Research Education News
URMC-099 Combats Surgery-Induced Delirium, Cognitive Dysfunction in Preclinical Model of Orthopedic Surgery
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Living microglia, genetically marked to glow green, in the cerebral cortex with magenta colored blood vessels from a mouse treated with URMC-099.
A new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation found that prophylactic treatment with URMC-099 – a “broad spectrum” mixed-lineage kinase 3 inhibitor – prevents neuroinflammation-associated cognitive impairment in a mouse model of orthopedic surgery-induced perioperative neurocognitive disorders (PND).
PND, a new term that encompasses postoperative delirium, delayed neurocognitive recovery, and postoperative neurocognitive disorder, is the most common complication after routine surgical procedures, particularly in the elderly. Following surgery, such as hip replacement or fracture repair, up to 50 percent of patients experience cognitive disturbances like anxiety, irritability, hallucinations, or panic attacks, which can lead to more serious complications down the line. Currently, there are no FDA-approved therapies to treat it.
Developed in the laboratory of Harris A. “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, URMC-099 inhibits damaging innate immune responses that lead to inflammation in the brain and accompanying cognitive problems. Using animal models of diseases like HIV-1-associated neurocognitive disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, Gelbard has shown that the compound blocks enzymes called kinases (such as mixed lineage kinase type 3, or MLK3) that respond to inflammatory stressors inside and outside cells.
Gelbard and Niccolò Terrando, Ph.D., director of the Neuroinflammation and Cognitive Outcomes laboratory in the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center, used an orthopedic surgery mouse model that recapitulates features of clinical procedures such as a fracture repair or hip replacement, which are often associated with PND in frail subjects. In a pilot experiment, they treated one group of these mice with URMC-099 before and after surgery, and another group prior to surgery only. Gelbard and Terrando’s teams, including first author Patrick Miller-Rhodes, a senior pre-doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program working in the Gelbard lab at URMC, measured the following:
- How the surgery affected the central nervous system and the immune cells (microglia) that reside there was evaluated using stereology and microscopy.
- Surgery-induced memory impairment was assessed using the “What-Where-When” and Memory Load Object Discrimination tasks.
- The acute peripheral immune response to surgery was assessed by cytokine/chemokine profiling and flow cytometry.
- Long-term fracture healing was assessed in fracture callouses using micro-computerized tomography and histomorphometry analyses.
- For additional details see the “Materials and Methods” section of the study
The team found that the surgery disrupted the blood brain barrier and activated microglia (a first line immune responder present in the inflamed brain), which led to impaired object place and identity discrimination when the mice were subject to the “What-Where-When” and Memory Load Object Discrimination tasks. Both URMC-099 dosing methods prevented the surgery-induced microgliosis (increase in the number of activated microglia) and cognitive impairment without affecting fracture healing.
“A major concern regarding the use of anti-inflammatory drugs for PND is whether they will affect fracture healing. We found that our preventive, time-limited treatment with URMC-099 didn’t influence bone healing or long-term bone repair,” said Gelbard and Terrando, professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pediatrics at URMC and associate professor of Anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center, respectively. “These findings of improvement in cognition and normal fracture healing provide compelling evidence for the advancement of URMC-099 as a therapeutic option for PND.”
“Right now we have nothing to treat this condition,” said Mark A. Oldham, M.D., assistant professor in the department of Psychiatry at URMC who treats patients with PND. “We work hard to provide good medical care, including helping people sleep at night and making sure they are walking, eating and drinking, but it isn’t clear that these efforts have any meaningful long-term impact.”
According to Oldham, recent studies that track patients following an episode of PND show that many of them don’t resolve completely, and that they have a new cognitive baseline after delirium.
“It is increasingly an accepted fact that after delirium, people have suffered some kind of neurological insult, which leaves them cognitively or functionally worse off than before the incident,” he noted.
Next steps for the research include identifying definitive mechanisms for pain modulation, immune cell trafficking and neuro-immune characterization in PND. Gelbard and Terrando are tackling some of these questions with funds from the National Institutes of Health (RO1 AG057525). The current study was also funded by multiple grants from the NIH (P01MH64570, RO1 MH104147, RO1 AG057525 and F31 MH113504). The University of Rochester has four issued U.S. patents and multiple issued patents in foreign countries covering URMC-099.
Medical Student Gordon Wong presents at the annual URMC Medical School poster session
Monday, October 21, 2019
Dr. Georas (left) and Gordon Wong
Medical Student Gordon Wong presented a poster at the annual URMC Medical School poster session, describing his summer research project. Gordon studied how protein kinase D regulates airway inflammation and epithelial barrier integrity in mouse models of airway inflammation and viral infections. He made some very exciting discoveries, working with graduate student Janelle Veazey, specifically elucidating how protein kinase D controls the recruitment of neutrophils to the lungs.
Leigh Wexler Graduates!
Friday, September 6, 2019
Dr. Leigh Wexler and Dr. Portman (From Left)
Congratulations to Dr. Leigh Wexler, who successfully defended their thesis this week, earning a Ph.D. in Genetics from the GDSC program. Leigh’s thesis research in the Portman Lab focused on the regulation of neuronal circuit function and behavior in the nematode C. elegans. It’s been known for many years that males of this species tend to leave a food source to find mates, but that depriving males of food causes them to reprioritize feeding behavior over exploration. One important component of this behavioral flexibility is regulated chemosensory function. Well-fed males detect food poorly, partly due to low expression of a food-associated chemoreceptor called ODR-10, but food-deprived males upregulate ODR-10, increasing food attraction and decreasing food-leaving behavior. In contrast, hermaphrodites (the female equivalent in C. elegans) are strongly attracted to food and exhibit high levels of ODR-10 expression even when well-fed.
Leigh’s research probed the mechanism by which ODR-10 expression is influenced by feeding status in males. They found that signals through two conserved pathways, involving the TGFβ-family ligand DAF-7 and the insulin-like (IIS) receptor DAF-2, are important for keeping ODR-10 expression low in well-fed males. Further, Leigh found that males in which the IIS pathway is constitutively active fail to upregulate ODR-10 when starved. Interestingly, the DAF-7 signal appears to act upstream of IIS, indicating that a cascade of neuroendocrine interactions is necessary for repressing ODR-10. And DAF-7 does not act as a sensor of the starved male’s physiological state, but rather conveys information about the presence of food in the environment.
Together, Leigh’s research demonstrates that C. elegans males assess their external state, rather than their metabolism, when deciding whether to take the risk of leaving food to find a mate, and that this occurs through a multistep neuroendocrine feedback loop. Leigh’s work also provides important insights into how internal and external states are integrated by the nervous system to influence gene expression, neuronal circuit function, and behavior. This work will appear in an upcoming issue of Current Biology. We wish Leigh all the best as she set out to Boston, to start her post-doctoral career in the laboratory of Max Heiman at Harvard.
Janelle Veazey Receives Outstanding Student Mentor Award
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Immunology Graduate Student Janelle Veazey received the Outstanding Student Mentor Award at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony on Wednesday, September 4th, Janelle was selected by the faculty of the Graduate Program in Microbiology & Immunology, in recognition of her outstanding commitment and dedication to mentoring undergraduate or graduate students. Congratulations Janelle!
Deb Fowell Authors Study on Immune Cell Navigation Systems
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
When immune cells get recruited to infections, tumors, or other sites of inflammation they exit the blood stream and begin searching for the damage. But how they effectively traverse the body’s tissue and home in on their targets is unclear. A new study led by Deborah Fowell, Ph.D. suggests that T cells have distinct navigation systems that help them pinpoint their targets.
Fowell’s research team, based in the David H. Smith Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology made the discovery by visualizing the immune system in real time using intravital multiphoton microscopy. The technology allows you to look directly into the skin and observe the dynamic behavior of immune cells ‘live.’ Their findings were published earlier this month in the journal Immunity.
“We thought that locating the infection foci was a passive event for immune cells; that they used the tissue as a scaffold to weave their way through this complex matrix to get to their target,” said Fowell, Dean’s professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. “We discovered that they are pre-programmed to respond to certain cues within the tissue microenvironment that help them find their targets more efficiently.”
The team hopes that discovering these specialized programs for migration in tissues will provide new therapeutic targets that enable manipulation of the immune response in a disease-specific or tissue-specific fashion, rather than globally suppressing the immune system. Possibilities include boosting protective immunity in diseases where the immune system is inefficient, such as chronic infections and tumors, and limiting immunity in diseases that are exacerbated by the immune system, like autoimmunity and heart disease.
Hen Prizant, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Fowell’s lab and Alison Gaylo-Moynihan, M.D., Ph.D., a former student in the lab are co-first authors. Graduate students Ninoshka R.J. Fernandes, Hannah Bell, Dillon C. Schrock, Tara Capece, Brandon Walling, and Christopher Anderson contributed to the study. Faculty members David Topham, Minsoo Kim, Alan Smrcka and James Miller are also authors.
Fowell credits the new finding to the power of NIH Program Project Grants (P01), which allow faculty, trainees and students to explore uncharted scientific territory and branch out among different disciplines. For example, the team reached across Elmwood Avenue to have conversations with astrophysicists and engineers on River Campus about how objects move through and are found in space. The P01 that funded the research was awarded to Fowell (PI) and Kim, Topham and Miller in 2014.
Supriya Mohile Headlines MSTP 19th Annual Retreat
Monday, August 12, 2019
The Medical Scientist Training Program’s 19th Annual Retreat was held on August 9, 2019, at the Rochester Yacht Club. The retreat is an opportunity for the student body to gather to discuss science and welcome the incoming class. This year, the MSTP welcomed six new students: Maya Anand (Columbia University), Thomas Delgado (University of Florida), Svetlana Markova (Kharkiv National Medical University), Michael Meadow (UCLA), Gavin Piester (University of Rochester), and Victor Zhang (University of Rochester).
2019 Incoming Students
This year’s Keynote address was given by Dr. Supriya Mohile, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Rochester, and was titled “Improving Care Delivery and Outcomes for Older Patients with Cancer and their Caregivers.” Dr. Mohile highlighted the need for geriatric assessments in oncology to properly address concerns such as tolerability and toxicity of cancer treatments. She described the large clinical studies that are ongoing which demonstrate the feasibility of implementing geriatric assessments in oncology and stressed the need for all clinicians who treat elderly patients to use tools available to them to address concerns that are unique to this population.
The morning science session concluded with short talks by several current MSTP students. Second year medical student Emily Isenstein discussed her work on proprioceptive and visual integration in children with autism, Fara Tolibzoda Zakusilo (G2) discussed the role for the extracellular matrix in Alzheimer’s disease, Jesse Wang (G3) spoke about the development of a digital medical scribe, Booyeon Han (G4) described her work to understand the tumor-draining lymph node in pancreas cancer, and Aimee Morris (M4) spoke about resting state functional connectivity in focal dystonia.
Following lunch, Kerry O’Banion, MSTP director, gave an update on curricular changes occurring in the medical school, which was followed by a presentation by students who attended the National MD/PhD Conference at Copper Mountain in July. New students were elected to the MSTP student council to end the afternoon. We look forward to another exciting year for the MSTP!
SMD's Aleta Anthony Named Director of Equity, Inclusion & Research Education Support
Friday, August 9, 2019
The Office for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) at the School of Medicine and Dentistry has announced the appointment of Aleta Anthony to the role of Director of Equity, Inclusion and Research Education Support.
The directorship is a newly-created position aligning with the University of Rochester and the Medical Center’s broader mission to support equity and inclusion through strategic efforts, organizational programming, and inclusion initiatives. As director, Aleta will provide leadership and direction to GEPA to foster an environment where all members of the GEPA community are supported and acknowledged for diverse backgrounds and experiences.
In a commitment to promoting equity and inclusion for students and postdocs, Richard Libby, Ph.D., who is senior associate dean for GEPA, worked with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Office for Inclusion and Culture to create Anthony’s new role.
Anthony joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2017 as the director of graduate enrollment for Ph.D., master’s, and certificate programs. In addition to her new role leading GEPA’s equity and inclusion efforts, she will continue her work building and enhancing recruitment strategy for the school’s biomedical sciences and health sciences graduate programs.
Single Brain Region is Key to Assessing the Impact of Repetitive Head Hits, Concussions
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
While a brain injury can be difficult to locate, new research identifies a single region of the brain that can be used to examine the impact of a concussion or repeated hits to the head.
The finding, published today in Science Advances, also supports the emerging idea that traumatic brain injury is not limited to people who sustain a concussion; it can result from repetitive head hits that are clinically silent–those that do not produce the visible signs or symptoms of a concussion. These subconcussive hits have been increasingly recognized as a potential threat to long-term brain health and as a possible cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Emergency Medicine, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a co-author of the study says that the location of a brain injury varies widely from person to person. This is a major obstacle for physicians trying to diagnose brain injury using imaging techniques.
“This study is important because we found that no matter where the head gets hit, the force is translated into a single region of the brain known as the midbrain,” noted Bazarian, who treats concussion patients and conducts research related to traumatic brain injury. “Midbrain imaging might be a way in the future to diagnose injury from a single concussive head hit, as well as from repetitive sub-concussive head hits.”
University of Rochester fourth-year medical student Adnan Hirad, Ph.D., the first author of the research added, “Our findings do not dispute the fact that head-injury effects are distributed throughout the brain, but the midbrain may serve as a ‘canary in a coal mine’ in terms of identifying damage. From this study we know that the midbrain region, which is linked to brain functions often affected by a concussion, is the place to look to identify the impact of clinically defined concussions with visible symptoms and silent brain injuries that can’t be observed simply by looking at or behaviorally testing a player, on or off the field.”Read More: Single Brain Region is Key to Assessing the Impact of Repetitive Head Hits, Concussions
Thursday, July 11, 2019
After successfully defending his thesis, MJ has completed the PhD portion of his MD/PhD studies. MJ’s studies investigated the genetic basis of bone-matrix quality, an underappreciated property of bone that contributes significantly to bone strength and is of great clinical importance for understanding of bone pathology such as osteoporosis. MJ used both a classical population genetics approach as well as a systems genetics approach, and found that bone matrix characteristics such as morphology and matrix composition are indeed inheritable properties. In addition, using an estrogen-deficient model of post-menopausal bone loss, he was able to identify gene networks that may play an important role in osteoporosis. His results suggest that bone matrix quality is influenced by genetics and participates in maintaining tissue-level mechanical properties. Furthermore, identifying putative regulatory genes is clinically significant as they are presumptive targets for developing novel therapeutics. During his thesis work, MJ was the recipient of a CTSI Pilot Trainee Grant and scored a fundable F31 predoctoral fellowship from NIAMS. With his GDSC doctorate in hand MJ will return to medical school to obtain his M.D. Best of luck in your future ventures, MJ!!
Scott Friedland Defends Thesis
Thursday, July 11, 2019
This week M.D./Ph.D. student Scott Friedland defended his doctoral thesis. Arriving at the GDSC in 2014, Scott pursued his Ph.D. under the mentorship of Dr. Aram Hezel. As a student Scott was granted travel awards to a national physician scientist conference and selective course at Cold Spring Harbor Labs. His thesis, titled Arid1a, a subunit of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex, is a barrier to KrasG12D-driven tumorigenesis, studied the role of SWI/SNF, a chromatin remodeling complex, in pancreatic function and disease, which has implications for the fields of cancer and developmental biology. These findings may, in time, impact the treatment of diseases such as pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Scott will be reinitiating his medical education alongside the class of 2021 here at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and is interested in pursuing a career as an oncologist and cancer researcher. Congratulations Dr. Scott Carl Friedland!
Study Points to Stabilization of TRAF3 Protein to Fight Age-Related Bone Loss
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
A new study led by Brendan Boyce, M.B.Ch.B.., professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and the Center for Musculoskeletal Research and Zhenqiang Yao, MD., Ph.D., assistant professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine suggests that age-related osteoporosis could be prevented or treated through pharmacologic stabilization of the protein, TNF receptor-associated factor 3 (TRAF3).
The collaborative study was published in Nature Communications after five years of work by Boyce and fellow URMC researchers who note the need to better understand the mechanisms through which osteoporosis occurs in order to develop new drugs that can be given to help prevent or reverse the disease.
The study notes that the process by which young, healthy peoples’ bones are naturally rebuilt, deteriorates as people age or go through menopause. Increased inflammation, or inflammaging, leads to an increase in bone-degrading osteoclast cells and a reduction in bone-forming osteoblasts, resulting in osteoporosis.
Existing treatments that prevent bone destruction offer long term solutions, but many patients are reluctant to take them because they fear side effects of the drugs, while bone forming drugs can be administered only for short periods to help patients suffering from chronic osteoporosis.
The paper shows that the protein, TGF-beta, which is released in increasing amounts from bone during aging, causes breakdown of TRAF3 in osteoblast precursor mesenchymal progenitor cells. This leads to a reduction in the number of osteoblasts and less bone repair and indirectly to increased numbers of osteoclasts and more bone destruction.
By stabilizing TRAF3 levels in bone cells through new drugs, the authors provide a novel mechanism for how treatments may offer a more long-term solution for patients. This is especially crucial as more people live longer and are exposed to a greater risk of fractures and early death.
Lemonade Stand Supports Efforts to Cure Childhood Cancer
Friday, June 21, 2019
For the 10th year in a row, Danielle Benoit, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and mentees from her lab will hold their fundraiser in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and its efforts to cure childhood cancer. You can donate online or drop by the lab’s lemonade stand from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Rochester Public Market, 280 Union Street North or from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at the Brighton Farmers Market,1150 Winton Road South.
Liwei Wang, Ph.D. Graduate of the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD Program won the Fenn Award for best thesis
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Liwei Wang, Ph.D. Graduate of the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD Program won the Fenn Award for best thesis, the award was presented at the 2019 Commencement Dinner by Richard Libby, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs following an introduction from Dr. Wang's faculty mentor, Dr. David Yule.
The award was for Dr. Wang's thesis, entitled "Region-specific Proteolysis Differentially Regulates Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate Receptor Activity " Dr. Wang is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Stefan Feske at NYU, Langone Medical School. His current research involves investigating the role of ion channels in immunological tolerance and immunity.
About the Award
Dr. Wallace Fenn was a Professor of Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry from 1924 to 1961. He served as the Chairperson of the Department of Physiology from 1924 to 1959 and thereafter until his death in 1971, he was appointed by the University to the position of Distinguished University Professor of Physiology. As well, Dr. Fenn served as the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies from 1957 to 1959.
To read more regarding this award, please visit the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics website.
A Graphic Design Revolution For Scientific Conference Posters
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
“Other templates didn't necessarily ask you to think about what you were putting on them because they allowed it all,” says Derek Crowe, a PhD student in biomedical genetics in Hucky Land's lab with a former career in visual communication and design, “In order to use Mike's layout though, my hand is forced.”
With the new template, scientists need to think about their core message, but some people have a difficult time figuring out how to do that, or how to use visuals to present their message. Without proper science communication training, even a better poster template doesn’t work.
Crowe has taken matters into his own hands. Not only does he teach a course on visual communication for scientists at the University of Rochester, but he also shared his poster design tips online. In a nod to Morrison’s “better poster”, Crowe’s is a “butter poster”. He provides step by step instructions on how to organize the poster, and how to think about the content in a visual way.
“Like the graphic novel did for literature, visual languages have the power to add more dimensions to scientific storytelling,” says Crowe, “I’m excited to see what happens as the greater science community begins to take advantage of well-established visual storytelling tools.”Read More: A Graphic Design Revolution For Scientific Conference Posters
Romeo Blanc Receives Multiple Awards From the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR)
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Romeo Blanc postdoctoral fellow in the Chakkalakal Lab was the recent recipient of the Podium presentation, Travel award, and Merit Awards from the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) for the upcoming annual meeting in Los Angeles CA, June 26 – June 30, 2019.
The first award, called Travel Award, came from the ISSCR itself and covers registration and/or cash award. The second award, called Abstract Merit Award is made to highlight some outstanding selected abstract which is chosen by ISSCR as well.
CMPP Students Host Guest Speaker Dr. Ehsan Sarafraz-Yazdi
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
To fortify the involvement of graduate students in academic affairs, the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology (CMPP) hosted student nominated guest speaker: Dr. Ehsan Sarafraz-Yazdi, Ph.D., M.P.H., Founder and CEO of NomoCan Pharmaceuticals, LLC. Dr. Yazdi was nominated by PhD candidate Edward Ayoub and chosen by CMPP graduate students to spend a day at URMC. During his visit, Dr. Yazdi connected with faculty and students, and presented a seminar highlighting a new microfluidic system to study anti-cancer drug responses ex-vivo. Dr. Yazdi also shared his vision and inspiration to start his own pharmaceutical company at a URBEST Career Story hosted by Dr. Tracey Baas. CMPP will continue to host a student-nominated guest speaker annually.
Left to right: Lily Cisco, Dr. Ehsan Yazdi, Edward Ayoub, Kai Ting Huang, Alexander Milliken, Matthew Rook
Upcoming Thesis Defenses
Friday, June 7, 2019
Rebeckah Burke, chemistry, “Colloidal Semiconductor Nanocrystals for Photocatalytic Proton Reduction.” 10 a.m. June 11, 2019. 108 Goergen Hall. Advisor: Todd Krauss.
Philipp Birklbauer, mathematics, “Theoretical and Computational Explorations in Vector Spaces Over Finite Fields.” 2:30 p.m. June 12, 2019. Hylan 1106A. Advisor: Alex Iosevich.
Molly McCann, epidemiology, “Degree of Bystander-Patient Relationship and Prehospital and Emergency Department Care for Opioid Overdose.” 10 a.m. June 14, 2019. Helen Wood Hall | 1W 502. Advisor: Todd Jusko.
Jie Luo, biology, “The Role of Androgen Receptor in Different Prostate Cancer Therapies.” 12:30 p.m. June 14, 2019. Room 2-6424 Medical Center. Advisor: Chawnshang Chang.
GDSC Student, Tom O’Connor Earns First Place in 2019 Sharing Your Science in A Social World Contest.
Monday, June 3, 2019
Finishing his first year of GDSC studies on a high-note, Tom O’Connor (member of the Chakkalakal & Dirksen Labs) together with his teammate Griffin Schroeder, have won first place in the 2019 ‘Sharing Your Science in A Social World’ contest. Sponsored by URBEST, this contest encourages students to communicate their research to a broad audience using videography. For their entry, imbedded above, Tom and Griffin emphasized the work being done in the Noble Lab, where Tom worked during his first rotation. The video, URBEST 2019: Translational Science, highlights how the Noble Lab sets itself apart by re-purposing FDA approved drugs for different clinical applications, expediting the bench-to-clinic transition.
Congratulations Tom and Griffin!
Imaging That Twinkle in Your Eye: Assessing Vascular Health by Imaging Blood Cells in the Retina
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Jesse B. Schallek, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, describes a new, noninvasive approach to assess vascular health in the journal eLife. Schallek’s lab, part of the Flaum Eye Institute, developed a method to visualize how single blood cells flow through vessels of the eye using adaptive optics imaging.
The transparency of the eye provides a natural window to the retina, an extension of the brain. Vascular physiology is best studied noninvasively inside the living body, but seeing the details of how microscopic blood cells interact within the vasculature has not been possible with current tools such as fMRI. Schallek’s team developed high-resolution adaptive optics combined with fast camera capture to visualize single-cell blood flow dynamics in the living mouse eye.
“We’re able to image single blood cells and measure their speed. Remarkably, this can be achieved in vessels of all sizes, from the smallest capillaries to the largest retinal vessels,” said Schallek. “This approach may eventually provide a view of patient vascular health without the need for blood draws or dyes.
Krystel Huxlin, Ph.D., Associate Chair for research in the Department of Ophthalmology adds, “This method has the potential to enable early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and diabetic neuropathy, and will also be of interest to investigators studying blood flow in the context of stroke and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The study was conducted in large part by Optics graduate students Aby Joseph and Andres Guevara-Torres. “My research interest involves using my physics/optics background to provide insights into biological questions,” said lead-author Joseph. “This paper, at the intersection of physical sciences and neuroscience, provides a novel and noninvasive imaging approach that may advance our understanding of blood flow dynamics in brain and retinal vessels smaller than the width of a human hair.
Schallek’s team, part of the Advanced Retinal Imaging Alliance (ARIA), is now deploying the method in healthy human eyes to establish metrics that will enable researchers to better elucidate the events that initiate and propagate disease. A pre-clinical investigation, funded by the Dana Foundation, is beginning to use this powerful approach to compare what happens in normal and diabetic retinas of human subjects. Schallek holds secondary appointments in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Visual Science. The research was funded by the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health and by a Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness.
UR CTSI Student Continues on the Road to Success
Monday, May 13, 2019
Kristen Bush Marshall received her Ph.D. in Translational Biomedical Science in January 2019 and is currently serving as a postdoctoral associate in the Rochester Center for Health Informatics under the mentorship of Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D. She has just been matched with her top-ranked choice: a field assignment in Denver for a two-year Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship. This position with the local health department and the state pf Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment responds to local and state-wide outbreaks allowing Bush Marshall to use her knowledge of healthcare-associated infections.
May 10th: 8th Annual Lecture on Biomedical and Health Science Ethics
Friday, May 3, 2019
The 8th Annual Lecture on Biomedical and Health Science Ethics will be given by Daniel E. Acuna, assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University.
Attendance at the lecture, from 2-3 p.m. Friday, May 10 in the Class of ’62 Auditorium (G-9425), is mandatory for Medical Center graduate students and postdoctoral appointees.
Acuna’s lecture is entitled: “How to Catch a Scientific Figure Falsifier: Analysis and statistical reporting of potential figure element reuse and splicing across millions of images.” This special lecture is part of ongoing instruction in responsible conduct of research (RCR) required of grad students and postdocs by the National Institutes of Health.
As part of ongoing efforts to satisfy this requirement, the University of Rochester sponsors periodic RCR lectures and workshops. In addition to completing the Ethics and Professional Integrity in Research Course (IND501/506), all graduate students and postdoctoral appointees are expected to participate in these lectures and workshops.
Refreshments will be available in Flaum Atrium following the lecture.
Upcoming PhD dissertation defenses
Friday, May 3, 2019
Valeriia Sherina, statistics, “Statistical Methods for qPCR Data Near the Limit of Detection.” 11 a.m. May 10, 2019. Helen Wood Hall | 1W-509. Advisor: Matthew McCall.
Nicolas Riquelme Carrasco, economics, “Essays on Mechanism Design and Multiple Privately Informed Principals.” 10 a.m. May 10, 2019. Harkness 113. Advisor: Paulo Barelli.
Emily Wu, microbiology & immunology, “Uncovering the Role of TNF-alpha in the Genesis of Inflammatory Interstitial Lung Disease in the TNF-Transgenic Mouse Model of Rheumatoid Arthritis.” 1 p.m. May 17, 2019. Ryan Case Method Room 1-9576 (Medical Center). Advisor: Edward Schwarz.
BMB Graduates Receive College Prizes
Thursday, May 2, 2019
2019 College Prize Recipients
- Katherine Woo: Ayman Amin-Salem Memorial Prize
- Fayth Kim: the Janet Howell Clark Prize
- Nicholas Lim: Irene Bush Steinbock Award
- Kavya Bana: Helen S. Jones Memorial Fund
Next-Gen Women in Science: Dalia Ghoneim
Thursday, May 2, 2019
GDSC student Dalia Ghoneim from the Matthews lab was awarded the prestigious Perricone MD Born Seekers fellowship. The $20,000 award recognizes the inspiring achievements of young women in science, and is the culmination of the Scientista Foundation’s video competition, in which young women tell their personal journey in STEM. Dalia was able to tell her remarkable story in the award-winning video clip with the help of two talented fellow GDSC-students: cameraman, sound expert and producer Adam Cornwell, and speech-editor Matt Ingalls. As a single mother of four, Dalia is now approaching the successful completion of her PhD in Genetics. She was invited to give her speech and accept her award at the Scientista Symposium 2019 in Boston, MA. The Scientista Foundation’s vision is to support the next generation of female scientists – and we can’t wait to see what Dalia will do next! Congratulations!!
Congratulations to Sijiu Wang for receiving Mathematica summer fellowship!
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
This is a highly competitive program, which only accepts 1-3 fellows in healthcare unit nationally each year. The past awardees were all from top universities, including Harvard, U of Penn, and U of Chicago! With the support of this fellowship, Sijiu will be working on her own independent dissertation work and gaining additional experience from Mathematica researchers. Great work, Sijiu!
AnnaLynn Williams Receives Vincent du Vigneaud Award
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
AnnaLynn Williams, recent PhD epidemiology graduate, has been selected to receive this year’s Vincent du Vigneaud Award which will be presented at the PhD Commencement Dinner on May 17th. This award "is presented annually to a graduating student whose thesis work is judged to be unique in potential for stimulating and extending research in the field.?" (See attached for more information about Dr. du Vigneaud and the award.) The selection committee has deemed her work as the best example of what this award represents. Please join me in congratulating AnnaLynn!
Jayme Olson earns (CTSI) Trainee Award
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Jayme a GDSC-graduate student in the Palis Lab was recently awarded a Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Trainee Award. This one-year fellowship will fund cutting edge work on the in vitro generation of human red blood cells. Cultured human red blood cells (RBCs) have the potential to serve as a supplemental source of blood for transfusion therapy, and as a tool for clinical and research diagnostic. However, a major barrier in generating sufficient numbers of cultured RBCs cells is the limited ex vivo self-renewal capacity of adult-derived erythroblasts. Work in the Palis Lab has identified Bmi-1, a member of the polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1), as a critical regulator of erythroid self-renewal. Bmi-1 also plays a role in normal erythroid precursor maturation. Jayme will test the hypothesis that Bmi-1 regulates erythroid self-renewal and terminal maturation using different PRC1 members. Ultimately, these proposed studies will pave the way for the generation of sufficient numbers of cultured RBCs for blood typing and transfusion therapy, as well as the establishment of in vitro models for the study of erythroid intrinsic diseases.
