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Scientists use high tech microscope to find clue to an autoimmune disease

Using a unique microscope capable of illuminating living cell structures in great detail, researchers at the University of  Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found clues into how a destructive autoimmune disease works, setting the stage for more discoveries in the future.

The scientists were trying to visualize antibodies that cause neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a rare autoimmune disorder that causes paralysis and blindness. Using a custom STED (Stimulated Emission Depletion) microscope built at CU Anschutz, they were able to actually see clusters of antibodies atop astrocytes, the brain cell target of the autoimmune response in NMO.

Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, MD, PhD, is senior author of the study.
Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, MD, PhD, is senior author of the study.

“We discovered that we could see the natural clustering of antibodies on the surface of target cells. This could potentially correspond with their ability to damage the cells,” said Professor Jeffrey Bennett, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and associate director of Translational Research at the Center for NeuroScience at CU Anschutz. “We know that once antibody binds to the surface of the astrocyte, we are witnessing the first steps in the disease process.”

When that domino effect begins, it’s hard to stop. But Bennett said the ability to see the antibodies on the brain cells offers a chance to develop targeted therapies that do not suppress the body’s immune system like current treatments for the disease do.

“By applying this novel approach we can see firsthand how these antibodies work,” said the study’s lead author, John Soltys, a current student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at CU Anschutz. “We are looking at the initiation of autoimmune injury in this disease.”

The breakthrough was made possible with the STED microscope, a complex instrument that uses lasers to achieve extreme precision and clarity. It was built by physicist Stephanie Meyer, PhD, at CU Anschutz. This is the first time it has been used in a research project here.

“This would have been impossible to see with any kind of normal microscope,” said study co-author Professor Diego Restrepo, PhD, director of the Center for NeuroScience.  “We are inviting other scientists with research projects on campus to use the STED microscope.”

According to Meyer, lower resolution microscopes are blurrier than the STED due to diffraction of light. But the STED’s lasers illuminate a smaller area to acquire a higher resolution image . Unlike electron microscopes, STED users can see entire living cells at super high resolution, as they did in this study.

Restrepo said there are only a handful of STEDs in the nation and just one in Colorado.

The researchers said the discovery is the result of a unique partnership between clinical neurology, immunology and neuroscience coming together to solve a fundamental question of how antibodies can initiate targeted injury in an autoimmune disease.

“These are the building blocks that we can use to carry our research to the next level,” Bennett said.

The study was published this week in Biophysical Journal.




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Top 7 places you like to eat at CU Anschutz


We went in search of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus’s best restaurants, and you responded. Not surprisingly, when asked about on- and off-campus restaurants that offer delicious food, you expressed an eclectic range of dining tastes.

A campus hub for culinary freshness and conversation emerged as a solid favorite in our inaugural survey, while a flavorful mix of on- and off-campus dining spots rounded out the field. Several of the go-to restaurants for CU Anschutz faculty, staff and students are popular lunch destinations, while others are favorites for carry-out. All of the “best restaurant” choices serve up a combination of tasty-yet-healthy menu items, convenience and value. Thank you for participating in our survey, and bon appétit!

#7 Chai & Chai

Location: 12501 E. 17th St.


Chai & ChaiFresh, authentic Indian and Mediterranean food at reasonable prices right on campus. Falafels, chicken shawarma wraps, curry dishes, rice bowls – you’ll find these and more at this restaurant that targets the lunch crowd.

“Great, authentic Indian food with lots of variety for a very reasonable price.”  – Sharman Ball

#6 University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Cafeteria

Location: First floor of UCH at 12605 E. 16th Ave.

UCH CafeteriaYou’ll find plenty of healthy and tasty options to select from at the University of Colorado Hospital Cafeteria. From a full breakfast menu and baked goods to sandwiches and salads, the restaurant is loaded with fresh and flavorful foods. The UCH Cafeteria draws customers from around campus for its quality fare that is both delicious and easy on the wallet.

#5 Nom Nom Asian Grill

Location: 13700 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 1

Nom Nom Asian Grill Nom Nom indeed. Vietnamese food takes on a create-it-yourself flair at this close-to-campus restaurant. Spring rolls, bowls and Banh Mi sandwiches are the house specialties, and – Chipotle-style – you get to choose marinated meat (or tofu) fillings, fresh toppings and homemade sauces. Pho is also available in a comfortable restaurant that, as respondent Dylan Verden noted, offers “large portions at a fair price, fast service, delicious food.”

