La Jolla News Nuggets


Two La Jolla scientists make the big TIME list

Steffanie Strathdee’s efforts to save her husband’s life — documented by La Jolla Light in May — have made her one of TIME magazine’s 50 Most Influential People in Health Care for 2018, a list identifying people who “have changed the state of health care in America this year, and bear watching for what they do next.”

Strathdee — associate dean of global health sciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine — pursued bacteriophages as a last-resort, experimental treatment to cure UCSD Psychiatry professor Tom Patterson, who was dying of a multidrug-resistant bacterial infection contracted while on vacation in Egypt. Her efforts helped reinvigorate the therapeutic potential of bacteriophages.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized for my efforts to bring phage therapy into the 21st century in North America,” Strathdee said, “but it all started with my single-minded desire to save my husband’s life, and it truly reflects a team effort.”

Also named to TIME’s list was Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, for his scientific innovations in addressing the shortage of human organs for transplant.

Combining gene-editing and stem-cell technologies, Belmonte’s lab was able to grow a rat pancreas, heart and eyes in a developing mouse. They were also able to generate human cells and tissues in early-stage pig and cattle embryos, marking the first step toward generating transplantable human organs using large animals whose organ size, physiology and anatomy are similar to humans’.

“Juan Carlos’ work is at the absolute forefront of an astounding number of biomedical areas with game-changing potential for people’s health,” said Salk president Rusty Gage. “He is very much a scientist and a humanitarian in the mold of all Salk faculty, and we are overjoyed to have his pioneering research acknowledged by a magazine as prominent as TIME.’”

What’s Barbara brewing?

Barbara Bry held her second Brews with Bry event of 2018 on Thursday, Oct. 18 at La Jolla’s Absolution by the Sea. On the tavern’s patio, the San Diego City Council member outlined her current priorities before chatting with about 50 residents who either had unresolved issues or just wanted to say hello.

Bry talked at length about a project she founded called the Workplace Equity Initiative, which addresses sexual-harassment claims and is developing a code of conduct for San Diego employees and employers.

“I had my own Me Too movement experiences early in my career,” Bry revealed. “Won’t go into detail tonight. And as this movement unfolded, I thought, ‘What could we do here in San Diego?”

To formulate the initiative — which Bry said she hopes will be introduced by the end of the year — three facilitated workshops were held in which representatives of San Diego business and educational institution dialogued about their concerns.

La Jolla student holds pre-registration drive

On Friday, Oct. 19, La Jolla High School junior Anabel Foster led a voter pre-registration drive at her school, providing fellow students with applications and information about voting for the 2020 presidential election.

“Voting in all elections is the best way to have the politicians that care about your values,” Foster said in a statement emailed to the Light by her mother, who reported that most students didn’t realize they could pre-register before they were 18 — as long as they turn 18 by the election they wish to vote in.

Once pre-registered, students receive a confirmation postcard from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, followed by another when they turn 18 stating that their registration is active. The deadlines to pre-register, and to register, have already passed.

UC Health: Business as usual during strike

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) strike against the University of California and its health systems — scheduled to run through Thursday, Oct. 25 — is not expected to interfere with operations at any UC San Diego Health hospitals or clinics, according to a press release from UC San Diego Health. All medical facilities will remain open and fully functional, the release stated, with all scheduled surgeries and procedures expected to proceed.

In its second strike this year, AFSCME Local 3299 (the union representing UC System patient care and service workers) is picketing for higher wages for workers and less job outsourcing. Contract negotiations have been ongoing since June, following a three-day May strike in which 53,000 AFSCME members picketed.

ResMed helps kids count up to $10K

For the seventh year, the La Jolla-based ResMed Foundation has awarded a grant to the San Diego Center for Children Academy’s intensive math improvement program.

This year’s award, for $10,000, allows the program to reach 40 students, 15 more than during the 2016-2017 school year.

“The grant will ensure that we can continue to provide, improve and expand this already successful program,” said Moisés Barón, president/CEO of the San Diego Center for Children.

The math program works with students through intensive one-on-one and small group instruction.

Researchers shatter blood-pressure myth

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, have shot down the common assumption that lowering high blood pressure in hypertensive patients damages the kidneys.

The findings — published in the Oct. 23 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine — suggest that lowering systolic blood pressure to less than 120 mm Hg does not damage the kidney organ itself. Instead, any negative changes to clinical results are more likely due to decreased blood flow.

“There has always been debate surrounding how aggressively blood pressure should be treated since more aggressive treatment would require more medications and strain on the kidneys,” said Joachim Ix, chief of nephrology-hypertension at UCSD School of Medicine. “However, we now have evidence that apparent changes in kidney function are predominantly the result of less blood flood, not damage.”

— Compiled by Corey Levitan