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Center for Translational Neuromedicine
University of Rochester
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601 Elmwood Ave.
Rochester, NY 14642

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Stefanie Fingler
Administrator

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  • July 28, 2009

    Blue Dye May Hold Promise in Treating Spinal Cord Injury

    A compound strikingly similar to the common food additive that gives M&Ms and Gatorade their blue tint may offer promise for preventing the additional – and serious – secondary damage that immediately follows a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. In an article published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) stops the cascade of molecular events that cause secondary damage to the spinal cord in the hours following a spinal cord injury, an injury known to expand the injured area in the spinal cord and permanently worsen the paralysis for patients.

    This research builds on landmark laboratory findings first reported five years ago by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center. In the August 2004 cover story of Nature Medicine, scientists detailed how ATP, the vital energy source that keeps our body's cells alive, quickly pours into the area surrounding a spinal cord injury shortly after it occurs, and paradoxically kills off what are otherwise healthy and uninjured cells.

    This surprising discovery marked a milestone in establishing how secondary injury occurs in spinal cord patients. It also laid out a potential way to stop secondary spinal injury, by using oxidized ATP, a compound known to block ATP's effects. Rats with damaged spinal cords who received an injection of oxidized ATP were shown to recover much of their limb function, to the point of being able to walk again, ambulating effectively if not gracefully.

  • April 29, 2009

    Neurologists Establish Professorship in Honor of Robert J. Joynt

    Colleagues and friends in the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center are more than halfway toward their goal of raising $1.5 million to honor the physician who founded the department.

    The professorship will honor neurologist Robert J. Joynt, M.D., Ph.D., one of the most influential neurologists of the last half century, who is now Distinguished University Professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Joynt founded the University's Department of Neurology in 1966 and guided the department for 18 years, laying the foundation for what is today one of the nation's leading neurology departments.

    The professorship, to be known as the Robert J. Joynt Chair in Experimental Therapeutics in Neurology, is designed to further development of treatments to treat neurological diseases. The Joynt Chair will support research to treat disorders like Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Alzheimer's diseases. Friends, alumni, colleagues and grateful patients have contributed to the fund thus far.

  • March 23, 2009

    Astrocytes Help Separate Man from Mouse

    A type of brain cell that was long overlooked by researchers embodies one of very few ways in which the human brain differs fundamentally from that of a mouse or rat, according to researchers who published their findings as the cover story in the March 11 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

    Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that human astrocytes, cells that were long thought simply to support flashier brain cells known as neurons that send electrical signals, are bigger, faster, and much more complex than those in mice and rats.

    "There aren't many differences known between the rodent brain and the human brain, but we are finding striking differences in the astrocytes. Our astrocytes signal faster, and they're bigger and more complex. This has big implications for how our brains process information," said first author Nancy Ann Oberheim, Ph.D., a medical student who recently completed her doctoral thesis on astrocytes.

  • October 3, 2008

    Neurologist to Discuss Pioneering Stem Cell Research

    Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology, will discuss his pioneering efforts to use stem cells to treat human disease as part of a lecture series highlighting biological and biomedical research at the University of Rochester.

    Goldman will speak at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Class of 1962 Auditorium at the Medical Center. It's the latest installment of the Second Friday Science Social lecture series geared mainly to faculty, staff and students at the University, though the general public is welcome as well.

    Goldman, who is also professor of Neurosurgery, is internationally recognized for advancing our understanding of stem cells and their use to treat human disease. He began his studies of the brain's stem cells more than 25 years ago, and his doctoral thesis in 1983 was the first report of neurogenesis – the production of new brain cells – in the adult brain and opened the door to the idea of neural stem cells as the source.

  • September 23, 2008

    Rochester Neuroscientist Honored By Danish Academy

    Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., has been elected a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences, the premier scientific society in Denmark. The society elects only six new members worldwide every other year.

    Nedergaard has been a pioneer in brain research, demonstrating that brain cells known as astrocytes play a role in a host of human diseases. For decades, much of the attention of neuroscientists had been focused on brain cells known as neurons, which send electrical signals. Astrocytes were long considered cells whose primary function was to support the neurons.

    Nedergaard has turned that notion on its head, showing that astrocytes themselves play an important role in epilepsy, spinal cord disease, migraine headaches, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.