31st Genetics Day at the University of Rochester
Monday, April 29, 2019
The University of Rochester hosted its 31st Annual Genetics Day Symposium with a poster session displaying genetics research from more than fifty post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. The meeting started with a strong lineup of faculty presentations, highlighting ongoing Genetics Research and as well as new faculty recruits. Speakers included Dr. Amanda Larracuente, Dr. Doug Anderson, Dr. Peng Yao, Dr. Xin Zhiguo Li and Dr. Paul Boutz. Keynote speaker Dr. Phillip Zamore, from the University of Massachusetts, delivered the 17th Annual Fred Sherman Lecture. This year’s poster prizes were awarded to:
- Leigh Wexler: A male-specific neuroendocrine feedback loop couples food signals for feeding behavior in C. Elegans
- Matthew Tanner: Identifying sequence determinants of altered RNA splicing in myotonic dystrophy.
- Dr. Jacquelyn Lillis: Single-cell transcriptome analysis of embryonic erythro-myeloid progenitor cells reveals lineage heterogeneity.
- Jayme L. Olsen: Bmi-1 regulates human erythroblast ex vivo self-renewal.
- Anissa Elahi: Transglutaminase 2 as a therapeutic target to facilitate recovery after spinal cord injury.
- Zhengfen (Jeff) Liu: DNA damage-specific regulation of cell cycle checkpoint by γ-h2ax.
We congratulate each poster winner and look forward to the 32nd Genetics Day next year!
A link to additional Genetics Day 2019 photos can be found here.
'Longevity Gene' That Helps Repair DNA And Extend Life Span Could One Day Prevent Age-Related Diseases In Humans
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Scientists studying longevity believe a gene could explain why some animals live longer.
In 18 species of rodents with varying life spans, researchers looked at sirtuin 6 (SIRT6), a gene that plays a role in bodily processes such as aging, cellular stress resistance and DNA repair.
Over time, DNA inevitably suffers what are known as double-strand breaks (DSBs) that can cause genes to mutate, triggering aging and diseases like cancer.
Dirk Bohmann, a professor of biomedical genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, explained in a statement, “[DSBs] are always going to be there, even if you’re super healthy. One of the main causes of DSBs is oxidative damage and, since we need oxygen to breathe, the breaks are inevitable.”
While animals with relatively short life spans don’t have so many DSBs, Bohmann explained, “if you want to live for 50 years or so, there’s more of a need to put a system into place to fix these breaks. The SIRT6 protein seems to be the dominant determinant of lifespan. We show that at the cell level, the DNA repair works better, and at the organism level, there is an extended lifespan.”
To answer whether SIRT6 works harder in species that live longer, the team studied 18 rodents, from mice expected to live around three years to beavers and mole rats with life expectancies of up to 32 years. Animals with stronger SIRT6 proteins were found to live longer.
This was also apparent when they compared the molecular differences in the SIRT6 proteins of mice and beavers. And by dosing human cells and fruit flies with the SIRT6 from a mouse and a beaver, as expected, the scientists found the beaver protein was more potent than the mouse protein.Read More: 'Longevity Gene' That Helps Repair DNA And Extend Life Span Could One Day Prevent Age-Related Diseases In Humans
2019 Three Minute Thesis Winners
Monday, April 22, 2019
2019 Three Minute Thesis Winners, Emily Hangen, Greg Madejski and Brandon Berry
On April 4th, 2019 The University of Rochester held the 4th Annual Three Minute Thesis competition finals. Eight Finalists were selected and spoke for 3 minutes on their chosen research topic.
- Emily Warner, Neuroscience Graduate Student
"Memories can change the way we smell"
- Brandon Berry, Pharmacology and Physiology Graduate Student
"Light Activated Mitochondria"
- Emily Hangen, Arts, Sciences and Engineering
"Expectations: Helpful or Harmful?"
- Rainier Barrett, Chemical Engineering Graduate Student
"Computer-Aided Drug Discovery: Machine Learning and Computational Chemistry"
- Nancy Cardona, Obstetrics and Gynocology Postdoctoral Fellow
"Determinants of urinary biomarkers of pesticide exposure among pregnant women in Costa Rica"
- Greg Madejski, Biomedical Engineering Postdoctoral Associate
"Microplastics: In your food and water"
- Elizabeth Anson, Human Development Graduate Student
"Youth Violence: Everything I needed to know, I learned in preschool"?
- Kolja Keller, Philosophy Graduate Student
After careful deliberation by both the judging panel and the audience, the winners of the 2019 Three Minute Thesis competition were:
Judge’s Winner: Emily Hangen
Judge’s Runner-Up: Greg Madejski
People’s Choice: Brandon Berry
Congratulations to Emily, Greg and Brandon! Video and Photos of the event can be found on the Three Minute Thesis Website
31st Annual Genetics Day Symposium
Monday, April 22, 2019
The Departments of Biomedical Genetics and Biology, with the support of the University Committee for Interdisciplinary Studies, host the 31st annual Genetics Day Symposium on Thursday, April 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Class of ’62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium. This year’s Fred Sherman Lecturer will be Phillip Zamore, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, giving a talk titled “piRNAs and the Struggle to Reproduce.”Read More: 31st Annual Genetics Day Symposium
Handy Gelbard Honored for Pediatric HIV/AIDS Research
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Handy Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at URMC, is the 2019-2020 recipient of the Herman and Gertrude Silver Award, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions in the field of pediatric HIV and AIDS. The award is given by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Department of Pediatrics of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Past award winners include a Nobel laureate and HIV investigators from leading academic institutions, the National Institutes of Health (including the current directors of the Office of AIDS Research and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the past 10 years Gelbard’s lab has been developing a compound called URMC-099, which dampens inflammation and has shown promise in reversing the neurological problems associated with HIV. Children with HIV who are taking combination antiretroviral therapies are extremely vulnerable to inflammation; the developing nervous system is of particular concern, as inflammation in the brain can lead to major cognitive problems.
The possibility of a new class of therapies that reduces the burden of neuroinflammation and supports normal synaptic architecture (the basis for learning and memory) offers considerable hope for children that are saddled with the unwanted burden of HIV, despite effective control of the virus.
Gelbard believes the path forward for URMC-099 as an adjunct agent for children living with HIV and neurologic disease will likely involve combination therapy with next generation antiretroviral agents. This is a priority in resource-limited settings such as Africa, and Gelbard is working with David Bearden, M.D., assistant professor in the division of Child Neurology at URMC to help advance uses for URMC-099 in pediatric patients there. Bearden’s work is supported by a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grant to Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Neurology and Michael Potchen, M.D., professor of Imaging Sciences. The work is also supported by the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research.
Gelbard will receive the Silver Award in November during a two-day symposium at CHOP. He will present pediatric grand rounds describing his progress in inventing the class of compounds spearheaded by URMC-099 and its role in treating pediatric and adult HIV infection and its complications. He’ll also give a seminar on current and future developments related to URMC-099 to attendees from multiple medical and scientific institutions in Philadelphia.
TBS Student is Finalist in "Shark Tank"-Style Competition
Monday, April 15, 2019
Congratulations to Jesse Wang, a student in the UR CTSI Translational Biomedical Science Ph.D. program, who was one of four finalists in the ACP Innovation Challenge 2019. Wang presented his "digital scribe" technology at this “Shark Tank”-style competition hosted by the American College of Physicians, on Saturday, April 13. His digital scribe technology can capture statistical speech analysis and natural language conversation between a physician and patient and automatically update eRecord. The system would capture and document the appropriate information during a patient interview, alleviating physicians' workload.
URMC Trainee Travel Awards 2019
Monday, April 15, 2019
This award assists students and trainees at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry to attend important national or international meetings at which they will present their research and make professional connections. Two awards of up to $1000 will be given this funding cycle: one for clinical research and one for basic sciences research.
This award is best suited to advanced students for whom conference attendance can be expected to have the largest career impact. The most competitive applications will be from presenting authors (either poster or platform presentations) who are in the mid to late stages of their educational experience. Apply by Friday, May 3, 6:00 pm.
Read the full RFA.
A prescription for physician frustration
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Jesse Wang remembers exactly when his crusade began.
The doctor he had seen since childhood turned a computer screen towards him during an office visit, in obvious frustration.
He couldn’t get the program started to make the required entries in Wang’s electronic medical record.
“This is absurd,” his doctor said. “I just want to be able to talk to you like I used to.”
Wang, who is pursing both a medical degree and a PhD in translational biomedical science at the University of Rochester, understands the frustration. Especially when he reads studies showing it’s not unusual for physicians to be online maintaining patient e-records from 5 in the morning until 9 at night.
“It’s not what I signed up for; it’s not what any doctor signed up for,” Wang says.
Thanks to Rochester’s Medical Scientist Training Program, which allows him to combine his interest in medicine with his passion for coding, Wang is well positioned to do something about the problem.
He’ll explain how, as one of four finalists in the ACP Innovation Challenge — a “Shark Tank”-style competition hosted by the American College of Physicians on April 13 in Philadelphia.
During an eight-minute pitch in front of a panel of judges — and an audience of 100 or more physicians — Wang will describe the virtual assistant he is creating. The device will use speech recognition and natural language processing to take over the job of maintaining patient e-records, freeing up physicians to concentrate on their patients.
“It would be like Amazon Alexa,” Wang says. “There would be a little speaker in the room that would be recording while your doctor talks to you and, based on that conversation, the device would know what to enter into the e-record.”
“I think the key that will make this work is that doctors are already encouraged to use what’s called a patient-centric communication style.”
For example, physicians are encouraged at the end of a visit to sum up a patient’s concerns and their plan to address them. Physicians would use a phrase like “to make sure I understand.” The virtual assistant would recognize the phrase as a cue to transcribe everything from that point to the next cue, such as when the physician says, “Do I have that right?”
The device would be less expensive than hiring a transcriptionist, Wang says, and less obtrusive for patients who find it hard enough to divulge personal health information when there’s just a physician in the room.
He already has a prototype for transcribing the summary portion of a patient’s visit.
‘Seamlessly see what the problem is — and fix it’
Wang, who is from Westford, Massachusetts, came to Rochester after majoring in physiology and neurobiology at the University of Connecticut.
He is now in his fourth year of Rochester’s Medical Scientist Training (MD/PhD) Program, which currently enrolls 66 students. The program incorporates the MD and PhD degrees into a cohesive curriculum that endows the select group of students with the clinical and basic science skills needed to understand disease and to translate that understanding into new therapies.
Students spend the first two years on their medical degrees, then complete their PhDs in four years before returning for the last two years of medical school.
Wang is pursuing his PhD in translational biomedical science under the direction of Henry Kautz, professor and former chair of computer science and founding director of the Goergen Institute of Data Science.
Wang is now thinking about forming his own company after he graduates. He would use his medical and computing background to pursue his virtual e-record assistant and other medical-related projects full time.
“Physicians go to programmers for help with a lot of things besides e-records. It might be for applications for telemedicine,” Wang says. “But it can be hard for them to convey what they need to a programmer who doesn’t have a medical background.
“I’ll have that background. I’ll be able to very seamlessly see what the problem is — and fix it.”
Danielle Benoit ‘Embodies the Spirit’ of Teaching and Mentorship
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Danielle Benoit, an associate professor of biomedical engineering who has provided research experiences for more than 80 undergraduates in her lab, is the second recipient of the College Award for Undergraduate Teaching and Research Mentorship. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
Danielle Benoit says it’s “an outstanding opportunity for everybody involved” when undergraduates do research in her lab.
Former students Tim Felong ’14, Amanda Chen ’14, and Janet Sorrells ’17 will all vouch for that.
“I wouldn’t be in medical school right now if it weren’t for Danielle’s mentorship,” says Felong, now at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Chen, a graduate research fellow in biological engineering at MIT, says, “Danielle’s lab was one of the biggest reasons why I chose to pursue a graduate degree. She gave me the opportunity to work on an independent project, publish a first-author paper, present at conferences, and more.”
And, “the more time I spend in academia the more amazed I am with how Dr. Benoit managed to keep up with so many things,” says Sorrells, now a graduate research fellow in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I’m very thankful for everything I learned from her.”
Benoit, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, is this year’s recipient of the College Award for Undergraduate Teaching and Research Mentorship at the University of Rochester.
The award, first presented last year, is funded by chemistry alumnus Frederick Lewis ’68 (PhD) and his wife, Susan Rice Lewis. It salutes tenured faculty members in Arts, Sciences & Engineering who teach large, introductory classes as well as advanced seminars and independent study projects, and who mentor research experiences, especially those that involve laboratory training in the sciences and engineering. (Read more about this new award recognizing faculty for their mentorship. )
The award will be presented to Benoit at the Undergraduate Research Exposition on April 19 at the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library.
Benoit “embodies the spirit of this award through her dedication to undergraduate learning through classroom teaching, research experiences, and mentoring,” says Diane Dalecki, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “The research training and mentoring that undergraduates receive from Professor Benoit primes them for continued success as graduate students and throughout their professional careers.”
For example, several of the undergraduate students from her lab, including Chen and Sorrells, have received prestigious National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships to support their graduate studies.
Teaching at ‘multiple levels’
Benoit, who joined the University of Rochester in 2010, develops therapeutic biomaterials for tissue regeneration and targeted drug delivery. For example, she and her collaborators developed a device that selectively delivers drugs to sites of bone resorption to heal fractures and treat osteoporosis. She has also pioneered the development of hydrogel-based engineered extracellular matrices for bone and salivary gland tissue regeneration.
She has been lead, corresponding, or co-author of more than 70 papers in top journals; has received numerous grants, including an NSF CAREER award; has garnered nine approved or pending patents; and was recently elected a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.
She has provided research experiences for more than 80 undergraduates in her lab.
“For me, part and parcel of being a faculty member here is to teach on multiple levels, not just in the classroom but also in the lab, where I can teach undergraduate and graduate students alike the best, cutting-edge research practices,” Benoit says.
Students say the benefits of working in the Benoit Lab extend beyond the research skills they learn.
“Danielle has always been my go-to mentor for all sorts of advice – moral, social, intellectual – and was a powerful advocate for me if I ever found myself in a challenging situation,” Chen says.
Felong says he especially appreciated the “culture” of the lab, which was more like a “family environment. She takes the time to really get to know her students—their interests and hobbies. She hosts biannual parties, where you get to interact with her energy-packed, fun family. I think this openness and mutual appreciation for life inside and outside of work is really motivating for many people my age. I know it was for me.“
Seeing the potential in students
In addition to mentoring students in her lab, Benoit teaches courses including Advanced Biomaterials, Controlled Release Systems, Research Methods, and, starting this spring, Cell and Tissue Engineering, which is the capstone course for biomedical engineering majors with concentrations in that subfield.
She also developed and taught for eight years a biomaterials course, required of all biomedical engineering majors, that typically enrolls about 70 students. She designed the laboratory components of the course so they would dovetail with a biomedical computation and statistics course students take at the same time.
“Students complete laboratories in biomaterials one week, and then analyze data they collected by applying statistical approaches from the other course the following week,” Dalecki says. “This is an excellent pedagogical approach for students to understand how concepts they’re learning in different classes combine to enhance their skills as an engineer.”
Sorrells served as a teaching assistant for the biomaterials course under Benoit. She says Benoit brought the same level of “engagement” to the course that she brings to her lab. “She collected student feedback often and took it very seriously, trying different things to see how to best educate students and equip them with skills like scientific writing and knowledge of biomaterials.”
Benoit also supervises a senior design team each year, meeting with teams at least weekly, guiding them in their design and engineering, and mentoring them on teamwork and project management.
Perhaps the ultimate measure of a good teacher is the ability to inspire, motivate, and serve as a role model.
“Danielle suggested that I apply for the Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates, which is much like a grant application,” Felong says. “I never would have thought that I had a shot at winning that grant, but I applied and ended up getting it.” Benoit, as well as Andrew Shubin ’16 (PHD), ’18M (MD), the graduate student with whom Benoit paired Felong in her lab “saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Chen says she “often reflects on mentorship behaviors that I hope to build into my own management style – now as I work with undergraduate trainees (at MIT), but also in my future career. And I find myself often thinking back to my experiences in Danielle’s lab.”
Research Roundup: Stephen Dewhurst Explores the Latest Bench-to-Bedside Projects
Monday, April 8, 2019
Transitions and Trials
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research
Almost 10 years ago, Brad Berk had the idea that the Medical Center should position itself to take a lead in the new field of cell-based therapies by constructing a manufacturing facility that could produce those cells under the highly regulated conditions that are required by the FDA. Brad’s vision was that, by doing this, we would enable UR to deliver first-in-human therapies to patients.
Fast forward, and the facility we built – the Upstate Stem Cell cGMP Facility (USCGF) – is working in coordination with Torque Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA) to produce modified T cells that are being infused into cancer patients as part of a clinical trial that started earlier this month.
As with most research partnerships, our relationship with Torque is fundamentally a relationship between people, and an expression of trust in the team led by USCGF Director Luisa Caetano-Davies. It’s worth noting that only two years ago, Luisa was a postdoctoral fellow in Chris Proschel’s lab. Her subsequent success and growth are the combined result of a lot of hard work, intelligence and – in no small measure – opportunities created by our URBEST program.
The Torque trial is a huge step for the USCGF because it represents the first time that a cell-based product produced by our facility has been administered to human subjects. But it’s also an important step for our Medical Center, when viewed in the broader context of our evolving approach to clinical trials.
Pat Ames is heading up a new Office of Clinical Research, working with Martin Zand, Steven Wormsley and many others to lead the implementation of a clinical trial management system to improve our clinical trials infrastructure. This system will streamline and automate many cumbersome clinical research processes and reduce administrative burden on our research teams, helping us conduct more clinical trials and offer more treatments to our patients and community members.
At the same time, Paul Barr in the Wilmot Cancer Institute (WCI) was just awarded a major new grant to support WCI involvement in National Cancer Institute (NCI) cooperative group clinical trials. This award establishes URMC as one of 30 lead academic sites within the NCI consortium, a designation rarely given to an institution that (currently) does not have an NCI-designated cancer center.
Perhaps most exciting of all, Mark Noble and Nimish Mohile recently received a highly encouraging score for a proposal that would (if funded, as we hope it will be!) launch a first-in-human trial of a new cancer treatment that is the result of fundamental research conducted in the Noble laboratory. Based on a new tumor-specific vulnerability, and discovery of existing drugs with the unexpected property of attacking this vulnerability, the new therapy eliminates cancer stem cells in glioblastoma (one of the most deadly human cancers).
This is exactly the kind of bench-to-bedside science that Brad envisaged ten years ago. We’ve made lots of progress, and there’s more to come. It’s an exciting time to be involved in research at the Medical Center.
Announcing Regulatory Science Student Competition Winners
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Twelve teams competed this year in the sixth annual America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent student competition. Teams proposed a wide range of novel solutions to address the nine scientific priority areas outlined in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Strategic Plan for Advancing Regulatory Science. From a farm-to-table produce-tracking app to a public alert system for product recalls and disease outbreaks, this year’s competition was full of innovation. Learn more about the top three winners on the UR CTSI Stories blog.
John Lueck Publishes Study on New RNA Technology in Nature Communications
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Michael Golinkoff (left), one of the founders of Emily’s Entourage; Phil Thomas (middle), cystic fibrosis researcher at UT Southwestern, John Lueck (right), assistant professor of Pharmacology and Physiology at URMC.
There are all sorts of “typos” in our DNA that can lead to disease. One kind of typo – a premature termination codon or PTC – is responsible for 10 to 15 percent all genetic diseases, including cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. PTCs lead to the production of short and often deleterious proteins.
A recent paper by John Lueck, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology and Physiology and Neurology, shows how high-throughput screening may be used to fix these typos and lessen disease severity. Published in Nature Communications, the study found that modifying tRNA (a type of RNA molecule that helps convert messenger RNA or mRNA into protein) can help the cell make a full length protein, even with a PTC in the middle of the gene. With this new technology to modify tRNA, the authors were able to use gene therapy to suppress faulty versions of a gene in skeletal muscle, and instead force the cells to produce a full-length protein.
At the moment, most investigational therapies for inherited diseases are focused on small molecules, which to this point have not been successful. “For many of these diseases, including cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, there are no therapies and patients rely on palliative care,” explains Lueck. “Our engineered tRNA platform puts another iron in the fire for development therapeutics and we’re hopeful that the technology can be translated into a viable treatment for patients in the near future.”
While these studies are still in the early stages, Lueck was recently awarded a unique pilot grant from Vertex Pharmaceuticals to continue this work. This work was funded by Emily’s Entourage and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and accomplished with the collaboration of researchers at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundations Therapeutics Lab, the Wistar Institute, University of Iowa, and Integrated DNA Technologies, Inc.
HSR PhD students will present research at 2019 ARM
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Eight students from the Health Services Research and Policy PhD Program will be presenting their research at the 2019 Annual Research Meeting (ARM) in Washington, D.C.
“AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting shares important findings and showcases the latest evidence to move research into action and improve health and health care”. Participants were selected on a competitive basis.
- Medicare’s Voluntary Lower Extremity Joint Replacement Bundled Payment is Associated with Exacerbated Racial Disparities in Hospital Readmissions
- Understanding the Role of Paternal Economic Support in Early Childhood Development Among Families with Unmarried Mothers
- Shared Decision-Making and Cancer Patients’ Experience with Physician Communication
- Did Medicaid Expansion Matter in States with Generous Medicaid?
- The Impact of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansions on Mortality
- Analyzing Opioid-Related Hospitalization Data: The Role of Increases in the Number of Recordable Diagnosis Fields
- Continuity of Care and Health Care Cost among Community-dwelling Older Veterans Living with Dementia
- A Social Network Analysis of Nursing Home Medical Staff Organization
- Does the Dementia Care “National-Partnership” Improve Outcomes for Nursing Home Residents with Dementia?
- Rural Nursing Homes Were Associated with Lower Risk Adjusted Rates of Emergency Department Visit but Higher Mortality
- Application of Machine Learning Ensemble Models to Predict Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits of Long-Stay Nursing Home Residents
Di Yan, Sijiu Wang, Helena Temkin-Greener, Shubing Cai
Upcoming PhD dissertation defenses
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Ninoshka Fernandes, biomedical engineering, “CD4+ Effector T cell interactions with the Extracellular Matrix at Sites of Inflammation.” 2:15 p.m. March 29, 2019, 3-6408 K-307 Auditorium (Medical Center). Advisors: Deborah Fowell and Edward Brown.
Abigail Freyer, chemistry, “Investigation of Doped Nanocrystals Utilizing Electrostatic Force Microscopy.” Noon, April 1, 2019. 209 Computer Studies Building. Advisor: Todd Krauss.
Tianran Hu, computer science, “Decoding Human Lives from Social Media Data.” Noon, April 3, 2019. Dewey 2110E. Advisor: Jiebo Luo.
Allison Li, pathology, “Assessing the Role of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS)-Induced Bone Marrow Microenvironment Remodeling in MDS Progression.” 1 p.m., April 3, 2019. 1-7619 Lower Adolph (Medical Center). Advisor: Laura Calvi.
Mohammad Kazemi, electrical engineering, “Scalable Spin Torque Driven Devices and Circuits for High Performance Memory and Computing.” 2:30 p.m. April 8, 2019. Computer Studies Building 703. Advisor: Mark Bocko.
Thomas Nevins, physics, “Fronts and Filaments: Methods for Tracking and Predicting the Dynamical Effects of Advection on Excitable Reactions.” 11 a.m., April 12, 2019. Bausch and Lomb 106. Advisor: Douglas Kelley.
Study Aims to Predict, Prevent Acute Kidney Injury
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Acute kidney injury — a sudden decline in kidney function — occurs frequently among hospitalized patients with serious, long-lasting effects and even increased risk of death. It’s often preventable, but we currently lack the ability to reliably predict when it will happen and to whom. That is why researchers at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI) analyzed data from over 34,000 patients to develop a risk score for acute kidney injury that could help doctors intervene and prevent it.
Part of the reason we can’t predict when a patient will develop acute kidney injury is that while some risk factors are known, we often don’t use them in a coordinated way. For example, machine learning papers often focus on factors that increase risk of acute kidney injury, such as diabetes and medications, but not those that lower that risk. On top of that, most previous studies have looked at single hospitalizations for all patients, many of whom have not been previously hospitalized. By not looking at patients’ past data, those studies missed the opportunity to discover health factors or patterns that reliably precede acute kidney injury.
Samuel Weisenthal, an MD-PhD student, and Martin Zand, co-director of UR CTSI, took a different tack, focusing on re-hospitalized patients. The pair and their colleagues analyzed electronic health record data from patients’ prior hospitalizations to identify factors that predict acute kidney injury. From those factors, they used machine learning to developed a risk score that could be calculated for patients at the time of re-hospitalization.
“Developing an accurate risk index for acute kidney injury in re-hospitalized patients could have a major impact on hospital care, particularly if it could allow preventive intervention or better tailored treatments from the time of hospital admission,” says Zand, who is also the senior associate dean for clinical research at URMC.
For example, acute kidney injury caused by radiocontrast dye or chemotherapy can be prevented by administering fluids or altering a patient’s treatment plan. When these factors are adjusted accordingly, patients fare better and the cost and length of stay can be decreased.
And while such predictive systems require extensive validation before clinical deployment, this work is a step toward creating acute kidney injury predictions, specifically for re-hospitalized patients.
“This study will hopefully help move us in the direction of an automated, locally trained tool that leverages sometimes hidden, longitudinal electronic health record data to estimate acute kidney injury risk without manually ordering tests or collecting and entering data,” says Zand.
Read the full study in PLOS One.
Cell Biology of Disease Alumnus appears on Fox Rochester
Monday, March 25, 2019
Cell Biology of Disease Alumnus and current Postdoctoral Fellow Zach Murphy appeared on Fox Rochester to discuss how red blood cells are produced in the body and how they affect infant development. See the video on the Fox Rochester Website
Genetics Day will feature lecture by UMass researcher
Monday, March 25, 2019
Phillip D. Zamore, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts, will lecture on piRNAs and the Struggle to Reproduce at the 31st Annual Genetics Day, to be held 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. April 25 in the Class of ’62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium.
Register for a poster presentation by 5 p.m. Monday, April 15. Cash prizes will be awarded for graduate student and postdoc posters.
Rebecca Lena Awarded Founders Affiliate Summer Fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA)
Monday, March 25, 2019
Congratulations to Rebecca Lena for receiving the Founders Affiliate Summer Fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA). The title of her proposal is “Comparative analysis of 9-TB, Doxycycline, and Minocycline in a mouse model of post-cardiac arrest syndrome (PCAS).”
This work is one of several projects underway in the Neurovascular Protection Group, whose goal is to develop new therapies for acute stroke and cardiac arrest.
The American Heart Association supports highly promising, undergraduate students for full-time research fellowships over a minimum of ten weeks during the summer. The goal of this program is to encourage students to pursue careers in cardiovascular and stroke research.
NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Lawmakers in the New York state Assembly have voted to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.
The legislation, which passed the Democrat-led chamber on Wednesday, prohibits the sale of tobacco, as well as electronic cigarettes, to anyone under 21.
"I always thought that we were going to be the generation to stop smoking and then all of these new products came out and we are at step one," said Monica Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Rochester.
She said she doesn't smoke, but some of her friends do.
"I think just educating people and putting it in their heads this is not good for us," she added.
Jackson is part of a team of researchers at the university, including Dr. Irfan Rahman. Dr. Rahman has been helping conduct a study on the impacts of smoking and vaping for more than 10 years. Some of his work has also been published.
"This is really bad for high schoolers and middle schoolers when their lungs are developing, and if they vape it's interfering with lung development," he explained.
When asked about raising the age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes, Dr. Rahman said it won't do much.
"The problem will never be solved by increasing the age. Overall it will not address the issue of toxicity and diseases," he said.
Throughout the years, Dr. Rahman says he's studied the evolution of different products to consume tobacco and nicotine.
When it comes to research on Juul products, he said, "we found metals such as copper, we published a paper, we found lung injuries, inflammation and stress in the lungs."
The elevated smoking age is already the law in seven states, and several cities around the country, including New York City.
Some people think passing such a law is going too far.
"The idea for them to choose when they finish high school when they become adults it's more applicable, so i think 19 would be more of an applicable age," said James McGuinness a Rochester resident.
Brandon Barr is the manager of Exscape Smoke Shop and Vapor Lounge. He said the age of 21 at least is giving you more life experience, and more of a chance to educate yourself about the thing you want to do.
He said if the law is passed, it likely won't impact his business directly.
"I think convenience stores and things like that probably will because they have more of a high customer volume," he added.
Barr said the topic of education should be at the center of this debate. He said he works to educate all of his customers about what they are buying.
"Some of these very high level nicotine juices if you were to put them in certain kinds of vapes it can put so much nicotine into you - you could get sick," he said.
The measure is backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and has broad support in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, where it has yet to be scheduled for a vote.
Cuomo released a statement after the Assembly passed the bill.
"The lifelong health effects and human misery caused by tobacco use cannot be understated and New York needs to do everything in its power to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our young people. That's why I made raising the age of tobacco sales to 21 one of the first proposals of my Justice Agenda and I applaud the Assembly and particularly Assembly Member Rosenthal for taking action on this very important issue today. I urge the Senate to follow suit and help make this a stronger and healthier New York for all."
Julie Hart of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network called the measure "common sense" and said it will reduce the number of young people who become addicted.Read More: NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed
Reshaping our understanding of how the brain recovers from injury
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
New Medical Center research in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B sheds light on how the damage in the brain caused by a stroke can lead to permanent vision impairment. The findings could provide researchers with a blueprint to better identify which areas of vision are recoverable, facilitating more effective interventions to encourage vision recovery.
“The integration of a number of cortical regions of the brain is necessary in order for visual information to be translated into a coherent visual representation of the world,” says Bogachan Sahin, an assistant professor of neurology and co-author of the study. “And while the stroke may have disrupted the transmission of information from the visual center of the brain to higher order areas, these findings suggest that when the primary visual processing center of the brain remains intact and active, clinical approaches that harness the brain’s plasticity could lead to vision recovery.”
