Neurology News

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  • December 11, 2013

    Film Screening and Q&A on Huntington's Disease

    There will be a film screening of the documentary Alive & Well followed by a Q&A with Kevin Biglan, neurologist and codirector of the Huntington's Disease Society of America Center of Excellence at the Medical Center. The screening starts at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16 at the Little Theatre. Biglan will be joined by Billy Lawler, a former Rochester police officer and founder of Bill Lawler Annual Huntington's 5K. View the film trailer and purchase tickets in advance.

  • December 10, 2013

    Jones Memorial and URMC Expand Neurology and Cardiology Services

    Jones Memorial Hospital is expanding its collaboration with the University of Rochester Medical Center through new neurology and cardiology services in Wellsville, NY. URMC neurologists Richard Welles, M.D. and Su Kanchana, M.D., Ph.D., and internist Linda Welles, M.D. began seeing patients at the hospital beginning December 3.

    Richard Welles is board certified in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and will offer on-site evaluation and treatment of neurological disorders. Kanchana is board certified in Psychiatry and Neurology, and specializes in treatment of adult movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Linda Welles is board certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics and specializes in gait and balance and geriatric disorders.

    We are very pleased to be able to offer neurological care to patients in Wellsville and beyond, said Eva Benedict, CEO of Jones Memorial Hospital. This collaboration between Jones Memorial and URMC will enable patients to access the necessary specialized care right here in our own community.

  • December 10, 2013

    Kieburtz Named AAAS Fellow

    Karl Kieburtz, M.D., M.P.H. has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Kieburtz, the Robert J. Joynt Professor in Neurology, serves as director of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Center for Human Experimental Therapy.

    AAAS is the world's largest and most prestigious scientific society and publishes the highly-regarded scientific journal Science. Fellows are elected annually by the AAAS for efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications [which] are scientifically or socially distinguished. The new Fellows will be recognized at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago in February 2014.

  • December 4, 2013

    Telemedicine Brings Parkinson’s Care to Anyone, Anywhere

    A new study shows that a neurologist in an office thousands of miles away can deliver effective specialized care to people with Parkinson's disease. For individuals with the condition – many of whom have never seen a specialist – these virtual house calls could allow them to live independently while effectively managing the symptoms of the disease.

    The idea that we can provide care to individuals with Parkinson's disease regardless of where they live is both a simple and revolutionary concept, said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., senior author of the study which appears today in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice. This study demonstrates that, by employing essentially the same technology that grandparents use to talk to their grandchildren, we can expand access to the specialized care that we know will improve patients' quality of life and health.

  • December 2, 2013

    URMC Plays Role in New Epilepsy Technology

    Physicians at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Strong Epilepsy Center were involved in the recent approval of a new treatment for epilepsy. The implantable medical device - called the Responsive Neurostimulator System (RNS) - monitors brain activity and can detect and counteract seizures.

    URMC was one of only 28 sites in the country to conduct clinical trials of RNS, which was developed by the California-based company Neuropace. The research showed that the device decreases the number of monthly seizures by nearly 38 percent. URMC neurologists Michel Berg, M.D. and James Fessler, M.D., and neurosurgeon Web Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D. were involved in the study.

    This is the first FDA-approved brain implant for epilepsy that responds to the brain’s activity, said Berg, an associate professor of Neurology. For patients who are unable to control their seizures with medications or are not eligible for resective surgery, this device could provide an important treatment option.

  • November 27, 2013

    Neurology for the Primary Care Provider

    The continuing medical education activity Neurology for the Primary Care Provider is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 12. The program highlights the most recent diagnostic and treatment advances in the field of neurology. The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

    Now it its twentieth year, Neurology for the Primary Care Provider continues to attract a large audience of clinicians who manage patients with acute and chronic neurologic disorders in diverse settings. Each year, over 100 health care professionals - approximately one half of whom are physicians - attend this conference. The program highlights the most recent diagnostic and treatment advances in the field of neurology, utilizing a highly interactive case-based format.

