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Beth Besecker, MD

Award Name KL2


Investigation of Zinc’s Role in FcReceptor and Complement Mediated Phagocytosis

Beth Besecker, MD, received a KL2 Career Development Award from the CCTS in January. Representing the Department of Internal Medicine, her research is based on investigating zinc’s role in FcReceptor and complement mediated phagocytosis.

Besecker is attempting to use micronutrients to improve monocytes and macrophages to create bacterial clearance and improve the outcome of sepsis in victims. “Sepsis kills more people every year than breast and prostate cancer combined,” Besecker said, “yet there is little improvement in sepsis outcomes in the past few decades.”

Currently, the only methods to treat sepsis are antibiotics and supportive care, yet the mortality rate remains at thirty percent. Besecker and her team have found that individuals with RO zinc deficiencies have increased mortality rates. Individuals with an RO zinc deficiency have a worse bacterial burden in their bloodstream than those without the deficiency.

Besecker’s goal is to determine if there are differences and to determine why these differences exist. If she and her team can come up with a mechanism of why they are different, then she can improve phagocytosis. If she cannot change the mechanism of receptors, she might be able to do zinc supplementation in addition to the regiment.

Originally, Besecker looked at the quantitative differences in innate immune cells. She noticed no quantitative differences and decided to look at qualitative differences, determining where phagocytes work differently when they come from different zinc backgrounds. She plans to explore these differences in her research. Her grant looks at IDG mediated receptor differences versus complex receptor differences.

For the human work, Besecker needed IRB approval to collect the appropriate blood and cells from the patients. For the nonhuman aim, the work is done in cell culture. She is working with different cell lines. She has proposed studies with mice and she is seeking approval to do future studies.

Besecker has seen that there are qualitative differences in what the human phagocytes do between zinc deficiencies and zinc normal backgrounds. She is currently still enrolling for human data.

The only issue Besecker has faced is the inconsistency with the flow cytometry piece she is using with the human subject. Flow cytometry is described as the process of counting and studying microscopic particles using a method of suspension in a stream of fluid and passing them through an electron detection apparatus.

Her future plans include creating proposals for additional K awards.

By Nuala McSweeney, Friday, March 2, 2012

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