#4 Top Pho

Location: 11697 E. Colfax Ave.

Chicken & noodle bowl. Photo by Yelp, Sarah W.

Holding down a busy corner on East Colfax, the restaurant looks rather modest from the outside. Don’t be fooled. As its name implies, Top Pho serves up some of the best Pho in the Denver metro area. The restaurant also offers an array of delectable Vietnamese specialties, egg rolls and combination plates. Bonuses: the service is fast and friendly and the price is right.

“Incredibly fresh and healthy with great flavor. Lots of food, so it’s great for next day re-heating, plus many menu choices.”
– Barb Hayes

#3 Thai Street Food

Location: 11650 Montview Blvd.

Thai Street FoodSitting on a nondescript corner of Montview Boulevard a few blocks west of campus, Thai Street Food is worth the trip, especially if you like your dishes on the spicy side. Take special care in choosing the spice level when ordering, however, because the “medium” is hotter than most Thai restaurants’ “Thai hot.” Thai Street Food is carry-out only and all dishes are made to order by, as a survey respondent noted, “one lady who cooks everything.”

“One lady cooks everything, and the taste of every dish is so complex and savory. Best Thai food in Denver hands down.”
– Alexis Zukowski

#2 Cedar Creek Pub

Location: 2100 N. Ursula St.

Cedar Creek Pub, Photo by

If you’re looking for a relaxed restaurant in which to unwind after work or meet up with the office gang, Cedar Creek Pub, just north of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, is an excellent choice. Cedar Creek offers an assortment of pub fare such as bangers-and-mash, fish-and-chips and burgers, as well as steaks, tacos, appetizers and salads. It’s also home to a large selection of local beers, wines and cocktails.

“The environment and food has some originality, which make it more special than just the same-old pizza or sub sandwich.”
– Lauren Szymanski

#1 Etai’s at Anschutz

Location: First floor of Research 2

Etai’s at AnschutzThe standout winner in our survey, Etai’s has cultivated a loyal following with its wide-ranging menu and always-fresh coffee. Etai’s is located in a bright and airy space on the first floor of Research 2 – a central spot for on-the-go health care professionals and students. Besides being convenient, Etai’s freshly-made sandwiches, salads and soups – not to mention all-day breakfast selections – have clearly won the stomachs of many at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“They always have excellent customer service, their coffee is fantastic, and they have many healthy lunch options.”
– Sara Marie Bottaro

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Community Campus Partnership Forum highlights engagement with Aurora

Participants at Community-Campus Partnership forum
Participants at Community-Campus Partnership Forum

One of the most impressive examples of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus’s growing engagement in the Aurora community is Hire Local.

Hire Local is a career-building initiative in which members of the community apply for and are often placed in entry level positions at the university and the hospitals. The program leads to the university and hospitals filling vacant positions with people who live nearby. Those neighbors find much-appreciated work.

“We found that the community needed jobs, and members of the community wanted to contribute to building great hospitals as well as a great university,” said Lisa Jensen, the director of Hire Local.  “This is the value of the Hire Local program.”

Celebrating Community-Campus Partnership

Hire Local is just one of 30 Aurora-oriented community initiatives at CU Anschutz, many of which fall under the umbrella of the CU Anschutz Community-Campus Partnership. Now in its fourth year, the Community-Campus Partnership (CCP) is led by Robert McGranaghan, MPH. The partnership held a community engagement forum on April 5 to highlight the exciting work implemented by the CCP and by CU Anschutz faculty, staff and students in the Aurora community.

Lily Marks
Lilly Marks presents opening remarks at Community-Campus Partnership Forum

“We can’t change the community through clinics alone,” said Lilly Marks, the Vice President for Health Affairs for the University of Colorado in her opening remarks. “The physical health of a community is deeply intertwined with social determinants such as employment, access to education, nutrition and safe housing.  CU Anschutz has a moral imperative to address these concerns, and thus the Community-Campus Partnership was born.”

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman added that the campus is “lucky” to be based in North Aurora.  “As we progress as a campus, we cannot lose sight of our commitment to our neighbors,” he said.

The goal of the forum was to not only celebrate the community outreach achievements, but to also increase interest in and awareness of these engagement activities.

