Latest News from the Lab


October 8, 2021

Happy Fall!

October has arrived and Fall is slowly marching into middle Tennessee.  We’ve enjoyed milder temperatures and we’re beginning to see leaves fall from the trees.  We’ve even had some fairly cool days in recent weeks!

You know what else is cool?  Podcasts!  They’re a delightful companion to your pumpkin spice latte and apple cinnamon muffin.  The Rollins-Smith Lab is excited to share an episode of a podcast series “Vanderbilt Health DNA: Discoveries in Action.”  According to their website, “The DNA series is designed to spark conversations about medicine, health and society.”  

The episode entitled “Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane” features interviews with three professors from Vanderbilt University/Vanderbilt University Medical Center including our very own Dr. Rollins-Smith!

  • Reed Omary, MD, Professor, Radiology & Radiological Sciences
  • Carol Ziegler, DNP, NP-C, RD, Professor, Cross-College Scholar, Affiliated Faculty, Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health/Family Nurse Practitioner, Meharry Family Practice
  • Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Professor of Pediatrics

Click on the link below to hear this very special episode.

Climate is Us: Why Climate Change is Health Care’s Lane

And be sure to check out other episodes from this series.  They're currently in their second season, so there are a lot of shows to choose from in their library.   

The VUMC Reporter has written about this podcast episode, as well as an additional project taking place in the Rollins-Smith Lab.  You can read that story here:

VUMC Reporter article

Take care and we'll be back soon with more updates!

 

August 25, 2021

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

It’s hot and humid around here (also known as August in TN) and time for a few updates!

We’re beginning the fall semester here at Vanderbilt University which is always an exciting time for our lab.  We have the opportunity to not only welcome new students into the lab, but we also see the return of former students.  We have 2 undergraduate women who will be joining our crew to assist with animal care and other lab chores: Emmy Schuler and Joyce Sanks.  Welcome, Ladies!  We are looking forward to working with you and thank you in advance for your help.  Secondly, Kaitlyn Linney has worked in our lab for several years, and she has returned this fall to continue her research.  In the past, she has examined different levels of virulence among various isolates of Bd.  Furthermore, she has also looked at temperature dependent levels of virulence in Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This semester she will be obtaining cell wall preparations from Bd and possibly Bsal since we believe many virulence factors are located on the cell wall of these fungi.  She will test those cell wall fractions for inhibition of either a T lymphocyte cell line or frog splenocytes.  Glad you have you back, Kaitlyn!

As you all know, we have several projects in the works (see Projects page) and hope to make great progress on them this fall.  We are wrapping up our DOD funded project “Effects of Climate on Host/Pathogen Interactions in Chytridiomycosis” that we’ve been working on for the last five years.  This project has involved a great deal of work, so it’s rather bittersweet to see it come to an end.  Some publications have already come out of this research, and we are working on additional manuscripts at this time.  I will keep you posted on their progress. 

We are working with Ana Longo, PhD, and Patricia Burrowes, PhD, on the project “Defining the role of skin microbiomes in defense against chytridiomycosis in frogs with seasonal infections.”  Dr. Burrowes and her colleagues have sent us lots of Coqui frog skin secretions obtained from the field in Puerto Rico.  We are currently purifying the skin antimicrobial peptides (amps) from those secretions and preparing to test their ability to inhibit Bd growth.  We ran across a few technical issues working with these samples over the summer, but we think we’ve ironed out the wrinkles and are anxious to see if there are seasonal effects on the ability of amps to inhibit Bd.

Mitch Le Sage, MS, continues to work on the “Transmission Pathways and Immunological Factors Driving Invasion Potential of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans project and making great progress including co-authoring some recent publications/presentations of the work.  He is currently setting up an infection experiment with a newt-derived isolate of Bd generously provided to us by Dr. Ana Longo. 

I believe that’s the latest to report at this time.  We have at least one more project submitted for funding, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed to hear good news in the coming months.

In the meantime…take care, get vaccinated, and wear a mask.

 

July 1, 2021

BIG NEWS!

We're stopping by to make a big announcement.  We are very excited to report that The Rollins Smith Lab is part of a new NSF-Funded  Biology Integration Institute (BII): “Resilience Institute Bridging Biological Training and Research (RIBBiTR).  The institute encompasses nine academic institutions and thirteen senior investigators using field and laboratory studies to investigate how amphibian species are developing long term resistance to the fungal disease called chytridiomycosis that has caused decades-long declines in amphibian populations around the world.  The good news is that some populations and some species of amphibians appear to be recovering, and our institute will continue to monitor and investigate the biological mechanisms that support these recoveries.

