Anatomy, Physiology & Genetics

APG Contact Info

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
4301 Jones Bridge Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
Phone: (301) 295-3200

APG Achievements

The Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics (APG) is actively involved in educating the next generation of military physicians and leaders. The APG faculty play leading roles in six of the seven organ system-based ‘modules’ that make-up the 18 month Pre-Clerkship curriculum Two Module Directors, Dr. Stephen Rothwell (Musculoskeletal System and Skin) and Dr. David Mears (Neuroscience), are members of the APG faculty. 

The theme of the medical school curriculum is Molecules to Military Medicine and true to this mission the APG faculty teaches the core scientific concepts ranging from gross human anatomy to the molecular basis of human disease. The education leaders of the APG Department oversee the placement and delivery of lectures, laboratory exercises and small group sessions associated with anatomy, histology, physiology, cell biology, embryology and neuroscience components of the modular curriculum. The APG faculty are true educational innovators, developing new approaches to reach out to students to stay at the forefront of education trends. These efforts of the faculty have been well received by the medical students and APG faculty members have been named as the Civilian Educator of year by the graduating classes of 2012, 2013 and 2015.

APG Graduate Education

The Department oversees other educational programs for medical and graduate education. In addition to faculty participation in graduate courses offered by various Ph.D. Programs of the University, APG faculty, in a collaborative project with the National Naval Medical Center's Department of Anesthesiology and the University's Department of Anesthesiology, operates the Patient Simulator Laboratory (PSL). The PSL presents patient simulation-based clinical education for USUHS students and clinicians from local military facilities. To extend the reach of simulation, the PSL recently installed an ultra-high speed Internet-2 Advanced Distance Education Network throughout USUHS with links to the National Naval Medical Center and the National Library of Medicine. APG faculty are also active members of USUHS interdisciplinary programs; the Molecular & Cell Biology and the Neuroscience Graduate Programs. Many graduate students in these programs are undertaking their thesis research in the Department. Future educational initiatives are in the planning stage. APG faculty are preparing a Clinical Genetics curriculum that will be an addition to clinical course instruction of 4th-year medical students.

APG Scholarly Activities

Scholarly activities abound. APG research programs employ a wide range of anatomical, electrophysiological, biochemical, cellular and molecular biological methods to address medical problems associated with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease, Down Syndrome, Canavan Disease, and central and peripheral nerve injury. APG faculty also have active research programs in hypertension and cardiovascular pathophysiology, neuroimmune responses of gastrointestinal function, and understanding metabolic disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetes. Studies within the Department focus on the regulation of neuronal gene expression, biological clock mechanisms, neuroendocrine secretory processes, the role of glial cells in CNS injury and disease, traumatic brain injury, hemorrhagic shock, neuronal regeneration and plasticity. Several programs employ state-of-the-art approaches, including cell therapy using engineered cells, gene therapy using viral and chemical vectors, knock-out and transgenic mouse models, microarray and mass spectrometry technologies. The Department's research funding is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, The United States Air Force, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Department of Defense/Veterans Head Injury Program, as well as the USUHS Intramural grants program.

Individual Faculty Achievements

Harvey B. Pollard, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, Department of Anatomy, Physiology & Genetics, USU SOM

The Center for Medical Genomics and Proteomics in the Department has become one of ten academic organizations in the U.S. to win substantial support (12' million dollars) from the NIH for the establishment of a Proteomics Center. This contract has allowed the University to acquire a world-class set of mass spectrometers, as well as support personnel, which form the technical basis for proteomic research in the 21st Century. In terms of NIH funding, this moves the Department into the ranks of the top twenty equivalent Departments in U.S. Medical Schools, and provides this crucial research resource to the entire University. We will all therefore stand to benefit as an institution. The focus of the Center is lung disease, with a special interest in the inflammatory flagship genetic disease of cystic fibrosis. One citizen in 20 carries one copy of the mutant gene for cystic fibrosis, and it is the most common autosomal recessive fatal disease in the U.S. Information derived from the Center promises to impact on our understanding of more challenging, but less understood inflammatory diseases of the lung such as asthma, and inflammatory processes in other parts of the body.

Rosemary C. Borke, Ph. D.

Vice Chair for Instruction, Professor, USU SOM Department of anatomy, Physiology & Genetics

Professor Borke's Course, Clinical Head and Neck and Functional Neuroscience, has been a perennial favorite of the first-year medical students. She has made on-going improvements such as the inclusion of additional educational; materials that stress clinical correlations, demonstrating the importance of a firm grounding in the basic sciences. Professor Borke has also produced compact disks (CDs) for instructional purposes in the classroom, as well as for home study.

Juanita J. Anders, Ph.D., Associate Professor &
Kimberly Byrnes, Ph.D., Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, USU SOM

Light of specific wavelengths can penetrate to different depths of the body. Through its absorption by a cellular photoreceptor, light can modulate basic cellular functions including energy (ATP) production and DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Therefore, light has the potential as a non-invasive therapy for deep tissue repair. Drs. Anders and Byrnes demonstrated that light could increase neuronal survival and regeneration in the injured peripheral nervous system. This work led to a series of experiments on the use of light as a non-invasive treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI). In the United States, approximately 230,000 people live with the effects of SCI and this number increases by 11,000 each year. SCI causes devastating disabilities due to the inability of axons within the central nervous system to regenerate following an injury. While advances in emergency care and rehabilitation allow many SCI patients to survive, methods for reducing the extent of injury and for restoring function are still limited. Drs. Anders and Byrnes, in collaboration with Drs. Waynant and Ilev, colleagues from the Food and Drug Administration, identified that 810nm light could penetrate to the depth of the spinal cord. Light treatment of injured spinal cord with an 810 nm, 150 mW (dosage = 1589 J/cm2) diode laser, acted as an immunosuppressant and improved axonal regeneration and functional recovery. This research suggested that light treatment is a novel and effective treatment for SCI, and in 2003 led to the filing of a Provisional Patent Application and licensing of this technology to PhotoThera, Incorporated.

Sharon L. Juliano, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, USU SOM

There are numerous disorders of neuronal migration into the neocortex. Impaired migration can lead to human dysfunctions that range from epilepsy to schizophrenia. Factors influencing cortical development and subsequent migration are both genetic and environmental; members of Sharon Juliano's laboratory (Marcin Gierdalski and Sylvie Poluch) have been using both genetic and epigenetic models to obtain better understanding of the impaired mechanisms of neuronal migration. They previously demonstrated that a short interruption of early cortical development during gestation could result in dramatic alterations in radial glial cells, which form an important scaffold for neurons migrating into and forming the cerebral cortex. In collaboration with colleagues from Harvard University, Juliano and Gierdalski determined that a protein of approximately 50 kDa is an endogenous factor in mammalian cortex, which is capable of reorganizing radial glial cells toward their normal morphology. They further established that the likely endogenous factor is neuregulin and that it acts through erbB receptors. The outcome of their studies may clarify both the mechanisms that produce neuronal migration disorders during pregnancy and potential repair of these disorders by systemically investigating the factors involved in several structural and neurochemical elements that contribute to impaired migration. Their findings were published in a special issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex, which commemorated the currant status of research on neocortical development.