Researchers Build Bridges to Solve Problems

Researchers collaboratingOur best research projects were multidisciplinary, collaborative, and translational. Whether it was finding a way to block the genetic flaw that causes muscular dystrophy, helping stroke patients regain vision, proving that ginger quells nausea during cancer treatment, or developing a tool to better measure a baby’s pain, URMC researchers addressed a range of important health issues that have a direct relationship to patient care.

Our scientists take pride in the fact that the distance between a grad student and a full professor is much smaller at URMC than at other institutions. The goal, therefore, is to continue to take advantage of a collaborative culture and build even more bridges between basic researchers and clinicians. Here are some highlights from the past year:

  • The School of Nursing celebrated a rise in its NIH ranking in 2009. Now sixth among 82 national nursing schools, the School continued to focus on encouraging cross-disciplinary research and supporting the development of junior faculty. Researchers addressed a range of issues, from substance abuse and interventions to HIV prevention.
  • Robert Berkowitz, D.D.S., chair, Pediatric Dentistry Division at Eastman Institute for Oral Health, is trying to improve care for severe early childhood caries (S-ECC). This form of dental decay can devastate the dentition of babies and youngsters. The current treatment is dental surgery under general anesthesia in the hospital, but it is not curative. In fact, approximately 40 percent of children treated for S-ECC develop new decay within one year. His work, supported by the NIH, involves using an antibacterial agent applied to the teeth after surgery.
  • visual retraining exersizeStroke patients usually take part in aggressive rehabilitation to restore speech or movement. Our researchers discovered that by vigorously exercising the visual part of the brain every day on a computer, patients who had gone partially blind after a stroke also can regain some vision. Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and associate professor, led the study with patients from the David and Ilene Flaum Eye Institute.
  • A compound strikingly similar to the common food additive that gives M&Ms and Gatorade a blue tint may offer promise for preventing the additional, and very serious, secondary damage in the hours immediately following a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., director of the Maiken NedergaardCenter for Translational Neuromedicine, led a team that reported the compound Brilliant Blue G (BBG) stops the cascade of molecular events that cause secondary damage to the spinal cord, an injury known to permanently worsen the paralysis for patients. The study cleared another hurdle in moving the concept to closer patients, by identifying a compound that could some day be administered systemically.
  • Art Moss M.D.Arthur J. Moss, M.D., an eminent authority in heart failure and arrhythmias, continued his studies of the use of implantable cardioverter defibrillators, which shock the heart back into proper rhythm. Results of Moss’ latest landmark clinical trial showed that patients who received a next-generation device – called an implanted cardiac resynchronization therapy device with defibrillator (CRT-D) – had a 29 percent reduction in heart failure or death.
  •  A young investigator in biomedical engineering received a prestigious NIH New Innovator Award, which supports exceptionally creative researchers who have the potential to become leaders in their field. Edward B. Brown III, Ph.D., is studying how breast cancer cells use collagen fibers to spread, and hopes to find a way to predict and interrupt the metastatic process.

A team of immunologists, mathematical modelers, statisticians and software developers, led by Hulin Wu., Ph.D., created and tested a new computer simulation model that shows the body’s immune reaction to influenza A. In an era in which flu pandemics are causing much concern, the new model has the potential to aid in treatment design and preparation ahead of future pandemics.