this tiny, mysterious world, researchers said, will produce a powerful impact both on human health and understanding of basic biological processes.

[Note: This article was written by Jim Kelly of the UTMB Office of Public Affairs. If you have a story idea that Public Affairs can explore, please contact public.affairs@utmb.edu.]


Imaging center returns after Hurricane Ike
Galveston County Daily News, Feb. 9, 2011
The rebuilding of the world’s first cryo-electron microscopy facility with the ability to safely handle biosafety level-3 viruses was helped by a FEMA reimbursement process that was much more straightforward than those required to fund other reconstruction projects at UTMB. "Basically, we put the whole thing in a big bathtub," said GNL scientific Director Scott Weaver, pointing to a layer of gray, waterproof sealant that rises three feet above the laboratory’s floor and extends around its whole perimeter.


Reversing blindness with stem cell therapy
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Feb. 5, 2011
Scientists in Italy found a way to reverse blindness in people whose corneas were damaged by chemical burns, report UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News. “Although artificial and donated corneas are treatment options, both can involve complications. Another option being tried involves stem cells. … Of the 121 patients who were treated, an astounding 82 (or two-thirds of the patients) got their sight back. Fourteen had partial restoration.” MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


Inside UTMB: Weaver appointed chair at UTMB
Galveston County Daily News, Feb. 2, 2011
News in this week’s Inside UTMB: Scott Weaver has been appointed the John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Human Infections and Immunity; Roger Throndson has been appointed to the Carl E. Schow Chair in oral and maxillofacial surgery; the third lecture in the 16th annual Lefeber Winter Series; the Sealy Center on Aging is looking for volunteers for a new study; visitors to campus and presentations; and Susannah Perkins has joined UTMB Community Clinics in Dickinson.


Radio show expands
Texas Medical Center News, Feb. 1, 2011
UTMB’s Medical Discovery News, a weekly radio show, recently welcomed KRWG-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate in Las Cruces, N.M., as a broadcast partner. This addition brings to 100 the number of stations broadcasting Medical Discovery News, heard in 13 states, Puerto Rico and Monterrey, Mexico.


History of aspirin
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Jan. 29, 2011
In this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss who discovered the "wonder drug" aspirin. "Millions of people over the last century have helped make aspirin the most widely used drug in the world. It's taken to prevent heart attacks and strokes, to treat colon cancer, diabetes and more recently, dementia." MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


Down with the flu
KTRH-AM (740, Houston), Jan. 27, 2011
It’s the time of year when co-workers disappear for days at a time after coming down with the flu. "We haven’t seen the number of laboratory confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations that we saw last year; or even that we’ve seen in most years," said internal medicine Dr. Joan Nichols, associate director at the Galveston National Laboratory. She says the influenza virus is just starting to appear in our area. (Link unavailable.)


Canned energy … NOT!
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Jan. 22, 2011
In last week’s installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss energy drinks. "Energy drinks are popular with young people because they claim to give you extra pep. They contain ingredients such as tuarine, guarana, ginseng, B-vitamins and, most of all, lots of caffeine." MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.


Which way is up?
KUHF-FM (88.7, Houston), Jan. 8, 2011
In this week’s installment of Medical Discovery News, UTMB’s Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. "While it’s happening, you don’t know up from down or left from right. These brief episodes of dizziness can be mild or intense. And they’re triggered by changes in the position of your head. So, moving your head up or down or suddenly rising from or turning over in bed can cause you to feel like the room is spinning. Fortunately, the symptoms usually last less than a minute but it’s possible the effect can linger, making you unsteady." MDN airs locally at 10 a.m. every Saturday on KUHF-FM.