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WesternU COMP-Northwest medical students’ research featured at annual symposium

by Michelle Steinhebel

November 2, 2017

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The WesternU COMP-Northwest Research Club will host a Research Symposium from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at the medical school, 200 Mullins Drive.

The symposium will feature five student-led research projects from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest. The public is welcome to attend. Refreshments and light fare will be served at the event.

The following are short summaries of the projects featured at the symposium:

  • “Characterization Tetraspanin-2 of a Wildlife Parasite to Enhance Vaccine Efforts Against Human Schistosomiasis,” by Janyne Mallender and Thomas Maehara, COMP-Northwest students; and Michelle L. Steinauer, PhD, assistant professor of basic medical sciences, COMP-Northwest. With more than 200 million people infected worldwide, schistosomiasis is second to only malaria as the most devastating socioeconomic parasitic infection in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat schistosomiasis, vaccine projects targeting the extracellular domain of the transmembrane protein tetraspanin 2 have begun. The researchers’ goal was to characterize the tetraspanin 2 gene of S. rodhaini to compare to that of S. mansoni as a first step in determining the potential problem of gene introgression to vaccine efforts.


  • “Do schistosome parasites affect behavior via the microbiome?” by Britney Hyun and Thomas Maehara, COMP-Northwest students; Alexis Perret, Ecole Nationale Veterinaire d’Alfort, France; Devin Drill, COMP-Northwest animal care technician; Kathy Magnusson, DVM, PhD, professor, Oregon State University; and Michelle Steinauer, PhD, assistant professor of basic medical sciences, COMP-Northwest. This study aimed to examine the effects of schistosome infection on the cognitive ability and behavior of mice. Through this project, researchers found significant increases in infected groups of obsessive-compulsive behaviors and an impaired ability to develop spatial bias for long- and short-term memory.


  • “Rural Kids’ Cooking Camp Emphasizing a Plant-Based Diet Survey Study,” by Leah Nelson, Kristina Van Nuys, and Molly Weatherholt, COMP-Northwest students; and Louise Muscato, PhD, assistant dean for medical education, COMP-Northwest. In this study, students designed and managed a week-long cooking camp for children ages 7-13 that offered cooking and nutrition lessons with an emphasis on a plant-based diet. This study involved 34 participants who attended the camp. A pre- and post-camp survey was offered to measure the knowledge and motivation of the participants in plant-based nutrition. The post-survey analysis shows increased interest in a plant-based diet as well as improved nutritional knowledge.


  • “An Algorithm for Constructing a Broad Differential Diagnosis for Joint Pain: A Case Report” by Natalia Bailey, COMP-Northwest medical student and John T. Pham, DO, assistant dean of COMP-Northwest. Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is an uncommon debilitating disease process that requires immediate treatment, but the diagnosis can be easily missed. The purpose of this report is to emphasize the importance of a broad differential in order to avoid overlooking important diseases and delaying care for patients with “joint pain.” Additionally, researchers will present an algorithm to specify a clinical diagnostic criteria of “joint pain” in order to improve the quality of care for patients suffering from PMR.


  • “Penetration Chopstick Injury in the Lateral Soft Palate in a Toddler and the Subsequent Hemiplegic Syndrome: A Case Report,” by Syna Daudfar and Codee Gorman, COMP-Northwest students; and John T. Pham, DO, assistant dean of COMP-Northwest. Unfortunately, lateral soft palate penetration injuries in children are possible and may result in lifelong deficits. After evaluating this rare case, the team of researchers recommends prompt physical examination and risk stratification. Researchers stress that patients with physical examination findings consistent with lateral soft palate impalement and lateral mandible tenderness are at high risk and should be monitored closely. Researchers found a lack of consensus regarding the best management algorithm due to the limited number of cases reported. Nonetheless, researchers encourage physicians to prescribe antibiotic therapy with coverage of the oral flora and to consider hospitalization in high risk patients.

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