Lab Night

Lab Night

Below you will find descriptions of labs that we featured

in the 2013 Mini-Medical School


Brautigan Lab

Williams Laboratory – Design, development and optimization of medical imaging technologies

Mark Williams, PhD., Associate Professor, Departments of Radiology & Medical Imaging, Biomedical Engineering & Physics.

We will show participants a breast-imaging project involving a new dual modality breast scanner that acquires 3-dimensional mammograms and 3-dimensional maps of imaging tracers within the breast in quick sequence. We are conducting studies to determine the added value of the fused structural (3-D mammogram) and functional (3-D tracer map) images for detecting and characterizing breast lesions compared to current breast imaging techniques.

Bouton Laboratory – Molecular Signals that Drive Breast Cancer Invasion and Metastasis

Amy Bouton, PhD., Associate Professor, Departments of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology

For more than a decade, our group has been performing breast cancer research to try to understand the signals that drive aggressive tumor behaviors.  We focus on a signaling network comprised of three proteins that work in concert to promote breast tumor growth and invasiveness. As we learn more about the ways in which these proteins function within an integrated molecular network, our goal is to identify novel ways with which to inhibit or block these pathways to control tumor growth and metastasis. During the evening, we will introduce you to the systems that we use to study the function and regulation of this molecular network in 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional tissue culture models of breast cancer as well as in clinical breast cancer samples.

Blemker Laboratory – Multi-scale Muscle Mechanics Laboratory

Silva Salinas Blemker, PhD., Associate Professor, Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering & Orthopaedic Surgery

Skeletal muscles are extraordinarily adapted motors that enable us to perform many important functions, from walking to breathing to speech.   How is each muscle’s structure adapted to perform its specialized function in the human body?  How can a maladapted muscle be restored to perform its specific function?  Answering these questions will have important implications on our ability to develop improved treatments for many clinical problems ranging from, for example, movement disorders to speech impairments.  The goal of Multi-scale Muscle Mechanics (“M3”) Lab’s research is to use multi-scale computational and experimental approaches in order to answer the above questions and ultimately lead to improved treatments for muscle-related clinical problems.  In this lab tour, we will demonstrate our experimental and modeling methods used in our lab and describe some recent examples of how these experiments/models have lead to clinically-relevant insights.

Nataro Laboratory - Pediatric Gastrointestinal Diseases
James Nataro, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FAAP Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics
The Nataro laboratory group focuses on diarrhea and dysentery among children in developing countries. We have discovered several new disease-causing organisms, including the one responsible for the large lethal outbreak in Germany in May and June of this year (causing 50 deaths). The laboratory seeks to understand the molecular basis of disease, to develop innovative ways to treat and prevent illness, and also works to understand the burden of diarrhea throughout the developing world. During the evening we will demonstrate the laboratory methods we use to culture the disease-causing organisms and to probe the fundamental pathogenesis of diarrhea.
Herr Laboratory – From Novel Human Gene to the Drugstore Shelf: The
Science Behind SpermCheck

John C. Herr, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Cell Biology
Dr. Herr is a reproductive and developmental cell biologist who studies novel genes involved in sperm and egg production [in the testis and ovary] and the process of fertilization [fusion of sperm and egg]. His lab has named more than 35 previously uncharacterized genes in the human genome that are turned on during formation of sperm and eggs. Some of these genes encode proteins that are useful as targets for contraception, and interestingly, some normally gamete specific proteins are going to be helpful as new targets for cancer therapeutics. Dr. Herr is the inventor of the home sperm test SpermCheck, introduced to consumers on the family planning shelves of Walgreens Drug stores in the spring of 2012. The SpermCheck test uses monoclonal antibodies to measure a sperm specific protein located in the head of the human sperm. Visit Dr. Herr's lab to understand the science behind SpermCheck.
Peirce-Cottler Laboratory – Treating Diabetes with Adult Stem Cells

Shayn Peirce-Cottler, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
The Peirce-Cottler Laboratory is a biomedical engineering laboratory at UVa that studies vascular growth and remodeling by combining experimental and computational systems and bioengineering approaches in order to develop new therapies for tissue engineering. We seek to understand how the smallest blood vessels in our body adapt during health and disease. We then use this knowledge to engineer adult stem cell treatments and identify new drug targets that can affect microvascular growth to regenerate tissues in the body. Our active research areas include diabetes, ischemic disease (stroke, heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease), and obesity.