“This gathering has been years in the making, to celebrate the wonderful outreach work that’s done by our students, faculty, staff, and community partners,” said Neil Krauss, director of Initiatives and Outreach at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Success stories

Participants at Community-Campus Partnership Forum
Participants at Community-Campus Partnership Forum

In addition to connecting the university with entry level workers, Hire Local has partnered with the Spring Institute, an intercultural learning initiative. A program within the Spring Institute, Colorado Welcome Back, helps internationally trained health care professionals get relicensed in the United States and back into health care careers.

“Hire Local is a win-win,” said Ben Jutson, the program manager of Colorado Welcome Back. “These community members have unique linguistic and cultural competence. They’re given the opportunity to help others in their community.”

To raise awareness about all the work being done within the community, the forum featured 15 of these mutually beneficial community-campus partnerships in rotating roundtable discussions with members of the CU Anschutz Campus including:

In his remarks,  Elliman also highlighted the Comitis Crisis Center, Aurora’s only homeless shelter, which is steps away from campus. From donating essential items like coats and food to volunteering specialized services like free health screenings, members of CU Anschutz continue to positively impact Comitis and those it serves.

“Every day there are extraordinary students, staff, faculty and community members working together in extraordinary ways,” Elliman said. “We’re proud that we’re lifting our arms and voices. We need to be active participants in our community to make it a better place to live.”


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Cannabinoids may soothe certain skin diseases, say CU Anschutz researchers

Cannabinoids contain anti-inflammatory properties that could make them useful in the treatment of a wide-range of skin diseases, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The new study, published online recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, summarizes the current literature on the subject and concludes that pharmaceuticals containing cannabinoids may be effective against eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis.

Dr. Robert Dellavalle, associate professor of dermatology, is senior author of the study.
Dr. Robert Dellavalle, associate professor of dermatology, is senior author of the study.

Currently, 28 states allow comprehensive medical cannabis programs with close to 1 in 10 adult cannabis users in the U.S. utilizing the drug for medical reasons. As researchers examine the drug for use in treating nausea, chronic pain and anorexia, more and more dermatologists are looking into its ability to fight a range of skin disease.

“Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

He noted that in one study, eight of 21 patients who applied a cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks completely eliminated severe itching or pruritus. The drug may have reduced the dry skin that gave rise to the itch.

Study shows cannibinoids may ease some skin disease
Study shows cannibinoids may ease some skin disease.

Dellavalle believes the primary driver in these cannabinoid treatments could be their anti-inflammatory properties.  In the studies he and his fellow researchers reviewed, they found that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the active ingredient in marijuana, reduced swelling and inflammation in mice.

At the same time, mice with melanoma saw significant inhibition of tumor growth when injected with THC.

“These are topical cannabinoid drugs with little or no psychotropic effect that can be used for skin disease,” Dellavalle said.

Still, he cautioned that most of these studies are based on laboratory models and large-scale clinical trials have not been performed. That may change as more and more states legalize cannabis.

Dellavalle said for those who have used other medications for itch and skin disease without success, trying a cannabinoid is a viable option especially if it has no psychotropic effect. He did not recommend such medications for cancer based on current evidence.

“These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life,” he said. “The treatments are currently being bought over the internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them.”

The other authors of the study include Jessica S. Mounessa, BS, Julia A. Siegel, BA and Cory A. Dunnick, MD.











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MS, macular degeneration and nanoparticle researchers win Gates grants

The Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and CU Innovations have awarded three researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus $350,000 grants with the hope they will strike scientific gold.

The grants come from the Gates Grubstake Fund, which backs scientists at CU Anschutz who research regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies. The name of the fund comes from the Gold Rush. Investors would give prospectors seed money known as grubstakes to buy food and supplies so they could survive while they searched for gold. In exchange, the investors would get a share of future profits.

Trap and Zap
A rendering of the “Trap and Zap” device Jeffrey Olson, MD, is developing to treat age-related macular degeneration. The device, shown in yellow, would trap the proteins that cause the condition.

The Gates Center and CU Innovations hope the grants do something similar for recipients, said Heather Callahan, the Gates Center’s entrepreneur-in-residence and a portfolio manager with CU Innovations. The grants are for projects that are in the early stages of work and will provide support for researchers until they are ready to seek larger grants and potentially money from investors.

“This amount of money can hopefully bring researchers to an inflection point or a point where they are able to get additional funding to move on to the next step,” Callahan said.