Needless to say, funding is what keeps us in business and allows us to continue the research we do…research to preserve these beautiful amphibian populations that are integral to a healthy ecosystem.  Plus, who doesn’t love hearing them call on a warm summer night?  Especially this little guy!  He's a barking tree frog that will have you truly wondering "who let the dogs out."  

Hello?  Hello?  Is this thing on...?

In spite of our dreadful attempts at humor, we are grateful to the NSF for supporting this research and we look forward to bringing you updates.

Happy Summer!

 

Photo credit: Emily Le Sage, PhD

May 13, 2021

Happy Spring from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

Apologies for the long overdue update on the latest from the lab.  Somehow time gets away from us and then we turn around to find that spring has sprung here in Nashville!   The trees and flowers have been gorgeous in recent weeks.  The dogwoods, cherry blossoms, redbuds, azaleas, and forsythia were among some of the most stunning blooms we’ve seen in a while.  We are now seeing the irises bloom, and irises are special!  They're the state flower so it’s always neat to see them in all their glory.   This year’s spring has been exceptionally lovely and filled with cool temperatures to enjoy before the summer heat and humidity arrive.

Iris

Tennessee State Flower, the Iris (Photo credit: pixers)

 

Meanwhile….the Rollins-Smith is perking along like a well-oiled coffee machine.   There may be a shortage of gasoline, but there is no shortage of caffeine around here to keep us fueled up and running.  As a result, we have two new publications to share!

Bd Review Paper

This is an excellent review paper written by Dr. Rollins-Smith and our post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Emily Le Sage.  It’s filled with all you could ever want to know about Batrachochytrium fungi and their relationship with their amphibian hosts.

Bsal Publication

This research looks at the susceptibility of Eastern newts to a newly emerging chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal).  This is of great importance because Bsal isn’t currently found in the US.   There are many ongoing efforts to stave off its entry into the country because this pathogen could have a devastating effect on the amphibian population if it enters the ecosystem.  Much of this work was performed by our research assistant Mitchell Le Sage, M.S. 

Congratulations, Mitch and our colleagues at the Univ of TN, Knoxville, on your hard work!

 

As always, publications are very exciting and we are really thrilled to share this work.  So grab a latte and a muffin and sit back and enjoy some of our latest research.   After all, it’s not like you can drive anywhere, right?

Lastly, we will be joined by a Vanderbilt undergraduate student, Danny Nguyen, this summer.  He will work on our Coqui frog project, so stay tuned for additional updates in the coming weeks/months.  Welcome, Danny!

January 4, 2021

Happy New Year from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready for 2021. 

We all appreciate that metaphorical reset button that accompanies January 1st.   But even though we’ve joyfully said goodbye and good riddance to 2020, that doesn’t mean COVID magically disappears.  We all must continue to follow the CDC guidelines of wearing facemasks and physical distancing in addition to washing hands and staying home as much as reasonably possible.  Thankfully, we now have a working vaccine, so we hope to see lots of injections go into lots of people in the coming weeks.  VUMC is actively vaccinating its staff, so rest assured that the current members of the Rollins-Smith Lab are all vacc’d up & mask’d up…or something like that…

Now for the good news: PUBLICATIONS!

We closed out 2020 with the publication of a manuscript that we are very excited about.  I can say firsthand that a lot of time and effort went into this research.  It called for many late nights in the field collecting amphibians as well as LOTS of skin swabs and skin secretions.  This project began in 2017, and it looks at the relationship between climate and disease susceptibility in amphibians. 

This is how seriously we took this work.

Click on the link below to read the abstract.

Preparatory immunity: Seasonality of mucosal skin defences and Batrachochytrium infections in Southern leopard frogs

Emily Le Sage, PhD (pictured above, far left) is our lead author, and she worked very hard to pull together a lot of field data for this manuscript.  Congratulations, Dr Le Sage and colleagues, on this great study!

We also look forward to welcoming back our undergraduate student, Kaitlyn Linney, who will be studying on campus this spring.  She will resume her independent project in the lab looking at temperature-dependent virulence levels in Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans.  Stay tuned, and we'll provide updates on her project in the coming months.

Until then, stay safe and be well!

 

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2020

Happy Fall from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope everyone is enjoying this nice break from the heat as we have now officially entered the fall season and all things pumpkin spice.  We know everyone loves to hate on pumpkin spice, but it’s a necessary evil this time of year.  So love it or hate it, it will forever embody cool temperatures, falling leaves, flannel shirts, and the fact that everything is going to be orange for the next 2 months.

In light of this, I highly recommend that you grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte and find yourself a cozy fire pit because we have a fabulous new publication that you’re gonna want to read. Not only do I think it is of extreme interest but it’s also especially relevant in this day and age.

