Category Archives: Health and Medicine

A Closer Look at Alzheimer’s Disease

The clinical and research perspectives on Alzheimer’s disease converge in the latest installment of “A Closer Look.” Douglas Galasko, MD shares the basics of Alzheimer’s including biomarkers of the disease, current treatment options, and what physicians know. Larry Goldstein, PhD explains how researchers are using stem cell technology to search for new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s. An informative Q& A moderated by Alysson Muotri, PhD highlights the work to come and the practical questions surrounding new treatment possibilities.

“A Closer Look” aims to share emerging research and clinical strategies to help patients be informed and empowered. Take a look at our archive for in depth presentations on Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, and more.

Watch A Closer Look At…Alzheimer’s Disease.

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A Deep Look into COVID and a New World of Innovation

Along with global health and economic devastation, the COVID-19 pandemic has forged an unprecedented path to research and education innovation. Bold scientific advances and cooperation led to a novel vaccine developed in record time, groundbreaking tools for detecting viruses and a pioneering vision for safely educating students. Gain an in-depth look at the trailblazing insights and innovations that led to the broad success of UC San Diego’s Return to Learn program with Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, along with scientists leading groundbreaking innovations related to detecting and analyzing SARS-CoV-2, as well as the future of at-home diagnostic testing in response to COVID-19.

Watch A Deep Look into COVID and a New World of Innovation.

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The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis

The steady and alarming rise in antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest challenges to public health and modern medicine. The U.S. CDC estimates that drug-resistant bacteria sicken more than 2 million people annually, causing 23,000 deaths and resulting in $20 billion in excess health-care costs and an additional $35 billion in lost productivity. The antibiotic resistance crisis is particularly devastating in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where such infections strike the most vulnerable patients with weak immune systems or chronic diseases.

Dr. Victor Nizet, a physician-scientist and member of the UC San Diego faculty for almost 20 years, explains that the roots of our current dilemma are multifactorial. Overzealous use of antibiotics in both clinical and agricultural settings, the departure of major pharmaceutical companies from antibiotic development (viewed as unprofitable), and simple Darwinian evolution of microbes exposed to life-or-death selective pressures each contribute profoundly. Can we, through public awareness, changes in medical practice, and scientific innovation, lift ourselves out of the hole that we have dug?

In the face of the exploding resistance crisis, Dr. Nizet and colleagues have turned their attention to discovering innovative future solutions that go “beyond antibiotics” to help patients with serious infections. These include strategies to strip the bacteria of their virulence factors and toxins to render them harmless, approaches to boost the natural antibacterial killing activity of our own white blood cells, and studies to understand how antibiotics and other existing drugs may work to cure infection in partnership with our immune system – not just how they work in a test tube. Dr. Nizet is spearheading a new initiative involving nearly 50 UCSD faculty named the “Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes” or CHARM, which will make its debut later this year.

Watch The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis – Exploring Ethics .

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Radiation Oncology

Cancer treatments are advancing at an astounding pace, with newer therapies providing better outcomes, longer life, and greater chance for cure. Radiation therapy uses carefully targeted doses of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. The goal is to use high-dose X-rays to remove the cancer, keep it from spreading, or improve patients’ quality of life by relieving pain and other symptoms.

Radiation therapy plays an essential role in the treatment of many cancers and innovations in radiation treatments have similarly led to improved outcomes in both survival and quality of life.

In this series, UCSF radiation oncologists explore the latest advances in the science, technology, and treatment of cancer using modern radiation therapy.

Browse more programs in Innovations In Cancer Treatment: Radiation Therapy in the Modern Era.

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When the Drug is Alive

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most pressing global health issues of the 21st Century. In 2016, epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee was involved in a remarkable case where she and her colleagues revived a hundred year old forgotten cure – bacteriophage therapy – which saved her husband’s life from a deadly superbug infection.

Strathdee and her husband Tom Patterson were vacationing in Egypt when Tom came down with a stomach bug. Steffanie dosed Tom with an antibiotic and expected the discomfort to pass. Instead, his condition turned critical.

Local doctors at an Egyptian clinic, an emergency medevac team and then a German hospital failed to cure him. By the time Tom reached the world-class medical center at UC San Diego, where both he and Steffanie worked, bloodwork revealed why modern medicine was failing: Tom was fighting one of the most dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world.

Frantic, Strathdee combed through research old and new and came across phage theory: the idea that the right virus, aka “the perfect predator,” can kill even the most lethal bacteria. Phage treatment had fallen out of favor almost 100 years ago, after antibiotic use went mainstream. Now, with time running out, she appealed to phage researchers all over the world for help and together they achieved a major medical breakthrough.

Since that experience, UC San Diego faculty have used intravenous phage therapy to successfully treat superbug infections in over a dozen other compassionate use cases, including the first use of a genetically modified phage cocktail. In 2018, the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics (IPATH) was launched at UC San Diego, the first dedicated phage therapy center in North America.

In this presentation, Strathdee shares the details of her family’s story and discusses ethical issues related to treating bacterial infections with viruses, where the drug is ‘alive.’

Watch When the Drug is Alive: Treating Superbug Infections with Bacteriophage Therapy.

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