In the big picture, the Gates Grubstake Fund will support innovation at CU Anschutz and lead to the development of new therapies or devices that help patients. Researchers could commercialize their discoveries by working with private companies or create spin-off companies, Callahan said.

The program is open to researchers affiliated with the University of Colorado. There were 26 applications for grants this year, up from three applications last year. Callahan said the number and quality of applications are good indications of the work being done at CU Anschutz.

“It made it clear that we have a pipeline, and there’s robust research in regenerative medicine,” she said.

The three winning projects could lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis, age-related macular degeneration, and the wounds and skin ulcers that are a complication of diabetes.

David Wagner, PhD
David Wagner, PhD

Protecting the nervous system

David Wagner, PhD, is an associate professor at the CU School of Medicine (SOM) whose research could lead to new therapies that regenerate parts of nerve cells. One application for his research could be treating multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition in which immune cells called T cells attack the nerves, specifically the myelin sheath that protect neurons. Wagner’s lab has identified a T-cell type that attacks the brain and spinal cord, as well as a drug candidate that might stop the disease and undo the damage.

“People with MS have such debilitating problems because myelin loss causes severe damage in brain and spinal-cord control centers,” Wagner said. “Controlling the inflammation may restore myelin, but should restore some or all of the damaged areas. Theoretically, this will re-establish normalcy.”

The therapy is in the early stage of development. A drug candidate has been identified, and it would take many years of clinical testing before a medication is available, Wagner said.

Jeffrey Olson, MD
Jeffrey Olson, MD

Preventing blindness

Jeffrey Olson, MD, is an associate professor of ophthalmology in SOM who is developing a medical device that could treat age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the industrialized world. The tiny device would be implanted in patients’ eyes and trap and destroy the proteins that cause the blindness.

Olson said he has done preliminary studies using prototypes and seen positive results. If the device comes to market, it would be a breakthrough for patients—only about 10 percent of people with macular degeneration have the form of the disease that can be stopped before it causes blindness. The current treatment requires patients to receive monthly injections in their eyes to treat the disease. Olson thinks the device could work in most patients with the condition and remove the need for continuing injections.

It could also lead to major savings for patients and Medicare. Current treatments cost about $22,000 per year per patient, which adds up to $5 billion annually. Medicare spends more money on that treatment than any other medication, Olson said.

Ken Liechty, MD
Ken Liechty, MD

Healing wounds with nanoparticles

Kenneth Liechty, MD, is a SOM professor who researches wound healing and regenerative medicine. His grant is for research on nanoparticles, which are nanometers in size and smaller than human cells. Liechty is trying to show that nanoparticles can decrease the inflammation around wounds, which slows the healing process. His lab is testing a conjugate of cerium oxide and regulatory microRNA, which he’s named Nanoceria.

Liechty has focused on the slow-healing open sores and wounds from which many diabetic patients suffer. His lab has shown that chronic inflammation accompanies diabetic wounds and impairs the healing process. Tests on mice with diabetes have shown the nanoparticle can correct the impaired wound healing. Liechty said it could take three to five years before human trials could begin as additional optimization and toxicity studies are needed.

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Sarcoma research gets boost from fundraising race led by Denver City Council President Brooks

For a debut event, last fall’s First Denver Race to Cure Sarcoma 5K Run/Walk proved a smashing success, attracting almost 600 participants and raising $110,000 for sarcoma research.

Sarcoma research check presentation at CU Cancer Center
Pictured at the check presentation at the CU Cancer Center are, from left, volunteer and sarcoma survivor Susan Rawley; Michaela Mueller, Sarcoma Foundation of America; Dr. Victor Villalobos, assistant professor, CU School of Medicine; volunteer and sarcoma survivor Toni Baltizar; and Albus Brooks, CU alumnus, sarcoma survivor and Denver City Council president. Photos by Erika Matich, CU Cancer Center.

“It was awesome – the turnout was huge,” said Victor Villalobos, MD, PhD, assistant professor, medicine-medical oncology, University of Colorado School of Medicine (SOM). “It also helped raise awareness. A lot of people have never heard of sarcoma before.”

On April 10, Villalobos, who is also director of Sarcoma Medical Oncology for the CU Cancer Center, joined run/walk Chairman Albus Brooks and two other local sarcoma survivors as well as Michaela Mueller, event manager of the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA), for a check presentation to the CU Cancer Center. The event proceeds were evenly split between CU and the SFA, minus administrative expenses and fees, leaving an award of $40,400 to the university.

