Great science stems from stem cells

U-M researchers study a wide range of diseases using power of cells that can become anything


Imagine a cell with the power to become anything – a heart cell, a brain cell, a skin cell, a bone cell. That’s what scientists call a stem cell.

Today, on Stem Cell Awareness Day, we’ve pulled together a collection of links to showcase how University of Michigan scientists have harnessed the power of these cells to do amazing research of their own, on a wide range of diseases.

Stem cells can help scientists understand how different diseases arise, and how they develop and cause symptoms.

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Out of tragedy, hope

Medical student scholarship in honor of Paul DeWolf gets its first recipient, and continues to raise funds for future students

DeWolf_P blogOn a hot July day in 2013, the world changed forever for the DeWolf family of Schoolcraft, Michigan.

The police came to the house to tell them their son Paul, one of the most promising members of his U-M Medical School class, had been found dead in his off-campus medical fraternity.

The senseless tragedy of Paul DeWolf’s shooting, which happened during a robbery gone wrong, rocked Thom and Kristine’s world, and that of Paul’s siblings Joshua and Rebekah. It also shook the Medical School community to the core.

But then something remarkable happened.

The DeWolfs, and Paul’s classmates, professors and friends, decided they wouldn’t let his death be in vain. Though nothing could bring him back, his loss would be the spark for a new scholarship that would let other promising future doctors attend U-M.

Donations started to pour in, from all over the state and nation, to honor Paul. In amounts small and large, people gave so that other medical students could carry on where he could not.

In less than a year, they raised enough money to create the Paul DeWolf Memorial Scholarship, and ensure it will last for generations to come.

This August, the first recipient of that scholarship — James Mossner of Frankenmuth, Mich. – donned the short white coat with a maize block M, the uniform of a U-M medical student. Today, he spoke to Medical School alumni at their reunion about what this honor means to him.

Before he spoke, this video played:

Mossner’s partial scholarship will mean he will graduate with less debt, which can make a difference in a medical student’s career path.

Thom, Kristineand Rebekah DeWolf, with scholarship recipient Jim Mossner, at the Medical School tree planted in Paul DeWolf's memory

Thom, Kristine and Rebekah DeWolf, with scholarship recipient Jim Mossner, at the Medical School tree planted in Paul DeWolf’s memory

Once enough dollars are raised, students selected for the DeWolf Scholarship could someday attend medical school for free.

That’s the vision the DeWolfs are working toward now – to raise awareness among those who knew Paul, or were inspired by his story, and encourage them to give.

Paul DeWolf never got a chance to practice medicine. But he touched many lives during his remarkable and too-short life.

Now, his legacy could help tomorrow’s doctors make a difference in far more lives.


Take the next step:

  • Give to the Paul DeWolf Scholarship Fund online via credit card:
  • Or, mail a check payable to The University of Michigan, with a memo line of “Paul DeWolf Memorial Scholarship-798682”, to the UMHS Office of Medical Development, 1000 Oakbrook Dr., Suite 100, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
  • Learn more about applying to the U-M Medical School, including all financial aid options

U-M Medical School logoSince graduating its first class of six students in 1851, the U-M Medical School has been a leader in preparing the physicians and scientists of the future, conducting pathbreaking research and working with the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers to deliver outstanding care of all kinds. With top-tier national and international rankings for education & research funding, more than 3,000 faculty and nearly 1,900 students and advanced trainees, the school is truly one of the nation’s leaders and best.

An inconclusive genetic test result: what does it mean?

Questions you can ask to help understand

An inconclusive genetic test result is called a VUS, for genetic variant of unknown significance

Genetic test results are either positive, negative, or less commonly, VUS. This stands for genetic variant of unknown significance.

Most results of genetic testing for inherited susceptibility for cancer are either negative (meaning no gene mutation or change was found) or positive (meaning a gene mutation that causes an increased risk for cancer was found). However, a small portion of tests result in an inconcolusive genetic test result, or what is termed a variant of unknown or uncertain significance, or VUS.

A VUS is a change in the normal sequence of a gene, where the significance of the change is unclear until further study of a sufficiently large population. Complete gene sequencing often identifies many variants for a given gene. Continue reading

Chronic pain experience inspires new surgical offering

U-M physicians work with local couple to bring peripheral nerve surgery to Ann Arbor


David L. Brown, MD, addresses the attendees and introduces A. Lee Dellon’s lecture, “Peripheral nerve surgery in 2015.”

After an accident, Sonya Persia went through several back, hip and neck surgeries, but new pain in her legs and feet never went away. Once Sonya and her husband Ray realized there are options beyond pain medication to improve her quality of life, they wanted to help others dealing with the same thing.

“Nobody knew what to do,” Ray Persia said, but they finally read an article about a procedure that fixes chronic pain caused by injury and/or compression of nerves.

The Persias traveled out of state for the surgeries, and now the couple from Highland, Mich., are advocates and donors, helping to bring the option of peripheral nerve surgery to patients at the U-M Health System.

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Easy tips you need when planning for an emergency

Safety preparedness doesn’t stop in September


Even though National Preparedness Month is coming to an end today, there are easy preparedness steps you can take ALL year to keep your family safe.

Despite the best planning, accidents, injuries, and medical emergencies are unavoidable. Fortunately, thousands of emergency physicians are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to take care of you and your family when you need it most.

However, there are some common sense preparedness tools you can use to lower your risk of injury. By planning ahead, you can be prepared, and keep you and your family safe when the unexpected occurs. Continue reading

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, September 26


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 71,000 children under the age of 18 visit emergency departments in this country every year because of accidental ingestion of medications. They also estimate 44 people die every day in the U.S. due to abuse of prescription medications.

As an emergency physician, I have seen my share of these tragedies.  From a child suffering seizures from a parent’s smoking cessation aid, to the tragic death of a young adult from prescription pain medication abuse, these cases devastate families.

According to federal data from 2010, the nation’s emergency departments see approximately 1.3 million patients annually for pharmaceutical misuse and abuse.  Many of these visits could be prevented.

Often, simple precautions can keep children and others safe from accidental or unintentional overdose. One of the simplest ways to prevent medication misuse is by removing the threat from your home.

Saturday, September 26, 2015 is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.  Many local businesses and law-enforcement agencies will be collecting medications for appropriate disposal. Continue reading