Pictured: Biomedical sciences graduate students Tija Passley (left) and John Purcell published a paper titled, “Early-Onset Parkinson’s Disease With Multiple Positive Intraoperative Spinal Tissue Cultures for Cutibacterium acnes.”
Just over a year after the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) launched a Master of Biomedical Sciences program, two members of the first class have published a case study based on the work they did while earning their master’s degree.
Tija Passley and John Purcell, in collaboration with NYITCOM Associate Professors Joerg R. Leheste, Ph.D., and Mervat Mourad, D.O., published a paper titled, “Early-Onset Parkinson’s Disease With Multiple Positive Intraoperative Spinal Tissue Cultures for Cutibacterium acnes.” The paper, published by Cureus Journal of Medical Science, examined the case of a 51-year-old male with Parkinson’s disease to explore the potential tie between the disease and a bacterium regularly found on the skin. The case study is the first publication by NYITCOM biomedical sciences graduate students.
According to Slieman, a number of recent studies have shown that microbiomes that grow on and inside our bodies may have an effect on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Other studies have found bacteria in samples of brain tissue from Parkinson’s patients.
“The brain should be void of any microbes, so when you find bacteria in the brain, you have to find out what it’s doing there and how it got there,” Slieman said. “This research is very important, and as a microbiologist, it’s something that I never would have suspected we’d come across.”
The research component is a vital one to the biomedical sciences program. Participants are required to perform two semesters of research to obtain their master’s degree, and the research experience makes the graduates more competitive applicants for medical school.
“The research develops critical thinking and helps the students integrate the information they’re learning into actual practice,” Slieman said. “Many post-baccalaureate programs don’t include the research opportunities or emphasis that ours does, but we believe it’s very important and beneficial to the students. We have a diverse group of faculty that provide a variety of outstanding research opportunities for them.”
In May 2021, 11 students from the first master’s in biomedical sciences class completed their degree. The second cohort, which consists of 15 students, began their coursework in August.
By Casey Pearce