Dr. Ji Receives Prestigious Award

Ru-Rong Ji, PhD

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Ru-Rong Ji, distinguished professor of anesthesiology, has been selected to receive the prestigious 2020 American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Excellence in Research Award. It recognizes individuals for outstanding achievement in research who has or is likely to have an important impact on the practice of anesthesiology. The individual’s work represents a body of original, mature and sustained contribution to the advancement of the science of anesthesiology. This is only one of two awards presented each year by the ASA to recognize the research accomplishments of members of our specialty.

“Several current and previous members of this department have received this award, and I am very proud to be one of them,” says Ji, chief of basic pain research and co-director of the department’s Center for Translational Pain Medicine (CTPM). “I really appreciate the full support I have received from the department over the last eight years.”

Ji’s work has significant translational potential in almost all areas of pain medicine. He currently serves as the director of the Sensory Plasticity and Pain Research Laboratory. Ji’s research focuses on molecular and cellular mechanisms of chronic pain, including but not limited to mediators of inflammation and pain, neuropathic pain, and cancer pain. He is internationally-recognized for his contributions to demonstrating critical roles of MAP kinase signaling pathways, glial cells, and neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of chronic pain. His work has demonstrated powerful antinociceptive actions of pro-resolution lipid mediators (e.g., resolvins). His lab has shown that resolvins are among the most potent inhibitors for inflammatory pain and TRP channels. He also determined the down-stream GPCR signaling in macrophages and sensory neurons that mediates the potent actions of these lipid mediators. Recently, Ji’s work has focused on unique neuronal signaling of pattern recognition receptors, such as toll-like receptors (TLRs) and their contribution to pain and itch. And, Ji is notably among the first to establish a connection between mediators of cancer and pain processing showing that tumor cells produce PD-L1 to suppress not only the immune system, but also pain perception permitting cancer growth and metastasis. Ji also has established a broad collaboration with CTPM and Duke University School of Medicine faculty members to develop novel pain therapeutics.

“Dr. Ji is an outstanding scientist and colleague. He has a keen wit and is able to move scientific thought to the next level. Furthermore, he has the ability to implement his thoughts and ideas into productive, high-impact research. He clearly merits this award,” says Dr. William Maixner, vice chair for research and co-director of the CTPM.

Ji lectures internationally and reviews papers for numerous international journals. His research has been published in more than 200 peer reviewed manuscripts in high-impact journals, such as Science and Nature. Ji is one of 54 Duke researchers who made the global list of ‘Highly Cited Researchers’ for 2019; a list he also made in 2018. Ji also serves on editorial boards of Anesthesiology, Pain, Journal of Neuroscience, Neuroscience, and Neuroscience Bulletin. He previously served as an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, before joining the Duke faculty in 2012. He earned a PhD in neurobiology at Shanghai Institute of Physiology and completed postdoctoral training at Peking (Beijing) University Medical School, Karolinska Institute, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Please join us in congratulating Ji on receiving this well-deserved award.

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Frito-Lay Honors Couple’s Sacrifice for Patient Care with 76K Bags of Chips

By Morag Maclachlan, Duke Health

Dr. Melanie Hollidge and her husband, Murray Lubja

Dr. Melanie Hollidge and her husband, Murray Lubja

Melanie Hollidge, MD, PhD, jokes that her anesthesiology and critical care medicine colleagues at Duke University Hospital (DUH) say she’s “all that and a bag of chips.”

The phrase describes someone you believe is all that and more. And in this case, it can also be taken literally as Hollidge’s husband worked with Frito-Lay to surprise Duke Health with a donation of 76,752 bags of chips.

“He knows I like to take a bag of chips with me when I work the overnight shift,” Hollidge said. “He saw an ad on TV from Frito-Lay asking people to share stories of how they are supporting their community during the pandemic. So, he submitted our story.”

76,000 bags of chips from Frito-LayHollidge and her husband, Murray Lubja, are originally from Ontario, Canada. When it became clear in mid-March that COVID-19 was quickly spreading throughout the United States, the couple made a difficult decision. Lubja, who has three chronic immunocompromising conditions, would return to Canada so Hollidge could care for patients with COVID-19 without the risk of exposing him. They haven’t seen each other in person since.

“I am so lucky to have such a supportive partner. Throughout my career, he has never once complained when I’ve worked late or picked up extra shifts,” Hollidge said. “He understood that I wanted to keep him safe and that I needed to be here. I don’t see this as a job. It is a privilege to serve patients in their most vulnerable time.”