Antibiotics publication 

This study examined the effect of amphibian-derived antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) on bacteria commonly found in the human vagina. Previous studies with these AMPs have shown them to inhibit in vitro transmission of HIV.  In order to consider them as a prophylaxis, it was critical to test the effect they may have on the normal microbial community within the vagina.  Furthermore, we also tested these AMPs for growth inhibition against a relative of the bacteria that causes the STD gonorrhea.  Check out the link to the article; the results are very exciting!

This publication is also meaningful because most of the research was conducted by three talented young women who recently worked in the Rollins-Smith Lab…..two of whom were in high school at the time. 

Dr. Patricia Smith is a graduate from Vanderbilt University who spent several years working in research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after she completed her Bachelor’s degree.  She worked tirelessly on experiments to test the effects of caerin 1 peptides on lactobacillus growth and tackled much of the troubleshooting to ensure the data were sound. She went on to attend the University of TN Health Science Center College of Medicine and earned her MD in 2017.  She is currently a fourth year resident at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. 

Anna Ledeczi, a high school student at the time, worked in our lab as part of her enrollment in the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt.  Anna continued experiments testing the effects of caerin 1 peptides on lactobacillus growth.  She then tested the effects of active peptides on Neisseria lactamica, a stand in for the pathogenic Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Anna was a bright and motivated student who was always excited to gather data and interpret the results.  She is now enrolled in Colombia University where she continues to pursue science.

Julia Rowe was also in high school when she worked in our lab.  She spent a great deal of time working on the peptide experiments alongside Dr. Smith.  I can recall explaining the concept of molarity to Julia because she hadn’t even taken her first chemistry class yet!  Julia earned a Bachelor’s degree in public health with a minor in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and she is now pursuing a Master’s degree in public health at East TN State University.  There is no doubt that Julia will be a success in all of her endeavors.

Thanks to Dr. Smith, Anna, and Julia, for all of their hard work.  And let's not forget our fearless leader, Dr. Louise Rollins-Smith, for pulling together the data for publication.

And as always, stay tuned!  We have manuscripts both submitted and in prep, so I hope to be back soon with more great reading recommendations…..which will no doubt be the perfect complement to all things pumpkin spice.

In the meantime, please take care and be well!

 

 

 

September 2, 2020

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

What!?  It's September!?  How in the world did that happen!?  Where does the time go!?

While the Year of the Plague seems like it will never end, it's also hard to believe we are closing the chapter on summer and looking towards fall.  Hopefully some cooler weather and changing leaves will boost our spirits in light of the lingering mental and emotional fatigue.

But we have good news to share!  Our lab recently received an NSF award for a new project we are very excited about!  This is a collaborative project with Dr. Patricia Burrowes of the University of Puerto Rico and Dr. Ana Longo of the University of Florida.  This project will look at immune function of the tropical coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) in light of seasonal dynamics, specifically focusing on the skin microbial community or the microbiome. The skin microbiome for amphibians can be a key player in innate immunity and it is often driven by seasonal changes.  This study will dig into the relationship between amphibian host and chytrid pathogen and how the microbiome may provide protection during different times of the year (cool-dry vs warm-wet).  Doctors Burrowes and Longo are both excellent scientists with whom we'll enjoy working.  I suggest you check out some of their work.

Secondly, we have accepted a graduate student, William Payne, into our lab for this first rotation period.  He will be doing some work looking at the role of leukocytes in response to Bd infection.  We are looking forward to adding an additional member to our crew for the next month or so.  Welcome, Will!

As always, we hope everyone is healthy and staying safe. 

Please be well and check back for updates!

 

Coqui frog
Photo credit, Wikipedia

July 29, 2020

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!

We hope you're keeping sane and healthy in light of the pandemic.  The Rollins-Smith Lab is mostly "open for business" these days and getting back to the projects we'd put on hold during the quarantine this spring.  We are following CDC guidelines as well as the regulations implemented by both Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Among other things, this includes social distancing, wearing masks, and limiting the number of researchers in both the lab and other common areas.  It's not always easy, but safety is priority as we get back to our research. 

Speaking of research, we are actively recruiting rotation students at this time, so please reach out to us if you are interested!  We have some exciting projects in the works and would love to have a motivated student join us. 

And if you're thinking about a rotation with us, check out this fun website we discovered for chytrid-themed merchandise, including face masks!  Given the mask mandate, what better way to support your rotation project by wearing it?  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  This site has all things a chytrid scientist needs to save the frogs including water bottles (it's summer in TN, y'all), spiral notebooks (you're brainstorming all the time, right?!), laptop sleeves (remember that time you dropped your laptop and lost all your data?!), and MOST IMPORTANTLY...coffee mugs.  We all know Jonas Salk was running on a well-fortified, caffeine-induced high when he developed the polio vaccine, so don't let yourself be without the basics.