  • November 17, 2013

    Drug Shows Early Promise in Treating Liver Failure-Related Seizures

    A study out today in the journal Nature Medicine suggests a potential new treatment for the seizures that often plague children with genetic metabolic disorders and individuals undergoing liver failure. The discovery hinges on a new understanding of the complex molecular chain reaction that occurs when the brain is exposed to too much ammonia.

    The study shows that elevated levels of ammonia in the blood overwhelm the brain's defenses, ultimately causing nerve cells to become overexcited. The researchers have also discovered that bumetanide - a diuretic drug used to treat high blood pressure - can restore normal electrical activity in the brains of mice with the condition and prevent seizures.

    Ammonia is a ubiquitous waste product of regular protein metabolism, but it can accumulate in toxic levels in individuals with metabolic disorders, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the article. It appears that the key to preventing the debilitating neurological effects of ammonia toxicity is to correct a molecular malfunction which causes nerve cells in the brain to become chemically unbalanced.

  • November 1, 2013

    Clinical Trial for Children with Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (JNCL)

    The University of Rochester Medical Center is currently recruiting subjects with JNCL for a clinical trial. This research study will focus on evaluating whether an investigational drug is safe and well tolerated in children with JNCL. Mycophenolate mofetil (also known as Cellcept) is a medication that suppresses the immune system. The study is 22 weeks long with a total of 8 in-person visits and 4 telephone contacts. Four visits require travel to University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, and four visits are with your child’s local physician. Four contacts take place by telephone. Travel costs are covered by the study. Children enrolled in the study will take mycophenolate syrup twice a day, and will have blood drawn at each study visit to monitor safety.

    More information on the trial can be found at, Time Warner Cable News (Rochester, NY television affiliate) and the URMC Newsroom.

    For further information, please contact Amy Vierhile at (585) 275-4762.

  • October 29, 2013

    URMC Expands Neuromedicine Teams for Rochester, Ithaca, Southern Tier

    Four neuromedicine specialists have joined the University of Rochester Medical Center, enhancing programs for traumatic injury, cerebrovascular, spine and Parkinson's care.

    Manjunath Markandaya, M.B.B.S., was named chief of the division of neurocritical care and assistant professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology and Medicine. He specializes in caring for some of the most challenging and critically ill neurosurgical and neurological patients.

    James C. Metcalf Jr., M.D., was named assistant professor of Neurosurgery and serves Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca. He specializes in spine disorders and cancer care.

    Su Kanchana, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist, was named assistant professor of Neurology and serves patients in the Southern Tier Neuromedicine office in Big Flats as well as in Rochester at 919 Westfall Road, Building C. She specializes in the diagnosis and management of complex movement disorders, with emphasis on Parkinson's disease, deep brain stimulation and Botulinum toxin therapy.

    Amrendra Singh Miranpuri, M.D., joined the team as an assistant professor of Neurosurgery. He specializes in open and interventional neurosurgical procedures for cerebrovascular disease. He is also the surgical co-director of the Neuromedicine Critical Care Program.

    URMC's neuromedicine programs - Neurosurgery and Neurology - are ranked 29th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

  • October 28, 2013

    Lecture: Advocacy for Rare Diseases

    Frank Sasinowski, former deputy director of health policy for the Food and Drug Administration who is currently a director at Hyman, Phelps, and McNamara, will present this year's Neurology Grand Rounds Rare Disease Lecture, Advocacy for Rare Diseases, at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, in K-307 (3-6408), Medical Center.

  • October 17, 2013

    Sleep 'Cleans' the Brain of Toxins

    The US team believe the waste removal system is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep. Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean. They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

    One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators? It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that housework may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.

    The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up, said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard. You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time.

  • September 25, 2013

    Doctor Left Behind Story in Search of Ending

    We live in the new age of Sherlock Holmes, what with movie and television versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's moody but brilliant detective popping up like foggy nights in London town.

