Bringing New Hope
Through Emerging Fields
We’re on the cutting-edge in some exciting new areas that could solve a world of health problems.
We are transforming medicine through the use of genomics and bioinformatics to understand human health and disease. By learning how the body creates itself out of a single cell, and the mechanisms by which it renews itself throughout life, we are helping to solve some of the mysteries of modern medicine.
Brian M. Berman, MD
Professor and Director, University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine
Claire M. Fraser, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the University of Maryland Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), is exploring the role of the human “microbiome,” a composite of our genes and the genes present in the trillions of microbes that colonize adult bodies. By investigating an area of microbiology that remains largely unexplored, Dr. Fraser hopes to shed light on how we and the microbial communities in our bodies change over time in response to aging, disease, medications, lifestyle, the environment, and other interventions. Our IGS scientists have also completed the genomic sequences of various cold viruses and assembled them into a “family tree” to show how they are related — a powerful tool that may someday lead to the development of the first effective treatments to fight the common cold.
Another School of Medicine scientist, Dr. Curt I. Civin, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, and Director of the University of Maryland Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, is exploring the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells found in the intestines. He is working with an international consortium of scientists to determine if intestinal stem cells can serve as an alternative to the more controversial embryonic stem cells. A largely neglected field of stem cell science, intestinal stem cells are showing high pluripotency, or potential for adaptation, and may be used for treating anything from heart disease to cancers, and much more.
In our University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, founded by Dr. Brian M. Berman, Director of the Center and Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine, we are investigating new approaches to healing and preventing illness. Researcher Lixing Lao, PhD, Professor and Director of Traditional Chinese Medicine Research for the Center, co-published a study linking a cinnamon bark and ginseng herbal formula to an increase in life span of roundworms, which possess some genetic and biochemical similarities to humans. This research may provide insight for future studies on longevity-promoting herbs.
With additional funding for research in these areas, we could discover more precise diagnostics, which could lead to better, more personalized treatments and preventive measures. For example, because death from adverse drug reactions is a leading killer in the U.S., we could use genomics to predict who will have a bad reaction to a drug before it is prescribed, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Philanthropic support of these and other endeavors will ensure future discoveries in the progression toward a new era of “personalized medicine” to improve healthcare for people at home and around the world.