Chytrid merch!

Disclaimer: Neither VU/VUMC, nor the Rollins-Smith Lab, is affiliated with this website or any of these products.  They just look cool and fun.

Please contact Dr. Rollins-Smith at louise.rollins-smith@vanderbilt.edu or louise.rollins-smith@vumc.org if you'd like to learn more about a rotation.

In the meantime, please stay safe and be well!

 

 

 

June 11, 2020

Greetings from the Rollins-Smith Lab!                                                             

We hope all of you are doing well during these trying times.

Needless to say, our lab has been in “maintenance mode” the last few months as a result of COVID-19, so there isn’t a lot to report in terms of research updates at this time.  Even though much of our experimental work has been placed on hold, rest assured that our crew has been working on manuscript preparation, project planning, and data analysis during this time outside of the lab. 

We are now beginning to return to the “new normal” as Vanderbilt University Medical Center transitions to Phase II for non-clinical and research operations.  Our lab should be mostly up and running in the coming weeks.

We are anxious to get back to gathering data and tackling many of our outstanding research questions.  We also have some exciting new projects in the pipeline as well as a few pending grant proposals.

Stay tuned for updates!

In the meantime, be kind and stay healthy!

Barking tree frog

Image Size Requirements in Barista

Barista has a few areas where images are scaled and cropped automatically. This can prove a bit tricky to get your images to look how you want, unless you know the minimum size requirements. As long as your images meet these requirements, you shouldn't have any trouble adding images to your website.

When placing an image, you should test your site at different sizes (e.g., on a mobile device or in a narrow browser window) as page widths adjust dynamically depending on the available width of the browser. Wondering why ideal sizes are so large? The larger size is used for high resolution displays, e.g., retina displays.

Slideshow Block

The slideshow block is designed to showcase landscape-oriented images, not portrait. Ideally, images for the full-width slideshow placed in the "Featured" region are at least 2016 x 850 pixels, but at minimum 1008 x 425 pixels. Images for the "homepage style" slideshow are ideally at least 1224 x 816 pixels, but at minimum 612 x 408 pixels. Other slideshow placements (full-width slideshows placed in the "Content" region) are also ideally at least 1224 x 816 pixels, but at minimum 612 x 408 pixels.

Directory / Person Page

Headshots should be 400 x 534 pixels at minimum. It's ok to use 200 x 267 pixels, but those images may not look good on retina displays.

Blog / Blog Post

Thumbnail Image The thumbnail image field has a fixed width of 150 pixels. This means if you upload an image larger than 150 pixels wide, it will shrink your image down to 150 pixels wide. If you upload an image smaller than 150 pixels wide, it will increase your image to 150 pixels wide and your image will appear blurry. It's best to use an image 150 pixels wide or larger. The length of your image can vary and will be adjusted to the width proportionally. 

Post Image The size of your image will be adjusted proportionally depending on if you have sidebar blocks showing on your post pages or not. For posts that show sidebar blocks, the post image will have a fixed width of 184 pixels. For posts that do not show sidebar blocks, the post image will have a fixed width of 296 pixels. For best image results, upload the largest size and it will be adjusted proportionally. The length of your image can vary.

Tips and Tricks for Adjusting Images

Editing Images Outside of Barista

If you have access to photo editing software, like Photoshop, it may be a good idea to adjust your images before you upload them into Barista. (If you don't have Photoshop, try searching the web for free alternatives for photo editing.) 

It's always good to keep the proportion of images in mind. For example, if you have a large headshot image, you could crop the image to the exact size needed (400 x 534 pixels). By cropping the image beforehand, you reduce the background area and can focus more on the actual headshot. If you uploaded a larger headshot, Barista will reduce the image, therefore keeping the large background area and it will make the headshot look smaller.

Adding White Space or a Clear Background

If you don't like the set sizes of some areas, you can work around them by adding white space or a clear background to your image before you upload it into Barista. For example, thumbnail images for the blog template are set at 150 pixels wide. If you feel the images at this size are too big, you can use the trick of adding white space to make them appear smaller.

First, you'll need to edit your image outside of Barista. Decrease the size of your original image to the size you prefer for the thumbnail. Next add white space (or better, a clear background) around your image that makes the image 150 pixels wide. (In Photoshop, this is done by increasing the canvas area.) Now when you upload that image into Barista, it won't get enlarged because it meets the minimum requirement, but will appear smaller due to the white space you added.

PRO TIP Never increase the size of an image or upload an image that is smaller than the minimum requirement. Doing either of these will blow up the image and make it appear blurry and pixelated. If you absolutely can't get a larger image, try the white space trick mentioned above so Barista won't automatically enlarge the image.