    But it would seem that the late Dr. Robert J. Joynt, the former dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and an internationally recognized neurologist, was ahead of the Holmes revival. In addition to his formidable record of academic publication, Joynt, a Pittsford resident who died in April 2012 at age 86, had begun to turn out a series of short stories, five of which were published in Neurology, a medical journal.

    Each mystery featured Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson confronted with a puzzler that had a solution grounded in neurology, the study of the nervous system. Joynt's sixth, and presumably last, Holmes mystery was found unfinished on his computer after his death.

    Now the editors of Neurology are asking readers to complete the neurologist's story in 1,500 words or less. The winning entry will be published in Neurology. The author of the new material will share credit with Joynt. The uncompleted mystery and the contest rules can be found by going to and searching for The Case of the Locked House, the title of the incomplete story. (When you get to the story, click on Full Text.)

  • September 24, 2013

    Michael J. Fox Still Pushing to Find Parkinson's Cure

    Actor Michael J. Fox once predicted that he would be cured of Parkinson disease's long before his 50th birthday. I know I won't have this. I will not have it, he told Barbara Walters on national television. Now, 52, Fox is far from cured.

    In a way, not much has changed in the 15 years since Fox first publicly acknowledged that he had the disease and the 22 years since his diagnosis. Most patients still rely on a medication, levodopa, first tested on Parkinson's the year Fox was born. In other ways and much to Fox's credit, many people say our understanding of the disease has been transformed since his diagnosis, bringing research closer to a cure even as scientists acknowledge that it will be far harder to achieve than they once believed.

    Still, the only major new treatment in the last two decades is deep-brain stimulation, in which electrodes are implanted inside the brain to partially override the distorted signals that lead to the disease's tremors, stiffness and slowness. Like L-dopa, it only treats symptoms, and can't slow or stop the disease. Another recent advance, according to Irene Richard, a neurologist at the University of Rochester, is the attention now being paid to the emotional and mental toll of Parkinson's. Roughly half of Parkinson's patients are depressed, likely as a symptom of the condition.

  • August 19, 2013

    Copper Identified as Culprit in Alzheimer's Disease

    Copper appears to be one of the main environmental factors that trigger the onset and enhance the progression of Alzheimer's disease by preventing the clearance and accelerating the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain. That is the conclusion of a study appearing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    It is clear that, over time, copper's cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain, said Rashid Deane, Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neurosurgery, member of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, and the lead author of the study. This impairment is one of the key factors that cause the protein to accumulate in the brain and form the plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

  • August 9, 2013

    Kieburtz Appointed to Oversee URMC Clinical Research

    Karl Kieburtz, M.D., M.P.H. has been tapped to serve as director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and to serve as the senior associate dean for Clinical Research. The appointment will be effective September 1, 2013.

    As one of the leading academic experts in the design and operation of clinical trials, Dr. Kieburtz is the obvious choice to build upon the Medical Center's history as an innovative national leader in the field of experimental therapeutics and translational medicine, said Mark Taubman, M.D., dean of the URMC School of Medicine and Dentistry. We are deeply grateful that he has accepted this new leadership role and I look forward to working with him to continue to strengthen and grow our clinical research enterprise.

  • August 1, 2013

    New Neurology Appointments to Focus on Expanding Access at Home and Abroad

    Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H., and E. Ray Dorsey, M.D., M.B.A., have joined the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurology effective August 1. Birbeck, an epilepsy specialist, and Dorsey, a movement disorders specialist, will both focus on the global burden of neurological disorders and efforts to expand access to underserved populations.

    The number of people with neurological disorders will grow at a rapid pace over the next several decades, said Robert G. Holloway, Jr., M.D., M.P.H., chair of the URMC Department of Neurology. Expanding access to specialized care to patients in both the U.S. and the developing world will be one of the key challenges facing medicine. Drs. Birbeck and Dorsey are leaders and innovators in this field and we are thrilled to have them join our department.

