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  • December 14, 2009

    NSC Graduate Student, Cory Hussar, Publishes an Article in December 2009 Edition of Neuron

    Cory Hussar, a 5th year Neuroscience graduate student in Dr. Tania Pasternak's lab (NBA) has published an article in this month's edition of Neuron. The article, entitled Flexibility of sensory representations in prefrontal cortex depends on cell type, reports that neurons in prefrontal cortex (PFC) represent visual motion with precision comparable to cortical neurons at early stages of motion processing, and readily adapt this representation to behavioral context. Furthermore, results show that flexible sensory representation during active discrimination tasks is achieved in the PFC by a specialized neuronal network of both NS neurons readily adjusting their selectivity to behavioral context, and BS neurons capable of maintaining relatively stable sensory representation.

  • December 9, 2009

    Helen Wei and Youngsun Cho Accepted into MSTP Program

    Congratulations to Helen Wei and Youngsun Cho, both recently accepted into the MSTP (MD-PhD program) from the MD-MS Program in Medical Neurobiology. We are delighted to welcome them to a continued and augmented commitment to neuroscience research as they now pursue their PhD candidacy and thesis projects.

  • November 10, 2009

    Scientists Create a 'Golden Ear' Mouse with Great Hearing as It Ages

    What do you get when you cross a mouse with poor hearing and a mouse with even worse hearing? Ironically, a new strain of mice with golden ears - mice that have outstanding hearing as they age.

    The work by one of the world's foremost groups in age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, marks the first time that scientists have created the mouse equivalent of a person with golden ears - people who are able to retain great hearing even as they grow older. The research at the University of Rochester Medical Center was published online recently in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

    The new mouse is expected to offer clues about how these lucky folks are able to retain outstanding hearing even through old age. Researchers estimate that approximately 5 percent of people, mainly women, fall into this category. The new mice created in the laboratory of Robert Frisina, Ph.D., embody many of the same traits of human golden ears because of an astute cross of two types of mice long popular with researchers.

  • October 28, 2009

    Dr. Gary Paige has been elected President & Conference Chair of the Society for the Neural Control of Movement

    Gary D. Paige, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurobiology and Anatomy, has been elected President and Conference Chair of the Society for the Neural Control of Movement. The Society serves as an international forum for scientists, physicians, educators and students bound by a common interest in the neural systems that underlie the control of movement, and in disorders of these systems. The NCM Annual Conference, held each spring, is the premier international conference dedicated to the presentation of novel research and interchange of ideas related to major issues in the field.

  • October 1, 2009

    Dr. Kerry O'Banion featured in NASA Fall Newsletter

    The son of two educators, Kerry O'Banion has always adopted a broad view in his scientific pursuits. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, he investigated pair bonding behavior in common prairie voles, but chose Microbiology for his PhD work because of the promise of immersing himself in molecular biology. Indeed, at the same time he was learning about human pathophysiology and how to do a proper neurological examination as an MD-PhD trainee in the nascent Medical Scholars Program, also at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Kerry entertained working with Carl Woese, who had established the existence of a new kingdom of organisms (Archaea) by sequencing rRNA. Ultimately Kerry carried out his thesis work with Manfred Reichmann in Microbiology and John Sundberg in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology to characterize and clone novel animal papillomaviruses. All together, he cloned viruses from six animal species and witnessed at national and international conferences the recognition that oncogenic human papillomaviruses caused cervical and other epithelial cancers.

  • September 30, 2009

    $10.5 Million in Funding Creates Center to Study OCD

    A new research center exploring the science underlying a potential new treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder has been established at the University of Rochester Medical Center, thanks to a $10.5 million award from the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Rochester will serve as the hub of a five-year collaborative effort that includes six institutions around the nation and in Puerto Rico. The prestigious Silvio O. Conte Center will link more than 50 researchers who will focus on how deep brain stimulation affects people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a truly debilitating disease for some patients, said Rochester neuroscientist Suzanne Haber, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, who heads the center. While treatment helps most patients lead fulfilling lives, there are a few for whom today's therapies simply don't work. Our center is designed to explore the science and the effects of deep-brain stimulation, which has been effective for some other diseases involving the brain, such as Parkinson's disease.

  • September 30, 2009

    Dr. Edward Brown Receives an NIH Director's New Innovator Award

    Dr. Edward Brown has received an NIH Director's New Innovator Award to support a 5 year/$1.5M study that seeks to understand the cells and signals responsible for collagen organization in tumor-draining lymph nodes (TDLNs). This study exploits an optical phenomenon called Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) which allows for the microscopic imaging of ordered collagen fibers within living tissue. Tumor cells can exploit these ordered fibers during metastasis, and Dr. Brown hopes to determine the cells and signals which influence the SHG+ fibers in order to disrupt their production and inhibit metastasis via the TDLN, which is a primary route. He will also explore the ability of SHG imaging of TDLN biopsies to predict metastatic ability, to aid in customization of postoperative therapy. This project continues work that has been previously funded by a D.o.D. Era of Hope Scholar Award and a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award, and complements a recently awarded D.o.D. Era of Hope Scholar Research Award.

