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URMC researchers focus on potential health impact of microplastics in drinking water

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

What's in your drinking water? Plastic polluting our waterways is a growing health concern. 

Researchers with the University of Rochester Medical Center are focusing on the smallest of particles, invisible to the human eye.

The concern about pollutants is also changing how they want to set up their labs for the research. When one graduate student saw how much Styrofoam was being used, she decided to make a change.

"This tiny tube will come in a box like this," Francesca Agobe said. "This is all that's in the box. It has to be kept cold. It's a huge waste of space to have this amount of Styrofoam that can't be recycled and is thrown away, degrades into the environment. 

That's just one example of the Styrofoam littering labs, so Agobe decided to do something about it. She's organizing a hospital-wide collection of Styrofoam, partnering up with local company Thermal Foam.

The challenge is in how expensive it is to recycle the material, but it's an important mission as researchers learn just how many microplastic particles, including Styrene from Styrofoam, are in our drinking water.

"If you hold up a glass of water, you'll never see any of this stuff," Greg Madejski, a postdoctoral associate of biomedical engineering, said. "But because we have this filter, we can concentrate all the debris in that space, lay it out flat, and open our eyes to the diversity of particles that are possible."

The biomedical engineering team at URMC is developing tools to put in the hands of researchers to look at the tiny particles and the potential impact they have on your health.

The team is also trying to track the pollutants to find where they start in the water source and how they move through the water filtration stages. 

Read More: URMC researchers focus on potential health impact of microplastics in drinking water

Needle-Free Flu Vaccine Patch Effective in Early Study

Monday, September 16, 2019

A new needle-free flu vaccine patch revved up the immune system much like a traditional flu shot without any negative side effects, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Though the research is in the early stages (the patch hasn’t been tested in humans), it’s an important step toward a technology that could replace needle-based vaccination methods that require administration by health care workers and biohazard waste removal.

“Scientists have been studying needle-free vaccine approaches for nearly two decades, but none of the technologies have lived up to the hype,” said Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., corresponding author and Dean’s Professor of Dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Our patch overcomes a lot of the challenges faced by microneedle patches for vaccine delivery, the main method that’s been tested over the years, and our efficacy and lack of toxicity make me excited about the prospect of a product that could have huge implications for global health.”

Common skin disease paves the way for needleless flu shot

Transporting big molecules like flu vaccine proteins across the skin is difficult to do, as the skin is intended to keep things out of the body, not to let them in. The study team took lessons learned from the research and treatment of a common inflammatory skin disease to overcome this hurdle and inform their flu vaccine patch strategy.

In patients with eczema, or atopic dermatitis, the skin barrier is leaky, allowing pollens, molds and a host of other allergens to enter through the skin and be sensed by the immune system. Lisa A. Beck, M.D., corresponding author and Dean’s Professor of Dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that the expression of a protein called claudin-1 helps maintain barrier strength and lessen the permeability of the skin. Claudin-1 is significantly reduced in eczema patients (hence the leaky skin barrier) compared to individuals without the disease.

Read More: Needle-Free Flu Vaccine Patch Effective in Early Study

Dermatology Holds Annual Skin Cancer Screening at College Town

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Our Annual Skin Cancer Screening is taking place on Saturday 6/01/19 from (9:30 am to 12 pm) at our new location at College Town.

Skin Cancer Screening Flyer

UR Medicine Dermatology @ College Town
40 Celebration Dr.
Rochester, NY 14620
(585) 275-7546 (SKIN)
Map & Driving Directions

Lisa Beck Featured Among UR Women of Invention

Friday, April 12, 2019

From the small town of Portville, N.Y., to the world stage, discover the story behind Beck's career and passion for science and medicine in this UR "Women of Invention" profile. The professor of Dermatology's atopic dermatitis research has led to an innovation that could deliver a variety of vaccines on a global scale.

When it comes to research and invention, “there are lots of great questions,” says Lisa Beck, an internationally recognized expert in atopic dermatitis. “But not all of them have answers.”

And even when those questions do have answers, those answers may be lurking in unexpected places.

For example, atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, is a chronic skin disease that causes unsightly lesions, profound itching, and outright misery for up to 20 percent of children and 9 percent of adults.

There is no known cure. However, Beck’s lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered a defective protein that appears to be responsible for creating the “leaky” skin that causes the condition.

What’s leaky skin? It occurs when “water comes out, which makes the skin dry, and allergens, microbes, and irritants get in and cause the characteristic inflammation of the disease,” says Beck, a Dean’s Professor of Dermatology. “And it makes you very allergy prone.”

Her discovery of the defective protein may eventually lead to new ways to treat atopic dermatitis. But in the meantime, Beck and her collaborators—Ben Miller, also a professor of dermatology, and Anna De Benedetto, formerly at Rochester, now associate professor of dermatology at the University of Florida—have found a peptide that can temporarily “recreate” the same effect of having a faulty protein in healthy people as well.

That may not seem particularly helpful at first glance. But applied as part of a small wearable patch, the peptide can temporarily create temporary “leaks” in a very localized area of healthy skin. In doing so, it creates a perfect portal for vaccinating people or as an alternative route for drug delivery.

Read More: Lisa Beck Featured Among UR Women of Invention

All the Ways Stress and Anxiety Can Mess With Your Skin

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Anxiety may originally arise in your brain, but the consequences can play out all over your face. And we don’t just mean a clenched jaw or a furrowed brow. Stress, anxiety, and similar emotional states can trigger or worsen a wide range of skin conditions, from acne to hair-thinning alopecia, to scaly psoriasis, research shows.

For instance, in one study of 101 people with psoriasis—an autoimmune condition that causes excess skin cells to build up in itchy, painful patches—about half reported that their first brush with the disease came during a particularly trying time in their lives. And about two-thirds said their symptoms worsened when they felt pressured.

Researchers also found that for about three-fourths of patients, stressful events had occurred within six months prior to developing a condition called alopecia areata, in which patches of hair fall out without warning. In another study, female medical students with higher stress levels also reported worse acne.

Modern medicine tends to slice the body into specialty domains, with psychiatrists attending to your mind while dermatologists soothe your skin. But practically speaking, physiology isn’t so neatly divided, says dermatologist Francisco Tausk, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center and head of the nation's only Center for Integrated Dermatology.

Read More: All the Ways Stress and Anxiety Can Mess With Your Skin