  • September 4, 2008

    Steven Goldman to Lead University’s Department of Neurology

    After an extensive national search, a neurologist who is a leading international figure in efforts to use stem cells to treat human disease has been tapped to lead the Department of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

    Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of Neurology who has been with the University since 2003, will become the Edward A. and Alma Vollertsen Rykenboer Professor of Neurophysiology Chair, Department of Neurology within the School of Medicine and Dentistry beginning October 1. He will lead a department known nationally for its research and the education it provides its students and young doctors.

    Dr. Goldman's efforts will be central to the advancement of the field of neuromedicine, an area we've targeted in our strategic plan for significant growth and future investment in faculty and resources, said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Center CEO. His experience as an outstanding researcher and clinician is a perfect fit for the position.

  • June 4, 2008

    Human Stem Cells Show Promise Against Fatal Children’s Diseases

    Scientists have used human stem cells to dramatically improve the condition of mice with a neurological condition similar to a set of diseases in children that are invariably fatal, according to an article in the June issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.

    With a one-time injection of stem cells just after birth, scientists were able to repair defective wiring throughout the brain and spinal cord – the entire central nervous system – of mutant shiverer mice, so called because of the way they shake and wobble. The work marks an important step toward the day when stem cells become an option for the treatment of neurological diseases in people.

    Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center injected a type of fetal human stem cell known as glial stem cells into newborn mice born with a condition that normally claims their lives within about 20 weeks of birth, after a lifetime of seizures and other serious consequences. While most of the 26 mice that received transplanted glial stem cells still died, a group of six lived far beyond their usual lifespan, and four appeared to be completely cured – a first for shiverer mice. The scientists plan to gather more evidence before trying the approach in sick children.

    It's extremely exciting to think about not only treating but actually curing a disease, particularly an awful disease that affects children, said neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., a leader in manipulating stem cells to treat diseases of the nervous system.

  • May 12, 2008

    Conference to Highlight Rochester Stem Cell Research

    A half-day symposium showcasing research in the field of stem cell biology at the University of Rochester will be held on May 23. The symposium, titled Frontiers in Stem Cell Medicine, is being sponsored by the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute.

    Speakers at the symposium include: biomedical geneticist Mark Noble, Ph.D., director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute; neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Cell and Gene Therapy; cancer researcher Craig Jordan, Ph.D., director of Translational Research for Hematologic Malignancies at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center; Edward Puzas, Ph.D., with the Department of Orthopaedics, and Rocky Tuan, Ph.D., chief of the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

  • December 24, 2007

    Sleep Chemical Central to Effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation

    A brain chemical that makes us sleepy also appears to play a central role in the success of deep brain stimulation to ease symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders. The surprising finding is outlined in a paper published online Dec. 23 in Nature Medicine.

    The work shows that adenosine, a brain chemical most widely known as the cause of drowsiness, is central to the effect of deep brain stimulation, or DBS. The technique is used to treat people affected by Parkinson's disease and who have severe tremor, and it's also being tested in people who have severe depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Patients typically are equipped with a brain pacemaker, a small implanted device that delivers carefully choreographed electrical signals to a very precise point in the patient's brain. The procedure disrupts abnormal nerve signals and alleviates symptoms, but doctors have long debated exactly how the procedure works.

    Certainly the electrical effect of the stimulation on neurons is central to the effect of deep brain stimulation, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., the neuroscientist and professor in the Department of Neurosurgery who led the research team. But we also found a very important role for adenosine, which is surprising.

  • May 17, 2007

    Commonly Used Drug Offers Promise for Premature Babies

    Scientists have found evidence that the cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib, a common pain reliever used to treat arthritis, may offer a new way to reduce the risk of the most common cause of brain damage in babies born prematurely.

    The work involves shoring up blood vessels in a part of the brain that in premature infants is extremely fragile and vulnerable to dangerous bleeding, which affects an estimated 12,000 children a year, leaving many permanently affected by cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and seizures.

    The laboratory research was done primarily in a laboratory at New York Medical College led by neonatologist Praveen Ballabh, M.D. Ballabh's team worked with Rochester neuroscientists including Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and Nanhong Lou, B.M.

  • August 25, 2006

    Speedsters’ Traffic Fines Fund New Research on Spinal Cord Injury

    More than a dozen Rochester scientists seeking ways to reverse or lessen the effects of paralysis and other effects of spinal cord injury will begin new projects and continue promising research, thanks to motorists in New York State who push the gas medal a little too far.