  • August 28, 2009

    Dr. Edward Brown Receives a D.o.D. Breast Cancer Research Program Grant

    Dr. Edward Brown has received funding from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program to support a 5 year/$2M study that seeks to understand the cells and signals responsible for collagen organization in breast tumors. This study exploits an optical phenomenon called Second Harmonic Generation which allows for the microscopic imaging of ordered collagen fibers within breast tumor models. Breast tumor cells exploit these ordered fibers to escape the tumor mass, and Dr. Brown hopes to determine the cells and signals which influence the SHG+ fibers in order to disrupt their production and inhibit metastasis. He will also explore the ability of SHG imaging of breast tumor biopsies to predict metastatic ability, to aid in customization of postoperative therapy. This project continues work that has been previously funded by a D.o.D. Era of Hope Scholar Award and a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences Award.

  • August 19, 2009

    The annual Elizabeth Doty Lecture at the University of Rochester, Consciousness from Neurons, will be given by Randy L Buckner

    The annual Elizabeth Doty Lecture at the University of Rochester, Consciousness from Neurons, will be given by Randy L Buckner, Depts of Psychology & Neuroscience, Harvard University: The Brain's Default Network: Implications for Consciousness, Monday, 2 November 2009.

  • 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.

  • July 24, 2009

    Dr. Julie Fudge co-authors an article in the August edition of Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

    Julie Fudge, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurobiology & Anatomy and Psychiatry has co-authored an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience with Walter Kaye and Martin Paulus. Fudge's lab studies the anatomy and neurochemistry of brain regions associated with symptoms in major psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and mood disorders.

  • June 12, 2009

    MD-MS Students Continue Their Graduate Education in the NBA PhD Program

    Congratulations to MD-MS students Helen Wei and Youngsun Cho who have each chosen to continue their graduate education and research in the NBA PhD program before returning to medical school, and have each received additional support from the Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

  • April 1, 2009

    Greg Gdowski, PhD, elected Chair of the Rochester Section of the Society for Engineering in Medicine and Biology

    Greg Gdowski, Ph.D., has been elected Chair of the Rochester Section of the Society for Engineering in Medicine and Biology. The Society is an organization within the framework of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) whose members maintain principal professional interest in biomedical engineering.

  • April 1, 2009

    Rigorous Visual Training Teaches the Brain to See Again After Stroke

    By doing a set of vigorous visual exercises on a computer every day for several months, patients who had gone partially blind as a result of suffering a stroke were able to regain some vision, according to scientists who published their results in the April 1st issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

    We were very surprised when we saw the results from our first patients, said Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., the neuroscientist and associate professor who led the study of seven patients at the University of Rochester Flaum Eye Institute. This is a type of brain damage that clinicians and scientists have long believed you simply can't recover from. It's devastating, and patients are usually sent home to somehow deal with it the best they can.

  • 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.

  • December 13, 2008

    Summit Promotes Engineering

    A summit at the U of R was aimed at encouraging interest among high school students and connecting college graduates to some cutting edge local jobs.

  • December 9, 2008

    Dr. Julie Fudge featured in a Washington Post report

    A report in the Washington Post cites Dr. Julie Fudge's comments that some people, thanks to their genes, are more susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than others.

  • November 1, 2008

    Ania Majewska, Ph.D. named a Kavli Fellow

    Congratulations to Ania Majewska, Ph.D. on being named a Kavli Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Each year the NAS conducts the Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium with some 100 of the best and brightest of young American scientists attending to hear, discuss, and debate talks across a wide range of the natural sciences. Thus, many of the country's ablest scientists--those now rising to positions of leadership in their institutions and their professions--have gone through a seminar on the value and potential of interdisciplinary research. Attendees are selected from a pool of young researchers who have made significant contributions to science.

  • 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.

  • August 1, 2008

    Summer students Excel in research

    The GEBS summer scholars program is designed for Undergraduate students interested in the Ph.D. degree in the Biological or Biomedical Sciences and students with a potential interest in attending graduate school at the University of Rochester. Students choose from a list of mentors and fill out an application.

