Medical Center Researchers Honored for Excellence

October 6, 2003

Wake Forest University School of Medicine has honored five of its researchers with awards for excellence:

W. Gregory Hundley, M.D., of Winston-Salem, associate professor of cardiology and radiology, received the “New Investigator in Clinical Sciences Award,” for his work using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the heart.

Hundley and colleagues have shown that MRI can effectively diagnose blocked vessels that supply the heart. The test is just as accurate as the more invasive cardiac catheterization procedure, in which a catheter is threaded into the vessels. The team’s current work is with breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Up to a half of these patients can experience a reduction in the heart’s pumping ability as a side effect of the therapy. Hundley and colleagues hope to use MRI to detect early heart injury and predict which patients will suffer the damage before it occurs – so that treatment can be adjusted.

Hundley is a native of Richmond, Va.. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. He completed his residency and fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

David R. Riddle, Ph.D., of Clemmons, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy, received the “New Investigator in Basic Sciences Award” for his work on the effects of growth factors on central nervous system development and aging.

Riddle’s research team works to determine how insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is produced normally by the body, affects areas of the brain critical for learning and memory. IGF-1 declines significantly in older individuals and Riddle’s team believes that this age-related decline may compromise the function of neurons involved in learning and memory and make them more vulnerable to damage, such as may occur with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The team hopes that their work will lead to new treatments to prevent or reverse age-related declines in memory.

Riddle is a native of Hendersonville and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, where he was a Morehead Scholar. After receiving his doctorate degree from the University of Michigan, he completed postdoctoral training at Duke University School of Medicine.

James F. Toole, M.D., of Winston-Salem, Teagle Professor of Neurology, won the “Established Investigator in Clinical Sciences Award,” for his many contributions to the field of stroke research. During the awards ceremony lecture, Toole discussed advances in the field of stroke prevention and treatment, such as the use of ultrasound as a non-invasive way to detect blockages in the blood vessels leading to the brain. Toole helped to direct a national research study that found that a surgery to unblock clogged vessels in the neck, called endarterectomy, was more effective than medication. Currently, he is leading an international study of whether dietary folic acid can reduce the risk of a second stroke.

Folic acid lowers levels of homocysteine, which has been associated with a buildup of fatty deposits in the blood vessels.

Toole is a graduate of Princeton University and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. He completed his internship and residency at the University of Pennsylvania and was a Fulbright Scholar.

Carol C. Cunningham, Ph.D., of Winston-Salem, received the “Established Investigator in Basic Sciences Award.” His research focuses on the effects of alcohol consumption on metabolism in the brain and liver.

Cunningham’s lecture was on the development of alcoholic liver disease, a progressive disease that can eventually lead to cirrhosis. About 15 percent of alcoholics develop cirrhosis, or end-stage liver disease. A current hypothesis is that the disease develops as part of an inflammatory response.

Cunningham, however, believes that the metabolism of alcohol alters liver cell function and that certain cells become oxygen-starved and unable to produce adenosine triphosphate, a source of energy that is required for cell repair. He is working to prove his theory in animal studies.

Cunningham received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Oklahoma State University and his doctorate degree from the University of Illinois. He completed postdoctoral training in Biochemistry at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Samuel A. Deadwyler, Ph.D., of Winston-Salem, also received the “Established Investigator in Basic Sciences Award.” His research focuses on memory and cognition and the ways in which drugs act on the brain. Deadwyler has studied the hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores memories, for more than 25 years. He focuses on how the hippocampus encodes and processes information and has been responsible for several insights into how it performs short-term memory. In addition, his research has also focused on the effects of abused substances on memory and reward and the effects on brain function following long-term exposure to these substances.

Current projects include evaluating potential medications to improve performance in sleep deprived individuals as well as investigations into prosthetic devices to preserve hippocampal function after brain damage or trauma.

Deadwyler received his doctorate degree from the State University of New York and completed a seven-year term as research professor at the University of California, Irvine. He has been supported by a National Institutes of Health Career Scientist Award for more than 17 years.

The awards were presented at the seventh annual research awards ceremony on Sept. 30.


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