The SFA organized three new fundraiser run/walks across the country last year, and Denver’s race, which got a late start being put together, ended up with the largest participation.

‘Great event’

“It was a great event,” said Brooks, who is president of the Denver City Council and a former CU Buffaloes linebacker. “For a last-minute race to raise over a hundred grand and have that many participants is truly remarkable. Now that we have an elongated time frame to plan for the next race (Sept. 16) we can really get after it.”

Denver Race to Cure Sarcoma 5K Run
Almost 600 participants took part in the First Denver Race to Cure Sarcoma 5K Run/Walk last September along Cherry Creek Dam Road.

Brooks got the shock of his life last summer when, after feeling pain in his lower back while running a couple road races, he went to his doctor. A 15-pound malignant tumor – chondrosarcoma – was found in his lower back. A CU Anschutz team, including Villalobos, Ana Gleisner, MD, PhD, assistant professor, surgical oncology, and Evalina Burger, MD, professor, orthopedics, treated Brooks, who said, “I’ve never had care like that. It was incredible.”

‘It’s nice for people to know they have a sarcoma clinic here.’ – Toni Baltizar, sarcoma survivor

On July 5, Brooks underwent an eight-hour surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital, where the large tumor was removed by Gleisner.

Brooks and a couple other sarcoma survivors who helped organize the Denver Race to Cure Sarcoma – Toni Baltizar and Susan Rawley – praise the sarcoma expertise available through the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and the CU Cancer Center. “It’s nice for people to know they have a sarcoma clinic here rather than have to travel to MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston) or Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York),” said Baltizar, who had a 10-pound tumor removed seven years ago.

Dedicated to new research

Rawley said that at this stage – she was diagnosed with a 3-pound sarcoma a year ago – “what I really need is someone like Dr. Villalobos, because he’s a scientist who is dedicated to doing new research and helping raise money for even more research.”

Dr. Villalobos and Denver City Council President Albus Brooks
Dr. Victor Villalobos, left, is part of the medical team that treated Denver City Council President Albus Brooks when a 15-pound tumor was found in his lower back last summer.

Villalobos said events such as the Denver Race to Cure Sarcoma take on greater importance in today’s political climate. “There’s a possibility of losing more funding for scientific research,” he said. “So we have to look more toward charitable foundations and events like this to actually further the science. This helps us develop the science that it takes to get more funding.”

He said money raised through the race will help fund a couple clinical trials currently in development at the CU Cancer Center. The trials include a combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy that could have applications for several types of sarcoma.

While there are 80 different types of sarcoma, Villalobos said, many share a genetic imprint that can be targeted with similar therapies.

He also hopes to work with the Sarcoma Alliance to strengthen peer support for patients. “That’s something I really want to accomplish. We need to develop a really good patient support network,” Villalobos said. “I think that’s probably one of the biggest things we’re lacking.”

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Skin cream helps patients heal from radiation therapy, could become FDA-approved drug

Whether it be from a therapeutic machine or the sun’s rays, radiation can be harmful to the skin. After over a decade of research, an interdisciplinary team of physicians and researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus developed a skin cream that’s formulated to heal skin exposed to radiation.

The team is exploring ways to deepen Difinsa53’s commercial and patient reach, possibly as a Federal Drug Administration-approved product targeted at preventing damage to the DNA of skin cells. Currently the lotion, which as been on the market for about 18 months, is sold over-the-counter as a protectant, moisturizer and healer of skin exposed to radiation.

CU team that worked on Difinsa53 skin cream
The interdisciplinary team that worked on the skin cream Difinsa53: Pictured from left, front row: Gail Harrison, PhD, CU School of Medicine, and Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; back row, from left, Tom Anchordoquy, PhD, professor, School of Pharmacy; Theresa Pacheco, MD, professor of dermatology, SOM; local businessman Al Stahmer; and Michael Glode, MD, professor emeritus, SOM. Harrison died of breast cancer a few years ago.

“This has a potential role in mitigating DNA damage to skin cells from both solar radiation and therapeutic radiation,” said Theresa Pacheco, MD, professor of dermatology, CU School of Medicine (SOM).

Pacheco collaborated with four CU Anschutz colleagues – Michael Glode, MD, professor emeritus, SOM; Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, professor, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Tom Anchordoquy, PhD, professor, School of Pharmacy; and the late Gail Harrison, PhD, SOM – as well as local businessman Al Stahmer to form a company, ProTechSure Scientific Inc., and its main product, patent-pending Difinsa53.