  • July 25, 2013

    Holloway Appointed New Chair of Neurology

    Robert G. Holloway, Jr., M.D., M.P.H. has been tapped as the next chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurology. Holloway had been serving as interim chair of the department since last July and his permanent appointment is effective immediately.

    Dr. Holloway is the epitome of the academic 'triple threat,' said Mark Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. His skills as a physician, researcher, and educator will enable the department to grow and meet the twin challenges of health care reform and an increasingly competitive national environment for research funding. Bob has played an integral role in many of the Medical Center’s signature initiatives and I am deeply grateful that he has agreed to take on this new responsibility and lead the Department of Neurology.

    In addition to his position in Neurology, Holloway is also a professor of Public Health Sciences, director of the Research, Education, and Career Development Function of the URMC Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), and principal investigator of the URMC’s NIH-funded NeuroNEXT clinical research program.

  • July 16, 2013

    Neurology and Neurosurgery Ranked as One of Best in Nation

    Chair of Neurology, Robert Holloway, Jr., M.D., M.P.H. and Chair of Neurosurgery, Webster H. Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D.

    When US News & World Report’s 2014 Best Hospitals guidebook hits newsstands today, a record number of six University of Rochester Medical Center specialties will be ranked among the very best in the nation. That’s the highest number of URMC programs ever to earn a seat in the magazine’s list of the nation’s top 50 in a single year, since US News began ranking hospitals in 1989.

    The URMC adult specialties nationally ranked included Neurology and Neurosurgery as the 29th best. URMC’s success in the U.S. News rankings reflects the hard work that our faculty and staff have invested to continuously improve quality, patient safety and satisfaction. It also reflects URMC’s growing reputation for first-rate care, said URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D.

  • June 30, 2013

    Profile of Excellence: Unit 5-1600 Team Pioneers in Providing Exceptional Care to Patients and Families

    For their commitment to patient safety and satisfaction, the nursing staff in the Neurology Inpatient Unit (5-1600) received a 2012 Board Excellence Award in the team category.

    A key to the team's success has been their relentless focus on improving communication - both among caregivers and with patients and their families. This goes far beyond the routine communication between residents, attending physicians, and nurses as they hand off care during a shift change, to include hourly huddles among nursing staff to review patient status, and regular rounding by nursing staff to check with patients and their families, ensuring that all of their needs are being met. And, at the prodding of the nursing staff, attending physicians now round at a consistent time each morning, so the families can plan to participate. Once daily, too, the unit's nurses, therapists, social workers, and residents all come together to plan the day and develop comprehensive discharge plans for patients leaving the hospital.

    Our unit is home to one of the most challenging patient populations in the hospital, and delivering timely and effective care requires a multidisciplinary team effort, said Todd Holmquist, M.D., the medical director of the Neurology Inpatient Unit. This requires cohesion, leadership, accountability, and - above all - constant communication among providers.

  • June 27, 2013

    Brain's 'Garbage Truck' May Hold Key to Treating Alzheimer's and Other Disorders

    In a perspective piece appearing today in the journal Science, researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center point to a newly discovered system by which the brain removes waste as a potentially powerful new tool to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. In fact, scientists believe that some of these conditions may arise when the system is not doing its job properly.

    Essentially all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine and author of the article. Understanding and ultimately discovering how to modulate the brain’s system for removing toxic waste could point to new ways to treat these diseases.

    The body defends the brain like a fortress and rings it with a complex system of gateways that control which molecules can enter and exit. While this blood-brain barrier was first described in the late 1800s, scientists are only now just beginning to understand the dynamics of how these mechanisms function. In fact, the complex network of waste removal, which researchers have dubbed the glymphatic system, was only first disclosed by URMC scientists last August in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

  • June 14, 2013

    Neurologists Win Provost’s Multidisciplinary Award

    Five diverse research projects at the University were selected as recipients of the sixth annual Provost's Multidisciplinary Awards. The initiative provides $250,000 each year to support faculty research that crosses disciplines. Among the recipients were Neurology professors, Jonathan Mink and Marc Schieber. Their project, entitled, Task-Specific Dystonia in Musicians is a collaboration with Ralph Manchester, in Medicine and Nicholas Goluses (Strings) and Peter Kurau (Woodwind, Brass & Percussion) at the Eastman School of Music.

