Andrew (Scottie) Emmert is looking for a better way to treat pediatric hydrocephalus.
The junior in the baccalaureate medical sciences program in the College of Medicine is part of a team of researchers at Cincinnati Children’s studying the condition which results from the build-up of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain and can cause neurological damage if left untreated. Physicians often use shunting, an operation that involves use of a catheter to the brain to drain excess fluid.
Emmert, 20, works under the direction of Francesco Mangano, DO, chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Children’s and professor of pediatrics at UC, and June Goto, PhD, Children’s researcher and instructor in the UC Department of Neurosurgery. His contribution to this team and academic prowess have been recognized by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation. Emmert was recently named a 2018 Goldwater Scholar, one of only 211 students nationwide. The prestigious honor includes a scholarship of $7,500 used for tuition, fees, books or room and board.
"My lab is looking at non-surgical ways to treat hydrocephalus through cilia interactions as well as new neuroimaging modalities that can be better used to diagnose hydrocephalus and determine when a child would most benefit from surgical intervention,” says Emmert.
His project uses state-of-the art gene editing technique known as (CRISPR) or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat in mouse models—one is called the L1CAM KO model and the second is the PRH model, a mutation first generated in mice by researchers in the Mangano Laboratory.
"I followed our transgenic rats with longitudinal advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), specifically a technique known as diffusion tensor imaging which tracks the directional movement of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain,” says Emmert. "It flows like water, which allows us to obtain quantitative values of the anisotropy, or directional diffusion, of the fluid. These different parameters can be correlated with varying severities of hydrocephalus, and the idea is to use these as non-invasive biomarkers to determine when a pediatric neurosurgeon should optimally shunt a hydrocephalus patient.”
Emmert has worked in the Mangano Laboratory since his freshman year as part of the University Honors Program Biomedical Research and Mentoring Program (RaMP) and Cincinnati Children’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. He has contributed to research on hydrocephalus presented at the Society for Research on Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida Conference and at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS).
Emmert is a co-author of four scholarly abstracts published on hydrocephalus, including one that was presented by UC chief neurosurgery resident Shawn Vuong, MD, and awarded the Hydrocephalus Association Resident’s Prize at the 2017 Pediatric Section meeting of the AANS/CNS. Emmert hopes to enter an MD/PhD program in neuroscience after graduation to continue work to develop new applications of gene therapy and neuroimaging to treat hydrocephalus.
Anil Menon, PhD, director of the Undergraduate Medical Sciences Program in the College of Medicine and professor of molecular genetics, says Emmert was an outstanding representative for UC in a national competition such as the Goldwater Scholarship.
"Scottie has shown an effective display of intellectual intensity in the sciences,” says Menon, who cited Emmert’s work with Mangano and Goto. "He’s taken challenging classes, excelled in them and demonstrated immense potential for a significant contribution to future research and medicine. On a personal level, Scottie is a highly intelligent and modest individual who gives generously of his time to help others. He embodies the philosophy of the Medical Sciences Program to ‘cultivate both a good mind and a good heart.’”
Emmert was one of four undergraduate students nominated by UC for the Goldwater Scholar program. Two other students, Melissa MacDonald and Nora Lakes, both juniors in the medical sciences baccalaureate program, were also nominated for the honor. Isaac Stamper, a biomedical engineering undergraduate, received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Scholar program.
The students worked closely with Cara Pickett, PhD, assistant director in the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards; Raj Mehta, PhD, vice provost; Kevin Haworth, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease; Theresa Culley, PhD, interim director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards; and Bryan Mackenzie, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and systems physiology, to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship.
Haworth describes Emmert as "someone with serious research chops.”
"He was able to clearly articulate both what he was doing and how his responsibilities fit into the overall objectives of the Mangano lab’s research goals,” says Haworth, a former Goldwater scholar while an undergrad at Truman State University. "The nomination committee was also impressed with the level of trust that his laboratory put in him to complete work using cutting-edge techniques.”