Milk thistle provides natural extract

The lotion features a healing natural extract from milk thistle, silybin, that is unique to skin therapy creams.

‘This has a potential role in mitigating DNA damage to skin cells from both solar radiation and therapeutic radiation.’ – Theresa Pacheco, MD, professor of dermatology, SOM

In his pharmacological research, Agarwal, one of the world’s foremost scientists exploring the use of naturally occurring compounds to prevent and control cancer, found that the pure molecule of silybin would inhibit skin cancer in mice. Delivering silybin to human skin proved much more problematic, and the CU team applied for and received a National Institutes of Health tech-transfer grant (one of several grants they received) to allow further study.

During that time – as the team developed a lotion formula that contained sunscreen molecules as well as anti-aging and radiation-therapy protection properties – Harrison was diagnosed with breast cancer and began radiation therapy. She used the cream and found that it helped to resist the effects of radiation as well as heal her skin.

Penetrating the crowded sunscreen market was a tall order, so “we turned our attention to developing a product that would help people who are getting radiation therapy,” said Glode, who, along with Pacheco, Agarwal and Anchordoquy, are all CU Cancer Center investigators. “Also, we were emotionally attached to Gail (she died a few years ago), and that drove us to help patients with skin damage from therapeutic radiation.”

Bootstrap business

Multiple radiation oncology practices currently recommend Difinsa53 – a reference to skin-healing molecule P-53 – to their patients, while thousands more customers are using the product – available online here – to soothe and hydrate their skin daily. That’s a satisfying accomplishment for a group of scientists who sustained their research through $10 million in grants – NIH, Colorado Advanced Industry Accelerator Grant and angel investors – plus support from friends and family.

Difinsa53 skin cream
The CU Anschutz-developed Difinsa53 skin lotion is available as an over-the-counter product.

“Getting involved with a start-up and learning about sustaining a company has been a real challenge for the founders because none of us went to business school,” Glode said. “The grants and other contributions are how we’ve gotten as far as we have. So, there’s a story here about a small, bootstrap business that’s had some success.”

“We’ve learned that it’s really tough to penetrate the cosmetic market,” added Pacheco. “Estee Lauder and other large cosmetic companies have expressed interest, but first we want to see how this goes with drug and device pathways.”

FDA hurdles

Both of those pathways – drug and device (another FDA classification, not necessarily a mechanical device) – would entail FDA approval. If those hurdles are cleared, another potential pathway would open – the cream could be marketed as a way to prevent DNA skin cell damage from UV radiation, Pacheco said.

Patients of skin cancer and other skin diseases are a fast-growing population. Over half of the U.S. population will develop skin cancer sometime in their lifetime, Glode said. So, if benefits from a skin-cancer prevention cream were to replicate the positive results of the sibylin-in-mice studies, “this product could add to the efficacy of approaches that include wearing long sleeves and long pants and using sunscreen,” he said.

Overall, you could say this CU interdisciplinary success story germinated in a milk thistle plant, was nurtured in the labs of a pharmacologist (Agarwal), received formulaic boosts from the expertise of a formulation expert (Anchordoquy) and a dermatologist (Pacheco), kept its wheels turning thanks to a team coordinator (Glode), and had at its heart the memory of colleague and cancer-fighter Harrison.

“Our goal is to get the product to the right patient population – whether it be people suffering from radiation dermatitis, sunburns or other DNA-damaging insults,” Pacheco said. The ultimate goal, she said, is to successfully create and market a disease-preventative product.

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CU Denver Anschutz hires new chief of police

Randy Repola will be joining the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus as the Chief of Police. Randy will begin his position on April 17, 2017, assuming the role previously held by Doug Abraham who is retiring in early May. This overlap allows for a smooth leadership transition.