  • June 6, 2013

    Huntington's Brain Cells Regenerated, in Mice

    Huntington's disease, like other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, is characterized by the loss of a particular type of brain cell. This cell type has been regenerated in a mouse model of the disease, in a study led by University of Rochester Medical Center scientists.

    Mice whose received this brain regeneration treatment lived far longer than untreated mice. The study was published online Thursday in Cell Stem Cell.

    We believe that our data suggest the feasibility of this process as a viable therapeutic strategy for Huntington's disease, said senior study author Steve Goldman, co-director of Rochester's Center for Translational Neuromedicine, in a press release.

  • June 3, 2013

    Researchers Identify Genetic Signature of Deadly Brain Cancer

    A multi-institutional team of researchers have pinpointed the genetic traits of the cells that give rise to gliomas – the most common form of malignant brain cancer. The findings, which appear in the journal Cell Reports, provide scientists with rich new potential set of targets to treat the disease.

    This study identifies a core set of genes and pathways that are dysregulated during both the early and late stages of tumor progression,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the senior author of the study and co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “By virtue of their marked difference from normal cells, these genes appear to comprise a promising set of targets for therapeutic intervention.

  • May 28, 2013

    URMC Honored for Stroke, Cardiac Programs

    The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) has once again recognized the University of Rochester Medical Center's (URMC) Strong Memorial Hospital as having met its highest standards of care for stroke, heart failure, and resuscitation.

    This is the fourth consecutive year that Strong Memorial Hospital has received the AHA/ASA Get With The Guidelines program's highest honor, the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The hospital was also tapped for the Target: Stroke Honor Role, which recognizes hospitals that have consistently and successfully reduced door-to-needle time – the window of time between a stroke victim's arrival at the hospital, the diagnosis of an acute ischemic stroke, and the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA.

    "This recognition is a testament to the hard work of our outstanding team of nurses, physicians, and therapists and their dedication to provide the highest quality of care to stroke victims," said URMC neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Strong Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center.

  • May 13, 2013

    Symposium Aims to Get Parkinson's Community Moving

    URMC neurologists are participating in a daylong symposium that brings together local Parkinson's disease patients and nationally recognized movement disorders researchers, clinicians, and physical therapists to discuss the latest advances in research and treatment for the disease.

    The symposium will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 4:15 PM at the Radisson Rochester Riverside Hotel. The event is free and open to the public.

    The Victory Summit is a fantastic opportunity to share the many ways in which individuals with Parkinson's can alter the course of the disease, said Michelle Burack, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the URMC Departments of Neurology and Pediatrics. Things like daily physical activity, paying attention to mental well-being, and maintaining social connectedness are powerful 'medicine' for the brain, and are vital components of optimum management for this chronic condition.

  • April 25, 2013

    Vietnam Veterans Could Hold Clue to Future for Today’s Soldiers

    Since 2001, more than two million service members have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and studies indicate nearly a third of them have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or both. The University of Rochester Medical Center is part of an investigation into whether these injuries put the soldiers at greater risk for a future battle -- against Alzheimer's Disease. As they begin the study, researchers are turning to veterans of the Vietnam War for help.

    "In order to predict what might happen, we wanted to look at a cohort that is about 40 years older to see what the brains of those individuals look like," says Anton P. Porsteinsson, M.D., who is overseeing the study at URMC. "Nobody paid much attention to this back in the Vietnam era, but do TBI and PTSD impact your risk of memory disease? Could this point toward additional studies into treatment and prevention of the long-term effects of these injuries?"

  • March 25, 2013

    Stroke Survivors Share Experiences During March 28 Seminar

    A three-time stroke survivor, whose perseverance allowed her to work, maintain her busy household and be courageous enough to take karate and surfing lessons, is among the speakers at a seminar for stroke survivors on Thursday, March 28, at the Hyatt Regency.