    Three research projects at the University of Rochester Medical Center are among the programs funded this year through the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program run by the New York State Department of Health. The program, created in 1998, uses fines paid by speeding motorists to fund research into spinal cord injury, whose number-one cause nationwide is motor vehicle accidents. In Rochester this year the grants are going to Roman Giger, Ph.D.; Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D.; and Mark Noble, Ph.D.

  • May 15, 2006

    Flick of Whiskers Helps Tease Out Brain’s ‘Shadow’ Signaling System

    By blowing gentle puffs of air onto a mouse's whiskers and watching how its brain reacts, scientists are discovering that a long-overlooked signaling system in the brain is crucial to our everyday activity.

    The work is the latest in a growing body of evidence that star-shaped brain cells known as astrocytes aren't simply support cells but are stars of the brain in their own right, say researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center who did the study. The work will be reported in a paper in the June issue of Nature Neuroscience and is now available online.

    Now people have to take astrocytes seriously, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and a member of the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, whose team did the research. In the past few years she has found that the cells, long thought to simply nourish other cells and clean up their wastes, are central to diseases like epilepsy, spinal cord injury, and maybe even Alzheimer's disease.

  • January 6, 2006

    Blood Flow in Brain Takes a Twist, Affecting Views of Alzheimer’s

    New findings that long-overlooked brain cells play an important role in regulating blood flow in the brain call into question one of the basic assumptions underlying today's most sophisticated brain imaging techniques and could open a new frontier when it comes to understanding Alzheimer's disease.

    In a paper to appear in the February issue of Nature Neuroscience and now available on-line, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center demonstrate that star-shaped brain cells known as astrocytes play a direct role in controlling blood flow in the brain, a crucial process that allows parts of the brain to burst into activity when needed. The finding is intriguing for a disease like Alzheimer's, which has long been considered a disease of brain cells known as neurons, and certainly not astrocytes.

    For many years, astrocytes have been considered mainly as housekeeping cells that help nourish and maintain a healthy environment for neurons. But it's turning out that astrocytes may play a central role in many human diseases, said neuroscientist Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., who has produced a string of publications fingering astrocytes in diseases like epilepsy and spinal cord injury.

  • August 15, 2005

    Roots of Epilepsy May Lie in Oft-Ignored Brain Cells

    Star-shaped brain cells that are often overlooked by doctors and scientists as mere support cells appear to play a key role in the development of epilepsy, researchers say in a study published on-line August 14 in Nature Medicine. It's one of the first times scientists have produced firm evidence implicating the cells, known as astrocytes, in a common human disease.

    Scientists found that astrocytes can serve as ground zero in the brain, setting off a harmful cascade of electrical activity in the brain by sending out a brain chemical that triggers other brain cells to fire out of control.

    While it's impossible to tell at this early stage what effect the finding will have on treatment, the investigators at the University of Rochester Medical Center are hopeful the results will give doctors and pharmaceutical firms a new target in efforts to treat and prevent the disease.

    This opens up a new vista in efforts to treat epilepsy. It might be possible to treat epilepsy not by depressing or slowing brain function, as many of the current medications do, but by targeting brain cells that have been completely overlooked, says Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and a researcher in the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, who led the research. We are hopeful that someday, this will be very beneficial to patients.

  • July 28, 2004

    Scientists Finger Surprise Culprit in Spinal Cord Injury

    ATP, the vital energy source that keeps our body's cells alive, runs amok at the site of a spinal cord injury, pouring into the area around the wound and killing the cells that normally allow us to move, scientists report in the cover story of the August issue of Nature Medicine.

    The finding that ATP is a culprit in causing the devastating damage of spinal cord injury is unexpected. Doctors have known that initial trauma to the spinal cord is exacerbated by a cascade of molecular events over the first few hours that permanently worsen the paralysis for patients. But the finding that high levels of ATP kill healthy cells in nearby regions of the spinal cord that were otherwise uninjured is surprising and marks one of the first times that high levels of ATP have been identified as a cause of injury in the body.

    While the work opens up a promising new avenue of study, the work is years away from possible application in patients, cautions Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., the researcher who led the study. In addition, the research offers promise mainly to people who have just suffered a spinal cord injury, not for patients whose injury is more than a day old. Just as clot-busting agents can help patients who have had a stroke or heart attack who get to an emergency room within a few hours, so a compound that could stem the damage from ATP might help patients who have had a spinal cord injury and are treated immediately.

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