  • June 1, 2008

    Chris Holt, Ph.D. Joins the University of Rochester

    The Departments of Neurobiology & Anatomy and Otolaryngology are pleased to welcome Dr. Chris Holt as a co-appointee effective June 1, 2008. Chris' research interests are in the vestibular efferent system and the synaptic pharmacology and physiology by which efferents modulate vestibular input responses to head motion and orientation.

    Having received his BS in Biology from Pembroke State University in 1991, Chris began work on his MS at Northeast Louisiana University but left in 1994 to pursue his PhD in Parmacology and Toxicology at Tulane University School of Medicine. After completing his degree in 1999, Chris moved on to a postdoctoral fellowship and Research Associate position in the Department of Neurobiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of Chicago with Jay M. Goldberg, PhD. In 2005, he joined the faculty of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Texas Medical Branch as an Assistant Professor and established a close collaboration Shawn Newlands, MD, PhD.

  • May 15, 2008

    Medical School Class of 2001 selects faculty members for special commendation

    The Medical School Class of 2001 has selected two NBA faculty members for special commendation for first year teaching during the 2007 - 2008 academic year.

  • May 13, 2008

    Senior Design Team finishes 3rd

    We are delighted to extend our congratulations to the 2008 Senior Design Team, AccessAPill, for their Third Place Finish in the RERC-AMI 2007 - 2008 Senior Design Competition Accessible Pill Cap Dispensing/Cutting Device competition. The participants, John DiRaddo, Peter van Hoff, Bobby Melenovici, Boston Nyer, and Julian Oshlag are all class of '08 graduates in BME and advised by Dr. Kevin Davis of NBA and BME. The team was awarded a $500 cash prize.

  • May 9, 2008

    Nature Photographic Exhibit by Babak & Anne Razavi

    Babak Razavi is a trainee in the Medical Scientist Training Program pursuing an M.D. as well as a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. His passion with photography began at a young age when his father taught him how to take pictures using a Canon AE-1 back in Iran. Anne Razavi worked as a medical physicist at the Wilmot Cancer Center and Department of Radiation Oncology. She trained at the Charité Hospital, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. She is now a product marketing manager with Siemens Medical Solutions. Babak and Anne both enjoy capturing a variety of themes including abstracts, nature, candids, weddings, and each other.

  • April 28, 2008

    BME Undergraduate wins National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

    Graduating senior Rachel Hawe (B.S., Biomedical Engineering, 2008) has been selected to receive an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue her Ph.D. at Northwestern University. Rachel, who is from Alexandria, Virginia, pursued neuroengineering research with Martha Gdowski in the Neurobiology & Anatomy Department during all four of her years at the University of Rochester. She also had a summer research experience at Marquette University, and plans to pursue research in Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation at Northwestern University. When she wasn't in the research laboratory, Rachel was also very active in the Society of Women Engineers, serving as president during her junior year, and providing leadership and outreach all four years. The BME Department also awarded Rachel the BME Faculty Prize at our Annual Student / Faculty Dinner to recognize her outstanding contributions to the Biomedical Engineering Department.

  • March 18, 2008

    Stopping a Receptor Called 'Nogo' Boosts the Synapses

    Changing dendritic spines on a neuron - evidence of brain rewiring

    New findings about a protein called the nogo receptor are offering fresh ways to think about keeping the brain sharp. Scientists have found that reducing the nogo receptor in the brain results in stronger brain signaling in mice, effectively boosting signal strength between the synapses, the connections between nerve cells in the brain. The ability to enhance such connections is central to the brain's ability to rewire, a process that happens constantly as we learn and remember. The findings are in the March 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

    The work ties together several research threads that touch upon the health benefits of exercise. While those benefits are broadly recognized, how the gains accrue at a molecular level has been largely unknown. The new research gives scientists a way to produce changes in the brain that mirror those brought about by exercise, by reducing the effect of the nogo receptor.

    The find comes as a surprise, because for much of the last decade, the nogo receptor has been a prime target of researchers trying to coax nerves in the spinal cord to grow again. They named the protein after its ability to stop neurons from growing. Its action in the brain has not been a hot topic of study.

  • March 1, 2008

    Shawn D. Newlands, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS Joins the University of Rochester

    Dr. Shawn Newlands has been appointed Professor & Chair of Otolaryngology and Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy effective March, 2008. Shawn is an expert in head and neck oncologic surgery and an accomplished neuroscientist. His appointment will serve as a basic science anchor as a neuroscientist within our Community and contributes to the mutual benefit of both departments and the growth of translational research interests at Rochester. His is currently studying normal and pathologic vestibular function in primates and humans.

