Surgery Resident Presents at National Conference

Jonathan Rehfuss, MD, a general surgery resident at the UF College of Medicine, recently presented a research project at the Academic Surgical Congress, held Feb. 2-4 in Jacksonville, Florida. His work targets the relationship between monocyte gene expression and lower extremity vein graft outcomes.

Selected among the best basic science research presented at the meeting, Rehfuss was awarded a travel scholarship and invitation to share his work at the Society of Black Academic Surgeons Annual Scientific Session, scheduled from April 28-30 in Columbus, Ohio.

Rehfuss and the research team identified a small, core set of genes within a monocyte that “likely influences the fate of a vein graft,” he explained. “We know from existing research that the body’s immune response following surgery plays some role in determining whether the graft will remain patent as intended or will gradually narrow and become useless.”

Using a series of mathematical models, the researchers were able to predict whether silencing each of these genes “might increase or decrease the chances of the graft remaining patent,” Rehfuss said.

“By predicting which genes, when altered, might increase the chances of a bypass graft remaining open, we’ve identified targets for medications which could be given to improve the chances of a patient’s graft remaining open.”

Rehfuss’ mentor is Scott Berceli, MD, PhD, a professor of surgery in the division of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy at the UF College of Medicine. Rehfuss will graduate in 2019.

“The process that leads to vein bypass graft failure involves multiple systems within the body and is continually changing in the days to weeks to months following the initial surgery,” Berceli said. “The current work demonstrates that the first several days following graft implantation is the critical time at which we can change the trajectory of those patients who are ultimately destined to have their graft occlude in the coming months.”