The Frito-Lay donation is one of the largest food donations Duke Health has received since the COVID-19 crisis, said Aaron West, CPPS, the administrative director at the DUHS Patient Safety and Quality office. Robin Thomas, executive director of Engineering and Operations at Duke Health, said four members of her team unloaded the shipment of 26 pallets and will assist with distributing the snacks across the health system.

“I’m really grateful to Frito-Lay for responding to Murray’s request with such a big gesture,” Hollidge said. “I hope it brings a smile to people’s faces because I’m sure there are lots of coworkers making sacrifices to put patient care first.”

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Study in Mice Suggests Post-Surgical Delirium Caused by Inflammation

Niccolò Terrando, BSc (hons), DIC, PhDAlzheimer’s disease patients who undergo orthopedic or other surgeries frequently develop post-surgical delirium, often leading to a poor recovery and a higher risk of dying.

The cause of this acute disruption in the patient’s mental status is largely unknown, but previous studies have suggested a link to some intrinsic response to surgical trauma itself, the multifaceted perioperative environment, and patient-specific factors that altogether contribute to post-surgical delirium.

In a study using mice led by Duke Health researchers, a new finding suggests that inflammation, especially as it impacts the blood-brain barrier in older and more frail subjects, amplifies neurodegenerative processes and drives the development of post-surgical delirium. The study published online April 15 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The blood-brain barrier has often been under-appreciated in the context of perioperative neurocognitive disorders, such as delirium,” said senior author Niccolò Terrando, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine. “This study provides evidence that a systemic response to surgery triggers a series of events that enables inflammation to breach the brain’s gatekeeper.”

Terrando and colleagues studied the effects of orthopedic surgeries in older mice with the pathological features of human Alzheimer’s disease. These animals underwent an orthopedic fracture model and the researchers traced how post-surgical delirium unfolds.

Notably, inflammation disrupted the blood-brain barrier, especially in older and more vulnerable animals, and caused rapid accumulation of amyloid beta (a key protein dysregulated in the Alzheimer’s disease brain), which then altered the function of immune cells in the central nervous system, thus resulting in post-surgical delirium.

“We described a neurovascular pathology that drives the development of postoperative delirium as a result of surgical trauma, which contributes to a rapid accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain,” Terrando said. “This may represent a unique molecular signature of delirium superimposed on dementia and a potential target for interventions.”

Terrando said future studies will focus on how surgery impacts the blood-brain barrier and potential ways to curtail this neuroinflammatory response in older surgical patients and, particularly, those with Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to Terrando, study authors include Ping Wang, Ravikanth Velagapudi, Cuicui Kong, Ramona M. Rodriguiz, William C. Wetsel, Ting Yang, Miles Berger, Harris A. Gelbard and Carol A. Colton.

The study received support from the National Institutes of Health (R01AG057525, R21 AG055877-01A1, R03 AG064260-01, K76-AG057022); the Duke Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center (P30AG028716); the Duke Anesthesiology Department; the Alzheimer’s Association. A full list of supporters is provided in the study.

Source: Duke Health news release (Durham, NC – April 15, 2020)

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Dr. Wischmeyer Earns Education Award

Paul E. Wischmeyer, MD, EDICThe American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) has selected Duke Anesthesiology’s Paul Wischmeyer, MD, EDIC, as the 2020 recipient of the Excellence in Nutrition Support Education Award. He was selected by national/international nominations by his peers and colleagues for this award, which recognizes a clinical nutrition educator’s excellence in the delivery of professional education.

According to Wischmeyer, this is among the highest awards for the education of dietitians, pharmacists, physicians, and other practitioners that ASPEN bestows.

“I am extremely honored to be nominated and chosen for this award by my peers in the nutrition field recognizing my contributions to nutrition education. Without doubt, teaching and lecturing on nutrition is one of my greatest career and life passions,” says Wischmeyer, professor of anesthesiology and associate vice chair for clinical research within Duke Anesthesiology. He also serves as the director of the TPN/Nutrition Support Team at Duke University Hospital.

“Clinical nutrition interventions, and the dietitians and others who provided it, have played an essential role in saving my life many times over during my ongoing hospitalizations and surgeries from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Thus, my entire career has been committed to giving back to those who have given me so much to me, by focusing on the education of dietitians, pharmacists, physicians and patients on the critical role nutrition plays in patient outcomes and how to provide the best evidenced-based care for those we care for.”

Wischmeyer received this award virtually on March 30 at the ASPEN 2020 Nutrition Science and Practice Conference.

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