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Medical Students Present Neurosurgery Research at Student Fair

Michael McDowell
Medical Student Michael McDowell in front of his Poster Presentation

The fruits of the mentorship of Columbia Medical Students by the Department of Neurosurgery were evident at a recent Student Science Fair held at Columbia University Medical Center’s Kolb Annex Lobby. Here, medical students taking a research year in neurosurgery presented their projects.

Students included Michael McDowell, Eric Sussman, Brian Gill, Jane Oh, Robert Rothrock, Chris Showers, and Andrew Chan. Attendings Dr. Sameer Sheth and Dr. E. Sander Connolly from the Cerebrovascular Centeralong with Fifth-year Lab Senior Resident Dr. Christopher Kellner were there to support their “mentees.”

Michael McDowell, who investigated the predictors of specific aneurysm characteristics that predispose patients to hemorrhage and bad outcome, gave us a run down of the research he presented at the fair: 

Essentially, in the past there have been both genetic and clinical associations linked to hemorrhage or aneurysm development, but little progress has been made in developing a genetically informed model capable of predicting hemorrhage, aneurysm formation, or outcome. Because of this, we tried a novel strategy of focusing on characteristics of aneurysms that are known to predict outcome. These include location, aneurysm number, and size.

Dr. Sheth and Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell discussing his research with Dr. Sameer Sheth

We performed a genetic and clinical analysis. For the clinical analysis, we investigated the characteristics of 1277 patients with aneurysms and attempted to identify which characteristics were associated with aneurysm number and location. We found that, while some things were predictive of multiple aneurysms in general (gender, for example), some characteristics could be attributed to specific aneurysm number.

Patients with two aneurysms often had long smoking histories, whereas patients with three aneurysms were more often African American and had a history of connective tissue diseases. In contrast, patients who were Hispanic or African American were less likely to have aneurysms in the posterior circulation.

Genetically, we found several genes that were able to predict anterior versus posterior location, height, and width of the aneurysm. These are preliminary findings, but they prove that it is possible to identify genetic associations with specific aneurysm characteristics. We hope that, once enough predictors have been identified, we will be able to make accurate deduction of the future traits an aneurysm will develop once discovered.

Dr.Kellner and Eric Sussman
Dr. Christopher Keller (left) with medical student Erick Sussman in front of his Poster Presentation.

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