    Christina Goodermote will share her personal story and lessons learned after surviving a stroke, at 39. The Chili woman will be joined by fellow survivor Lucy Sebastian during the Stroke Treatment Alliance of Rochester's community education event from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is required for the free event, call 585-275-8344. Space is limited.

    The Stroke Treatment Alliance of Rochester, or STAR, is a collaborative effort by University of Rochester Medical Center's Strong and Highland hospitals, Unity Hospital and Rochester General Hospital to improve and unify stroke care and raise awareness of the warning signs for this potentially devastating health emergency.

    This initiative is led by URMC neurosurgeon Babak Jahromi, M.D., Ph.D., and neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., and funded by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

  • March 25, 2013

    URMC Neuromedicine Pain Center Gets National Recognition for Excellence in Care

    The Neuromedicine Pain Management Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Neurosurgery was recently honored for its outcomes, multidisciplinary care and research by the American Pain Society, the leading organization dedicated to advancing pain care.

    URMC was named a Clinical Center of Excellence for pain management, the only academic medical center in the nation to earn designation this year. To date, the APS has recognized just 20 academic medical centers in the country, and URMC is the only site in Upstate New York. People would have to travel to New York City or Cleveland for similar quality care.

    The APS designation followed a rigorous review of the center's systems, clinical and research innovation, commitment to education and leadership within the community.

  • March 11, 2013

    ‘Virtual’ House Calls for Parkinson’s Patients Effective

    A study out today in the journal JAMA Neurology shows that telemedicine check-ups for people with Parkinson's disease can not only provide effective care but also generate a significant economic benefit. These ‘virtual' visits with physicians – in which the patient participates from the comfort of their own home – demonstrate that quality specialized care can be effectively delivered to individuals in remote locations.

    "This study shows that providing specialty care to people with Parkinson's disease directly into their homes is feasible, saves patients substantial time and travel, and may offer comparable clinical benefits to in-person care," said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Kevin Biglan, M.D., M.P.H., the senior author of the study.

  • March 7, 2013

    NPR Features Current Nedergaard-Goldman Publication; Glial Research

    A human glial cell (green) among normal mouse glial cells (red). The human cell is larger, sends out more fibers and has more connections than do mouse cells. Mice with this type of human cell implanted in their brains perform better on learning and memory tests than do typical mice.

    For more than a century, neurons have been the superstars of the brain. Their less glamorous partners, glial cells, can't send electric signals, and so they've been mostly ignored. Now scientists have injected some human glial cells into the brains of newborn mice. When the mice grew up, they were faster learners. The study, published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell by Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. and Dr. Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., not only introduces a new tool to study the mechanisms of the human brain, it supports the hypothesis that glial cells - and not just neurons - play an important role in learning.

    Today, glial research and Dr. Goldman were featured on National Public Radio (NPR) speaking about the glial research that is outlined in this current publication. I can't tell the differences between a neuron from a bird or a mouse or a primate or a human, says Goldman, glial cells are easy to tell apart. Human glial cells - human astrocytes - are much larger than those of lower species. They have more fibers and they send those fibers out over greater distances.

    In collaboration with the Nedergaard Lab, newborn mice had some human glial cells injected into their brains. The mice grew up, and so did the human glial cells. The cells spread through the mouse brain, integrating perfectly with mouse neurons and, in some areas, outnumbering their mouse counterparts. All the while Goldman says the glial cells maintained their human characteristics.

  • March 7, 2013

    Support Cells Found in Human Brain Make Mice Smarter

    Glial cells – a family of cells found in the human central nervous system and, until recently, considered mere housekeepers – now appear to be essential to the unique complexity of the human brain. Scientists reached this conclusion after demonstrating that when transplanted into mice, these human cells could influence communication within the brain, allowing the animals to learn more rapidly.