The research has formed the basis of a new clinical trial for stroke patients with vision loss that is now under way at URMC and lead by Sahin. The study involves a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the most common of which is the antidepressant Prozac. The inhibitors are known to enhance neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to rewire itself and form new connections to restore function after damage. The hypothesis is that the drug will help restore vision by fostering the development of new connections between areas of the brain necessary for interpreting signals from the healthy eye cells.
A stroke in the primary visual cortex can result in blind areas in the field of vision. While some patients spontaneously recover vision over time, for most the loss is permanent. A long-known consequence of damage to neurons in this area of the brain is the progressive atrophy of cells in the eyes, called retinal ganglion cells. When this occurs, it becomes more likely that the person will not recover vision at that location.
The new research involved 15 patients treated at Strong Memorial and Rochester General Hospitals for a stroke that affected the primary visual processing area of the brain. The participants took vision tests, underwent scans in an MRI to identify areas of brain activity, and were administered a test that evaluated the integrity of cells in their retina.
The team found that the survival of the retinal ganglion cells depended upon whether or not the primary visual area of the brain to which they are connected remained active. Eye cells that were connected to areas of visual cortex that were no longer active would atrophy and degenerate, leading to permanent visual impairment.
However, the researchers observed that some cells in the eye remained healthy, even though the patient could not see in the corresponding field of vision. This finding suggests that these eye cells remain connected to unscathed neurons in the visual cortex and that visual information was making its way from the eyes to the visual cortex, even though this information was not being interpreted by the brain in a manner that allowed sight.Read More: Reshaping our understanding of how the brain recovers from injury
Grant Marks Two Decades of NIH Support for Muscular Dystrophy Research
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Deposits of toxic RNA (red) are seen here inside muscle cell nuclei (blue) from an individual with myotonic dystrophy
The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has received $8 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support pioneering research on muscular dystrophy. The grant, which is a renewal of URMC’s Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, will fund ongoing work to investigate the genetic mechanisms and progression of this complex multi-system disease, research that has led scientists to the threshold of potential new therapies for myotonic dystrophy.
“The mission of the URMC Wellstone Center is to promote research that leads to effective treatments for muscular dystrophy,” said Charles Thornton, M.D., a professor in the URMC Department of Neurology and director of the URMC Wellstone Center. “This new funding will enable us to continue a research program that has been forged from a true partnership between bench scientists, clinical researchers, and patients and their families.”
URMC is home to one of six NIH-designated Wellstone Centers in the nation. URMC was selected in the first cycle of funding when the program was launched 16 years ago and is the only Wellstone Center that has been continuously funded since the program’s inception. With the current award, URMC has received a total of $29.8 million in NIH funding to study the disease since 2003.
The URMC Wellstone Center focuses on myotonic dystrophy, a disease that can be lethal in infants and adults and is characterized by progressive disability. Researchers at URMC have been studying myotonic dystrophy for more than 30 years and their work has transformed our understanding of the biological mechanisms of the disease. The new funding will support a long-standing collaboration between researchers at the University of Rochester and RNA scientists at the University of Florida.
Approximately 40,000 Americans have myotonic dystrophy, which is one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy. People with the disease have muscle weakness and prolonged muscle tensing (myotonia), which makes it difficult to relax muscles after use. Eventually many patients have difficulty walking, swallowing, and breathing.Read More: Grant Marks Two Decades of NIH Support for Muscular Dystrophy Research
Xi Lin Wins Award
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Xi Lin, MS, 2019 ORS/RJOS Young Female Investigator Travel Grant awarded by the Orthopaedic Research Society, Women's Leadership Forum, and the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society.
Xi is a Student of Lianping Xing, PhD, Pathology. Her research interest is OA pathogenesis: how macrophages contribute to localized inflammation through their effect on the lymphatic system.
Mason Doolittle Awarded ASBMR Travel Grant
Friday, February 15, 2019
Madison Doolittle, M.S., Current Ph.D. Trainee in the Cell Biology of Disease program at the School of Medicine and Dentistry was awarded an ASBMR Travel Grant to attend the Herbert Fleisch Workshop in Brussels Belgium March 2019. Madison is a student of Cheryl Ackert-Bicknell, PhD, CMSR., his research focus is on Identification and Characterization of Novel Genetic Determinants of Osteoporosis and Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
Matt Ingalls wins Prestigious Poster Prize at Gordon Conference
Friday, February 15, 2019
Matt Ingalls With Poster
Matt Ingalls with other award winners
GDSC student Matt Ingalls won an award for his poster presentation at the 2019 Gordon Research Conference for Salivary Glands and Exocrine Biology in Galveston, Texas (February 2nd – 8th). The GRC brought together leading researchers in the field of salivary gland biology from around the world. Matt’s poster, titled “Lineage Tracing Following Radiation Treatment Unveils Intrinsic Regeneration Potential in Adult Salivary Glands”, highlights differences in radiation response between the submandibular and parotid salivary glands. Utilizing lineage tracing models his work demonstrates the intrinsic regeneration potential of the adult salivary gland. The NIH-supported research was conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Catherine Ovitt and was co-authored by E. Maruyama and P. Weng. -- Congratulations Matt!
Kristen Bush Marshall Successfully Defends Her Thesis
Monday, February 11, 2019
Kristen Bush Marshall successfully defended and submitted her thesis for the PhD in Translational Biomedical Science, with a focus in Infection and Immunity: From Molecules to Populations
Dr. Bush Marshall's research focus was The use of electronic health records (EHR), predictive analytics, and network science to understand infection mobility and improve patient outcomes. Her research was conducted in the labs of Dr. Martin Zand & Dr. Gourab Ghoshal
She will be starting a postdoctoral position with her mentor, Dr. Martin Zand on 2/16, and will be heading down to the CDC for the EIS Fellowship starting in the summer
PREP Scholar Seble Negatu Receives Award
Monday, February 11, 2019
Seble Negatu – PREP Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Deborah Fowell
Seble Negatu was one of 9 recipients of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI)-sponsored immunology presentation awards at the ABRCMS meeting in November 2018 in Indianapolis, IN. https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/5759/presentation/882
At the meeting, AAI members and meeting chairs, Robert Binder and Cherie Butts, also presented Seble with a 2019 AAI Young Scholars Travel Award, to attend the 2019 AAI Annual Meeting this May in San Diego.
GDSC student Adrian Molina-Vargas co-founds ADSE chapter to tackle underrepresentation in STEM
Friday, February 1, 2019
February 1, 2019
In the front row from the left, Keon Garrett, Ellen Matson, Raven Osborn, and Antonio Tinoco Valencia; and in the back row from the left, Marian Ackun-Farmmer, Heta Gandhi, Adrian Molina Vargas, Shukree Abdul-Rashed, and Liz Daniele are among the founding members of the new Rochester chapter of the Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
Raven Osborn thought long and hard about continuing a PhD at the University of Rochester. Other minority students she knew at the Medical Center had also felt the isolation, the constant “being on edge” and “code-switching”—shifting the way they express themselves—that comes with being an underrepresented minority in a STEM field.
“Can I do this for another five and half years?” she wondered.
Antonio Tinoco, a DREAMer who was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, is a fourth year PhD student in the department of chemistry on the River Campus. He can remember only one or two occasions when a visiting faculty member of underrepresented minority background was invited to give a seminar in his department.
“My goal is to go into academia to be a professor, do research, and teach. But there are so few examples to follow,” he says. “I don’t even know of anyone who, as a DACA recipient or DREAMer, is a professor in chemistry. So, I could easily tell myself nobody has done it; it’s impossible; maybe I should look for something else.”
Instead, Tinoco, Osborn, and five other graduate students have banded together to form the University of Rochester chapter of the Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE). The mission of the national ADSE, which was founded in 2014, is to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in academia, industry, and government through graduate student organizations that reach out to students and scientists of all ages and backgrounds.
Other ADSE chapters are at the University of California campuses at Berkeley and Davis, the University of Central Florida, the University of Colorado, Columbia University, Drexel University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University Maryland, New York University, Northeastern University, and Texas A&M.
Tinoco, the president and founding member of the new chapter, says its immediate goals are twofold:
- Establish a diversity lecture series to bring underrepresented faculty from other universities to Rochester. “It would be an opportunity for underrepresented minority students here to say ‘Wow, there’s someone out there like me who is making it, so maybe there’s hope for me.’” Underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows would also be invited, especially ones who might be interested in eventually teaching here, Tinoco says.
- Provide a space where underrepresented graduate students in STEM fields from across the University can meet, network, and hold workshops and panels to openly discuss the issues they face. “If we can openly discuss these things, we won’t feel as isolated,” Tinoco says.
The chapter has been certified by the University and will receive funding through the University’s David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity. ADSE’s goals fall well within the Kearns Center’s mission to expand the educational pipeline through the doctoral degree for low-income, first-generation college, and underrepresented minority students, says Liz Daniele, the center’s assistant director for graduate diversity.
Inviting underrepresented faculty from other campuses to give a science-based talk, but also give a diversity-themed talk about their academic journey “is a great model,” she says. “And that’s why Kearns is happy to support several semesters of lectures.”
“I think this is exactly the type of thing that the University needs right now,” says Ellen Matson, assistant professor of chemistry, who will be the chapter’s faculty advisor. She, too, is excited about the proposed diversity lecture series—as a way to inspire and motivate students to finish their programs and pursue STEM careers, and also “showcase our research programs and facilities to diverse early-career scientists and post-doctoral research fellows interested in pursuing independent academic research careers.”
“Overall, I think that the University of Rochester community, particularly at the graduate level, will really benefit from having a chapter of the Alliance for Diversity in Engineering and Science on campus,” Matson says.
Osborn, who is serving as the chapter’s treasurer, does not regret her decision to stay at Rochester to pursue a PhD in translational biomedical science. “I’ve been very lucky to work with faculty members like Tim Dye, Steve Dewhurst, and Juilee Thakar,” she says.
Osborn received a medical center community outreach award as a leader in the Rochester Young Scientists Club’s program, which encourages pupils at inner-city elementary schools to start thinking like scientists. She is excited to be serving on the search committee for a new vice president for equity and inclusion at the University.
She is hopeful that ADSE will bring together underrepresented graduate students, now separated by Elmwood Avenue “divide” between the River Campus and the Medical Center and the separate “silos” of their STEM disciplines.
And she agrees with Matson that the University will benefit from having a chapter of ADSE.
“This is an amazing institution, and we have so many resources here. If we can make this a place where people who have different backgrounds feel comfortable, where their different perspectives are welcomed, it can only better the institution as a whole.”Read More: GDSC student Adrian Molina-Vargas co-founds ADSE chapter to tackle underrepresentation in STEM
Former Biochemistry Student Jerry Madukwe, Ph.D. travels to West Africa to Speak With Students
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Jerry Madukwe, Ph.D., who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (2018), and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, recently completed a 2-week science-outreach trip to West Africa. Jerry was invited by the West Africa Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana, and the Department of Life sciences at the University of Ilorin in central Nigeria to talk about the work he did as a PhD student and about graduate school in the United States. Jerry, who hails from Nigeria, and got his BS from Lee University in Tennessee, also used the opportunity to visit his former elementary school where he talked to fifth grade pupils about science (see photos), and to demonstrate DNA extraction from bananas. The kids were very excited by his visit, and Jerry found the experience very fulfilling.
Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s
Monday, January 28, 2019
The brain’s system for removing waste is driven primarily by the pulsations of adjoining arteries, University of Rochester neuroscientists and mechanical engineers report in a new study. They also show that changes in the pulsations caused by high blood pressure slow the removal of waste, reducing its efficiency.
This might explain the association between high blood pressure and Alzheimer’ disease, the researchers say. Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia among older adults, is characterized by abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain.
The study, reported in Nature Communications, builds upon groundbreaking discoveries about the brain’s waste removal system by Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the University’s Center for Translational Neuromedicine. Nedergaard and her colleagues were the first to describe how cerebrospinal fluid is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away waste. Subsequent research by her team has shown that this glymphatic waste removal system is more active while we sleep and can be damaged by stroke and trauma.
This latest research shows “in much greater depth and much greater precision than before” how the glymphatic system functions in the perivascular spaces that surround arteries in the outer brain membrane, says Douglas Kelley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an expert in fluid dynamics. His lab is collaborating with Nedergaard’s team as part of a $3.2 million National Institute on Aging grant.
For this study, Humberto Mestre, a PhD student in Nedergaard’s lab, injected minute particles in the cerebrospinal fluid of mice, and then used two-photon microscopy to create videos showing the particles as they moved through the perivascular spaces.Read More: Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s
Dr. Kuan Hong Wang comes to the University of Rochester
Monday, January 21, 2019
We are pleased to welcome Dr. Wang to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Department of Neuroscience and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience from the NIH.
Dr. Wang comes to us as the former chief of the Unit on Neural Circuits and Adaptive Behaviors at the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Wang received his B.A. in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard College and his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Francisco, where he studied the molecular regulators of sensory axon growth and branching during development with Marc Tessier-Lavigne. Dr. Wang obtained postdoctoral training with Susumu Tonegawa at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he examined the ways in which cortical neurons respond to an animal’s experience by directly visualizing the molecular activity of a given set of neurons over several days in the live animal. With this approach, he revealed a physiological function of neural activity regulated gene Arc in sharpening stimulus-specific responses in visual cortex.
Research Roundup: Dealing with Failure and an Unfunded Grant Application
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research
It’s something we rarely talk about: how it feels when a grant application isn’t funded. And yet, it’s by far the most common outcome for any such submission – an unavoidable consequence of paylines that are in the low teens or single digits.
The months between the submission of a grant and its review pass surprisingly quickly. And then time slows to a crawl. The self-doubt and self-criticism become more insistent. And hope flickers – such a fragile thing, in the end.
Recently, after submitting a grant application, I found myself logging onto the NIH website every day after the review panel had met, to see if the scores had been posted. Eventually, they appeared.
This particular grant isn’t going to be funded.
It’s a horrible feeling. A private hurt that’s immeasurably hard to share with colleagues, family and friends. That’s because the narrative is one of failure.
But, I’ve chosen to write about it anyway – because we’ve all been here. Because shame thrives in secrecy and loses its power when we talk about it (something I learned from Brené Brown).
What has helped is input from friends. One wrote: “Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad you did. As Directors etc., we don’t share enough of the worries, the worthiness/unworthiness and the vulnerabilities that things like grants.... bring to the work and to our sense of ourselves as ‘good’ researchers, colleagues, leaders and people.”
She went on to say: “I wish I had great advice. I have nothing. Except that you are a good person, a good mentor.... and whatever happens, you will still be those things. If you receive the grant, you know what your work will be; if you don’t, you will have new and different work to do.”
It’s also true that a life in science requires resilience -- the ability to pick oneself up after a fall and to learn and improve from failure. No one ever said that it would be easy.
In a few weeks, the summary statement will be released and I’ll start thinking (with my colleagues) about ways to address the reviewers’ concerns. Until then, I’ll keep a space in my heart for these words of Samuel Beckett: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”
TBS Student Explores Drug Repurposing to Treat Infectious Disease
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Infectious diseases still pose a big health risk in resource-limited areas of the world. A fourth-year student in the UR CTSI's Translational Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, Marhiah Montoya, is exploring the possibility of repurposing pre-existing estrogen receptor drugs, like tamoxifen, to fight these infections. Read Montoya's mini-review in mBio.
TBS Student Dissertation Defense
Monday, January 7, 2019
UR CTSI Translational Biomedical Science graduate student, Kristen Bush Marshall, will defend her dissertation, titled, “Inpatient mobility to predict hospital-onset Clostridium difficile: a network approach,” on Friday, January 18. She will discuss her use of electronic health records and network analysis of hospital-onset clostridium difficile, a life-threatening infection triggered by taking antibiotics. Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., has been her advisor and mentor for the past three years.
Bush Marshall is committed to becoming an epidemiologist, with a clear focus on infection prevention and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of disease transmission in communities and healthcare facilities.
Date: Friday, January 18
Time: 12:00 pm
Location: Helen Wood Hall Auditorium 1W-304
UR-RCMI Scholarly Exchange Request for Applications
Monday, January 7, 2019
Faculty, staff, and students at the University of Rochester can apply now for funding to support research collaboration activities with their counterparts from any institution in the Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) program.
The UR-RCMI Scholarly Exchange Program awards up to five projects a maximum of $3,000 each to help colleagues from different cultures, disciplines, and academic appointments build partnerships and produce abstracts, publications, or grant applications together and to foster the next generation of researchers from underrepresented populations.
Learn more and access the application from the UR CTSI Stories blog.
If you have questions, please contact Ivelisse Rivera, M.D., UR-RCMI Exchange Coordinator.
Applications are due Friday, January 25.
In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The following is an excerpt from an article by Norma Holland that originally appeared on WHAM 13:
Rochester, N.Y. – From Hollywood to Healthcare: Technology used to make movies is being used at the University of Rochester Medical Center to help scientists understand the brain and how it ages.
What researchers learn could help predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
13WHAM watched researchers in the Mobile Brain Body Imaging – or MoBi – Lab attach wires to a cap covered in electrodes. The cap picks up the brain wave activity of a volunteer, while infrared cameras surrounding him pick up how his body moves on a treadmill.
This lab is one of 12 around the world combining motion capture technology with brain scans used in real time.
“What we’re saying is: Let’s get people up, let’s get them in a walking situation where they’re solving a task, where we can kind of stress them a bit, and then we can ask, ‘How’s the brain working under duress?’ explained Dr. John Foxe, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. “And that gives us a window into function, maybe like a neural stress test, akin to the cardiac stress test.”
Armed with that information, doctors hope to one day be able to predict a person’s dementia risk a decade before symptoms show up. It can also help give us clues about a person’s risk of falling as they get older.Read More: In The News: URMC utilizes motion capture technology to study brain, how it ages
Chavali, Couch, DeZoysa and Hao Win Sayeeda Zain Travel Award
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
The department is pleased to announce the winners of the Sayeeda Zain Fall Travel awards: Shashank Chavali, Tyler Couch, Meemanage Dudarshika DeZoysa and Fanfan Hao.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award honors the distinguished career and charitable life of Dr. Sayeeda Zain. The award is given in recognition of research excellence to support travel and related expenses associated with attendance at a scientific conference or corporate internship to gain practical experience. The next round of Sayeeda Zain Travel Awards will be offered in Spring 2019.
Thank you to all those who applied and congratulations to Shashank, Tyler, Dudarshika and Fanfan!
Study: Neurons in the Brain Work as a Team to Guide Movement of Arms, Hands
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The apparent simplicity of picking up a cup of coffee or turning a doorknob belies the complex sequence of calculations and processes that the brain must undergo to identify the location of an item in space, move the arm and hand toward it, and shape the fingers to hold or manipulate the object. New research, published today in the journal Cell Reports, reveals how the nerve cells responsible for motor control modify their activity as we reach and grasp for objects. These findings upend the established understanding of how the brain undertakes this complex task and could have implications for the development of neuro-prosthetics.
“This study shows that activity patterns in populations of neurons shift progressively during the course of a single movement,” said Marc Schieber, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurology and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and a co-author of the study. “Interpreting these shifts in activity that allow groups of neurons to work together to perform distinctive and precise movements is the first step in understanding how to harness this information for potential new therapies.”Read More: Study: Neurons in the Brain Work as a Team to Guide Movement of Arms, Hands
Rochester graduate student named Schwarzman Scholar
Friday, December 7, 2018
University of Rochester graduate student Beixi Li is one of 140 students selected worldwide as a Schwarzman Scholar. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)
University of Rochester graduate student Beixi Li has been named a 2019-20 Schwarzman Scholar, one of about 140 selected worldwide for this prestigious graduate fellowship. She’ll develop leadership skills and professional networks in a one-year master’s program at China’s elite Tsinghua University in Beijing, beginning next August.
“I’m really excited,” the Shanghai, China, native says. “After going through the application process and long interview sessions, it was great to know that everything I did was worth the effort. I’m thrilled to be part of this program.”
The international fellowship was established in 2016 with a $100 million donation by philanthropist Stephen Schwarzman, whose goal was to prepare the next generation of global leaders by providing an unparalleled opportunity to gain some understanding of China through an immersive experience. Students pursue a master’s degree in global affairs, with concentrations in public policy, economics and business, or international studies. They spend a year in an international community of thinkers, innovators, and leaders in business, politics, and society.
Nearly 2,900 candidates from around the world applied.
Li is currently pursuing a master of public health degree at Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and expects to graduate in May. Her thesis examines the potential impact of maternal dental amalgams (fillings) on offspring neurodevelopment.
As a Schwarzman Scholar, Li intends to concentrate in public policy. She plans a career in preventive medicine, with a focus on children, in the fields of environmental hazards, tobacco control, or infectious diseases.
“The world today is facing various public health issues, like environmental pollution, the Ebola viruses in Africa, the opioid epidemic in the United States, and smoking abuse among teens and adults,” Li says. “I’ve always believed that preventive medicine and public health are the most effective ways to save the lives of millions in the world.”
Li is the first Rochester recipient since Jintian (Jay) Li ’12 (no relation) was selected to the inaugural class. Suman Kumar ’19, a mechanical engineering major from Lalitpur, Nepal, was a Schwarzman Scholar semifinalist and one of around 400 who reached the interview stage of the competition.
“We are delighted and proud to have another Rochester student join the ranks of Schwarzman Scholars and hope that Beixi’s selection will inspire more students, including those in graduate and professional degree programs, to consider applying in the future,” says Belinda Redden, director of the Fellowships Office.
Li earned her undergraduate degree in preventive medicine from Xiangya School of Medicine at Central South University in Changsha, China, and is a licensed medical doctor in her native country. She began her Rochester graduate study program in fall 2017.
US News and World Report Article: What You Can Do With a Biology Degree?
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Recently the US News and World report website published an article discussing what you can do with a biology degree. The article features input from URBEST Executive Director, Tracey Baas.
The article goes into detail on the types of jobs a graduate can expect, the variety of roles pursuing such a degree opens up for you including industry options while detailing further academic choices. To read the entire article, visit the US News and World Report WebsiteRead More: US News and World Report Article: What You Can Do With a Biology Degree?
Professor Harold Smith, Ph.D. appears on Evan Dawson Radio Program
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Harold C. Smith was a guest along with Bob Duffy (CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce), Jason Klimek (attorney with Boylan Code), Zachary Sarkis (co-founder of Flower City Solutions) and Jacob Fox (founder of Closed Loop Systems) on WXXI Connections with Evan Dawson on 11/21/2018 to address the opportunities and questions surround the emerging hemp industry in Up State NY. (listen to Hemp101http://www.wxxinews.org/programs/connections?page=1&ajax=1)
Dr. Smith spoke regarding the future of labeling and dosing of THC-free and THC-containing products relative to what we understanding from scientific and clinical research. Having founded CannaMetrix, LLC, a New York based company, Dr. Smith seeks to establish through patent pending, cell-based assays, to raise the standards for product development and quality control so as to better information patient choices of products containing full spectrum plant cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoids and advance medicinal use of cannabis.
Jean Bidlack Featured on WXXI's Second Opinion
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, Jean Bidlack, Ph.D. and her research were recently featured on WXXI's Second Opinion.
The Medical Innovations segment will air with the "Alcoholism" episode on WXXI where Dr. Bidlack discusses how when dopamine levels spike in the brain, it leads to the very strong reinforcing properties of addiction.
The program will air Thursday January, 3rd at 8:30pm but can be viewed below as well.
23rd WCI Scientific Symposium
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Keynote Lecture in Progress
Supriya Mohile, M.D., M.S.
Judith Campisi, Ph.D.
“This week GDSC assisted the Wilmot Cancer Institute (WCI) in hosting their Twenty Third Scientific Symposium for Cancer Research and Treatment. Graduate Students working in basic, translational and clinical cancer research displayed posters of their respective cancer studies in the Flaum Atrium. GDSC and other faculty gave lectures; including Brian Altman, Stephano Mello, Dirk Bohmann, Vera Gorbunova, Joe Chakkalakal, Laurie Steiner, and Ben Frisch. Additionally, WCI professor Supriya Mohile, gave the Davey Award Lecture titled Improving Care Delivery for Older Patients with Cancer. Finally, Judith Campisi, Ph.D. of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology presented the symposium's keynote lecture titled “Cancer and aging: Rival Demons?”
Congratulations to Phong Nguyen and Jose Suarez Loor for receiving ORS Travel Awards!
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Congratulations to PhD students Phong Nguyen and Jose Suarez Loor for receiving Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) Travel Awards to attend the 2018 ORS Tendon Section Conference in Portland, OR! For more information, please see here: https://www.ors.org/tendon-2018-conference/
URMC Student/Trainee Travel Awards 2018 Request for Applications
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Two travel reimbursement awards of up to $1,000 will be given this funding cycle (one for clinical research and one for basic sciences research) to support a University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry medical student, graduate student, postdoctoral trainee, clinical resident, and/or clinical fellow to attend important national or international meetings at which they will present their research and make professional connections.
Eligible applications for the current cycle are for travel between September 1, 2018 and February 28, 2019. Submission Deadline: Friday, December 14, 2018, 6:00 pm. For questions, email Amy Blatt, M.D. or call 585-275-4912.
View the full RFA.
Monday, November 12, 2018
We celebrated the successful PhD defense by Eugene Kim last Friday. Working with Jianwen Que, Eugene has identified a significant progenitor cell population in the early foregut. She used a combination of xenopus and mouse models to demonstrate that the transcription factor Isl1 enriched in the unique progenitor population regulates the separation of the esophagus from the trachea. These findings provide important insights into the pathobiology of a relatively common birth defect esophageal atresia with/without trachea-esophageal fistula (EA/TEF). Eugene has a passion for studying developmental biology and stem cells in regeneration, and she plans for a future career in these areas!
Congratulations to the 4th Annual Immune Imaging Symposium Poster and Image Winners
Monday, November 12, 2018
Wish the four winners a hardy congratulations when you see them.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
On Thursday, Fanju Meng successfully defended his PhD thesis. Under mentorship of Dr. Benoit Biteau, Fanju’s studies focus on the regulatory network that coordinates stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the Drosophila intestinal epithelium. Using advanced fly genetics and cell biology methods, Fanju characterized the expression and role of several transcription factors in adult intestinal progenitors. His work significantly improves our understanding of the programs controlling stem cell function and establishes the fruit fly as a model to study these conserved, critical stem cell factors. His findings have been published in Cell Reports and Stem Cell Investigation. And there are additional papers in the pipeline! Fanju was a recipient of a NYSTEM training grant hosted by the Department of Biomedical Genetics, and the Goodman Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Rochester. Fanju is now planning on continuing in his work in the field of stem cell and cancer biology using genetic model organisms – and we wish him the best of luck! You will be missed.
For further reading, please see:
Fanju Meng Successfully Defending His Ph.D. Thesis
GDSC Halloween Costume Contest!
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Last week GDSC held our Halloween Costume Contest. Our three GDSC student contestants can be seen below.
Derek Crowe as Bart Simpson
Anne Roskowski as Sailor Moon
Neal Shah as a Medical Garbed Squidward
Derek Crowe earned a very close second place with 14 votes. While first place went to Anne Roskowski with 15 votes. Congrats Anne!”
Dumont Receives 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Biochemistry professor Mark Dumont, Ph.D. is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award. Established in 2013, this award is given to an outstanding graduate student teacher for record of excellence in classroom instruction. Mark was nominated by graduate students Brandon Davis, Ashwin Kumar and Matthew Raymonda.
This award was presented at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony, September 6, 2018.
The department would like to extend congratulations to Mark on this well- deserved honor.
GDSC Fall Retreat
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Our graduate program in Genetics, Development and Stem Cells (GDSC) celebrated another successful season of research and academic growth. On the afternoon of Friday October 26th 2018, the faculty, students and families of GDSC held our Fall Retreat at the Ellison Park Pavilion Lodge. Among our many reasons to celebrate was our Department’s recent faculty expansion including, Brian J. Altman, Stephano Spano Mello, and Patrick J. Murphy. Welcome! We also celebrated the faculty promotion of Benoit Biteau to Associate Professor. Finally, we celebrated the future research of faculty members Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Douglas Portman, Chris Pröschel, and Andy Samuelson each of whom obtained prominent research grants earlier this year. Our festivities included pumpkin carvings, board games and a cocktail hour. There were also three hotly contested rounds of Science Trivia. (The final scores for the first and second place teams were separated by a margin of half a point!) The winning team “Smooth ER” included members Derek Crow, Li Xie, Shen Zhou, Yungeng Pang, Mark Noble, Daxiang Na, and Andy Samuelson. Additionally, Jessie Hogestyn won our “Hidden Facts” contest testing one’s knowledge of eccentric or esoteric trivia regarding GDSC faculty and students. Photos of GDSC’s genetic festivities can be seen below.
CMPP Graduate Student Published in Nature Communications
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Edward Ayoub, a Graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD Program and member of Archibald Perkins Lab published in Nature Communications on 10/12/2018. More information can be found on the Nature Website.
Paper Title & Abstract
EVI1 overexpression reprograms hematopoiesis via upregulation of Spi1 transcription
Edward Ayoub, Michael P. Wilson, Kathleen E. McGrath, Allison J. Li, Benjamin J. Frisch, James Palis, Laura M. Calvi, Yi Zhang & Archibald S. Perkins
Inv(3q26) and t(3:3)(q21;q26) are specific to poor-prognosis myeloid malignancies, and result in marked overexpression of EVI1, a zinc-finger transcription factor and myeloid-specific oncoprotein. Despite extensive study, the mechanism by which EVI1 contributes to myeloid malignancy remains unclear. Here we describe a new mouse model that mimics the transcriptional effects of 3q26 rearrangement. We show that EVI1 overexpression causes global distortion of hematopoiesis, with suppression of erythropoiesis and lymphopoiesis, and marked premalignant expansion of myelopoiesis that eventually results in leukemic transformation. We show that myeloid skewing is dependent on DNA binding by EVI1, which upregulates Spi1, encoding master myeloid regulator PU.1. We show that EVI1 binds to the −14 kb upstream regulatory element (−14kbURE) at Spi1; knockdown of Spi1dampens the myeloid skewing. Furthermore, deletion of the −14kbURE at Spi1 abrogates the effects of EVI1 on hematopoietic stem cells. These findings support a novel mechanism of leukemogenesis through EVI1 overexpression.