    Shawn comes to Rochester from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, where he served as Harry Carothers Wiess Professor and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology since 2003. Prior to joining the University of Texas in 1999, he served for three years on the faculty of the Division of Otolaryngology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

    Shawn was among the first graduates of the combined MD, PhD program at the University of Texas Medical Branch, earning a PhD in neuroscience along with his medical degree. He completed an internship in general surgery at Virginia-Mason Medical Center in Seattle, followed by a residency in otolaryngology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Shawn holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of California in Santa Barbara, as well as a master's in business administration from the University of Texas in Austin.

  • 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.

  • September 19, 2007

    U.S. Navy Awards Grant to Study Neural Effects of Underwater Sound to John Olschowka, Ph.D. and Diane Dalecki, Ph.D.

    John Olschowka (PI, Dept. of Neurobiology & Anatomy) and Diane Dalecki (co-I) received a two-year grant from the U.S. Navy titled Neural Effects of Underwater Sound. Underwater sound fields are used for numerous commercial and military applications, including imaging, oil exploration, mapping the ocean, and harbor surveillance. Sponsored by the U.S. Navy, Drs. Olschowka and Dalecki have embarked on a new collaborative project that will investigate the interactions of continuous and impulsive underwater sound fields with the brain and spinal cord. The Olschowka lab, in the UR Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, has long-standing expertise in examining injury to neural tissues, including trauma, using molecular, protein, and immunohistochemical techniques. Using the acoustic sources and technical expertise of the Dalecki lab, the team will investigate neural bioeffects of sound fields at frequencies ranging from 500 Hz-30 kHz. To also study the effects of acoustic impulses, the facilities and expertise available at Hydroacoustic, Inc. will be employed to generate underwater impulsive sound fields using an air gun system. Neural tissues of animals exposed to these continuous and impulsive underwater sound fields will be assessed for vascular damage, axonal injury, and glial activation. Results of this project will help to establish safe exposure guidelines for human divers and marine life exposed to underwater sound fields.

  • August 3, 2007

    Spouses Awarded Prestigious Sloan, Pew Fellowships

    This summer the University of Rochester Medical Center boasts winners of two of the most prestigious awards available to young scientists - and the winners are from the same family.

    Edward Brown, Ph.D., has been named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, and his spouse Ania Majewska, Ph.D., has received an award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Brown, one of just 20 scientists in the nation to be recognized by the Pew Charitable Trusts this year, will receive $240,000 toward his research, while Majewska will receive $45,000 to continue her work.

  • June 4, 2007

    Brain Inflammation May Be Friend, Not Foe, For Alzheimer’s Patients

  • October 11, 2006

    Cajal Club Explorer Award

    A couple of weeks ago, Gary Paige, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy, was informed that Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor who had recently joined the department, had won the Cajal Club Explorer Award. Receiving such a prestigious award is a cause for recognition and celebration. What make's this all the more special, however, is Ania's personal and professional story.

  • 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.

  • June 12, 2006

    Rochester Awarded New MS Research Center

    A new research center whose scientists are working on better ways to treat multiple sclerosis has been established in Rochester by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    The University of Rochester Medical Center is bringing together experts who normally focus on Alzheimer's disease, HIV vaccines, and spinal cord repair, as well as multiple sclerosis, in a unique center designed to stimulate MS research by drawing on the expertise of scientists from a wide array of disciplines. The new Collaborative Multiple Sclerosis Research Center Award – the only one in the nation established by the society this year – is headed by neurologist Benjamin Segal, M.D., associate professor of Neurology and director of Neuroimmunology Research. Segal has enlisted several of his colleagues to direct their attention on new ways to investigate the disease.

    Also taking part in the project are neurologists Steven Schwid, M.D., and Andrew Goodman, M.D., who have extensive experience with clinical trials in MS; and Howard Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., and Tim Mosmann, Ph.D., who head research centers in aging and in vaccine biology, respectively.

  • June 2, 2006

    Rochester Neuroscientist Awarded NSF Career Grant

    David Pinto, Ph.D., assistant professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy and Biomedical Engineering, will receive $590,000 for his research during the next five years, as part of NSF's program to support promising scientists early in their careers.

  • 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.

  • February 23, 2006

    $3.5 Million Grant To Support Research on New Treatment for Severe OCD

    As part of a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers will look at whether a breakthrough therapy for Parkinson's disease can also treat the worst cases of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). A research team led out of the University of Rochester Medical Center will measure whether Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can reduce the rampant anxiety that keeps some OCD patients homebound.

    DBS is one of the most promising areas of OCD research because early studies show that it may help many within the approximately 20 percent of OCD patients for whom neither psychological nor drug therapy works, said Suzanne Haber, Ph.D., a professor within the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Some patients have been able to venture out to work and school for the first time with DBS, said Haber, who is lead investigator for the grant.

  • 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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