    The study, out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that the evolution of a subset of glia called astrocytes – which are larger and more complex in humans than other species – may have been one of the key events that led to the higher cognitive functions that distinguish us from other species.

    The role of the astrocyte is to provide the perfect environment for neural transmission, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-senior author of the study and director, along with Dr. Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine. As the same time, we've observed that as these cells have evolved in complexity, size, and diversity – as they have in humans – brain function becomes more and more complex.

  • February 7, 2013

    Cells Forged from Human Skin Show Promise in Treating MS, Myelin Disorders

    A study out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell shows that human brain cells created by reprogramming skin cells have the potential to be highly effective in treating myelin disorders, a family of diseases that includes multiple sclerosis and rare childhood disorders called pediatric leukodystrophies.

    The study is the first successful attempt to employ human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) to produce a population of cells that are critical to neural signaling in the brain. In this instance, the researchers utilized cells crafted from human skin and transplanted them into animal models of myelin disease.

    “This study strongly supports the utility of hiPSCs as a feasible and effective source of cells to treat myelin disorders,” said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study. “In fact, it appears that cells derived from this source are at least as effective as those created using embryonic or tissue-specific stem cells.”

  • January 10, 2013

    Study: Model for Brain Signaling Flawed

    A new study out today in the journal Science turns two decades of understanding about how brain cells communicate on its head. The study demonstrates that the tripartite synapse – a model long accepted by the scientific community and one in which multiple cells collaborate to move signals in the central nervous system – does not exist in the adult brain.

    Our findings demonstrate that the tripartite synaptic model is incorrect, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., lead author of the study and co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine. This concept does not represent the process for transmitting signals between neurons in the brain beyond the developmental stage.

  • January 9, 2013

    Parents Create “Crosby’s Fund” to Finance Cancer Research in Son’s Honor

    At just 13 months old, Crosby Wilmot was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the sympathetic nervous system that accounts for half of cancers diagnosed in infants. By the time of diagnosis, the disease has already spread throughout most children's bodies. The same was true for Crosby, who bravely battled for 11 months. He passed away on August 4, 2011, just one month shy of his second birthday. Crosby's spirit, however, continues to live on in many ways and has been honored by his family with the creation of Crosby's Fund, a local philanthropic initiative, through the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center and Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), that funds research in childhood cancer, with a focus on neuroblastoma.

    “Crosby spent 85 percent of his illness in the hospital,” said Zoe Wilmot, Crosby's mother. “We knew when he relapsed that we would want to one day help raise money for neuroblastoma research.”

  • January 3, 2013

    Prenatal Exposure to Fish Beneficial to Child Development

    A study published recently in the Journal of Nutrition adds to the growing scientific evidence that when expecting mothers eat fish often, they are giving their future children a boost in brain development even though they are exposing their children to the neurotoxin, methyl mercury, present in fish.

    "This study shows that there are no adverse effects of prenatal mercury exposure from fish on children at 5 years old on 10 developmental outcomes when adjusted for maternal levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. In fact, we found positive associations with those nutrients and children's language development," said Phil W. Davidson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Pediatrics, principal investigator of the ongoing Seychelles Child Development Study and an author of the Journal of Nutrition paper.

  • January 3, 2013

    Researchers Zero In on Cognitive Difficulties Associated with Menopause

    The memory problems that many women experience in their 40s and 50s as they approach and go through menopause are both real and appear to be most acute during the early period of post menopause. That is the conclusion of a study which appears today in the journal Menopause.

    "Women going through menopausal transition have long complained of cognitive difficulties such as keeping track of information and struggling with mental tasks that would have otherwise been routine," said Miriam Weber, Ph.D. a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. "This study suggests that these problems not only exist but become most evident in women in the first year following their final menstrual period."

    "By identifying how these memory problems progress and when women are most vulnerable, we now understand the window of opportunity during which interventions – be those therapeutic or lifestyle changes – may be beneficial," said Weber. "But the most important thing that women need to be reassured of is that these problems, while frustrating, are normal and, in all likelihood, temporary."

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