Research Roundup: Values
Monday, October 22, 2018
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research
A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the URBEST retreat, entitled “Mentoring Lessons: What my students have taught me”. It was a Pecha Kucha style talk - 20 slides, 20 seconds each; a little over 6 minutes total.
My ratio of prep time to presentation time was frightening. But the process of constructing the talk was incredibly rewarding, because it forced me to reflect on the moments when my students have shown me - through their words and actions - what matters most.
I’m referring to those moments when others teach us something important about ourselves, about our interconnectedness, and even about the workplace culture we aspire to create around us. We’ve all experienced moments like these. Moments that, even years later, can still inspire tears and feelings of deep gratitude.
As I was putting my slides together, I got to thinking about Tony Broyld - who I first met as a middle schooler at Clara Barton School #2 in the City of Rochester. He's now a Systems Engineer in his early 30s with two M.S. degrees from the University of Rochester and living in the greater New York City area. He is also the first member of his family to go to college. Someone in whose life I was fortunate enough to make a real and profound difference and also someone who taught me a great deal about resilience.
If he were the only student who taught me something important about values, about what matters, this would be a short column. But of course, he wasn’t.
Almost every day, I find myself in awe of the people I’m privileged to work with.
Recently, I attended the annual picnic in my home department of Microbiology and Immunology. One of our students spoke to me about her journey to graduate school. How the kindness of a single mentor changed the course of her life, made her believe in herself, helped her see a different future, and brought her here to Rochester.
She spoke also about her father and how he will spend the rest of his life in jail, a measure of how far her life has traveled from the path that it might otherwise have gone down.
She spoke from a place of love and appreciation - and left me feeling intensely honored to be a part of her education.
There are hundreds of stories like hers at our Medical center from people whose lives have been transformed by the power of their own courage and by the drive of their imagination and curiosity. By their desire to learn, by this life in science that we share, and by the values that we talk about -- but don’t always appreciate or fully understand – until we see them up close and personal.
Former Tox Student Claire McCarthy, PhD Featured on NPR
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Early one morning in the spring of 2017, former Toxicology graduate student Claire McCarthy (Sime Lab) started her day as many don't: rolling dried rhinoceros dung into cigarettes and packing them into a machine that smoked them.
Although it might seem bizarre, McCarthy's purpose was serious: She wanted to know what happens when people breathe in dung smoke.
Dung smoke is no joke. Animal dung is used by millions globally for heating and cooking.
It's a dangerous practice. Burning biomass fuels (including animal dung as well as wood, charcoal, and plant matter) generates indoor air pollution, which caused 4 million deaths worldwide in 2012 according to the World Health Organization. Like cigarette smoke, biomass smoke has been linked to increased risk of lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), lung cancer and respiratory infection.
Read More: Former Tox Student Claire McCarthy, PhD Featured on NPR
CMPP Graduate Student Brandon Berry Wins Poster Award
Monday, September 24, 2018
The Wojtovich lab attended the Translational Research in Mitochondria, Aging, and Disease (TRiMaD) Symposium. A yearly event that brings together approximately 150-200 scientists from the Northeast to discuss the role of mitochondria in aging and disease.
Brandon Berry, Graduate Student in Wojtovich lab, was one of four recipients to win a poster award for his work entitled “Novel Optogenetic control of mitochondrial energetics rescues electron transport chain inhibition”
Adrian Moises Molina Vargas is awarded Graduate Alumni Convocation Award
Friday, September 14, 2018
Adrian (’18 University of Alcalá, Spain), one of three new 2018 recruits to the GDSC program was awarded the Graduate Alumni Convocation Award to recognize his promise for exceptional accomplishment in graduate studies. During his year of studying abroad at Tufts during 2017-2018, Adrian worked in the Mirkin lab to study the role of cdc13 mutations in genome instability.
In addition, Sarah Spahr (’18 Ohio State University) was nominated for the Irving Spar Fellowship and Tom O’Connor (’17 University of Buffalo) was nominated for the Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award. Congratulations to all three!
Adrian, Sarah & Tom
GDSC Team Participates in 6th annual Wilmot “Warrior Walk”
Friday, September 14, 2018
GDSC Team supports the 2017 Wilmot Cancer Warrior Walk
Students and faculty from Biomedical Genetics and the GDSC program attended the 6th Wilmot Cancer Institute Warrior Walk on Sunday. Aptly named the “NextGen Cancer Busters” to symbolize the graduate students and post-docs training to become cancer researchers, the GDSC team mingled with cancer survivors and family members, to support the fight against cancer. As one team member pointed out: “Meeting cancer survivors really helps put the work in the lab into perspective”.
In addition to the Cancer Survivor Walk, “NextGen Cancer Busters” also participated in the 10k and 5k events. Notably, Dalia Ghoneim (5k) and Adam Cornwall (10k) and placed 1st and 2nd in their group, and 2nd and 7th overall. In addition, Scott Friedland and our new faculty addition, Brian Altman, both placed 4th in their age group for the 5k. Congratulations!!
Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Receives Award for SfN Trainee Professional Development
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Emily Warner was recently selected to receive a 2018 Trainee Professional Development Award (TPDA) from the Society for Neuroscience. These are highly competitive awards and it is a great achievement for Emily.
The award comes with a complementary registration to the conference in San Diego and a monetary award of $1000. Emily will present a poster at a poster session for other recipients and will be able to attend several Professional Development Workshops while at the conference.
Neuroscience Graduate Program Student Receive 3 Convocation Awards
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Congratulations to our NGP students for again earning these honors at this year's School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony.
- Kathryn Toffolo (1st year): Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship Award
- This fellowship was established in 1991 from Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Cleveland and is awarded to a Ph.D. student entering graduate study through the Biomedical Sciences Program with interest in developing a neuroscience-related research career.
- Monique Mendes (4th year): Outstanding Student Mentor Award
- This award, established in 2015, recognizes a student mentor who guides, supports and promotes the training and career development of others.
- Gregory Reilly (1st year): J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
- This scholarship was established by Dr. Stannard, Professor Emeritus, to recognize one deserving incoming graduate student for their commendable academic achievements. Dr. Stannard developed the world’s first doctoral program in radiation biology at the School of Medicine and was a faculty member for almost 40 years before retiring in 1975. He taught and mentored hundreds of students who went on to become leaders and experts in the field of radiation health.
Research Roundup: The Loneliness of Grant Writing
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research
Almost all of us, as researchers, spend a good deal of our time thinking about grant proposals. That’s because grant funding gives us the means to explore our ideas, and to do the things we think are important.
We also all recognize that most grant applications will be rejected by the funding agencies to which we submit them. So we become creatures of persistence.
What’s discussed less often, is the actual experience of grant writing.
Its something we all do: at our desks, in coffee shops, at the kitchen table; wherever we can find a space for our laptop. But we don’t often talk about how it feels.
There’s a strong sense of stepping out of your normal life. For me - and I don’t think I’m unusual in this - it involves withdrawing from many of the other things I would normally do. Not only professionally, but also family obligations and social interactions.
This column, for example, was due a week ago. But I deferred it, because I had a grant deadline yesterday.
Grant writing requires us to focus our thoughts to such an extent that we can sink into them; to become fully immersed. The experience is intense, and it is also both lonely and isolating.
That’s because the process of writing a grant is an exercise in disconnection. An intentional unplugging.
When I’m writing a grant, I often feel very distant from the people around me. It’s as if they’re behind glass - because my mind is somewhere else entirely. And then I’ll find myself alone in a quiet house, in the middle of the night, with nothing but my own thoughts for company. Struggling to find the right words.
What makes this more bearable is remembering why we’re asking for the money - what we plan to do with it - and knowing also that this is a shared experience, common to all academic scientists. It’s a part of the life we choose.
Those late nights, those doubts, those uncertainties - we’ve all been there. It’s one of the things that bond us together.
So I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the hundreds of researchers at the medical center who are engaged in grant writing on any given day. It’s their efforts that make the URMC’s research enterprise possible, and that make this a special place where discoveries happen every day.
School of Medicine Names New Dean for Graduate Education
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Richard T. Libby, Ph.D.
Richard T. Libby Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology and of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and a member of the University’s Center for Visual Science, has been named Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA), pending approval of the University Board of Trustees. Beginning Sept. 1, Libby will direct the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Ph.D., postdoctoral and master’s degree programs. He succeeds Edith M. Lord, Ph.D., who served a decade in the role and is shifting her focus to microbiology and immunology research.
An innovative researcher in the neurobiology of glaucoma, Libby arrived in Rochester in 2006 after postdoctoral and fellowship experiences that enlightened him on the power of model genetics systems in the study of eye disease. Years spent training at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham, England, and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, formed the foundation for his current laboratory, which is focused on understanding the cell signaling pathways that lead to vision loss in glaucoma.
Libby is director of the Cell Biology of Disease Graduate Program, has served on numerous academic committees integral to research activities and graduate education, and is a respected mentor and teacher. He has published, as author or co-author, more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific articles and numerous reviews, book chapters and commentaries, and has presented internationally on a range of topics in eye and vision research.
“Rick understands that excellence in a research enterprise is essential to attracting the best and brightest talent and has articulated a vision for further improving the experience here, making it clear to the outside world that Rochester is the best place to learn and study,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of the Medical Center and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester. “He is a passionate scientist whose experience in a clinical department will bring valuable insight to graduate programs in basic and clinical research—a true asset to his role in helping prepare future generations of scientists.”
“Complementing his expertise in leading graduate programs, and thorough understanding of their needs, Rick has developed a thoughtful approach to what it will take to continue moving them forward. It’s clear that he’s driven by a desire to develop our trainees and motivated to give them the best graduate/postdoctoral experience possible,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Research at the University of Rochester. “In addition, having developed his own career in a somewhat untraditional way, Rick brings an added dimension to understanding and supporting others who are exploring diverse career options.”
Libby received a doctorate degree in biology from Boston College in the field of neurodevelopment. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research in Nottingham England, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2006, was named associate professor in 2012, and professor in 2018.
“Rick is a great choice to succeed Edith Lord as the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education,” said Dirk Bohmann, Ph.D., Donald M. Foster, M.D. Professor of Biomedical Genetics and Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research, who led the search committee. “He realizes that research excellence and successful graduate and postdoctoral programs are mutually dependent. You cannot have one without the other. He will be a passionate advocate for the graduate students and postdocs.”
“Under Dr. Lord’s leadership, GEPA has greatly enhanced the support and training of URMC’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows,” Libby said. “In fact, GEPA has helped lead the nation in providing enhanced educational opportunities to ready trainees for the numerous careers available to the modern-day scientist. I am excited to be a part of this team. I look forward to further developing GEPA’s missions of providing world-class training for our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and to helping our trainees continue their important work focused on understanding human health and disease.”
Lord’s four-decade career in Rochester is dotted with milestones and accomplishments. She joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty as a senior instructor in 1976 and rose through the ranks to professor in 1994. In 10 years as Senior Associate Dean, she worked to improve the experience of graduate students and postdocs in and outside the lab, adding Postdoctoral Affairs to the Office for Graduate Education’s name, standardizing salaries and benefits, and advocating on behalf of trainees. She spearheaded a revamping of the fundamental basic science courses, incorporating more workshops and active learning components and emphasizing team-based science. She also fostered professional development initiatives and guided efforts to support students’ health and wellbeing. Her return to the research lab will include focusing on an NIH grant to study the immune response in tumors.
Ralph Jozefowicz Honored for Mentoring Next Generation of Leaders in Neurology
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
URMC neurologist Ralph Jozefowicz, M.D., has been awarded the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Leading in Excellence through Mentorship award. He received the recognition at the AAN’s 2018 annual meeting.
Jozefowicz, a professor of Neurology and Medicine, is a nationally recognized leader and innovator in neurologic education and has received numerous awards and accolades from AAN, the American Neurological Association, the Fulbright Program, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Jagiellonian University in Poland for his work in the field.
He currently serves as director for the second year medical student "Mind, Brain and Behavior" course and co-director of the third year Neurology Clerkship. He is also the Neurology Residency Program Director at the URMC.
You can read more about the award and perspectives from colleagues he has mentored over the years in Neurology Today.
MSTP Alum, Alan Kenny Headlines MSTP 18th Annual Retreat
Friday, August 10, 2018
August 10, 2018 marked the Medical Scientist Training Program’s 18th Annual Retreat. The retreat was held at the Rochester Yacht Club, overlooking Lake Ontario and the Genesee River.
The Annual Retreat is an opportunity for the entire program to touch base and welcome incoming students. This year, the MSTP welcomed 8 new students: Catherine Beamish, Wash U., Zachary Christensen, UR 2nd year med. (Brigham Young U.), Ankit Dahal (U. Penn), Adam Geber (Columbia U.), Emily Isenstein (Cornell U.), Bryan Redmond (Xavier U.), Alison Roby (Penn St.), Matt Sipple (Cornell U.).
2018 MSTP Incoming Students
The Keynote this year (“Iterations of cross-talk direct differentiation in development”) was given by former URMC MSTP Student, Alan P. Kenny, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics (Neonatology) at the University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati, OH. Dr. Kenny focuses his research on elucidating the molecular mechanisms controlling the earliest stages of respiratory and digestive organ development. Available evidence suggests that early lung, liver, and pancreas lineages develop from a pool of foregut progenitor cells in the ventral endoderm. They are induced by FGF and BMP signals emanating from the cardiogenic mesenchyme during early somite stages of development through a mechanism that is highly conserved among vertebrates.
Following the keynote, the morning science session concluded with several short-format research talks by Mark Kenney(M2, lab rotation, Summer 2018 - Edward Schwarz, PhD), Jonathan Gigas (G1, Vera Gorbunova, PhD), Karl Foley ( G2, Houhui Xia, PhD), Matthew Tanner (G3, Charles Thornton, MD), Colleen Schneider (G4, Bradford Mahon, PhD), and Evan McConnell, PhD (M3, Maiken Nedergaard, DMD, PhD).
After lunch, the program convened for a business meeting. Attendees of the Keystone MD/PhD Student Conference and the Class Council representative for American Physician Scientist Association (ASPA) reported on their trips to annual meetings and upcoming events. New Student Council members were elected at the end of the afternoon.
After closing the meeting, MD/PhD students met for conversation and drinks overlooking the water. Another successful year for the program!
NGP Student Monique Mendes Selected as a Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Monique was selected by the Society for Neuroscience's Professional Development Committee and its Diversity in Neuroscience Subcommittee as a Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow. This program is designed to provide underrepresented graduate students in neuroscience with career development and networking opportunities to help them with success going into the future.
The program provides the following benefits:
- A mentoring team consisting of a senior mentor and a member of the Diversity in Neuroscience Subcommittee. The team will discuss a fellow's research, career plans, and overall experience.
- Two years of complimentary SfN membership.
- A travel award to attend the SfN annual meeting each fall during the two-year program.
- Up to $1500 in enrichment funds to support allowed professional development activities.
Edward Ayoub, CMPP graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Archibald S. Perkins, was awarded an NRSA F31 beginning 8/1/18
Monday, July 23, 2018
Edward Ayoub - Recipient of a Two-Year Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA)
Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) August 1, 2018 – July 31, 2020
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Edward Ayoub, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Archibald S. Perkins was awarded a two-year Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship entitled, “Therapeutic Strategies for Anemia in 3q26 Rearranged Leukemia”.
According to the most recent NIH Cancer Statistics Review, leukemia, a cancer of blood cells, is the ninth most common type of cancer. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive form of leukemia with high lethality (~75% of patients die 5 years after being diagnosed) characterized by anemia, and excessive proliferation of abnormal myeloid progenitor cells in the bone marrow (BM). Rearrangements of the chromosomal band 3q26 portend further reduction in survival, and lead to the overexpression of the oncogene Ecotropic Viral Integration Site 1 (EVI1). The severity of 3q26 rearranged AML, the lack of in-depth understanding of the role of EVI1 in leukemia, and the inadequate therapeutic strategies interested our lab and others to investigate EVI1 associated leukemogenesis. While previous groups used transplantation of BM virally transduced to overexpress EVI1, we are the first lab to recapitulate the effects of the 3q26 rearrangements in the mouse by establishing an inducible EVI1-overexpression model, which has provided us with new insights into the mechanisms by which EVI1 induces leukemia. We concluded using our in vivo and in vitro models that EVI1 causes myeloid expansion and blocks both erythropoiesis and lymphopoiesis. As an insight to the molecular mechanism, we previously documented that EVI1 binds to GACAAGATA, which overlaps with the binding site of the master regulator of erythropoiesis GATA-1. Additionally, our data indicate that EVI1 upregulates a previously published GATA-1 blocker, PU.1, and we showed that EVI1 binds to an enhancer upstream of PU.1 encoding gene (Spi-1). Thus, we hypothesize that EVI1 blocks erythroid differentiation by two mechanisms: 1) directly competing with GATA-1 for key genomic binding sites harboring EVI1/GATA-1 overlap motifs and 2) binding to Spi-1 enhancer and upregulating PU.1, which suppresses GATA1 function. We will investigate both hypothesized mechanisms using cutting edge techniques including ChIP-seq, ATAC-seq, and CRISPR under the training of my sponsor and collaborator. In order to translate the proposed mechanistic insights into clinical settings and therapeutic strategies, we will perform CRISPR library screening using an in vivo model to identify genes that reverse erythropoiesis blockage associated with EVI1-overexpression.
In summary, this fellowship will focus on investigating erythropoiesis blockage and resulting anemia that might explain the increased lethality associated with 3q26 rearranged leukemia, and It will unveil new therapeutic strategies that reverse the leukemia-associated anemia.
New Frontiers in Research
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research
One of the great pleasures of serving as Vice Dean for Research is the opportunity to learn about - and share - the cutting edge research that's being done here at the Medical Center. I've recently spoken with alumni, trustees and friends of the University across the country, as well as to key partners (and potential partners) for our new Empire Discovery Institute. Each time, it's been tremendous fun to have colleagues explain to me the science that most excites them - and to then watch how it resonates with diverse audiences.
Today, I'm starting a new column that's intended to share some of the stories, breakthroughs and discoveries that are being made by the 3,000 researchers who work here.
In diverse fields, ranging from neuroscience, to cancer immunotherapy, to musculoskeletal research, to RNA biology, and immunology and infectious disease, Medical Center researchers are at the forefront of their fields. For example: our basic scientists are unraveling the fundamental processes that regulate RNA metabolism and the trafficking of immune cells through tissue, while our Center for Health and Technology (CHeT) is working to enable anyone anywhere to receive care, participate in research, and benefit from resulting advances.
Another area of remarkable strength is in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). Multi-disciplinary teams spanning computer science, engineering, neuroscience, ophthalmology and visual sciences are creating complex virtual environments that will enable us to better understand how the brain integrates sensory data, and how that can be used to treat a wide range of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.
In the coming months, I hope to go into greater depth about these and other advances - and to share details of how Medical Center researchers are advancing our understanding of fundamental biological processes, translating discoveries into new treatments, and leading the way in improving clinical and population-level care.
Isaac Fisher, 5th year graduate student in the lab of Alan V. Smrcka, won first place for his poster at the EB/ASPET meeting in San Diego
Monday, July 9, 2018
Congratulations to Isaac Fisher, a 5th year student in the laboratory of Dr. Alan V. Smrcka for receiving First Place in the Postbaccalaureate/Graduate Student category within the Division for Molecular Pharmacology! We applaud your contributions to ASPET’s 2018 Student Competition.
The winners of the awards for the ASPET Student Poster Competition were announced at the Division Mixer on Tuesday, April 24 at EB 2018 in San Diego.
Title: Hydrogen Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry Reveals Distinct Activation States of PCLb by G-Protein
Authors: Isaac Fisher, Meredith Jenkins, Greg Tall, John Burke, and Alan V. Smrcka
See Awards on ASPET website
MSTP Student Wins Research Award from American Heart Association
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Jonathan Bartko, MS has received a two-year Predoctoral Fellowship Award from the American Heart Association (AHA).
Bartko is an MD/PhD candidate currently in his second year of the Cell Biology of Disease (Pathology) Graduate Program as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at the University of Rochester.
He currently works in the lab of Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D. which specializes in stroke and cardiac arrest research. Bartko’s current project is entitled, “BDNF-TrkB Regulation of ER-Dependent Death in the Peri-Ischemic Cortex.”
NGP Student Receives Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Rianne Stowell, a fourth year NGP graduate student, has been awarded a two year NIH Fellowship award (F31) for her project titled, “Noradrenergic modulation of microglial dynamics and synaptic plasticity”. Rianne works in the laboratory of Ania Majewska, Ph.D.
The purpose of the Kirschstein National Research Service Award program is to enable promising predoctoral students with potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientists, to obtain mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.
Well done Rianne!
Event Recap: Pathology Research Day 2018
Monday, June 18, 2018
The annual Pathology Research Day event at the University of Rochester Medical Center was held on Monday, June 11, 2018.
The day included more than 50 poster presentations in addition to 12 oral presentationsgiven by Pathology residents and fellows, and graduate students in the Cell Biology of Disease Ph.D. Program.
This year’s keynote speaker was Andrew Folpe, M.D. who is professor and consultant for Anatomic Pathology at Mayo Clinic. His engaging and informative talk was titled, “Phosphaturic Mesenchymal Tumors: What I Have Learned.” A video recording of the keynote is available online (note: UR login is required to view).
The graduate program gave out several awards at a special reception at the end of the day, per below.
View Event Photos
Graduate Program Awards
- Outstanding Academic Excellence by a First Year Student – David Villani, MS
- Outstanding Program Contribution – Sarah Catheline, MS
- Robert Mooney Thesis Award – Irena Lerman, Ph.D.
Travel Award for Oral Presentation
Poster Presentation Travel Awards
- Robert Hoff, MS
- Allison Li, MS
- Xi Lin, MS
- Robert Maynard, MS
Biochemistry & Biophysics Students Going Places
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
By Dr. Joseph Wedekind
The Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics is pleased to announce the winners of the Sayeeda Zain Fall Travel awards: Debapratim Dutta, Sierra Fox and Hong Zhu.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award honors the distinguished career and charitable life of Dr. Sayeeda Zain. The award is given in recognition of research excellence to support travel and related expenses associated with attendance at a scientific conference or corporate internship to gain practical experience.
Debapratim (Dave) Dutta is presenting a poster and was invited to give a talk at the Annual RNA Society Meeting (Berkeley, CA). Sierra Fox presented a poster and was a Keystone Symposia Future of Science Fund Scholarship recipient at the Keystone Symposia in Chromatin Architecture and Chromatin Organization, and Gene Control in Development and Disease Symposia (Whistler, BC, Canada). Hong Zhu presented a poster at the III International Conference on Vaccines Research and Development (Washington, DC).
Debapratim (Dave) Dutta
Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Monique S. Mendes, a neuroscience Ph.D. student, is the first University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) graduate student to receive a prestigious diversity award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders in Stroke (NINDS). Mendes works in the laboratory of Ania Majewska, Ph.D. and studies the role that the brain’s immune cells play in development, learning, and diseases like Autism.
Mendes, originally from Kingston, Jamaica, received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Florida. She came to URMC in search of a robust program that focused on glial biology and a collaborative environment. She chose the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience to complete her thesis work due in part to Majewska’s record of mentoring students and her lab’s reputation for conducting leading research in brain development.
Mendes has been awarded a F99/K00 NIH Blueprint Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) fellowship from NINDS. The award was created to provide outstanding young neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds a pathway to develop independent research careers. Unlike traditional graduate student fellowships, this award provides research funding for 6 years, including dissertation research and mentored postdoctoral research career development.
Read the local Jamacian Observer newspaper article.
Read More: Neuroscience Grad Student Awarded NIH Diversity Fellowship
GSS Annual Poster Session - Travel Award Winners Announced
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Congratulations to our most recent GSS poster session Travel Award Winners!
Lara Terry, 3rd year student in David Yule Lab: 2nd place – Title: Effects of Missense Mutations on Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate Receptor Mediated Calcium Release.
Si Chen, 4th year student in Chen Yan lab: 3rd place – Title: PDE10A Inhibition and Deficiency Attenuate Pathological Cardiac Remodeling
Fourth year NGP Graduate Student Publishes in Journal of Neuroscience
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Fourth year NGP graduate student Patrick Miller-Rhodes (Gelbard lab) has recently published a single author review in Journal of Neuroscience (Journal Club, J Neurosci. 2018 38(19):4457– 4459) tackling the fascinating and timely topic of the heterogeneity of microglial mechanisms that contribute to normal brain functions such as synaptic plasticity. In this publication, Patrick highlights a recent study by NGP alumna Rebecca Lowery (Majewska lab; Glia 65(11):1744-1761), showing that microglial CX3CR1 loss does not affect multiple forms of plasticity, to make his point that the mechanisms microglia use to support neuronal function are likely diverse and differ based on brain region and developmental stage.
Congratulations Patrick and go NGP!
Wishing our graduates well at the 2018 Commencement Dinner
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
The 2018 Ph.D.Commencement Dinner was held at the Daisy Flour Mill. Following introductions from Edith Lord, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Jennifer Stripay, representing the University of Rochester Alumni Council, Awards were presented to three graduating PhD students:
Vincent du Vigneaud Award: Anthony DiPiazza, Microbiology and Immunology, “Insights into CD4 T Cell-Mediated Immunity to Influenza Viruses.” The award is conferred by the Office of Graduate Education to a graduating student whose thesis is judged superior and unique in potential for stimulating and extending research in the field.
Wallace O. Fenn Award: Benjamin Plog, Pathology, “Novel Insight into Regulation of Glymphatic Flow with Implications for Traumatic Brain Injury.” The award is given annually to a graduating student judged to have performed especially meritorious research and who presented a Ph.D. thesis suitable to honor the name of Wallace Fenn, former professor and chair of physiology.
Marvel-Dare F. Nutting Award (recognizing an outstanding Biochemistry PhD): Amber Cutter, whose PhD dissertation was on “Molecular Characterization of Nucleosome Recognition by Linker Histone H1.0.”
Commencement Dinner Photos
Catching Research Fever: UR CTSI’s Academic Research Track Turns Medical Students into Medical Researchers
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
By Susanne Pritchard Pallo
The MSTP 2017 incoming class, with former UR CTSI Academic Research Track participants Samuel Weisenthal and Ian De Andrea-Lazarus (far right).
Over the past several decades, concerns have risen about the declining population of physician-scientists, with reports pointing to early career training and support as a possible solution. The UR CTSI Academic Research Track, which allows medical students to try their hands at research, has helped two University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry students take the next step toward a research career: joining an MD-PhD program.
The pair, Ian De Andrea-Lazarus and Samuel Weisenthal, joined the University of Rochester Medical Scientist Training Program after finishing their Academic Research Track projects. This is a move that a new study from the Association of American Medical Colleges suggests will help them stay in science. The study tracked MD-PhD program graduates over 50 years and showed that most stuck with their research careers.
Ian and Sam explain what drove them to pursue a career as physician-scientists.
Why did you join the UR CTSI’s Academic Research Track?
Ian: I’ve always craved knowledge and enjoy the challenge of pushing the boundaries of existing human knowledge. I had several years of research experience before applying for medical school - as an undergraduate research assistant in the Linguistics Department at Gallaudet University and as a post-baccalaureate fellow at the National Cancer Institute. For two years, I worked in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics at NCI, studying a non-selective cation channel found mainly in the peripheral nervous system that is involved in the transmission and modulation of pain.
Sam: Like Ian, I was inspired by my time as a post-baccalaureate trainee at the NIH, where I worked for a year in a computational radiology lab. I also had a great time doing a summer research project in health informatics at Rochester. I joined the Academic Research Track because I wanted to study the vast amount of data being collected through the electronic health record. In a single year, the University of Rochester Medical Center alone accrues more than two terabytes of non-image data (a lot). I was particularly interested in how this data could be used to predict – and hopefully help prevent – adverse health events in patients.
How did your experience in the Academic Research Track drive you to join the University of Rochester Medical Scientist Training Program?
Ian: I had originally wanted to apply for the University of Rochester Medical Scientist Training Program but I was afraid that my application would not be competitive enough. The Academic Research Track was the bridge that allowed me to pursue my goal of becoming a physician-scientist and reinvigorated my interest in research. The program allowed me to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health along with the tools and drive I needed to apply for the MD-PhD program.
Sam: I had also previously considered an MD-PhD program, but did not have a cohesive story to tell in an application. The Academic Research Track year allowed me to obtain a master’s degree in Data Science from the Goergen Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester, which provided a foundation for more advanced study. It also helped me discover the UR CTSI’s Translational Biomedical Science PhD Program, which was a good fit, and to fully engage in a research project in a great lab.
What did you study during the Academic Research Track program?
Sam: We were initially interested in predicting readmission to the intensive care unit, which is a quality metric used by some hospitals. Ultimately, however, we decided to focus on predicting acute kidney injury, which is common, deadly, and sometimes completely preventable with simple interventions like fluid administration or medication review. Insights from our studies could be used to hopefully develop a better predictive tool that could help prevent acute kidney injury in the future.
Ian: We explored the association between low levels of lead in the serum of 3- to 5-year-old children and their mental capacity to focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks. We used a well-characterized tool for assessing these mental executive functions in children, called the Stroop day-night task, but found that the tool may not be sensitive enough to detect lead’s effects on neurodevelopment.
What are you studying now?
Sam: I am pursuing a joint degree between the Translational Biomedical Science PhD Program and Computer Science Department, with Computer Science as a minor. This includes select coursework in computer science, biostatistics, and medicine. My research focus is a continuation of my Academic Research Track project with Martin Zand, Ph.D., co-director of the UR CTSI and professor of Nephrology and Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Our goal is to improve acute kidney injury prediction by reformulating the standard approach and performing more rigorous error analysis. Ultimately, we hope to squeeze maximal predictive value out of electronic health record data to assist physicians in making the best decisions for at-risk patients.
