Training the next generation of the military's young doctors requires a firm grounding in anatomy and physiology. The Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Genetics (APG) employs a 'systems biology' approach that aids the student in not 'missing the forest for the trees.' This is accomplished through a series of course modules. Students are offered a comprehensive, sequential, intellectually interesting and integrated curriculum for understanding tissue and organ function within a clinically relevant context. Introduction to Structure and Function introduces the student to cell classification, organelle function, and cellular processes, followed by study of the gross anatomy of the human body. An emphasis is placed upon understanding anatomical relationships and the causes and functional consequences of anomalies arising from disease processes. Gross anatomical study of the head and neck region, neuroanatomy, and basic clinical neurology is taught in the second module, Clinical Head and Neck and Functional Neuroscience. Clinical cases are presented and case studies are assigned to students to reinforce their understanding of neurological function. The students return to cellular and subcellular analysis in the third module, Structure and Function of Organ Systems. This module presents an integrated approach to the functions of different cells and organ systems: the functions of muscle, heart, endocrine systems, kidney, respiration, gastrointestinal physiology, hematology and reproduction, and again basic principles are emphasized to underscore clinical relevance. The educational programs of APG are overwhelmingly lauded by medical and graduate students. Dr. Martha Johnson received the Outstanding School of Medicine Civilian Educator Award by the Class of 2003 medical school graduates, and Dr. Juanita Anders was highly praised by the Ph.D. students for her excellence in teaching and mentoring, receiving the School of Medicine Outstanding Biomedical Graduate Education Award.
The Department oversees other educational programs for medical and graduate education. In addition to faculty participation in graduate courses offered by various Ph.D. Programs of the University, APG faculty, in a collaborative project with the National Naval Medical Center's Department of Anesthesiology and the University's Department of Anesthesiology, operates the Patient Simulator Laboratory (PSL). The PSL presents patient simulation-based clinical education for USUHS students and clinicians from local military facilities. To extend the reach of simulation, the PSL recently installed an ultra-high speed Internet-2 Advanced Distance Education Network throughout USUHS with links to the National Naval Medical Center and the National Library of Medicine. APG faculty are also active members of USUHS interdisciplinary programs; the Molecular & Cell Biology and the Neuroscience Graduate Programs. Many graduate students in these programs are undertaking their thesis research in the Department. Future educational initiatives are in the planning stage. APG faculty are preparing a Clinical Genetics curriculum that will be an addition to clinical course instruction of 4th-year medical students.
Scholarly activities abound. APG research programs employ a wide range of anatomical, electrophysiological, biochemical, cellular and molecular biological methods to address medical problems associated with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease, Down Syndrome, Canavan Disease, and central and peripheral nerve injury. APG faculty also have active research programs in hypertension and cardiovascular pathophysiology, neuroimmune responses of gastrointestinal function, and understanding metabolic disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetes. Studies within the Department focus on the regulation of neuronal gene expression, biological clock mechanisms, neuroendocrine secretory processes, the role of glial cells in CNS injury and disease, traumatic brain injury, hemorrhagic shock, neuronal regeneration and plasticity. Several programs employ state-of-the-art approaches, including cell therapy using engineered cells, gene therapy using viral and chemical vectors, knock-out and transgenic mouse models, microarray and mass spectrometry technologies. The Department's research funding is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, The United States Air Force, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Department of Defense/Veterans Head Injury Program, as well as the USUHS Intramural grants program.
Individual Faculty Achievements
- Harvey B. Pollard, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, USU SOM. The Center for Medical Genomics and Proteomics in the Department has become one of ten academic organizations in the U.S. to win substantial support (12' million dollars) from the NIH for the establishment of a Proteomics Center. This contract has allowed the University to acquire a world-class set of mass spectrometers, as well as support personnel, which form the technical basis for proteomic research in the 21st Century. In terms of NIH funding, this moves the Department into the ranks of the top twenty equivalent Departments in U.S. Medical Schools, and provides this crucial research resource to the entire University. We will all therefore stand to benefit as an institution. The focus of the Center is lung disease, with a special interest in the inflammatory flagship genetic disease of cystic fibrosis. One citizen in 20 carries one copy of the mutant gene for cystic fibrosis, and it is the most common autosomal recessive fatal disease in the U.S. Information derived from the Center promises to impact on our understanding of more challenging, but less understood inflammatory diseases of the lung such as asthma, and inflammatory processes in other parts of the body.
- Rosemary C. Borke, Ph. D., Vice Chair for Instruction, Professor, USU SOM Department of anatomy, Physiology and Genetics. Professor Borke's Course, Clinical Head and Neck and Functional Neuroscience, has been a perennial favorite of the first-year medical students. She has made on-going improvements such as the inclusion of additional educational; materials that stress clinical correlations, demonstrating the importance of a firm grounding in the basic sciences. Professor Borke has also produced compact disks (CDs) for instructional purposes in the classroom, as well as for home study.
- Juanita J. Anders, Ph.D., Associate Professor, and Kimberly Byrnes, Ph.D., Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, USU SOM. Light of specific wavelengths can penetrate to different depths of the body. Through its absorption by a cellular photoreceptor, light can modulate basic cellular functions including energy (ATP) production and DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Therefore, light has the potential as a non-invasive therapy for deep tissue repair. Drs. Anders and Byrnes demonstrated that light could increase neuronal survival and regeneration in the injured peripheral nervous system. This work led to a series of experiments on the use of light as a non-invasive treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI). In the United States, approximately 230,000 people live with the effects of SCI and this number increases by 11,000 each year. SCI causes devastating disabilities due to the inability of axons within the central nervous system to regenerate following an injury. While advances in emergency care and rehabilitation allow many SCI patients to survive, methods for reducing the extent of injury and for restoring function are still limited. Drs. Anders and Byrnes, in collaboration with Drs. Waynant and Ilev, colleagues from the Food and Drug Administration, identified that 810nm light could penetrate to the depth of the spinal cord. Light treatment of injured spinal cord with an 810 nm, 150 mW (dosage = 1589 J/cm2) diode laser, acted as an immunosuppressant and improved axonal regeneration and functional recovery. This research suggested that light treatment is a novel and effective treatment for SCI, and in 2003 led to the filing of a Provisional Patent Application and licensing of this technology to PhotoThera, Incorporated.
- Sharon L. Juliano, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, USU SOM. There are numerous disorders of neuronal migration into the neocortex. Impaired migration can lead to human dysfunctions that range from epilepsy to schizophrenia. Factors influencing cortical development and subsequent migration are both genetic and environmental; members of Sharon Juliano's laboratory (Marcin Gierdalski and Sylvie Poluch) have been using both genetic and epigenetic models to obtain better understanding of the impaired mechanisms of neuronal migration. They previously demonstrated that a short interruption of early cortical development during gestation could result in dramatic alterations in radial glial cells, which form an important scaffold for neurons migrating into and forming the cerebral cortex. In collaboration with colleagues from Harvard University, Juliano and Gierdalski determined that a protein of approximately 50 kDa is an endogenous factor in mammalian cortex, which is capable of reorganizing radial glial cells toward their normal morphology. They further established that the likely endogenous factor is neuregulin and that it acts through erbB receptors. The outcome of their studies may clarify both the mechanisms that produce neuronal migration disorders during pregnancy and potential repair of these disorders by systemically investigating the factors involved in several structural and neurochemical elements that contribute to impaired migration. Their findings were published in a special issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex, which commemorated the currant status of research on neocortical development.