Randy Repola
Randy Repola, the new CU Denver | Anschutz Chief of Police

Randy has spent nearly 20 years in the police force. He most recently served as the Deputy Chief of Police at CU Boulder. In this role, he oversaw patrol, investigations and security units with 40 full-time employees. He served as the department representative for the FBI’s Northern Colorado Joint Terrorism Task Force. Randy has strong fiscal management experience as well. While working at CU Boulder, he managed budgets for his assigned units and other capital investments, and he holds an MBA from Colorado State University. Randy attended both the FBI National Academy and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Executive Development Institute.
As Chief of Police, Randy will oversee all CU Denver | Anschutz University Police activities. University Police are based on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus but the Chief of Police has statutory authority over both CU Anschutz and CU Denver. Additionally, the Chief of Police oversees the University of Colorado South Denver. In order to ensure the safety of students, staff, faculty and all campus visitors, University Police collaborate with police departments throughout the Denver metro area, including the city of Denver, the Auraria Higher Education Center, the city of Aurora and the city of Lone Tree. 
Randy will succeed current Chief of Police Doug Abraham, who led the CU Denver | Anschutz University Police for over 12 years. Doug revolutionized community policing efforts at CU Denver | Anschutz and prioritized preventative safety measures across both campuses. (Read a recent CU Anschutz Today profile on Doug, highlighting his many accomplishments over the years.) After serving in the police force for more than 40 years, Doug is looking forward to retirement with his wife, daughters and grandchildren. We thank Doug for his many years of service to our campuses.

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Wolfpack Ninjas visit CU Anschutz and fight obesity

Wolfpack Ninja presentation
Wolfpack Ninja presentation

The Colorado-based Wolfpack Ninjas, which is based on the popular NBC show “American Ninja Warrior,” visited the Anschutz Medical Campus on March 30. The College of Nursing’s Office of Clinical and Community Affairs hosted the event. Attendees were treated to healthy snacks and gift bags promoting the college’s nurse-managed community clinics: Campus Health Center, Sheridan Health Services, and CU Healthcare Partners at Belleview Point.

Wolfpack Ninjas is an organization devoted to helping America’s kids get healthier and tackle childhood obesity. Wolfpack member Brian Arnold gave a presentation to more than 75 members of the CU Anschutz and Aurora communities in attendance. During the “How to be a Ninja” presentation, Arnold described the tenets of ninjahood, including dedication, perseverance, power and balance. “You have to train like nobody else if you want to be better than everyone else,” he said.

Brian Arnold greets ninja fans
Brian Arnold greets ninja fans

There were many children in the audience who enjoyed the videos Arnold showed, particularly one about how his house has been rebuilt for optimal training. In the video, Arnold walked into his front door and proceeded to swing from straps that hung from his ceiling all the way to his refrigerator, retrieve a drink, and swing to a seat in the living room. The apelike performance garnered laughter from the young attendees.

Arnold also demonstrated a balancing exercise on a piece of equipment he uses called an Indo Board, which mimics the motion of surfing and helps him train to keep himself steady on the often slippery “American Ninja Warrior” obstacles.

After the presentation, Arnold took questions from the audience. When asked to describe his favorite part of being on “American Ninja Warrior,” he said, “I love the process of making myself better. I love the contestants. You get to meet a lot of people. I love to meet people on the same road to self-improvement that I am on.”

The next stop for the Wolfpack Ninjas is the University of Denver on April 29-30, when Arnold will join the rest of the pack, including Wolfpack President Noah Kaufman, MD, a physician who works at UCHealth locations in northern Colorado.

At University of Denver, there will be obstacle course competitions and demonstrations, as well as kids’ classes and a health fair. Proceeds benefit Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Guest Contributor: Katherine Sylsvestre


The post Wolfpack Ninjas visit CU Anschutz and fight obesity appeared first on CU Anschutz Today.

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New information about Health Savings Accounts

Join Optum and CU Employee Services for a seminar on the basics of a Health Savings Account (HSA) at Noon -1 p.m. April 13 at Education 2 North, Room P28-1202.

An HSA offers a tax advantaged way to put money aside and grow savings allocated for qualified medical expenses. This seminar, facilitated by CU’s new HSA vendor Optum, gives you an opportunity to hear from an HSA expert and understand the ins and outs of saving with a Health Savings Account.

Feel free to bring along a lunch to the talk.


  • What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?
  • Eligibility
  • Contribution Limits
  • Qualified medical expenses
  • How to make deposits into your account
  • Accessing HSA funds

Join us on campus!

Date: April 13, 2017
Location: Education 2 North, Room P28-1202
Time: Noon – 1 p.m.

Register today!

Find more information about HSAs and how to enroll on the Employee Services website.

Guest contributor:  Ryanne Scott, Manager of Communications and Outreach, Employee Services, University of Colorado, Office of the President



The post New information about Health Savings Accounts appeared first on CU Anschutz Today.