Ian: I am pursuing a doctoral degree in the UR CTSI’s Translational Biomedical Science PhD Program and working with John Foxe, Ph.D., Killian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt chair of Neuroscience, and Edward Freedman, Ph.D., associate professor of Neuroscience, on a mobile brain/body imaging (MoBI) study. We are interested in understanding how the brains of people with decreased cognitive function, like those with Alzheimer’s disease, handle the cognitive demands of multitasking while walking, which requires continuous processing of information about the environment and body position.
Read More: Catching Research Fever: UR CTSI’s Academic Research Track Turns Medical Students into Medical Researchers
Pharmacology Alumni Named Associate Dean
Friday, May 11, 2018
Jennifer Mathews, PhD has been named the Associate Dean for the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences - Vermont Campus.
Dr. Mathews earned her doctorate in Pharmacology from the University of Rochester in 2007, her field(s) of interest as a student were Neuropharmacology, Opioid receptors, Pain, Tolerance, Antinociception
Her responsibilities will include execution of the pharmacy program; supervision of faculty; campus operations; and coordination of the development, implementation, and assessment of initiatives that support the programs on the Vermont Campus, which also include a Master’s program in Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Congratulations to Dr. Mathews!Read More: Pharmacology Alumni Named Associate Dean
Deborah Cory-Slechta Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education
Monday, May 7, 2018
As a faculty member at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Deborah Cory-Slechta holds professorship positions in the departments of Environmental Medicine, Pediatrics, and Public Health Sciences. A former chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and principal investigator of the department’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center, Cory-Slechta has been nationally and internationally recognized for her scientific contributions.
Considered one of the medical school’s most distinguished faculty members, Cory-Slechta served in leadership roles for several Ph.D. programs, where she also teaches key graduate courses. As the recipient of a Women’s Health and the Environment over the Entire Lifespan grant, she oversees a career development and mentoring initiative for junior faculty members.
Widely regarded for her research on the consequences of developmental exposures to environmental chemicals on brain development and behavior, she has examined the effects of exposures to metals, pesticides and air pollutants. That work—particularly her groundbreaking research on the biological effects of exposure to lead—has had important regulatory and policy implications.
After earning her undergraduate and master’s degree at Western Michigan University, she received her PhD at the University of Minnesota. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Rochester, she joined the University in 1982.
Read More: Deborah Cory-Slechta Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education
Students Present 'Groundbreaking and Transformative' Research at Expo
Friday, May 4, 2018
At the annual Undergraduate Research Exposition, students presented projects on topics ranging from fluid dynamics, deforestation in Bolivia, and nomad cultures in Morocco, to prenatal depression, meteorites, and software that affects education. President’s Award winners Lauren Oey ’18 (left), Harrah Newman ’18, Yiyun Huang ’18, and Perry DeMarche ’18 were among the students honored at the event.
Pathology Graduate, Ben Plog, Ph.D., Receives 2018 Fenn Award
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Ben Plog, Ph.D. has been named the recipient of the distinguished Wallace O. Fenn Award. Named after the late University Physiology professor and chair, the award is given to a graduating student whose Ph.D. research and thesis honor the name and work of Dr. Fenn.
Plog was a medical science training program (MSTP) student who entered the Pathology graduate program in 2012 to work in the lab of Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. in the Center for Translational Neuromedicine and Neurosurgery. Having defended his thesis (titled Novel Insight into Regulation of Glymphatic Flow with Implications for Traumatic Brain Injury), Plog has returned to Medical School to continue his Medical School training and will be part of 2018 Ph.D. degree conferral.
Neuroscience Graduate Student publishes paper with the Briggs lab
Friday, April 27, 2018
Neuroscience Graduate student Allison Murphy co-authored a paper with the Briggs lab while in a rotation with the lab. Allison contributed an extensive amount of work toward the paper during her fall rotation, and the paper was accepted shortly after her joining the lab.
Postdoctoral fellow, Mike Hasse was the first author on the paper, "Morphological heterogeneity among corticogeniculate neurons in ferrets: quantification and comparison with a previous report in macaque monkeys."
Nice work Allison and Mike!!Read More: Neuroscience Graduate Student publishes paper with the Briggs lab
The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Events
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
One of the many sponsored programs within the Center for Professional Development in the School of Medicine & Dentistry is The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL). CIRTL is an NSF-funded consortium of 42 PhD granting institutions around the country, whose aim it is to advance the teaching of STEM disciplines in higher education by preparing future faculty. CIRTL uses graduate and postdoc level research trainees as the leverage point to develop national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices for diverse student audiences as part of successful professional careers. The goal of CIRTL is to improve the STEM learning of all students at every college and university, and thereby to increase the diversity in STEM fields and the STEM literacy of the nation.
CIRTL provides a number of online workshops, courses, and educational experiences throughout the year. Graduate students and postdocs interested in teaching are encouraged to participate in CIRTL events. For more information about CIRTL, please visit rochester.edu/college/cetl/cirtl/.
Upcoming CIRTL Events Include…
Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) @ UR Research Day
Wednesday, May 23 | 9:00 am-5:00 pm | River Campus
Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) @ UR will be hosting its annual Research Day and all trainees interested in participating are invited to attend. Kevin Kelly’s LinkedIn profile provides an overview of his work in eLearning. The day’s agenda will include examining teaching through a research lens, optimizing course design, using technology to assess learning in the classroom, using technology to engage diverse learners, and using technology to share course content. Register for this event. Trainees with an interest in teaching are highly encouraged to attend. For a full overview of the days agenda and workshop descriptions, please contact Dr. Jenny Hadingham at email@example.com or (585) 276-5998.
The Bugs in Your Gut Could Make You Weak in the Knees
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
A Prebiotic May Alter the Obese Microbiome and Protect Against Osteoarthritis
The obese microbiome may be a
key driver of osteoarthritis and a
prebiotic supplement may turn
Bacteria in the gut, known as the gut microbiome, could be the culprit behind arthritis and joint pain that plagues people who are obese, according to a new study published today in JCI Insight.
Osteoarthritis, a common side effect of obesity, is the greatest cause of disability in the US, affecting 31 million people. Sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis in people who are obese was long assumed to simply be a consequence of undue stress on joints. But researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center provide the first evidence that bacteria in the gut – governed by diet – could be the key driving force behind osteoarthritis.
The scientists found that obese mice had more harmful bacteria in their guts compared to lean mice, which caused inflammation throughout their bodies, leading to very rapid joint deterioration. While a common prebiotic supplement did not help the mice shed weight, it completely reversed the other symptoms, making the guts and joints of obese mice indistinguishable from lean mice.
Read Full Article
Brandon Berry Recipient of a two-year American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship & Professional Member of the AHA July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2020
Monday, April 23, 2018
Brandon Berry, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew P. Wojtovich was awarded a two-year American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship entitled, “Optogenetic Control of Mitochondrial Function to Protect Against Ischemia Reperfusion Injury”.
Mitochondria are central mediators of cell death following the pathologic stress of ischemia reperfusion (IR) injury during heart attack or stroke. However, mitochondria can be targeted with specific interventions that inhibit cell death following IR. The mitochondrial protonmotive force (PMF) is coupled to ATP synthesis, and controls ion gradients and oxidative stress. Dissipation of the PMF in IR injury results in cellular damage and death. Interestingly, mild uncoupling of the PMF from ATP synthesis using low-dose protonophores protects against IR injury. It is unclear whether uncoupling triggers protective signaling, or if uncoupling itself is the effector of protection. Further, pharmacologic tools lack temporal and spatial control, obscuring when and where uncoupling is sufficient to protect against IR injury. Uncoupling mitochondria using optogenetics addresses the spatiotemporal challenge of using protonophores. Spatiotemporal control can determine if the mechanism of uncoupling confers protection before ischemia (preconditioning), during ischemia, during reperfusion, or after reperfusion (postconditioning). Overall, using our novel optogenetic tools, this project aims to test how precise, selective, reversible uncoupling is sufficient to elicit cellular responses that protect against IR injury.
Neuroscience Graduate Student Receives American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellowship
Monday, April 23, 2018
Kathleen Gates has been awarded an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. This fellowship is meant to enhance the integrated research and clinical training of promising students who are matriculated in pre-doctoral or clinical health professional degree training programs and who intend careers as scientists, physician-scientists or other clinician-scientists, or related careers aimed at improving global cardiovascular health.
April 23rd - Genetics Day 30th Annual Scientific Symposium
Friday, April 20, 2018
Mark your calendars for the 30th annual Genetics Day! The 16th annual Fred Sherman Lecture will be delivered by Michael Eisen, PhD, from Berkeley University. You and your colleagues are invited to submit your posters for the Genetics Day poster session to be held 12:00 – 2:00pm on Monday, April 23, 2018. Cash prizes will be awarded to select graduate student and postdoc posters.
New Fellowship Opportunity: TRIUMPH Post-doctoral Fellowship - MD Anderson Center
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
TRIUMPH (Translational Research In Multidisciplinary Program) Post-doctoral Fellowship
The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) TRIUMPH Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is a post-doctoral program providing unique training in clinical and translational research. The immediate goal of our program is to recruit talented, productive, well-trained PhDs and train them through didactic course work as well as clinical rotations and a unique mentorship to pursue clinical and/or translational research. A long-term goal of this program is to produce scientists who can be paired with suitable physician scientists to co-PI a research laboratory.
This is a three-year training program. First year postdoctoral fellows participate in a series of didactic clinical course work offered at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School (GSBS), MD Anderson Cancer Center, or the UTHealth McGovern School of Medicine and strategically matched clinical rotations, while pursuing research in a basic or translational research laboratory. Second and third year fellows are co-mentored by a basic science/translational scientist mentor and a physician/clinical scientist mentor on clinical/translational research projects. The TRIUMPH postdoc will obtain a certificate upon successful completion of the program. The expectation for our post-docs is that by the end of their 3-year training, they will have first authored at least 2 papers in high impact journals. Our multidisciplinary training program will award a certificate upon completion.
Please visit the TRIUMPH website for additional information
Thesis competition winner describes protein translation in 3 minutes or less
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Jillian Ramos showed exactly how to capture an audience’s attention – and hold it – at the University of Rochester’s third annual Three Minute Thesis Competition finals.
As a result, the PhD student in assistant professor Dragony Fu’s biology lab walked away with not only the $750 first place prize awarded by a panel of faculty judges, but the $250 people’s choice prize awarded by an audience that filled all but a few seats in the Class of ’62 Auditorium.
Read The Full Article
Eight Finalists Confirmed for Three Minute Thesis Competition
Friday, April 6, 2018
Communicating research with three minutes and a slide
At a time when it is more important than ever for scientists to communicate clearly with the public, eight University PhD students and postdocs will do their best to summarize their research with just three minutes and a slide.
They are finalists in the University’s annual Three Minute Thesis competition, which will be held at 4 p.m., next Thursday, April 12, in the Class of ’62 Auditorium at the Medical Center.
A total of 44 students initially entered the competition, which was founded at University of Queensland, and is now in its third year at Rochester. The eight finalists are:
The winner will receive a $750 research travel award. There are also $500 and $200 research travel awards, respectively, for the runner-up and the people’s choice winner.Read More: Eight Finalists Confirmed for Three Minute Thesis Competition
McMurray Named Associate Director of Pathology Graduate Program
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Helene McMurray, Ph.D., has been named the new associate director of the Cell Biology of Disease (Pathology) Graduate Program at the University of Rochester, which became effective in March.
Dr. McMurray is a clinical assistant professor with a primary appointment in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. She currently serves as the Director-in-Training in the Tissue Typing/Histocompatibility Laboratory at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Her research collaborations with scientists in the Department of Biomedical Genetics focus on identification of vulnerabilities in cancer cells, and utilize approaches in genomics, bioinformatics, biostatistics, and genetics. As an educator, Dr. McMurray works to introduce students to these modern techniques in biomedicine.
Dr. McMurray will join Dr. Richard Libby (Opthalmology) who directs the program.
“Mentors and advisors have helped me imagine new possibilities in my science and in my career," said McMurray. "I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without guidance from others. I am excited to take on this new role in the Cell Biology of Disease Graduate Program to try to share what I have learned with the next generation of scientists.”
Alumni Spotlight on Dana Olzenak, PhD ‘15
Monday, March 26, 2018
Dana Olzenak McGuire, who graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from the 2015 class was recently appointed to the role of public health director in St. Lawrence County. As public health director, Dr. Olzenak McGuire supervises about 30 employees including nurses, the county coroners and administrative staff.
Dr. Olzenak McGuire brings a wide range of disciplines into the new role with degrees in Physical therapy, an MBA and the PhD in Epidemiology.
Visit our Epidemiology PhD Program to learn more. Congratulations Dana!
"Epidemiology just sounded really interesting to me, It covers all diseases from environmental to infectious to chronic." - Dana Olzenak McGuireRead More: Alumni Spotlight on Dana Olzenak, PhD ‘15
Leader in the field of epigenetic regulation and cancer biology joins the Department of Biomedical Genetics and GDSC Program
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Dr. Paula Vertino, currently the leader of the Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics Program at Emory University will be joining the University of Rochester Department in Biomedical Genetics and the Wilmot Cancer Institute this summer. Dr. Vertino's research on cancer epigenetics will greatly expand our areas of research strengths. She is an exceptionally important player in her field, and we look forward to welcoming her to the GDSC program!Read More: Leader in the field of epigenetic regulation and cancer biology joins the Department of Biomedical Genetics and GDSC Program
Cindy Wang Wins America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent Competition
Monday, March 5, 2018
Xiaowen (Cindy) Wang, M.S., a graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD Program placed first in the 5th annual "America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent" competition for her proposal “Dr. Data: An Integrated Drug Repurposing Database for Identifying New Indications of FDA Approved Drugs”
To read more about Cindy’s proposal and the competition, please visit the CTSI Stories website.
Janelle Veazey Receives F31 National Research Service Award From NIH
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Immunology graduate student Janelle Veazey, has received an F31 National Research Service Award from the NIH. This pre-doctoral fellowship will support her research investigating a new role for airway epithelial protein kinase D in anti-viral immunity.
E-Cigarette Flavors Are Toxic to White Blood Cells, Warn Scientists
Thursday, February 1, 2018
A new study led by the Rahman lab and first author, Toxicology post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Thivanka Muthumalage, adds to growing evidence on the harmful health effects of e-cigarettes. Currently, the article has been viewed over 16,500 times (in just one day) and several news sources have written articles and reported about it across the globe.
The paper has been so well received that it is currently ranked in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
The study has revealed another potential health risk of e-cigarettes, finding that the chemicals used to flavour e-cigarette liquids are toxic to white blood cells. The study wanted to test the assumption that nicotine-free flavoured e-liquids are safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes, looking at what effect e-cigs might have on the immune system.
To do this the researchers directly exposed a type of white blood cell called monocytes, which help the body fight infection, to e-liquids. They found that e-cigarette flavoring chemicals and liquids can cause significant inflammation to monocytes, with many of the flavouring chemicals also causing significant cell death. Some flavours were found to be more harmful than others, with cinnamon, vanilla, and buttery flavours among the worst.
The researchers also found that mixing e-cigarette flavours has a much worse effect than exposure to just one flavour and caused the most toxicity to white blood cells.
The study's first author, Dr. Thivanka Muthumalage, commented on the findings, saying that although these flavouring compounds may be safe for ingestion, the results show they are not safe for inhalation and add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes are harmful to health. Previous research has also found that the flavors used in e-cigarettes cause inflammatory and oxidative stress responses in lung cells.
Senior author Dr. Irfan Rahman expressed concern: “Our scientific findings show that e-liquid flavors can, and should, be regulated and that e-juice bottles must have a descriptive listing of all ingredients. We urge regulatory agencies to act to protect public health,” he said, also warning that, “alluring flavour names, such as candy, cake, cinnamon roll and mystery mix, attract young vapers.”
The team are now planning further research and are calling for further long-term human studies to understand better the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. The findings can be found published online in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.
To learn more please read the following articles:
Lungs Mays Hold Key to Thwarting Brain Damage after a Stroke
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
By Mark Michaud
The harm caused by a stroke can be exacerbated when immune cells rush to the brain an inadvertently make the situation worse. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) are studying new ways to head off this second wave of brain damage by using the lungs to moderate the immune system’s response.
“It has become increasingly clear that lungs serve as an important regulator of the body’s immune system and could serve as a target for therapies that can mitigate the secondary damage that occurs in stroke,” said URMC neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D. “We are exploring a number of drugs that could help suppress the immune response during these non-infection events and provide protection to the brain and other organs.”
Halterman’s lab, which is part of the Center for NeuroTherapeutics Discovery, has been investigating domino effect that occurs after cardiac arrest. When blood circulation is interrupted, the integrity of our intestines becomes compromised, releasing bacteria that reside in the gut into the blood stream. This prompts a massive immune response which can cause systemic inflammation, making a bad situation worse.
While looking at mouse models of stroke, his lab observed that a similar phenomenon occurs. During a stroke blood vessels in the brain leak and the proteins that comprise the wreckage of damaged neurons and glia cells in the brain make their way into blood stream. The immune system, which is not used to seeing these proteins in circulation, responds to these damage-associated molecular patterns and ramps up to respond. Mobilized immune cells make their way into the brain and, finding no infection, nevertheless trigger inflammation and attack healthy tissue, compounding the damage.
The culprit in this system-wide immune response is neutrophils, a white cell in the blood system that serves as the shock troops of the body’s immune system. Because our entire blood supply constantly circulates through the lungs, the organ serves as an important way station for neutrophils. It is here that the cells are often primed and instructed to go search for new infections. The activated neutrophils can also cause inflammation in the lungs, which Halterman suspects may be mistakenly identified as post-stroke pneumonia. The damage caused by activated neutrophils can also spread to other organs including the kidneys, and liver.Read More: Lungs Mays Hold Key to Thwarting Brain Damage after a Stroke
Andrew Cox Receives US Patent
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
MD/PhD student, Andrew Cox has been awarded a patent, "Attenuated Influenza Vaccines and Uses Thereof" (9,787,032), for a new live flu vaccine that is safer than the current one so should permit higher dose administration to overcome the current problems with the live vaccine.
When not in medical school, Andrew is currently pursuing his degree in the Dewhurst lab, working on temperature sensitivity of Influenza polymerase as a determinant of pathogenicity.
Inaugural Winners of the CPD Travel Award
Thursday, January 25, 2018
The Center for Professional Development (CPD) is excited to announce this year’s winners of the CPD Travel Award. Congratulations to Valeriia Sherina, PhD student in Statistics and Cui Li, postdoctoral appointee in the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, for winning the inaugural CPD Travel Award! CPD would like to thank all the PhD students and postdoctoral appointees who submitted applications. Applications for the 2018-2019 academic year will be available in early spring.
The Center of Professional Development (CPD) is sponsoring a CPD Travel Award for PhD students and postdoctoral appointees in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Each travel award is worth up to $1500 and can be utilized for travel to a conference or for a professional development opportunity relevant to preparation for current or future career endeavors.
The Art of Science: Grad Student Finds Inspiration in Images of the Brain
Friday, January 12, 2018
The complex biology, networks, and symphony of signals that underlie human cognition are a font of endless mystery and wonder to those who study it. For Rianne Stowell, a graduate student in the lab of URMC neuroscientist Ania Majewska, Ph.D., these questions are also a source of artistic inspiration which has led to the creation of striking paintings of the brain’s inner workings.
Stowell’s most recent creation (above) is based on research which has recently been published in the journal Developmental Neurobiology and sheds new light on the role that immune cells called microglia play in wiring and rewiring the connections between nerve cells.
Stowell recalls wanting to pursue a career in art as far back as elementary school in Pennsylvania and while she carried that desire with her to Moravian College, she also began to explore other academic fields. Her interest in biology and psychology attracted her to a degree in neuroscience and that decision ultimately led her to the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where she is in now in her fourth year of graduate studies in pursuit of her Ph.D. in neuroscience.
Read More: The Art of Science: Grad Student Finds Inspiration in Images of the Brain
Navigating Career Choices advises current trainees on postgraduate options
Monday, October 23, 2017
Jennifer Stripay, PhD and Ryan Dawes, PhD
The Center for Professional Development recently invited Neuroscience graduates Jennifer Stripay, PhD ’16 and Ryan Dawes, PhD ’16 to discuss their personal experience with navigating career choices and locating employment post-graduation. Their presentation was entitled “Navigating Career Choices” and had over 30 participants from various programs throughout the School of Medicine and Dentistry in attendance. The workshop provided participants with advice on networking, the application process, interviewing and negotiating tips. Following the workshop, participants were invited to utilize skills learned from the workshop to network one-on-one with Jennifer and Ryan in the Forbes Mezzanine. The Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs Office and CPD would like to thank the SMD Advancement Team for helping to co-sponsor this event!
Emma Grygotis wins Outstanding Student Mentor Award
Friday, October 20, 2017
Emma Grygotis, a student in the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology PhD Program was selected by SMD faculty to be this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Student Mentor Award. Her selection was based on her contributions to mentoring, leadership, science advocacy, and community outreach.
Emma is currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Denise Hocking, whose laboratory research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which the extracellular matrix protein, fibronectin, affects cell and tissue functions that are critical for wound repair. Emma's thesis project specifically investigates the mechanisms by which the structure and function of extracellular matrix proteins collagen and fibronectin can be altered by ultrasound for tissue engineering applications.
The award was presented to Emma at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony, along with a monetary prize of $500.
Neurology & Neuroscience Panel Advises Prospective Trainees
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, PONS teamed up with the BCS & Neuroscience Undergraduate Council (BNUC), SIGN, and NSFG to host a Graduate/Medical Student Panel for those interested in pursuing an advanced degree in Neuroscience or Neurology.
About 20 undergraduate attendees asked questions of our panel of Neuroscience PhD, MD/PhD, and Neurology MD students currently enrolled at the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. Our panelists included 2nd Year NGP PhD students Emily Warner and Neal Shah, 1st Year NGP MD/PhD student Karl Foley, and 1st Year MD student Josh Geiger. BNUC Co-President Herman Li and PONS President Holly Beaulac moderated the event.
Each panelist shared their individual journeys including performing undergraduate research, job shadowing/internships, and teaching/outreach opportunities. Topics discussed included strategies for determining the right program for one's interests, standing out as an applicant during admissions/interviews, and being productive while limiting stress when acquiring an advanced degree. We want to thank all of our panelists and attendees for a great turnout and lively discourse!
For more information on upcoming Neuro-events, please visit our homepage
SMD Postdocs Recognized by Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Kevin Mazurek, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Marc Schieber, professor of neurology, described how the lab is making progress in doing just that when he finished in first place and took the audience prize as well in the Meliora Weekend competition for the Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research.
Mazurek’s prizes were worth $1,250.
Second place went to Jeff Tithof of mechanical engineering, and third place to Po-Ju Lin of the PEAK Human Performance Laboratory at the Wilmot Cancer Institute.
Center for Oral Biology Lands Third Training Grant from NIDCR
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
The Center for Oral Biology within UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health has been awarded $2.9 million to expand its renowned training program for oral biologists and dentist-scientists. This award includes Research Training and Research Education grants from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.Read More: Center for Oral Biology Lands Third Training Grant from NIDCR
Biochemistry & Biophysics students Mukta Palshikar, Erica VanderWal, and Brandon Davis receive awards at UR School of Medicine Opening Convocation
Friday, September 22, 2017
Congratulations to first year students who received awards at the SMD Opening Convocation on September 12, 2017.
Mutka Palshikar, a first year student in the Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology program won the Graduate Alumni Fellowship, which recognizes an incoming student with promise for exceptional accomplishment in graduate study.
Arica VanderWal, a first year student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program was awarded the Elmer Stotz Fellowship in Biochemistry, which recognizes the meritorious academic and research accomplishments of an incoming graduate student in the BMB program.
Brandon Davis, an incoming student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, was a recipient of a Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull University Fellowship, which recognizes the exceptional academic record and research talent of selected students in the first year class University-wide.
Congratulations again to Mutka, Arica, and Brandon!
NGP Students Earn 2017 Convocation Awards
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Four Neuroscience Graduate Program first year students were presented with Convocation 2017 Awards.
- Katherine Andersh was the recipient of the Irving L. Spar Award
- Karl Foley received the Walle J.H. Nauta Award for Excellence in the Neurosciences
- Berke Karaahmet was the recipient of the Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship Award
- Allison Murphy was the recipient of the J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
The CARE Network
Friday, September 8, 2017
The CARE Network, a program that helps support students in distress, is now available for SMD graduate students. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit a referral to the CARE Network if they believe that a student is in or headed towards distress, are aware of an act of discrimination on campus, or have a general concern for a student. The CARE Network provides recommendations to campus and community resources, outlets for safe spaces, and coaches on communication skills to work through difficult discussions and situations. You can submit a referral and/or learn more about the CARE Network at www.rochester.edu/CARE.Read More: The CARE Network
Alexandra McHale Awarded 2017 Trainee Professional Development Award
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Join us in congratulating Ally for receiving this award from the Society for Neuroscience. The award will support travel to this year’s meeting in Washington, DC, and a special poster session for all trainees at the meeting. Ally will also benefit from admission to Professional Development Workshops, and presentation of her poster in the meeting at-large, Wednesday November 15.
Clinical Labs Welcome First Class of Rising Med Techs
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
On Monday, Aug. 28 UR Medicine Labs and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine were pleased to welcome 12 new graduate students who are taking the first step toward a professional laboratory career.
The program is sponsored in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The class of 2018 is the first group to complete all of their training at the University of Rochester.Read More: Clinical Labs Welcome First Class of Rising Med Techs
Dumont Selected as the 2017 Recipient of the Graduate Student Society Advocacy Award
Monday, August 28, 2017
Biochemistry professor Mark Dumont, Ph.D. has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Graduate Student Society Advocacy Award. This award, established in 1994 by the Graduate Student Society (GSS), is bestowed annually to recognize a faculty member in the School of Medicine and Dentistry who has made significant contributions in promoting excellence in graduate education through participation, facilitation, and promotion of GSS goals and events. The faculty member may be nominated by any SMD student, and is chosen by a GSS Executive Board vote.
The award will be presented at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation Ceremony on Tuesday, September 12th at 4:00pm in the Class of 1962 Auditorium.
The department would like to extend congratulations to Mark on this recognition, as it is a well-deserved honor.
Biochemistry Graduate Students Sierra Fox and Chris Goodwin Explain CRISPR Gene Editing on YouTube
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
From left: Sierra Fox and Christopher Goodwin
UR Science ROCs: What's CRISPR?
It’s no secret: URMC is home to extraordinary scientific innovations and research.
Our UR Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (URBEST) program and our Public Relations and Communications office teamed up to offer our students and trainees the chance to highlight our research through original visuals and videos. Four videos earned prizes for their unique science storytelling and will be featured on our intranet site and the UR Medicine Facebook page throughout the month in an ongoing series called "UR Science ROCs."
What is CRISPR?
Fourth-year graduate students Chris Goodwin and Sierra Fox, and third-year graduate student Nick Nobiletti, talk about CRISPR and how it’s helping scientists edit DNA.
Goodwin is a student in the lab of Joshua Munger, Ph.D.(Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics); Fox is a student in the lab of Michael Bulger, Ph.D.(Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Pediatrics); and Nobiletti is a student in the lab of Angela Glading, Ph.D. (Department of Pharmacology and Physiology).
Pharmacology Graduate Student Nick Nobiletti Explains CRISPR Gene Editing on YouTube
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
It’s no secret: URMC is home to extraordinary scientific innovations and research.
Our UR Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (URBEST) program and our Public Relations and Communications office teamed up to offer our students and trainees the chance to highlight our research through original visuals and videos. Four videos earned prizes for their unique science storytelling and will be featured on our intranet site and the UR Medicine Facebook page throughout the month in an ongoing series called "UR Science ROCs."
What is CRISPR?
Fourth-year graduate students Chris Goodwin and Sierra Fox, and third-year graduate student Nick Nobiletti, talk about CRISPR and how it’s helping scientists edit DNA.
Goodwin is a student in the lab of Joshua Munger, Ph.D.(Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics); Fox is a student in the lab of Michael Bulger, Ph.D.(Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Pediatrics); and Nobiletti is a student in the lab of Angela Glading, Ph.D. (Department of Pharmacology and Physiology).
Franchini and Meyers Win Awards
Friday, August 11, 2017
Anthony Franchini, Ph.D.
Congratulations to Anthony Franchini, Ph.D. and graduate student Jessica Meyers for both winning awards this year. Dr. Fanchini won two awards, Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) Immunotoxicology Young Investigator Travel Award and Best Presentation by a Postdoctoral Trainee Award, for his presentation, "Identification of novel gene targets of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in dendritic cells in the context of viral infection."
Jessica won 1st place for Best Presentation by a Student, for her presentation "Aryl hydrocarbon receptor activation during development reduces dendritic cell function later in life." Both are currently doing research in Dr. Paige Lawrence's lab. Congrats to both!
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
On Monday PhD candidate Margaret Hill presented her work investigating intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA), a form of liver cancer which morphologically resembles the biliary tract. Margaret completed her work under guidance of Dr. Aram Hezel. Her work helps us to understand the interplay between chronic liver injury, a common risk factor for this cancer and the cell of origin as she proved that hepatocytes, as opposed to biliary cells, may serve as a cell of origin for this cancer. Further investigation into important pathways known to be activated in biliary-derived iCCA showed hepatocyte-derived iCCA similarly up-regulates the Wnt and Notch pathways and thus could be targeted for treatment. Margaret went on to probe the importance of MCL-1, the most commonly amplified gene in iCCA, and identified a genetic subset of iCCA cancers which appear to depend on MCL-1 expression. Together, Margaret's work may have important therapeutic implications for iCCA. Well done Margaret and congratulations to Aram!
Payea and Mishra are Inaugural Recipients of the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award
Friday, July 14, 2017
The department of Biochemistry and Biophysics recently presented to the inaugural Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to Mathew Payea and Laxmi Narayan Mishra.
Matthew Payea is a 6th year graduate student in the Biochemistry Ph.D. program studying tRNA biology in laboratory of Eric Phizicky. Matthew received his Bachelors in Science from Eastern Illinois University, majoring in Biochemistry. Matthew used the funding provided by the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to attend the 22nd annual meeting of the RNA Society in Prague, Czech Republic this past June. There, he gave a talk on his research defining an RNA decay pathway in yeast that destroys mutant tRNAs.