Stone Laboratory – Heady Topics: The Trauma of Brain Injuries

James R. Stone, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology

We all have heard about possible serious head injury that might occur in high school, college or professional sporting events such as football. Our active military also live with the possibility of repetitive brain trauma from acute or repetitive low-level blast exposure and this is believed to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality in recent armed conflicts. In Dr. Stone’s laboratory you will explore “heady” questions related to improving the clinical diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. Ongoing work includes the design and application of novel molecular imaging probes for the detection of acute and chronic effects of traumatic brain injury. He is also involved with exploring novel ultrasound based approaches for the detection of traumatic brain injury. The goals of his work include determining whether military service members in this environment are at risk for development of mild traumatic brain injury and helping to establish safe stand off limits for low-level blast exposure.


Kovatchev Laboratory – The Artificial Pancreas

Stacey Anderson, MD, Assistant Professor of Research

Sue Brown, PhD., Associate Professor

Departments of Medicine, Endocrinology & Metabolism

Lab Night

The UVA Center for Diabetes Technology (CDT) is a multidisciplinary group of research academicians with specialties in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, System and Information Engineering, Pediatrics and Biomedical Engineering, working collaboratively for the advancement of technology for the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes. Our group has developed the Diabetes Assistant, a portable artificial pancreas platform that runs on an everyday smart phone and can be monitored remotely. During the evening we will give a short presentation of our recent research. We will also demonstrate the DAs, how it interacts with a continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump to control blood sugar in diabetes, and how remote monitoring of the system can be used by research personnel or care partners to provide safety to patients with diabetes.

Yeager Laboratory – Seeing is Believing:  Visualization from Atoms to Organisms

Mark Yeager, MD, PhD., Chair, Department of Molecular Physiology & Biological Physics

The ability to visualize, whether in your mind's eye or in reality, is a fundamental process for understanding just about anything.  Related to biomedical research, the Yeager laboratory uses a range of biophysical methods to visualize the "bricks and mortar" of living systems – proteins, nucleic acids, cells, tissues and organs.  Ultimately, the ability to visualize the engines, gears and levers that comprise the molecular machines within our cells provides crucial insight that informs normal physiology and how this goes awry in diseases.

In this Mini-Med class participants will be exposed to examples of visualization using electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography and magnetic resonance imaging.  The examples span diseases ranging from heart attacks and heart failure, pathogenic viruses like HIV, and channels within the heart that are necessary for the occurrence of every single heartbeat, as well as abnormal heart rhythms that cause sudden death -- on average about every 90 seconds.

The didactic presentation will be followed by a tour of the Snyder Translational Science Building and the instruments used for our experiments.


Slack-Davis Laboratory – Mechanisms that Regulate Ovarian Cancer Metastasis

Jill Slack-Davis, PhD., Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology

The Slack-Davis lab studies ovarian cancer, a disease that affects about 23,000 women a year and results in about 16,000 deaths.  The majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have metastatic disease, which is virtually incurable.  We are interested in understanding the mechanisms that regulate ovarian cancer metastasis and are particularly interested in the communication between the tumor cells and other non-cancer cells at the metastatic site.  Understanding the contribution of the ‘tumor microenvironment’ to ovarian cancer metastasis provides additional therapeutic opportunities to treat women with this disease.  During your visit, you will view ovarian cancer cells growing in culture and learn about the techniques we use to study the interaction between the tumor cells and their environment.

Fox Laboratory - Advanced Microscopy
Jay Fox, Ph.D. Professor and Associate Dean of Research, Department of Microbiology

Stacey Guillot, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Research/Assistant Director, Advanced Microscopy Facility

The Advanced Microscopy Facility (AMF) is a core user and service facility sponsored in part by the School of Medicine.  The AMF was established in 1979 and currently offers research support to an average of 250 investigators annually.  The AMF houses several confocal microscopes, a multi-photon microscope, a transmission electron microscope, and a new field emission scanning electron microscope.  We provide individual consultations and offer training on all of our state of the art instrumentation, as well as ancillary preparatory equipment for electron microscopy.  We work with investigators to develop imaging experiments best suited to help answer their specifics questions.

Purow Laboratory – Developing Novel Treatment Strategies for Brain Cancer
Benjamin Purow, MD Associate Professor, Departments of Neurology
The Purow laboratory is dedicated to better understanding the molecular signaling pathways that underlie brain tumors to develop better and more targeted therapies. Dr. Purow has identified novel targets in glioblastoma, the most common and lethal brain cancer, that we are exploiting with both locally-delivered genetic therapies and also with new drugs.