Laxmi Narayan Mishra is a postdoctoral associate working in Dr. Jeffrey J Hayes’ Lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Rochester Medical Center. He has a Masters degree from University of North Bengal, Darjeeling, India and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, India. His research is focused on how epigenetic modifications alter chromosome structure to facilitate gene expression. His Dr. Mishra will use the Sayeeda Zain Travel Award to attend and present his research findings at the international EMBO conference on “The Nucleosomes: From Atoms to Genomes” at Heidelberg, Germany, in August 2017.
The Sayeeda Zain Travel Award is given semi-annually to one or more graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. The award honors the life and achievements of Professor Sayeed Zain, Ph.D., a longtime faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Learn more about the award and Dr. Zain.
Matthew Payea (left) with Dr. Jeffrey Hayes
Laxmi Narayan Mishra (left) with Dr. Jeffrey Hayes
Budding UR Scientists and Science Communicators
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Emily Boynton and Molly Miles from URMC’s Department of Public Relations and Communications met with a small group of URBEST trainees to discuss how the Medical Center and other academic institutions are sharing science in the social world we live in. They provided some examples of different types of visuals and videos that get great engagement on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. The goal? URBEST and The Public Relations and Communications team wanted to find and offer prizes for three original visuals or videos from students and trainees that highlight UR innovation and research. Money, video packs and fame!
First prize was awarded to a team of scientists: Chris Goodwin and Sierra Fox from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and their camera man Nicholas Nobiletti from Pharmacology and Physiology for What Is CRISPR? They split $750 of prize money.Read More: Budding UR Scientists and Science Communicators
Smyth wins Best Poster award
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Congratulations to second year Toxicology graduate student Tim Smyth for winning an award for his poster and presentation at the annual Toxicology Retreat. Tim’s poster was entitled “Diesel exhaust particles disrupt epithelial barrier function by altering tricellin expression”.
Steve N. Georas Named to New Parkes Professorship
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Physician-scientist Steve N. Georas, M.D., professor of Medicine, Environmental Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, was installed as the inaugural Parkes Family Professor June 5.
Walter and the late Carmina Parkes, and their children Susan, Tom and Linda, were driven to open the first asthma center in the region. They have been a steady force in the growth of the UR Medicine’s Mary M. Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care, working closely with center leaders, educators and scientists. The center is located on Red Creek Drive in Henrietta and serves as the leader for the diagnosis, treatment and research of acute asthma, allergies and other pulmonary diseases.
“It was our family’s dream to honor the memory of our daughter with the center. Now, establishing a professorship allows us to make it everlasting,” said Walter Parkes, chairman of O’Connell Electric Co. The family has committed $1.5 million to the University.
Mary Parkes was diagnosed with acute asthma as a young girl and went on to study nursing. She was an intensive care unit nurse before the lung disease progressed. She was hospitalized more than 50 times in the decades before her death in 1991. The center was established in 1995.
“We are so happy to be working with UR Medicine because it is always moving forward and we are proud to be a part of that energy,” said Susan Parkes McNally, executive vice president and treasurer of O’Connell Electric and member of the University of Rochester Medical Center Board as well as its Advancement, Facilities and Quality of Care subcommittees. “We look forward to what we can continue to do and achieve in providing care for people with chronic pulmonary issues.”
McNally is a steadfast supporter and has collaborated with the Junior Builders Exchange to organize an annual golf tournament for the past 21 years to support the Parkes Center. This year’s tournament will be held Sept. 7.
“URMC’s partnership with the Parkes family is essential to the success of clinical, research and education programs designed to improve asthma care,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of URMC and UR Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Their support will serve as a lasting tribute and will further enable the innovative work being done in pulmonary diseases.”
“The establishment of this professorship by the Parkes family will be critical to advancing the Pulmonary Division’s clinical, educational and scientific efforts,” said Paul Levy, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Medicine and the Charles Ayrault Dewey Professor of Medicine. “The mantra that long-term relationships define so many aspects of our lives could not be more true than when I think of working closely with the Parkes family for nearly three decades. The early years of planning the Parkes Center, followed by renovations and the expansion of patient services were critical to the success of the center. Now the family has ‘raised the bar’ even higher with the establishment of an endowed professorship.”
Georas is a busy clinician-scientist who balances the patient care with leadership of a National Institutes of Health-funded laboratory at URMC.
He is part of the collaborative teams caring for patients in the Medical Intensive Care Units at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals, as well at Mary M. Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care.
“Steve Georas’ clinical and scientific contributions are integral to the advancement of our programs and benefit our patients on a daily basis,” said Patricia Sime, M.D., Chief of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care and the C. Jane Davis and C. Robert Davis Distinguished Professor in Pulmonary Medicine. “Dr. Georas is an internationally recognized physician-scientist who has focused his career on advancing our understanding of the fundamental causes of asthma and translating his research to improve the care of patients with asthma.”
Georas is studying how the lung’s immune system responds to inhaled particles, allergens and viruses, and how this process breaks down in asthma leading to potentially dangerous immune responses that can cause allergic airway inflammation and difficulty breathing. He is also working to develop techniques to identify people who are at greater risk of developing life-threatening asthma and need intensive therapies.
“The support we’ve received from the Parkes family for our asthma research is invaluable and has allowed us to make steady progress toward new pathways for asthma treatment,” Georas said. He is an internationally recognized thought leader in asthma research, and has served on advisory committees to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and numerous professional societies. Later this year he will chair the NIH panel review for the PrecISE Asthma Network, which will establish the next generation of asthma centers developing personalized treatments for severe asthmatics.
A graduate of Brown University and its medical school, he completed an Internal Medicine internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center. After a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, he joined its faculty and conducted research into asthma and allergies. In 2006, Georas joined URMC and served as chief of the Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine until 2010. Georas has been honored for his teaching and mentorship of students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.
He has published more than 85 research articles and chapters on asthma immunology and the care of patients with pulmonary diseases.
Talk on Environmental Hazards at Home
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Cait Fallone of the University’s Environmental Health Sciences Center and Jennifer Becker of the Finger Lakes Children’s Environmental Health Center will present “Could Your Home Be Making You Sick? Learn How to Stay Safe” from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. Thursday, June 15, at the Rochester Central Library’s Bausch and Lomb Building, 115 South Ave. The lecture is part of a community health education series “Got Health?” co-sponsored by the Center for Community Health and the Central Library. Parking is available in the Court Street garage.
Grant Helps Build Understanding of Environmental Health with Hands-on Science Kits
Monday, June 12, 2017
A University of Rochester start-up company, Science Take-Out, LLC, has been awarded a nearly $1 million, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to further develop a line of hands-on environmental health science kits for use in community settings. The kits will help teachers and community educators increase the public’s understanding of how the environment can affect their health.
The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at the NIH will support modification of Science Take-Out’s current line of environmental health education kits for broader use.
Since 2008, Science Take-Out kits have provided a convenient and cost-effective way for teachers to incorporate engaging environmental health science activities into their classrooms. Now the kits, which align with national and state science education standards, will undergo a second round of extensive field testing to ensure they are relevant and accessible to diverse community audiences.
“Educating students and the general public about the link between the environment and their health allows them to make informed decisions and change their behavior to protect themselves from environmental exposures,” said Dina Markowitz, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine, director of UR’s Life Sciences Learning Center.
Markowitz and Katrina Korfmacher, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental Medicine and director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) at URMC’s Environmental Health Science Center, partnered to develop and test eight current environmental health kits, which range from lessons on breast cancer to lead poisoning prevention.
With the new award Markowitz and Korfmacher will collaborate with environmental health community outreach professionals from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill COEC, the University of Texas Medical Branch COEC, and West Harlem Environmental Action to adapt the kits for use outside of the classroom.Read More: Grant Helps Build Understanding of Environmental Health with Hands-on Science Kits
Si Chen, Awarded Two-year American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Si Chen, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Chen Yan was awarded a two-year American Heart Association predoctoral fellowship entitled, “The Role of PDE10A in Pathological Cardiac Remodeling and Dysfunction” beginning July 1, 2017.
Heart failure is a leading cause of death in the United States, and is associated with significant myocardial deterioration, including hypertrophy, fibrosis and cell death, as well as contractile dysfunction and ventricular arrhythmia. There is a high demand to identify novel therapeutic targets involved in pathological cardiac remodeling and dysfunction. The objective of this project is to investigate the regulation and function of the cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase 10A (PDE10A) isoform in the progression of cardiac remodeling and heart failure. PDE10A primarily hydrolyzes cAMP, and under normal conditions, displays enriched expression in the striatum of the brain. Our preliminary data demonstrate that PDE10A expression is upregulated in failing mouse and human hearts. Global deficiency of PDE10A attenuates global cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis induced by chronic Ang II infusion. In vitro studies also indicate that PDE10A inhibitor treatment reduces cardiac myocyte hypertrophy and fibroblast activation. In the brain, PDE10A primarily regulates dopamine receptor (DR)-derived cAMP. Based on these facts, we hypothesize that PDE10A plays an essential role in cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, and dysfunction by antagonizing cAMP/cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) signaling in myocytes and cAMP/exchange factor directly activated by cAMP (Epac) signaling in fibroblasts. To test our hypothesis we propose the following two aims:
- Aim1: Evaluate the role of PDE10A on pathological cardiac remodeling and dysfunction in vivo using genetic and pharmacological approaches.
- Aim2: Determine the roles and underlying mechanisms of PDE10A in the regulation of cardiac myocyte and fibroblast function in vitro.
Video of 3 Minute Thesis Event
Thursday, June 8, 2017
We have the video of the full event with all presentations fully captions and with the slides running in time with the videos.
3MT Presenters, Programs & Topics
Thesis presentations in order
- Stephanie Carpenter (Chemistry) - Solving the Mystery of Iron Chemistry
- Sarah Catheline (Pathways of Human Disease) - Inhibiting Inflammaging to Treat Osteoarthritis(OA)
- Scott Friedland (Genetics, Development & Stem Cells) - Pancreatic Cancer and the Tale of the Broken Librarian
- Claire McCarthy (Toxicology) - Investigating the Toxicological Effects of Dung Biomass Smoke Exposure
- Taylor Moon (Immunology, Microbiology and Virology) - The New Epidemic
- Thuy-Vy Nguyen (Social-Personality Psychology) - Solitude *Winner*
- Manisha Taya (Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology) - Understanding Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM): The “Other” Steroid-Dependent Cancer From Bed-Side to Bench and Back Again
- Janelle Veazey (Immunology, Microbiology and Virology) - Role of Protein Kinase D in Epithelial Cells During Respiratory Infection
Full 3MT 2017 Event Video (CC)
Pathology Graduate Student Wins Travel Award for Research Project
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Second-year Pathology graduate student Madison Doolittle won second place in the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s graduate student poster competition on May 17.
Second-year Pathology graduate student Madison Doolittle won second place in the School of Medicine and Dentistry’s graduate student poster competition on May 17.
The annual event, hosted by the Graduate Student Society, includes entries from graduate students across disciplines as an opportunity to showcase their research in their respective fields.
Madison was the lead author the abstract titled, “Investigating the Role of Zbtb40 in the Genetic Regulation of Osteoporosis” in which he and fellow researchers examined the genetic determinants of bone mineral density used to diagnose osteoporosis.
He was awarded a $300 travel scholarship.
University Research Awards span a wide range of topics
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
The awards, originally called Provost’s Multidisciplinary Awards, are funded $250,000 every year by the president and matched by the schools for a total of $500,000 annually. They are designed to help researchers advance promising lines of research so that they can obtain external funding.Read More: University Research Awards span a wide range of topics
Study: A New Way to Slow Cancer Cell Growth
Friday, May 26, 2017
Cells grow and divide during the cell cycle
Cancer is an extremely complex disease, but its definition is quite simple: the abnormal and uncontrollable growth of cells. Researchers from the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology have identified a new way to potentially slow the fast-growing cells that characterize all types of cancer. The findings, reported today in the journal Science and funded by the National Institutes of Health, were made in kidney and cervical cancer cells in the laboratory and are a long way from being applied in people. But, they could be the basis of a treatment option in the future, the authors said.
Cancer: The Cell Cycle Gone Wrong
All cells go through the “cell cycle,” a series of events that culminate in orderly cell growth and division. In cancer, the cell cycle is out of whack; cells divide without stopping and invade surrounding tissues.
Lynne Maquat, Ph.D.
Researchers identified a protein called Tudor-SN that is important in the “preparatory” phase of the cell cycle – the period when the cell gets ready to divide. When scientists eliminated this protein from cells, using the gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, cells took longer to gear up for division. The loss of Tudor-SN slowed the cell cycle.
“We know that Tudor-SN is more abundant in cancer cells than healthy cells, and our study suggests that targeting this protein could inhibit fast-growing cancer cells,” said Reyad A. Elbarbary, Ph.D., lead study author and research assistant professor in the Center for RNA Biology and the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Elbarbary, who works in the laboratory of senior study author Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., a world-renowned expert in RNA biology, adds that there are existing compounds that block Tudor-SN that could be good candidates for a possible therapy.
Putting the Brakes on Cell Growth
Maquat’s team discovered that Tudor-SN influences the cell cycle by controlling microRNAs, molecules that fine tune the expression of thousands of human genes.
When Tudor-SN is removed from human cells, the levels of dozens of microRNAs go up. Boosting the presence of microRNAs puts the brakes on genes that encourage cell growth. With these genes in the “off” position, the cell moves more slowly from the preparatory phase to the cell division phase.
“Because cancer cells have a faulty cell cycle, pursuing factors involved in the cell cycle is a promising avenue for cancer treatment,” noted Maquat, director of the Center for RNA Biology and the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Maquat, who also holds an appointment in the Wilmot Cancer Institute, and Elbarbary have filed a patent application for methods targeting Tudor-SN for the treatment and prevention of cancer. Research next steps include understanding how Tudor-SN works in concert with other molecules and proteins so that scientists can identify the most appropriate drugs to target it.
Keita Miyoshi, Ph.D., staff scientist in Maquat’s lab, served as lead study author with Elbarbary. Jason R. Myers and John M. Ashton, Ph.D. from the UR Genomics Research Center played an instrumental role in the study analysis.Read More: Study: A New Way to Slow Cancer Cell Growth
Slaughter Announces $524,000 Grant for Science Take-Out to Continue Environmental Health Education Initiative
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) today announced a $524,883 federal award for Science Take-Out, a locally-based company that manufactures easy-to-use, hands-on science kits for students. This funding, administered by the Department of Human Health and Services’ (HHS) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, will expand on Science Take-Out’s successful STTR Phase I project that developed environmental health education kits for students in partnership with the University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center.
“I’m so pleased to announce this federal funding for Science Take-Out to continue their important work educating kids and community members about science. At a time when science and fact are under siege, it is critical that organizations like this promote the building blocks of environmental education for our students. I’ve often said that Rochester is home to some of the brightest minds in the country and this is largely because of businesses like Science Take-Out, who help to inspire the next generation of researchers and environmental advocates with engaging, hands-on activities,” said Rep. Slaughter.
Currently, environmental health is typically covered minimally, if at all, in secondary school classrooms and there are also very few available hands-on activities that engage the general public in learning about concepts related to environmental health. Science Take-Out develops and manufactures innovative and easy-to-use hands-on science activity kits that are used in schools throughout the country. This new award will support Science Take-Out’s efforts to gather evidence on the impact of environmental health science kits on students’ learning and to modify the kits for use in diverse, community-based settings.
“Science Take-Out believes in the power of hands-on, experiential learning. That’s what our science kits do: provide students with the fun, easy-to-use tools they need to broaden their knowledge about science and health. We are a team of experienced science educators always looking for more ways to engage young students and this grant will go a long way in supporting that mission. Thank you, Congresswoman Slaughter, for your support of federal investments in research and science education,” said Dina Markowitz, president of Science Take-Out and professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester.
This funding expands Science Take-Out’s successful STTR Phase I project that developed and pilot-tested eight hands-on Science Take-Out kits on topics in environmental health science in partnership with the University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center. These kits aid students in learning important health concepts such as: the biological effects of lead, sun and pesticide poisoning and health issues associated with antimicrobial agents found in consumer products.
Lowery Receives Vincent du Vigneaud Award at Commencement 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Rebecca Lowery and Edith Lord
Ania Majewska Speaking about Rebecca Lowery
Rebecca Lowery, Ph.D., a graduate of the laboratory of Dr. Ania Majewska, received the Vincent du Vigneaud Award at Commencement 2017 for her thesis titled “The Role of Microglia and Fractalkine Signaling in Experience-dependent Synaptic Plasticity”.
This award is conferred by the Office of Graduate Education at the School of Medicine and Dentistry to a graduating student from any program whose thesis is judged superior and unique in potential for stimulating and extending research in the field. The award is given in honor of Vincent du Vigneaud, (1901-1978) who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (formerly known as Vital Economics) in 1927 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, studying on the sulfur component of insulin.
Papasergi-Scott, Taya, and Wang Win Awards at the GSS Annual Poster Session Competition
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Congratulations to the following students who won awards at the Graduate Student Society Annual Poster Session Competition held on May 6, 2016.
Makaía M. Papasergi-Scott, working in the laboratories of Dr. Gregory G. Tall and Dr. Robert Freeman, was awarded 1st Place and received a $500 travel reward for her poster titled “Phosphorylation of Ga Chaperone Ric-8A Regulates its Function”.
Manisha Taya working in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen R. Hammes, and Xiaowen Wang working in the laboratory of Dr. Mark D. Noble, tied for 3rd place and received $100 travel grants for their posters titled “The Role of Estrogen and Glycoprotein-NMB in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) Progression” and “Identifying c-Cbl as a Critical Point of Intervention in Acquired Tamoxifen Resistant Breast Cancer”, respectively.
Stoveken Receives Wallace O. Fenn Award at Commencement 2017
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Hannah Stoveken, a graduate from the Laboratory of Dr. Gregory G. Tall, received the Wallace O. Fenn Award at Commencement 2017 for her thesis titled “Activation of Adhesion G Protein-coupled Receptors by a Tethered Agonist: Mechanism of Action and Pharmacological Modulation”.
The Wallace O. Fenn Award is given annually to a graduating student judged to have performed especially meritorious research and who presented a Ph.D. thesis suitable to honor the name of Dr. Fenn, a Professor of Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry from 1924 to 1961.
Taya wins Knockout Rounds at ENDO 2017 and Finalist in UofR Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Manisha Taya, graduate student in the Hammes Lab, won the People's Choice First Place Award in the Knockout Rounds competition at the annual ENDO 2017 conference, held April 1-4, for her presentation of her research on lymphangioleiomyomatosis. View a video featuring interviews with the winners.
Taya was also a finalist in The University of Rochester Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition held on Thursday May 11, 2017. 3MT is an academic competition that challenges PhD students and postdoctoral appointees to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience.
Catheline Awarded in Three-Minute Thesis Competition
Monday, May 15, 2017
Congratulations to Sarah Catheline for winning the People’s Choice Award at the University of Rochester’s Three Minute Thesis public competition held on May 11 at URMC.
Sarah is a fourth-year graduate student in the Pathways of Human Disease Ph.D. program and works in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Jonason. Her presentation, “Inhibiting Inflammaging to Treat Osteoarthritis (OA),” was one of eight to be accepted into the final round.
This year marks the second annual Three Minute Thesis public competition at the University of Rochester, which encourages participants to share their research in simple language that's both persuasive and easy for the average person to understand.
The event is open to current Ph.D. and professional doctorate (research) candidates in or beyond their third year of study. It’s also open to postdoctoral researchers. Winners receive travel awards ranging from $250-750.
The event is sponsored by the School of Medicine and Dentistry Center for Professional Development, the School of Arts, Science and Engineering Graduate Studies Office, the Graduate Student Society, and Graduate Student Association.
Three Minute Thesis Awards:
- Judge’s Winner: Thuy-vy Nguyen (Runner Up: Scott Friedland)
- People's Choice Award: Sarah Catheline
- Stephanie Carpenter: Solving the Mystery of Iron Chemistry
- Scott Friedland: Pancreatic Cancer and the Tale of the Broken Librarian
- Sarah Catheline: Inhibiting Inflammaging to Treat Osteoarthritis (OA)?
- Claire McCarthy: Investigating the Toxicological Effects of Dung Biomass Smoke Exposure
- Taylor Moon: The New Epidemic
- Thuy-vy Nguyen: Solitude
- Manisha Taya: Understanding Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM): The “Other” Steroid-Dependent Cancer From Bed-Side to Bench and Back Again
- Janelle Veazey: Role of Protein Kinase D in Epithelial Cells During Respiratory Infection
Scott Friedland takes 2nd place in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition
Monday, May 15, 2017
On May 11th, 2017, Scott Friedland took 2nd place in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition with his talk entitled, “Pancreatic Cancer and the Tale of the Broken Librarian. 3MT, created at The University of Queensland in Australia, is an effort to bring awareness to research and scientific communication, in which competitors have 3 minutes to get across the thrust of their thesis to a general audience. Scott is an MD/PhD student currently working in the lab of Dr. Aram Hezel in the Genetics, Development, and Stem Cells program. His research focuses on defining the role of ARID1A and the SWI/SNF complex in pancreatic cancer and development.Read More: Scott Friedland takes 2nd place in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition
Interviewing Workshop a Success
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The Interviewing Workshop: “Preparing for the Job Interview”, was another successful workshop. We had 11 participants from various programs throughout the School of Medicine and Dentistry participate in the interactive workshop. The workshop provided students and trainees information on how to prepare for various types of interview styles including phone, Skype, in-person and group. Participants gained knowledge on general, behavioral, and situational interview questions and then put what they learned into practice by answering various interview questions with a partner and among the larger group. In addition, we discussed how to prepare for a presentation that you may be asked to deliver during the interview and what things to do post interview to help show an employer your continued interest in the position.
- Understand how to prepare for a job interview
- Learn about the different types of interviews
- Gain an understanding of the various types of interview questions (general interview questions, behavioral, and situational)
- Practice how to successfully answer various types of questions in an interview situation
For upcoming event information, please visit the CPD websiteRead More: Interviewing Workshop a Success
Congrats to Gianluca Di Maria on the Winning an Award at the 2017 Neuro Film Festival
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Congrats to Halterman Lab Medical Student Intern, Giancarlo DiMaria for his Neuroscience Is…™ Rewarding
winning video, “The Brain Scientist: Neuroscience is Rewarding.” Following a neurologist in the clinic and a neuroscientist in the lab, this video highlights the challenging but rewarding nature of a career in neuroscience.
GDSC Students attend the March for Science
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Students from the Genetics Program attended The Rochester March for Science on Saturday April 22
Fanju Meng (Biteau Lab), Sreejith (Biteau Lab), Emily Wexler (Portman Lab),
Sebastian Rojas Villa (Biteau Lab), Robert Hoff (Bohmann Lab), Andrew Allbee (Biteau Lab)
2017 Curtis Award
Monday, April 24, 2017
Neuroscience Graduate Program student Jessica Hogestyn, a student in the Mayer-Pröschel Lab, has been selected as one of the winners of the 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. Her nomination material exemplified her ability as an outstanding educator with bright future.
BMB, BSCB Students Win 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student
Saturday, April 1, 2017
BMB and BSCB graduate students, Lauren Benoodt, Tyler Couch, and Lisa Houston have been selected as joint winners of the 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. The students will be presented with a certificate, as well as checks of $700 for each. The three of them were TA’s for IND 408 (Advanced Biochemistry) in the Fall of 2016.
The Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student was established to recognize graduate students who advance the teaching mission of the University by providing highly skilled and innovative undergraduate instruction.
The strongest nominations show innovation in teaching and a positive impact on the learning of undergraduates.
Congratulations Lauren, Tyler, and Lisa!
Paula Alio Awarded J. William Fulbright Scholarship
Monday, March 27, 2017
Paula Alio, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences, has been awarded the J. William Fulbright Scholarship grant to study HIV among women (sex workers) in Niger.
Monique Mendes Serves as Judge at STEP UP to Medicine Poster Session
Friday, March 17, 2017
The Regional Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP UP) to Medicine conference was hosted by the University of Rochester on March 4th, 2017. NGP student, Monique Mendes was invited to serve as a judge at the poster session during the event based on her earlier involvement with that Program. Back in fall 2016, Monique and the Pre-doctoral Organization for Neurosciences (PONs), was invited to meet with the STEP UP to MEDICINE participants to discuss the brain and to share their neuroscientific research experiences. STEP UP to MEDICINE is a state funded program intended to help gifted and motivated high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds into undergraduate and graduate Science and Technology programs across the state of New York. On March 4th, the University of Rochester hosted STEP UP to Medicine conference attended by 15 statewide STEP programs representing 10 students each. The high school students had a chance to meet with their peers from other institutions, the UR physicians, technical staff, medical, and graduate students. Read More: Monique Mendes Serves as Judge at STEP UP to Medicine Poster Session
Rahman Receives Senior Toxicologist Award From The Society of Toxicology
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Medicine, has been awarded a Senior Toxicologist Award by the Society of Toxicology - Associations of Scientists of Indian Origin. The award was presented to Dr. Rahman in the presence of many Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting attendees as well as several NIEHS officials.
He received the award at the SOT 56th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in Baltimore, MD on March 13th. This year’s meeting, like its predecessors, was designed to provide members with access to cutting-edge science, networking opportunities, and career development resources through its various events and activities:
- 160+ Scientific Sessions, covering diverse topics such as age- dependent neuroimmunotoxicological effects, cardiopulmonary consequences of gestational toxicant exposure, and novel in vitro and in silico platforms, among dozens of others
- 50+ receptions and social events hosted by SOT Regional Chapters, Special Interest Groups, Specialty Sections, Committees, and other toxicology-related organizations
- 13 Continuing Education courses and other education opportunities
- ToxExpo, featuring more than 330 exhibitors providing products, services, and technology created to benefit the toxicology community
Congratulations Dr. Rahman!
Hocking and Roy Receive Patent
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The patent titled “Chimeric Fibronectin Matrix Mimetics and Uses Thereof” (U.S. Patent No. 9,572,869; awarded February 21, 2017) has recently been assigned to the UR with inventors Denise Hocking, Ph.D. and Daniel Roy, Ph.D. (BME B.S.‘06, Ph.D.‘12). The patent relates to the use of recombinant fibronectin-based peptides for wound healing and tissue regeneration applications. The technology falls under a new and exciting class of therapies known as wound biologics. The primary commercial application for this technology is to promote healing of hard-to-heal or chronic wounds, including diabetic, venous, and pressure ulcers, which impose a significant health care burden worldwide. Topical application of fibronectin matrix mimetic peptides to full-thickness excisional wounds in diabetic mice accelerates wound closure and promotes granulation tissue deposition, remodeling, and re-vascularization.
Denise Hocking, PhD is a Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology and of Biomedical Engineering. Daniel Roy is a Scientist at KeraNetics, LLC, a biotechnology company located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that develops keratin-based biomaterials for wound healing applications.
Scott Steele selected to serve on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Science Board
Monday, February 13, 2017
Scott Steele, PhD, Director of the CTSI Regulatory Science Core has been selected to serve on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Science Board. The Board provides advice to the Commissioner and other FDA offcials, exploring issues from gene editing or regulation of opioids to food safety, and aims to help the FDA keep pace with technical and scientific developments.Read More: Scott Steele selected to serve on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Science Board
Maquat Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from International RNA Society
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D. has spent her career unraveling what happens in our cells during disease, making seminal contributions to our understanding of RNA’s role in sickness and in health. She’s also committed countless hours to mentoring the next generation of researchers and advocating for young women in the sciences. For these exceptional efforts, she’s receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from the international RNA Society.
The J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Maquat began her professional career studying inherited anemias. She discovered a quality control process that blocks the creation of toxic proteins that cause disease. Known as nonsense-mediated mRNA decay or NMD, this process plays a part in one third of all inherited diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, and one third of all acquired diseases, including a number of cancers.
“This award recognizes Lynne’s pioneering contributions to understanding the mechanisms of RNA, as well as her outstanding leadership, support and commitment to our field, including her role as a model for new generations of scientists,” said Juan Valcarcel Juarez, current president of the RNA Society, who works at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain.
James McSwiggen, CEO of the RNA Society, added, “I can’t imagine a more appropriate choice of awardee.”Read More: Maquat Receives Lifetime Achievement Award in Science from International RNA Society
Scientists develop new flu vaccines for dogs
Monday, January 30, 2017
Scientists at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry have developed, for the first time, two new vaccines for canine influenza. This research is not only important for improving the health of our furry friends, but for keeping us safe, too. Dogs that have been infected with multiple influenza viruses have the potential to act as "mixing vessels" and generate new flu strains that could infect people. This hasn't happened yet, but experts say it's possible.
Today, veterinarians use vaccines that include inactivated or killed flu virus, but experts say they provide short-term, limited protection. Scientists led by Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology created two "live-attenuated" vaccines against H3N8 canine influenza virus, which is currently circulating in dogs in the U.S. Past research shows that live-attenuated vaccines, made from live flu virus that is dampened down so that it doesn't cause the flu, provide better immune responses and longer periods of protection.Read More: Scientists develop new flu vaccines for dogs
URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy
Monday, January 30, 2017
Major Step toward Longer-Lasting HIV Treatment
A drug developed at the University of Rochester Medical Center extends the effectiveness of multiple HIV therapies by unleashing a cell’s own protective machinery on the virus. The finding, published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is an important step toward the creation of long-acting HIV drugs that could be administered once or twice per year, in contrast to current HIV treatments that must be taken daily.
The drug, called URMC-099, was developed in the laboratory of UR scientist Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D. When combined with “nanoformulated” versions of two commonly used anti-HIV drugs (also called antiretroviral drugs), URMC-099 lifts the brakes on a process called autophagy.
Normally, autophagy allows cells to get rid of intracellular “trash,” including invading viruses. In HIV infection, the virus prevents cells from turning on autophagy; one of the many tricks it uses to survive. When the brake on autophagy is lifted, cells are able to digest any virus that remains after treatment with antiretroviral therapy, leaving cells free of virus for extended periods of time.
Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D.
“This study shows that URMC-099 has the potential to reduce the frequency of HIV therapy, which would eliminate the burden of daily treatment, greatly increase compliance and help people better manage the disease,” said Gelbard, professor and director of UR’s Center for Neural Development and Disease, who has studied HIV/AIDS for the past 25 years. The finding builds on previous research that Gelbard conducted with Howard E. Gendelman, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology/Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.Read More: URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy
AAMC Taps URMC for National Community Health and Equity Initiative
Thursday, January 12, 2017
The University of Rochester Medical Center is one of only eight institutions chosen by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to join an effort to improve health equity and the health of communities nationwide.Read More: AAMC Taps URMC for National Community Health and Equity Initiative
Deborah Ossip, PhD, Elected President of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Deborah J. Ossip, Ph.D., professor of Public Health Sciences and Oncology, has been elected 2016 president of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). The international society coordinates and advances research related to nicotine and tobacco from molecular to societal levels, and it publishes the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.Read More: Deborah Ossip, PhD, Elected President of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.
Todd Jusko, PhD awarded a one year research contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Todd Jusko, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, was awarded a one year research contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall objective of the project is to examine the relationship between in utero and postnatal blood lead concentrations and children's immune system function.
Rahman Article Chosen as One of URMC's Top 10 News Stories of 2016
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Irfan Rahman's study, published in Oncotarget in November, has been chosen by the URMC as one of the top news stories of 2016.
The study is the first-ever showing that E-cigarettes cause damage to gum tissue. Rahman's research suggests that electronic cigarettes are as equally damaging to gums and teeth as conventional cigarettes.Read More: Rahman Article Chosen as One of URMC's Top 10 News Stories of 2016
GDSC Student to join the Steven’s Laboratory at Harvard Medical
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Nicole Scott-Hewett, a recent graduate of the GDSC program will be joining Beth Steven’s laboratory at the Boston Children's Hospital F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center. There Nicole will be involved in projects related to understanding mechanisms of complement and microglia-mediated pruning in development and in disease models. With her paper in this month’s issue of PLoS Biology on lysosomal dysfunction, Nicole leaves us with a fanfare. We wish her all the best for her new beginnings in Boston!
Repurposed drugs may offer improved treatments for fatal genetic disorders
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Department of Biomedical Genetics researchers believe they have identified a new means of treating some of the most severe genetic diseases of childhood, according to a new study in PLOS Biology. The diseases, called lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), are caused by disruptions in the functioning of the stomach of the cell, known as the lysosome. LSDs include Krabbe disease, Gaucher disease , metachromatic leukodystrophy and about 40 related conditions. In their most aggressive forms, they cause death of affected children within a few years after birth.
The research was spear-headed by Nicole Scott-Hewett and Chris Folts, two recent graduates of the program in Genetics, Development and Stem Cells. Led by the article's corresponding author Mark Noble, Ph.D., the team discovered for the first time how specific toxic waste products that accumulate in LSDs cause multiple dysfunctions in affected cells. They also found that several drugs already approved for other uses have the unexpected ability of overcoming the cellular toxic build-up, providing new opportunities for treatment. Key to this discovery was the finding that these drugs can help restore normal acidification of the lysosome.
In a mouse model of Krabbe disease (one of the most severe LSDs), Drs. Folts and Scott-Hewett found that their lead study drug, colforsin, increased survival as effectively as in studies where disease-causing mutations were corrected by gene therapy. Colforsin is approved in Japan to treat cardiac disease, which provides information to investigators about its use in humans.
Increased survival in mice occurred even though treatment was started later than is necessary for gene therapy. The research treatment also decreased damage to the brain and improved the quality of life in the diseased mice. All of these outcomes are critical goals in the treatment of children with Krabbe disease or related illnesses, said Noble, who is the Martha M. Freeman, M.D., Professor in Biomedical Genetics at URMC.
"One of the great challenges in these diseases is that they are both rare and come in many different varieties, and advances have tended to focus on single diseases," Noble said. "In contrast, our findings suggest our treatments will be relevant to multiple disorders. Also, we saw benefits of our treatment even without needing to correct the underlying genetic defects. That gives us great hope that we could combine our treatments with other candidate approaches to gain additional benefits."
If the results can be translated into humans, Noble said, the repurposed drugs might improve the quality of life for afflicted children while more difficult experimental genetic treatments are pursued. The complete study can be found at: PLoS BiologyRead More: Repurposed drugs may offer improved treatments for fatal genetic disorders
Meng Wang, a former graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Bohmann, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Scholar
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Meng Weng, PhD
Dr. Meng Wang a former graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Bohmann, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Scholar, a grant awarded to outstanding young scientists and researchers who have made impressive accomplishments and have a bright future in making groundbreaking contributions.
Dr. Wang is currently an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where she studies the influence of endocrine and metabolic functions on aging, using C. elegans as a model system.
Research Led by Hucky Land Points to Prostate Cancer Tool
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Researchers from Wilmot Cancer Institute and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo reported in the journal Oncotarget that they have discovered a possible new tool for predicting whether prostate cancer will reoccur following surgery based on the expression patterns of four genes.
The Wilmot/Roswell Park tool was able to predict recurrence, based on human tissue samples and known patient outcomes, with 83 percent accuracy. Currently the only other way to estimate tumor aggressiveness is with a Gleason score, a grading system for prostate tumors that has limited power in most cases, researchers said.
Some prostate cancers grow very slowly, and when the disease is detected early, the five-year survival rates are nearly 100 percent. However, some men are diagnosed with more aggressive localized disease and, even after having a radical prostatectomy, cancer will return in one-third of patients.
“Our study sought to improve upon the prediction tools used in these types of cases so that oncologists would know with more certainty when to recommend additional treatment, such as radiotherapy, immediately after surgery,” said Hucky Land, Ph.D., director of research at Wilmot and the Robert and Dorothy Markin Chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics, who led the research. (Most patients receive no further treatment after surgery.)
Earlier, Land’s lab discovered a large group of non-mutated genes that are actively involved in cancer development. After analyzing expression of this gene set in frozen prostate cancer tissue samples, researchers discovered the four-gene signature, which was expressed differently in prostate cancer that later returned. Justin Komisarof, an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Land lab, developed the various algorithms and methods to evaluate the gene signature. The research team concluded that their tool outperformed other scientific methods, and they have applied for a U.S. patent.
The National Institutes of Health and Wilmot Cancer Institute/Roswell Park Cancer Institute Collaboration Pilot Funds supported the research. Chief collaborators from Roswell Park include Carl Morrison, M.D., executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine, and James Mohler, M.D., associate director and senior vice president for translational research at Roswell.
Read More: Research Led by Hucky Land Points to Prostate Cancer Tool
Jimmy Zhang, Awarded Two-year American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship
Friday, December 16, 2016
Jimmy Zhang, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Brookes was awarded a two-year American Heart Association predoctoral fellowship entitled,
“The Development of Novel Acute Myocardial Infarction Therapeutics Using Metabolomics and High-Throughput Screening” beginning January 1, 2017.
Paradoxically, current AMI therapies have the common goal of promoting reperfusion and, in doing so, trigger events that lead to cell death. As a result, there is a need for new therapeutics that limit reperfusion-induced injury.
Many of the pathologic cellular events of reperfusion-induced injury can be attributed to maladaptive metabolic remodeling. One particular metabolite of interest is succinate, which accumulates during ischemia. Upon reperfusion, succinate is consumed in the electron transport chain by Complex II, generating reactive oxygen species at Complex I. This reverse electron transport (RET) appears to be a major contributor to IR injury. Yet, despite the relevance of RET to IR injury, the pathway of succinate accumulation has yet to be elucidated. Additionally, succinate accumulation during ischemia might contribute to the generation of the mitochondrial membrane potential by permitting Complex I activity. This membrane potential can then be used for functions such as membrane transport and maintenance of redox status.
In our preliminary data, nornicotine was identified as a potentially cardioprotective candidate, and was shown to inhibit Complex I activity. Inhibition of RET could be the mechanism of protection by nornicotine. Using high-throughput screening and metabolomic approaches, this project will determine whether inhibition of RET is a rapid metabolic adaptation that is conserved across cardioprotective strategies (nornicotine treatment, ischemic preconditioning, and ischemic postconditioning). Finally, the pathway and function of succinate accumulation will be investigated by measuring membrane potential and redox status in isolated mitochondria.
Overall, this project aims to investigate RET in IR injury with the goal of developing novel therapeutics for AMI.
Dr. Robert Block awarded a 2-year research grant from the international Atherosclerosis Society and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Corporation
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Robert Block, MD, MPH, was awarded a 2-year research grant from the international Atherosclerosis Society and Pfizer Pharmaceutical Corporation. The overall goal is to partner with patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (a genetic disease that causes very premature heart attacks and strokes) and physicians in order to build and test educational/motivational information about this disease within the University of Rochester's electronic health record.
Researchers Identify Brain Region as Possible Target for Dementia Prevention
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
A University of Rochester study has found that older adults with excellent memories have more efficient connections between specific areas of the brain — findings that could hold promise for the prevention of dementia and cognitive decline.
Although researchers have historically viewed memory deterioration as an inevitable part of the aging process, a small group of older adults — called “supernormals” — are able to maintain their memory capacities much better than their peers. Feng (Vankee) Lin, PhD, an assistant professor in the University of Rochester School of Nursing, is spearheading a new approach to the study of Alzheimer’s disease by exploring what can be learned from these individuals.
In a study on the topic published in Cortex, an international journal devoted to the study of cognition and the relationship between the nervous system and mental processes, Lin and her team explored differences in brain function among three groups of older adults: supernormals, who were defined as having higher than average memory scores for their age, older adults diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, and a healthy control group. The study is the first to compare the brain function of supernormals to those who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s.Read More: Researchers Identify Brain Region as Possible Target for Dementia Prevention
Mitchell O'Connell Lab To Open
Monday, December 12, 2016
Current Postdoctoral Berkeley Fellow, Mitchell O'Connell, Ph.D. is set to open his new lab in April 2017, in the department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, at URMC. Currently Mitch is working in Jennifer Doudna's lab and his research aims to understand the mechanisms of RNA-mediated gene regulation through the development of new RNA-targeting tools based on CRISPR/Cas technology.
University Research Award helps team explore regeneration in a critical layer of the cornea
Friday, December 9, 2016
The structure of the cornea.
(Keratomania.com eye diagram by
Chabacano,via Wikimedia Commons.)
On the backside of the cornea is a single layer of cells that plays an all-important role, maintaining just the right fluid balance to keep the cornea transparent so that light can enter the eye. Until recently, it was believed this layer, called the corneal endothelium, is incapable of replacing its damaged cells. As more cells become damaged, the cornea becomes opaque, leading to loss of vision and, ultimately, to as many as 30,000 endothelium transplants a year in the United States alone.
A team of University researchers is exploring the possibility that stem cells on the outer edges of the cornea, given the right stimulation, can migrate into the endothelium to replace damaged cells. (Undifferentiated stem cells develop into specialized cells.) The work raises the possibility of restoring vision without the need for transplants.
The team is led by Amy Kiernan, associate professor of ophthalmology, and includes Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering; Patrice Tankam, a senior scientist in the Center for Visual Science; Changsik Yoon, a graduate student in Rolland’s lab; Rebecca Rausch, a graduate student in Kiernan’s lab; and Holly Hindman, former associate professor of ophthalmology, now in private practice but still consulting on the project. They are supported with a $75,000 University Research Award. The URA program is designed to help researchers develop preliminary data or proof of concept needed to leverage larger federal or foundation awards to carry a promising project to completion.
There have been tantalizing clinical hints that the corneal endothelium may have regenerative capabilities, Kiernan says. For example, there have been cases in which endothelial transplants failed to engraft, but the cornea cleared up anyway, with regeneration of the endothelium occurring on its own. “So it seems that if something is done that stimulates a progenitor or stem cell population, most likely those in the periphery of the cornea, there is some regenerative capacity in the endothelium – just based on clinical studies,” Kiernan says.
Her team will attempt to identify the potential stem cells that might be stimulated to migrate to the endothelium to repair damage. They will use mouse models from Kiernan’s lab in which adult stem cells can be permanently tagged with fluorescent biomarkers and tracked even after they differentiate into other cells. The identification and tracking of those cells will be done by refining a novel imaging approach developed in Rolland’s lab. Called Gabor domain optical coherence microscopy, the technology allows rapid, noninvasive imaging of cellular structures beneath the surface of the skin or within the human eye – in greater detail than traditional imaging with optical coherence tomography.
“Think of it as a high-definition, volumetric imaging,” Rolland says. “But we also want to know what kind of cells we are looking at, so we are integrating fluorescence imaging with the high-definition volumetric microscopy so we can do both.” The team represents a combination of pertinent expertise: cell development and regeneration (Kiernan and Rausch), imaging (Rolland, Tankam, and Yoon), and the biological basis for corneal and ocular surface diseases in humans (Hindman). The University Research Award funding is helping support graduate students and technicians working on the project, and the cost of mice and supplies. “Pilot funding like this is so important, especially with NIH grants shrinking,” Kiernan says.
“It’s really helpful to be able to bridge this kind of interdisciplinary effort,” says Rolland. “You need to work together a little bit to understand the challenges involved and what you need to do to secure preliminary data, to show we have a pathway.
“It takes time to get data, so even a small grant that provides a bridge for a year or two can make a huge difference.”
Nina Schor to Step Down as Children's Hospital Pediatrician-in-Chief
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), will step down as chair in June 2017. Schor served 11 years as pediatrician-in-chief at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, and under her leadership, the Department of Pediatrics fulfilled a decades-long dream of building a standalone children’s hospital in Rochester; the new facility opened its doors to patients in July 2015. "I don’t want to downplay the significance of the new hospital, but it’s really what we do inside of it and because of it that’s so important,” said Schor. “I look at the academic physicians and physician scientists who came to Rochester with just a dream and a fire in their belly and how they’ve now brought those dreams to fruition — that’s what I’m most proud of.”
The Department of Pediatrics grew from 110 faculty members to over 170 during Schor’s tenure, creating new divisions in palliative care, sleep medicine, allergy, and hospitalist medicine. Research centers focused on premature infants, translational molecular programs, and red blood cell development also developed under Schor’s leadership.
“Not only was the new hospital built under Nina’s leadership, but she truly championed the project, ensuring that every detail was designed with patients and families in mind,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., URMC CEO and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “She has been the face of the children’s hospital and inspired trust in our families, physicians, and donors at a time when we very much needed the community’s support.”Read More: Nina Schor to Step Down as Children's Hospital Pediatrician-in-Chief
Study Challenges Autism Brain Response Theory
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
A new study challenges the hypothesis that nerve cells in the brains of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders do not reliably and consistently respond to external stimuli. “Our findings show there is no measurable variation in how individuals with autism respond to repeated visual and tactile stimuli,” says senior author John Foxe, the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Professor in Neuroscience.Read More: Study Challenges Autism Brain Response Theory
New Biophysical Research Service Available
Friday, December 2, 2016
The University has purchased a J-1100 circular dichroism (CD) spectrometer from JASCO Inc. The shared-use instrument will be housed and maintained as part of the Structural Biology and Biophysics facility. Manager Jermaine Jenkins will maintain the instrument, as well as manage user time, train users, and assist with data collection and analysis as needed. Email Jermaine Jenkins, Ph.D. to plan your experiments. Read More: New Biophysical Research Service Available
Helena Temkin-Greener, PhD was awarded a two-year research grant from the Donaghue Foundation
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Helena Temkin-Greener, PhD was awarded a two-year research grant from the Donaghue Foundation. The overall goal of the research project is to develop process and outcome-based measures of care quality for nursing home residents with mental health and behavioral disorders, and to explain variations in these measures across facilities and regions/states. Locally, findings will provide a benchmark performance measure for nursing homes participating in the NYS Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program.
NIH Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Matt Cavanaugh, a fifth year Neuroscience Graduate Program student in Dr. Krystel Huxlin’s lab was awarded an NIH Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the National Eye Institute for his project entitled: Properties of training-induced visual recovery in cortical blindness (2016-2019).
Brain training video games help low-vision kids see better
Monday, November 28, 2016
Studies going back several years have shown that playing action video games (AVG) can help improve visual acuity. A new study by vision scientists at the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University found that children with poor vision see vast improvement in their peripheral vision after only eight hours of training via kid-friendly video games. Most surprising to the scientists was the range of visual gains the children made, and that the gains were quickly acquired and stable when tested a year later.
“Children who have profound visual deficits often expend a disproportionate amount of effort trying to see straight ahead, and as a consequence they neglect their peripheral vision,” said Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester. “This is problematic because visual periphery—which plays a critical role in mobility and other key visual functions—is often less affected by visual impairments.”
“We know that action video games (AVG) can improve visual perception, so we isolated the AVG components that we thought would have the strongest effect on perception and devised a kid-friendly game that compels players to pay attention to the entire visual field, not just where their vision is most impaired,” said Tadin, who is also a professor in the Center for Visual Science. “As a result, we’ve seen up to 50 percent improvement in visual perception tasks.”Read More: Brain training video games help low-vision kids see better
Children’s Hospital Pediatrician-in-Chief Named Fellow of the AAAS
Monday, November 21, 2016
Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics and the pediatrician-in-chief at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society.
AAAS, which will publish the announcement on Nov. 25 in its journal Science, selects Fellows based on their scientifically and socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Schor has spent much of her career investigating neuroblastoma — which is among the most common childhood cancers — and was recognized for “her distinguished contributions to developmental neuroscience and neuropharmacology, particularly using molecular neuroscientific discoveries to design innovative therapies for tumors of the developing nervous system.”Read More: Children’s Hospital Pediatrician-in-Chief Named Fellow of the AAAS
‘Antisense’ compounds offer new weapon against influenza A
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Challenging a long-held convention, University researchers have shown they can inhibit the influenza A virus by targeting its genomic RNA with “antisense” compounds.
Their findings, highlighted on the cover of Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, offer scientists a new way to attack an increasingly drug-resistant pathogen that causes an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 deaths a year.
“Antisense” compounds are synthesized with nucleotides, the building blocks of nucleic acid, often shown as various combinations of A, U, G and C. When the compounds – called antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) – bind to the targeted genomic RNA, they block its ability to replicate.
The collaboration, involving the labs of Douglas Turner, professor of chemistry; Luis Martinez-Sobrido, associate professor of microbiology and immunology; and two researchers in Poland, reported that “antisense” compounds targeting one of the virus’ eight genomic RNA segments caused a five- to 25-fold reduction of influenza A virus in cell cultures.
“That’s a big difference,” Martinez-Sobrido says. “When mice are infected with 10,000 viruses, they all die. However, with 25 times less virus, all animals can survive infection and they don’t even develop symptoms.”
Read More: ‘Antisense’ compounds offer new weapon against influenza A
Wilmot Co-directors Honored with Davey Award
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D. (left) and David C. Linehan, M.D.
Wilmot Cancer Institute’s co-directors Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., and David C. Linehan, M.D., were recognized recently with the Davey Award, an honor bestowed on University of Rochester faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to cancer research.
They received their awards at the 21st annual Wilmot Scientific Symposium Nov. 10. The award for Land, who organizes the annual symposium, was a surprise orchestrated by Jonathan W. Friedberg, M.D., M.M.Sc., director of Wilmot Cancer Institute.
At the symposium, Land presented the planned Davey Award to Linehan, who is also Wilmot’s director of clinical operations and the Seymour I. Schwartz Professor and Chairman of Surgery. Linehan was recognized for his work studying the role of the tumor microenvironment in promoting treatment resistance in pancreatic cancer.
Before his lecture, Linehan presented Land the surprise award with a recorded video message from Friedberg. Land, who is also Wilmot’s director of research and the Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor of Biomedical Genetics, was recognized for his body of work and for his work studying the genetic programs that control all of cancer’s worst shared features — such as a cancer cell’s ability to quickly divide and survive despite aggressive treatment.
Repurposed Drug May Offer Diagnosis, Treatment for Traumatic Nerve Damage
Monday, November 14, 2016
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center believe they have identified a new means of enhancing the body’s ability to repair its own cells, which they hope will lead to better diagnosis and treatment of traumatic nerve injuries, like those sustained in car accidents, sports injuries, or in combat. In a study published today, the team showed that a drug previously approved for other purposes can ‘wake up’ damaged peripheral nerves and speed repair and functional recovery after injury.
The study appearing in EMBO Molecular Medicine, demonstrates for the first time that 4-aminopyridine (4AP), a drug currently used to treat patients with the chronic nerve disease, multiple sclerosis, has the unexpected property of promoting recovery from acute nerve damage. Although this drug has been studied for over 30 years for its ability to treat chronic diseases, this is the first demonstration of 4AP’s benefit in treating acute nerve injury and the first time those benefits were shown to persist after treatment was stopped.
Study authors, John Elfar, M.D., associate professor of Orthopaedics, and Mark Noble, Ph.D., Martha M. Freeman, M.D., Professor in Biomedical Genetics, and their laboratory team, found that daily treatment with 4AP promotes repair of myelin, the insulating material that normally surrounds nerve fibers, in mice. When this insulation is damaged, as occurs in traumatic peripheral nerve injury, nerve cell function is impaired. These researchers found that 4AP treatment accelerates repair of myelin damage and improvement in nerve function.Read More: Repurposed Drug May Offer Diagnosis, Treatment for Traumatic Nerve Damage
Catherine Ovitt Featured in D&C's Hot Jobs
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Dr. Catherine Ovitt
Salivary glands, which make as much as a quart of saliva each day, don’t pose a life-threatening risk if they stop working properly. But given their roles — they are important for swallowing, keep the inside of your mouth moist so your cheeks can move around, and have both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties — a malfunction would greatly impact quality of life.
Medical scientist Catherine Ovitt has dedicated her career to the study of salivary glands, in particular to establishing therapeutic strategies for their repair or regeneration after damage from radiation treatment due to head and neck cancers, or because of cellular damage from autoimmune diseases.
“A long-term goal would be to develop some sort of cell therapy treatment, some kind of transplantation or artificial salivary gland,” said Ovitt, who lives in Pittsford and is an associate professor in the Center for Oral Biology, part of UR Medicine’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health. Without the glands, she added, “you end up losing all your teeth.”Read More: Catherine Ovitt Featured in D&C's Hot Jobs
Karl Smith Featured as Part of MAG Hidden Passions Series
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Biophysics PhD candidate, Karl Smith, is giving a talk at the Memorial Art Gallery, this Thursday at 7pm as part of their Hidden Passions speaking series.
At URMC, Smith studies glass filters 10,000 times thinner than a human hair as part of the Nanomembranes Research Group. It’s because of his rigorous academic schedule that he began the 10-cent project.
The Pittsburgh native has written more than 900 stories, each roughly 500 words, on half sheets of paper. Strangers give him a prompt, and he pecks away. He’s crafted stories about lost loves, lost dogs, sea lions, flying princesses, and frogs who jump over the moon. Stories about babies, treehouses, aardvarks, and dancing polar bears. Stories about murder.
Read more about Karl and his passion.
Thomas Mariani Authors Study on Infant Nose, Lung Cells
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Cells from an infant’s nose are remarkably similar to those found in the lungs, a discovery that could lead to much more precise diagnosis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other infant lung diseases, according to new URMC research.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, provides a potential avenue for diagnosis that has challenged physicians for years, as infants with respiratory disease are usually so fragile that attempting to obtain lung samples is unsafe. Nasal cells, however, can be captured through a simple swab of the nostril, and their similarity to lung cells on an RNA level would allow physicians to get an accurate representation of how the lung is responding during disease states, without the need for more invasive tests.
“An infant with RSV could potentially have their nasal cells tested to determine if they are among the small group that will develop a severe response that might require hospitalization,” said Thomas Mariani, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and the study’s lead author. “Additionally, we could potentially use this method to examine other at-risk infants, such as those born prematurely who face a greater risk for lung disease throughout life — and identify which of those children should be treated more aggressively.”
The research also carries tremendous promise for future studies. While scientists have made significant progress over the past several decades to better understand adult lung diseases — such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung fibrosis — discovery has not been nearly as robust for infant diseases, due to the risks involved in securing lung tissue.
But the relative ease of obtaining nasal cells could accelerate understanding of how infant lungs respond to RSV and other diseases. While this study examined 53 healthy infants as a means of establishing a benchmark for normal cell structure, researchers at URMC have already begun studying the nasal tissue of diseased infants. Early results are promising.
“We’re actively working on studies in infants with lung diseases, and we’re showing quite clearly that we can identify differences between those with mild disease and those with more severe outcomes,” Mariani said.
The research is conducted by URMC’s Respiratory Pathogens Research Center, which coordinates its work with the national Respiratory Pathogens Research Center established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Center, under the direction of David Topham, Ph.D., focuses on research that will lead to a better understanding of the interactions between respiratory pathogens, the immune system, and other genetic and environmental factors.
ChinYi Chu, M.S., Xing Qiu, Ph.D., Lu Wang, M.S., Soumyaroop Bhattacharya, M.S., M.Ed., Gerry Lofthus, Ph.D., Anthony Corbett, M.S., Jeanne Holden-Wiltse, M.S., Alex Grier, M.S., Brenda Tesini, M.D., Steve Gill, Ph.D., Ann Falsey, M.D., Mary Caserta, M.D., and Ed Walsh, M.D., from the University of Rochester, contributed to these studies. Read More: Thomas Mariani Authors Study on Infant Nose, Lung Cells
Research Will Explore New Therapies for Huntington's Disease
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
A new award from the CHDI Foundation will advance promising research that aims to slow the progression of Huntington’s disease. The funding, anticipated to total more than $10.5 million over next five years, will help University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) scientists develop a stem cell-based therapy that swaps sick brain cells for healthy ones.
The new award will go to the lab of Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine, which has research operations in both Rochester and at the University of Copenhagen.
Huntington’s is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of medium spiny neurons, a nerve cell in the brain that plays a critical role in motor control. As the disease progresses over time and more of these cells die, the result is involuntary movements, problems with coordination, and cognitive decline, depression, and often psychosis. There is currently no way to slow or modify this fatal disease.
The new award will support research that builds upon findings published by Goldman earlier this year in the journal Nature Communications showing that researchers were able to slow the progression of the disease in mice by transplanting healthy human support cells, called glial progenitor cells, into the animals’ brains.Read More: Research Will Explore New Therapies for Huntington's Disease
Wilmot Scientists Exploit Cell Metabolism to Attack Cancer
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Cancer cells have their own unique ways of reproducing, involving a shrewd metabolic reprograming that has been observed in virtually all types of cancer but not in normal cells. Now, University of Rochester Medical Center scientists have pinpointed one key source of the problem, which could lead to new treatment opportunities.
In an article published by Cell Reports, the scientific team shows for the first time how cancer-causing mutations control and alter the way cancer cells biosynthesize and replicate.
The discovery is the result of a close collaboration between the laboratories of Joshua Munger, Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Hucky Land, Ph.D., the Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor and Chair of Biomedical Genetics and director of research at the URMC’s Wilmot Cancer Institute.
“Every tissue or cell type in the body has different metabolic needs but as cells become cancerous their metabolism shifts in ways that are very different from normal cells,” Munger said. “Being able to identify those differences is critical for developing treatment targets.”Read More: Wilmot Scientists Exploit Cell Metabolism to Attack Cancer
Armond Collins Presents his work from Fudge Lab
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Armond Collins, a second year medical student, presents the study he conducted with us this summer under the auspices of a Babigian Fellowship. Armond studied changes in myelination in amygdala and cortex of adult rats that had been exposed to 3 day bout of a repeated variable stressor during adolescence. His works follows up studies by Michele Saul, PhD that indicate that adolescent stress results in decreased oligodendrocyte precursors in the amygdala in the week following the stress.
NIH Director Visits URMC, Says it’s an Exciting Time to be a Researcher
Monday, October 10, 2016
Collins’ first stop was lunch with 15 graduate students and postdocs who came prepared with a wide range of questions. The discussion covered the importance of communicating science to the public and policymakers, increasing diversity in biomedical research and new mechanisms to support young scientists at the start of their careers. Postdoctoral fellow Sarah Latchney and Ph.D. graduate student Solomon Abiola attended the lunch with Collins and describe the experience here.
Members of the Center for RNA Biology highlighted their most promising work for Collins and Center director Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., gave Collins a tour of her lab, where he met more trainees and junior researchers (admittedly, Collins’ favorite part of visits like these).
In his keynote address at the end of the day, Collins delivered an uplifting message to a packed house in the Class of ’62 auditorium: it is an extremely exciting time to be in biomedical research, and after many lean years we are turning a corner, with the NIH budget finally increasing in real terms. He detailed several of the NIH’s new programs, like the Human Microbiome Project, Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot.
He applauded URMC on the renewal of the CTSI funding and cited the translational research conducted by Arthur J. Moss, M.D., which has led to new treatments for patients with Long QT syndrome (LQTS), and John J. Treanor, M.D., which is helping scientists in pursuit of a universal flu vaccine. Collins outlined several new funding initiatives, including the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, which is helping assistant professor Elaine L. Hill, Ph.D., study the impact of fracking on infant and child health.
Collins affirmed that the U.S. is the strongest biomedical research country in the world thanks to institutions like URMC. You can view his keynote, “Exceptional Opportunities in Biomedical Research,” here.Read More: NIH Director Visits URMC, Says it’s an Exciting Time to be a Researcher
New Grants Explore Role of Brain’s “Garbage Truck” in Mini-Stokes and Trauma
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc.
More than $4.5 million in new grants to the lab of University of Rochester Medical Center scientist Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., underscore the important role the brain’s waste disposal system may play in a range of neurological disorders. The new awards will advance understanding of how small vessel disease and traumatic brain injury can give rise to cognitive and behavioral problems.
Nedergaard and her colleagues first unveiled the brain’s unique method of removing waste – dubbed the glymphatic system – in a paper in Science Translational Medicine in 2012. The research revealed that the brain possesses a circulation network that piggybacks on blood vessels and uses cerebral spinal fluid to flush away waste products from brain tissue. Since that time, the team has gone on to show that the glymphatic system works primarily while we sleep, could be a key player in diseases like Alzheimer’s, and is disrupted after traumatic brain injury.Read More: New Grants Explore Role of Brain’s “Garbage Truck” in Mini-Stokes and Trauma
NGP Student Awarded NIH Fellowship
Monday, October 3, 2016
Rebecca Rausch, a fifth year neuroscience graduate student in Dr. Richard Libby’s lab was awarded an NIH Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the National Eye Institute for her project entitled: The Role of Notch and BMP Signaling in Anterior Segment Dysgenesis (2016-2019).
Nuclear Protein Causes Neuroblastoma to Become More Aggressive
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Aggressive forms of neuroblastoma contain a specific protein in their cells’ nuclei that is not found in the nuclei of more benign forms of the cancer, and the discovery, made through research from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), could lead to new forms of targeted therapy.
EYA1, a protein that contributes to ear development, is present in the cytoplasm of many neuroblastoma tumors, but this protein migrates to the nucleus in the cells of more aggressive forms of the disease. The research, recently published in two medical research journals, allows for the development of targeted drugs that will work to prevent the neuroblastoma from reaching this more aggressive stage; researchers at URMC and elsewhere have already begun testing some of these potential treatments in a laboratory setting.
“Neuroblastoma is one of the most common and deadly forms of childhood cancer, and this discovery allows us to identify drugs that prevent the change in EYA1 structure and potentially minimize the danger to a child who has this disease,” said Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and the William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at URMC.
Read More: Nuclear Protein Causes Neuroblastoma to Become More Aggressive
URMC Researchers Discover Rare Flu-Thwarting Mutation
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
A rare and improbable mutation in a protein encoded by an influenza virus renders the virus defenseless against the body’s immune system. This University of Rochester Medical Center discovery could provide a new strategy for live influenza vaccines in the future.
A new approach to the live flu vaccine would be particularly advantageous right now after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped recommending use of the live attenuate flu vaccine, FluMist® earlier this year. Several studies found that the pain-free nasal spray, which was used in about one-third of young children in the U.S., offered no protection to that especially vulnerable population. The flu shot, on the other hand, performed well and the CDC recommends using this vaccine in place of FluMist®.
“There is a need to understand what's happening with the existing live vaccine and potentially a need to develop a new one,” said David Topham, Ph.D., Marie Curran Wilson and Joseph Chamberlain Wilson Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC and author of the study. “We proposed that the mutation we found could be used to create a live vaccine.”Read More: URMC Researchers Discover Rare Flu-Thwarting Mutation
Jessica Cantlon Named One of 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News
Friday, September 23, 2016
Jessica Cantlon, associate professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was selected by Science News as one of their 10 early- to mid-career scientists to watch. Cantlon’s work centers on how human and nonhuman primates distinguish between quantities. Understanding how the brain makes sense of concepts such as estimating quantities and counting might lead to better ways of teaching numerical concepts to children.Read More: Jessica Cantlon Named One of 10 Scientists to Watch by Science News
American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board
Monday, September 19, 2016
Dr. Harold Smith, Professor at The University of Rochester, has been selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. Dr. Smith will be sharing his knowledge and expertise in the field of molecular biology, molecular virology, RNA biology, and drug discovery.
Dr. Harold Smith became involved in research after beginning his career as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at The University of Rochester. As a biophysics professor, he utilized his knowledge and expertise in the areas of research and innovation of RNA, protein molecular biology, cell regulation, and drug discovery. Furthermore, Dr. Smith develops curriculum, teaches and mentors students from high school to postgraduate.
Dr. Harold Smith is also the Founder, President, and CEO of OyaGen, Inc. The objective of OyaGen, Inc. is to induce transient and beneficial changes in the protein expression and function in human tissues by involving the editing enzymes in targeting biomedically relevant pathways.
Dr. Harold Smith is a member of The American Heart Association, The Council on Atherosclerosis, The RNA Society, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a fellow in the The Royal Society of Biology. In addition, Dr. Smith serves on the Scientific Advisor Board of Cannabis Sciences, Inc., IgxBio, Inc. and Trovita Health Sciences as well as the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Virology and AIDS, Frontiers in Microbiology, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, and The Journal of BioDiscovery.Read More: American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board
Miller Receives Patent for Technology that Can Help Detect Flu
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., professor of Dermatology, recently received yet another patent for a new technology that can detect miniscule amounts of specific molecules in blood or other liquids. The patent focuses on using this technology to make detecting immune responses to the flu quicker and easier.
The AIR™ Platform, marketed by Adarza Biosystems, can detect immune responses to flu vaccines as well as the virus itself. With a small blood sample from a patient, doctors can confirm a flu infection, see if the patient mounts an appropriate immune response to a vaccine, or see if immune responses cross react with several different strains of flu. AIR™ can also be used for viral surveillance.
While Miller’s AIR™ system is not the first to make these things possible, it is a great improvement on previous technologies. Its silicon chip, which is only about the size of the end of a pencil eraser, allows scientists to detect hundreds of different target molecules in a single drop of fluid, and its “label-free” design requires fewer steps and reagents, thus reducing cost and opportunities for error.
“Label-free” systems suppress background noise to detect tiny signals, whereas conventional “labeled” systems use a more cumbersome design to amplify a tiny signal, often creating a lot of background noise in the process.
“It’s like walking through a city during the day and looking up at the buildings,” Miller said. “You have no idea what's going on in the offices because there's so much ambient light, but if you come back at night, it's easy to see.”
Miller suppresses background noise using a near-perfect anti-reflective coating on his silicon chips. For every 100 million photons of light that hit the surface of the chip, only one photon is reflected back. That coating also contains capture molecules meant to bind or “capture” specific target molecules, like antibodies produced in response to the flu virus. The more antibodies that bind to the chip, the more the anti-reflective coating is perturbed, and the more light is reflected and captured by a camera.
This simple and unconventional design and the ability to use capture molecules both big and small makes AIR™ extremely versatile. From cancer and infectious diseases, to agriculture and food safety, AIR™ is poised to expedite research and clinical testing across a wide range of applications.
Haber, Farrar Receive Awards
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Suzanne N. Haber, Ph.D., has been awarded a NIH R13 Conference grant. On October 11-13, 2016, the University of Rochester Institute of Neuromedicine and the Silvio O. Conte Center will hold a meeting entitled “Persistent, maladaptive behaviors: why we make bad choices”. The program is designed to involve basic and clinical scientists with a specific focus on the fundamental elements that drive basic behaviors and action plans (reward, fear, and value assignment); circuit dysfunctions that underlie abnormalities in diseases with persistent, habit-like behaviors, despite some awareness that these behaviors are maladaptive; the circuit components that are common amongst diseases; computational approaches to understanding these circuits; and therapeutic approaches that effect these circuits.
Christopher Farrar, a Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Professor Denise Hocking, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NIH-NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for his project entitled “Influence of Extracellular Matrix Fibronectin on Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF) Signaling”. PDGF is produced by a variety of different cell types and stimulates mesenchymal cell proliferation, migration, and gene expression. Together with fibronectin, PDGF plays an important role in angiogenesis and wound repair. In contrast, excess PDGF and abnormal fibronectin matrix deposition are linked to several diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis, atherosclerosis, and certain cancers. The focus of Chris’ project is to determine how mesenchymal cell adhesion to extracellular matrix fibronectin fibrils influences the ability of these cells to respond to PDGF, with the long-term goal of developing new treatment approaches to effectively regulate the sensitivity of cells to growth factor stimulation.
Harris Gelbard Receives International Award for Neurovirology Research
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Harris “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Neural Development & Disease, is slated to receive the Hilary Koprowski Prize in Neurovirology at this year’s International Symposium on Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease at Drexel University. Gelbard will be recognized for developing an unconventional drug that shows promise in treating brain disorders associated with HIV.
Gelbard’s drug, URMC-099, calms the immune system when it goes awry, as happens in HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND). In HAND, immune reactions to HIV particles in the brain damage nerve cells and cause dementia. Because patients affected by HAND also have HIV, it was imperative that URMC-099 not interfere with the antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV-positive patients alive.
KL2 award helps researcher pave his career path
Friday, September 9, 2016
David Auerbach, senior instructor in medicine,
says his KL2 award has "opened many doors for me."
David Auerbach's interest in pursuing a scientific career began during a hockey game his first year of college, when a teammate — who turned out to be a chief medical examiner — asked Auerbach if he would like to observe a case.
Now Auerbach's career is taking a major step forward with a two-year KL2 Mentored Career Development Program award from the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
"It has opened up many doors for me," says Auerbach, including lead authorship of a recent paper in Neurology.
Auerbach, a senior instructor in the Department of Medicine/Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, is taking a multisystem approach to understanding the mechanisms that cause electrical disturbances in both the hearts and brains of patients with genetic ion channel diseases. Ion channels, located in the plasma membrane of cells, are narrow tunnels that open and close at precise times to allow the flow of ions into or out of the cell, thus shaping the electrical activity in the heart and brain.
As a postdoc working with Lori Isom, a professor at the University of Michigan, Auerbach demonstrated that people with severe genetic forms of epilepsy were at a higher risk not only of electrical disturbances in the brain, resulting in seizures, but also of electrical disturbances in the heart, causing arrhythmias.
In order to establish an independent line of research, Auerbach decided to approach the problem in reverse: are people with long QT syndrome — a classically studied genetic cardiac disease that causes arrhythmias — also at an increased risk of seizures?
He came to Rochester in 2014 specifically because of its research strengths in this area, including the opportunity to work with such experts as Arthur Moss, the Bradford Berk Distinguished Professor of Medicine; Robert Dirksen, the Lewis Pratt Ross Professor and chair of pharmacology and physiology; and Charles Lowenstein, chief of cardiology and director of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute.
2016 Convocation Award Winners from Neuroscience
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Congratulations to the following people for winning teaching and student achievement awards at this year's SMD Opening Convocation.
Faculty Teaching, Mentoring & Diversity Awards
- Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD
- John Olschowka, PhD
Medical & Graduate Student Achievement Awards
- Alexandra McHale - Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award
- Gavin Jenkins - Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship
- Neal Shah - J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
- Grayson Sipe - Outstanding Student Mentor Award
Make sure to congratulate each of them when you see them.
Ann M. Dozier, PhD named Albert David Kaiser Chair of Public Health Sciences
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Ann M. Dozier, PhD, Professor Public Health Sciences, in the Center for Community Health, and of Clinical Nursing, named Albert David Kaiser Chair of Public Health Sciences at the Opening Convocation for the School of Medicine & Dentistry on September 8, 2016.
DOD Grant Explores New Drugs to Thwart Impact of Trauma, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest
Thursday, September 8, 2016
A $2.3 million Department of Defense grant will help neuroscientists develop new treatments for the emergency room and the battlefield. The research will focus on the development of new therapies that could help protect brain and other at risk organs following a trauma, heart attack, or stroke.
“While we have made significant progress in our ability to restore blood flow after stroke or cardiac arrest, the medical community does not have drugs at its disposal to prevent the secondary damage that occurs after these events,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study. “This grant will further our research on a promising class of drugs that possess both anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties that we believe will be suitable for use in both military and emergency conditions.”Read More: DOD Grant Explores New Drugs to Thwart Impact of Trauma, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest
Kelly Thevenet-Morrison, M.S. awarded Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher award
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Kelly Thevenet-Morrison, M.S., Lead Programmer Analyst in the Department of Public Health Sciences, awarded Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher award at the Opening Convocation for the School of Medicine & Dentistry on September 8, 2016.
Anna Bird Receives Two Awards
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Anna Bird has received the Elkes Foundation Scholarship ($1200 in travel funds to the Keystone Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden) and the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Trainee Abstract Award ($750 in travel funds for AAI Conference, Seattle 2016).
Automatic cortical representation of auditory pitch changes in Rett syndrome - John Foxe et al.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Over the typical course of Rett syndrome, initial language and communication abilities deteriorate dramatically between the ages of 1 and 4 years, and a majority of these children go on to lose all oral communication abilities. It becomes extremely difficult for clinicians and caretakers to accurately assess the level of preserved auditory functioning in these children, an issue of obvious clinical import. Non-invasive electrophysiological techniques allow for the interrogation of auditory cortical processing without the need for overt behavioral responses. In particular, the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the auditory evoked potential (AEP) provides an excellent and robust dependent measure of change detection and auditory sensory memory. Here, we asked whether females with Rett syndrome would produce the MMN to occasional changes in pitch in a regularly occurring stream of auditory tones.Read More: Automatic cortical representation of auditory pitch changes in Rett syndrome - John Foxe et al.
Hayley Martin, MD-PhD student in Epidemiology receives student scholarship
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Hayley Martin, MD-PhD student in Epidemiology received a student scholarship to attend the 2016 Family Medicine Education Consortium Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. This meeting is aimed at family medicine physicians, residents and medical students in the north east interested in "improving the health of the community by strengthening Family Medicine / Primary Care services and medical education.
Biochemistry & Biophysics Faculty Member and Photojournalist Barry Goldstein Covers Republican National Convention for The American Scholar
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Barry Goldstein is a photographer specializing in portraiture and documentary themes. Originally trained as a physician and biophysicist, he is Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Visiting Professor of Humanities at Williams College, and Adjunct Professor of Humanism in Medicine at the NYU Medical School. He was the first Artist-in-Residence at the New York University Medical School on September 11, 2001, an experience that led to his collection Being There: Medical Student Morgue Volunteers Following 9/11. His most recent book, Gray Land: Soldiers on War, is a collection of portraits of, and interviews with soldiers in Iraq and at home. He lectures and exhibits widely, and is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant in Photography.
Most recently, Barry provided coverage of the Republication National Convention for the American Scholar. His RNC work can be seen at The American Scholar and on his website.
Heilbronner and Yule Receive Awards at 2016 Convocation
Monday, August 29, 2016
Sarah R. Heilbronner, PhD, will receive the Postdoctoral Achievement Award at the 2016 Convocation, on September 8. She is currently a postdoc in Dr. Suzanne Haber's lab, where she is studying the neural circuitry associated with reward processing, decision-making, and executive function.
Along with the other members of Dr. Haber's team, Sarah is working to determine the anatomical connections that are affected by neurosurgical interventions for psychiatric disorders (such as deep brain stimulation).
Professor David I. Yule, Ph.D., will also receive the Faculty Teaching Award, specifically the Trainee Academic Mentoring Award in Basic Science, as well as the Louis C. Lasagna Endowed Professorship at convocation. The Yule Lab studies intracellular calcium signaling in cells which are typically, electrically non-excitable. In cells such as the liver, exocrine, pancreas, salivary glands and various cells in the blood, increases in intracellular calcium are fundamentally important for diverse processes including secretion of digestive enzymes and fluid, glucose metabolism together with cellular growth and differentiation.
Congrats Sarah and David!
Dr. Diana Fernandez assumes co-chair position of the Latino Health Coalition
Monday, August 15, 2016
Dr. Diana Fernandez, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences, is assuming the co-chair position of the Latino Health Coalition convened by the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency
Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Former Biophysics student, Blanton Tolbert (PhD 2006), mentored by Doug Turner & Ravi Basavappa, has been awarded the Morton L. Mandel endows award for outstanding chemistry faculty members at Case Western Reserve University.
Associate Professor Blanton S. Tolbert, whose work focuses closely on elucidating molecular details of the human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as HIV. A member of the Case Western Reserve faculty since 2012, Tolbert paired the honor with extraordinary achievements during the past academic year:
- A featured cover story in the Journal of Molecular Biology that described new three-dimensional structures of molecules in the life cycle of HIV
- A second article about HIV’s molecular structures, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that became the journal’s most-viewed RNA (Ribonucleic acid) paper in December 2015
- Multiple online mentions of the work, including the Nov. 16 Science Highlights of the Advanced Photon Source at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Library
- Service as director of the chemistry department’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation. In that role, Tolbert led efforts that identified and recruited a diverse group of students to work on federally sponsored projects. As part of the 10-week experience learning cutting-edge science, the students also participated in teambuilding and professional development activities. The work proved so successful that one undergraduate was cited as co-author on a publication from his summer project.
Congratulations Blanton!Read More: Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty
How a Stone Spearhead Found in a Whale Could Help Solve the Mystery of Cancer
Monday, August 8, 2016
Bowhead whales can live over 200 years, but there is no evidence of a bowhead ever having cancer. "The biggest questions are what are the extra protections that whales have against cancer," says Vera Gorbunova, the Doris Johns Cherry Professor in the Department of Biology. "We would really like to understand the mechanism."Read More: How a Stone Spearhead Found in a Whale Could Help Solve the Mystery of Cancer
Lin Honored as 'Brilliant New Investigator'
Thursday, August 4, 2016
University of Rochester Assistant Professor of Nursing Feng (Vankee) Lin, Ph.D., R.N. will be presented with the Brilliant New Investigator Award from the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science (CANS) at the organization’s 2016 State of the Science Congress on Nursing Research, Sept. 15-17 in Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes the contributions of scientists early in their research careers who show extraordinary potential to develop sustained programs of research certain to have significant impact on the science and practice of nursing and health care. Nominees must show a record of building research productivity in an area of major significance to nursing and health care, research dissemination and translation to practice and/or policy, and emerging leadership related to the advancement of nursing science.Read More: Lin Honored as 'Brilliant New Investigator'
Pasternak Research Paper to be Published in J. Neuroscience
Thursday, August 4, 2016
The paper "Prefrontal Neurons Represent Motion Signals from Across
the Visual Field but for Memory-Guided Comparisons
Depend on Neurons Providing these Signals" will be published in J. Neuroscience shortly.
Visual decisions often involve comparisons of sequential visual motion that can appear at any location in the visual field. We
show that during such comparisons, the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) contains accurate representation of visual motion
from across the visual field, supplied by motion processing neurons. However, at the time of comparison, LPFC neurons can
only use this information to compute the differences between the stimuli, if stimuli appear at the same retinal location,
implicating neurons with localized receptive fields in the comparison process. These findings show that sensory comparisons
rely on the interactions between LPFC and sensory neurons that not only supply sensory signals but also actively
participate in the comparison of these signals at the time of the decision.
Make sure to read the article when it comes out.
University of Rochester rising junior completes research project on infant feeding
Monday, August 1, 2016
Yareni Sime, a University of Rochester rising junior and Scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, was hosted this summer by Dr. Ann Dozier and her team that is studying infant feeding, health and safety. Ms. Sime's summer research project was entitled Suboptimal Infant Feeding Practices Among Hispanic/Latino Women in Monroe County.
Maquat Featured at Cornell-Ithaca Creativity Workshop
Saturday, July 30, 2016
J. Lowell Orbison Chair of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and of Oncology, Lynne Maquat, PhD, was a featured speaker at The Creativity Spark: a creativity workshop for scientists, a workshop put on by Cornell University, July 25.
The creativity workshop featured award winning scientists and scholars, including two Nobel Laureates, as they discussed the Creativity Spark and its role in science exploration.
Luebke and Bennetto Explore Hearing Test That May Identify Autism Risk
Monday, July 25, 2016
Researchers have identified an inner ear deficiency in children with Autism that may impact their ability to recognize speech. The findings, which were published in the journal Autism Research, could ultimately be used as a way to identify children at risk for the disorder at an early age.
“This study identifies a simple, safe, and non-invasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with Autism,” said Anne Luebke, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience and a co-author of the study. “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”
“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” said Loisa Bennetto, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology and a co-author of the study. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease. Early detection could help identify risk for ASD and enable clinicians to intervene earlier. Additionally, these findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process.”Read More: Luebke and Bennetto Explore Hearing Test That May Identify Autism Risk
McNair Summer Scholar Ashley Bui Talks Amygdala Circuits
Friday, July 22, 2016
Congratulations to Ashley Bui, a rising senior in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, on her presentation July 22, 2016. Her talk Projections from the Temporal Cortex to the Basal Nucleus of the Amygdala in the Macaque highlighted data from her summer project in our lab. The amygdala is required for computing which of the complex sensory stimuli that an individual encounters are emotionally meaningful, so that appropriate action can be taken. Ashley’s preliminary data shows that specific portions of the temporal cortex, which are critical for processing complex visual and auditory information, communicate with different regions of the amygdala. The results suggest that cortical areas that process complex visual information on 'what' and 'where' an object is (or is moving) are communicating with specific amygdala subregions. Thus, while determining the emotional importance of ‘what or who’ is important, biologic movements also likely influence amygdala activity and coding. We are happy that she will continue this work through the Fall semester.
NGP student plays with RPO
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Second year NGP student, Monique Mendes, had a unique opportunity to play alongside the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in their Side-by-Side Reading Session – a program that pairs amateur and professional musicians in a joint rehearsal and performance at Kodak Hall on July 21st.
Ryan Dawes defends thesis
Monday, July 18, 2016
Ryan Dawes successfully defended his thesis, "β-Adrenergic Receptor Signaling Constrains Breast Cancer Progression and
Modulates Tumor-Associated Exosome Content And Function" on July 18, 2016.
Congratulations Dr. Dawes!
Minsoo Kim Wins Dolph O. Adams Award
Friday, July 15, 2016
Congratulations to professor of Microbiology and Immunology and The Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology, Minsoo Kim, who has won the 2016 Dolph O. Adams Award. Dr. Kim will be accepting the award at the SLB Annual Meeting in September in Verona Italy!
This annual award is named in honor of the outstanding macrophage researcher Dolph O. Adams, M.D., Ph.D. The award is to recognize excellence of an investigator working in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms of host defense and inflammation.
Lisa A. DeLouise Receives Patent for Microfluidic Device
Friday, July 8, 2016
Lisa A. DeLouise, Ph.D., M.P.D., associate professor of Dermatology, Biomedical Engineering, Material Chemistry and Electrical and Computer Engineering and a member of the Environmental Health and Science Center, has received a patent for her microfluidic device and a method of manufacturing the device.
Research in the DeLouise Lab – funded by NYSTAR, NSF, DCFAR, CTSI and URVentures – has led to the development of a single cell screening technology platform based on microbubble well array. Single cell screening technologies can facilitate the discovery of rare cells.
DeLouise’s current work, in collaboration with James J. Kobie, Ph.D., assistant professor of Infectious Diseases, seeks to sort antigen-specific antibody-secreting B cells for the development of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and the detection of cancer stem cells that harbor genetic mutations that confer their tumor-initiating and drug-resistant properties.
Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller
Friday, July 8, 2016
The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. With our feature, FOJBI Friday, we're introducing some of these cool communicators of science in their own words. This week: Karl Smith.
I'm a fifth-year biophysics doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester, where I study porous ultrathin silicon membranes. At the moment I'm taking a brief break from my research to be an American Academy for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Fellow at the Manhattan office of Scientific American.
Importance of science communication
I love science communication because it's both hard and important. People need to be told what scientists have discovered and what it means for their lives, but to do that well requires balancing the storytelling needs of journalism against objectivity and sober contextualization. Also, I personally find scientists to be generally fascinating people to write about and hear from.
Along with my co-producer Madeline Sofia, I created The Bench Warmer's Podcast, which tells stories of misadventures and victories in science using interviews with current and former graduate students. I think the stories that don't often get told about science — the scoops, the failures, the dead ends, rewrites and rejections — are just as important to tell as the wild success stories. Not only that, but I think we short-sell our successes by not highlighting how rare they are. So, in the podcast, Maddie and I ask questions like "What's the most expensive thing you ever broke in lab?" and "Have you ever embarrassed yourself by dislocating your knee while singing karaoke onstage in front of hundreds of your scientific peers and possible future employers?"
I also write "10-cent stories" for children at the Rochester Museum and Science Center and at a few other places around Rochester. The children give me a prompt and in five minutes I use my typewriter to type them a tale. I've been doing this for about three years now, and I've written well over 800 stories. Sometimes the stories have a STEM bend to them, but sometimes they're just stories. I love this project for a lot of reasons, but most of all because it lets me make the world a stranger, more whimsical place.
I've only been at my fellowship for a few weeks, so I'm still deciding if I want to be a science journalist or if my plans lie elsewhere. This is a time of great flux for me, so I don't know yet where I'm heading. But I'm enjoying figuring it out.Read More: Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller
Rebecca Lowery Defends Thesis
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Rebecca Lowery has successfully defended her thesis, "The Role of Microglia and Fractalkine Signaling in Experience-dependent Synaptic Plasticity". Congratulate her when you see her.
Congratulations Dr. Lowery!
David Yule appointed Louis C. Lasagna Professor
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
David Yule, professor of pharmacology and physiology, has been appointed the Louis C. Lasagna Professor in Experimental Therapeutics for five years, effective July 1. He retains his joint appointments as professor of medicine and as professor in the Center for Oral Biology.
For the past 15 years, Yule has studied calcium’s role in disorders in which calcium signaling and secretions are disrupted, such as Sjögren’s syndrome—in which patients experience dry mouth due to a lack of saliva—and acute pancreatitis.
Using state-of-the art imaging and electrophysiological techniques, Yule’s lab monitors calcium signals to achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie these signals with the goal that the studies will give insight into the control of important physiological processes in both normal physiology and disease states.
Yule received his PhD in physiology from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. His research has been published in numerous journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Signaling, and the Journal of Physiology. Yule serves on the editorial board for Gastroenterology, the preeminent journal in the field of gastrointestinal disease.
The Lasagna professorship honors Louis Lasagna, who served as chair of the Department for Pharmacology from 1970 to 1983, and brought the department to national recognition as a center of training and research. Lasagna, who was known for pioneering the study of placebos and writing an alternative Hippocratic oath, died in 2003.
Read More: David Yule appointed Louis C. Lasagna Professor
URMC Team Revises Understanding of Genetic Code
Friday, July 1, 2016
Beth Grayhack, Ph.D., with lab
members and grad students
Christina Brule and Jiyu Wang
Scientists for years have known that the genetic code found in all living things contains many layers of complexity. But new research from the University of Rochester cracks the code more deeply, clarifying for example why some genes are inefficiently translated into proteins.
In a study published in the journal Cell, the researchers, co-led by Beth Grayhack, Ph.D., of the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry, discovered the existence and identity of 17 pairs of inefficient codons (DNA nucleotides or bases) within the genetic code.
Scientists have generally considered each piece of the genetic code (or codon) as a single “word” in a language. But the new data suggests some codon combinations act as compound words or phrases whose order and pairing has a significant impact on the translation of genes into proteins.
“Consider the words ‘pancake’ versus ‘cake pan,’ “ said Grayhack, an associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Pediatrics, and Cancer, in the Center for RNA Biology, at the UR Medical Center.Read More: URMC Team Revises Understanding of Genetic Code
The Sleep Hack Neuroscience Says Gives Your Brain Optimal Rest
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Sleep is critical for rest and rejuvenation. A human being will actually die of sleep deprivation before starvation--it takes about two weeks to starve, but only 10 days to die if you go without sleep.
The CDC has also classified insufficient sleep as a public health concern. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that include hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.
It's thus vital to get enough shuteye, but it turns out your sleep position also has a significant impact on the quality of rest you get.
Now, a neuroscience study suggests that of all sleep positions, one is most helpful when it comes to efficiently cleaning out waste from the brain: sleeping on your side.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to image the brain's "glymphatic pathway." This is the system by which cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain and swaps with interstitial fluid (the fluid around all other cells in the body).
"It is interesting that the lateral [side] sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals--even in the wild," said University of Rochester's Maiken Nedergaard. "It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake."Read More: The Sleep Hack Neuroscience Says Gives Your Brain Optimal Rest
6th Annual Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Symposium
Monday, June 27, 2016
Dr. Jack Kessler
In celebration of the NYSTEM-funded training program in stem cell biology at the University of Rochester, researchers convened for a day of presentations and discussions on advances in stem cell biology. To emphasize the excellence of our junior scientists, five NYSTEM trainees (both pre- and post-doctoral, took turns with leaders in the field of stem cell medicine to present their work. The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Jack Kessler, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) describing the factors controlling adult neural stem cell maintenance – a key determinant of cognitive health.
Dr. Kunle Odusi
Dr. Angela Christiano (center)
Dr. Kunle Odunsi (Roswell Park Cancer Institute) spoke in his role as director of the immune-therapy program on the importance of gene-engineered, tumor recognizing CD4 T-cells in anti-tumor therapy.
Dr. Angela Christiano (Columbia University) provided an impressive example of the power of iPSC technology with the development of 3D-skin tissue for treatment of such devastating skin diseases as epidermolysis bulbosa.
Presentations by NYSTEM trainees Fanju Meng (Biteau lab), Wenxuan Liu (Chakkalakal Lab), Michael Rudy (Mayer-Proschel Lab), Dr. Andrew Campbell (Proschel Labs), and Dr. Nicole Scott (Noble Lab) rounded out a day full of exciting new work that highlights the broad impact of stem cell biology on medicine today – and the success of the SCRMI training program. The meeting was buoyed by good vibes and food provided by the backdrop of the Rochester International Jazz Festival.
Congratulations To This Year’s Poster Prize Winners
Graduate Student Category
- Zhonghe Ke, High Levels of Niche Ha of the NMR Mediates the Maintenance of LT-HSC by reducing ROS Levels, Gorbunova Lab
- Jayme Olsen, Generation of Human Erythroblasts with Increased EX Vivo Self-Renewal, Palis Lab
- Michael Trembley, Novel Mechanisms of the Epicardial-Derived Cell Mobilization, Small Lab
- Pearl Quijada, Novel Mechanisms of Epicardium Dependent Cardiac Repair, Small Lab
Thank you to all participants for a great event. See you again in 2017!
Review: Giving Gene Editing Technology CRISPR-Cas9 a Boost
Thursday, June 23, 2016
A new gene editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 has taken the scientific world by storm. It allows researchers to quickly and easily make changes to the DNA of humans, animals and plants. The hope is that CRISPR-Cas9 may be used in the future to eliminate or correct faulty genes that cause disease.
In a recent issue of the journal Cell, Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D. and Maximilian W. Popp, Ph.D. of the University of Rochester Center for RNA Biology describe how scientists can make this technology more efficient. Understanding the principles of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), a cellular mechanism that Maquat discovered early in her career, will help anyone employing the technology achieve a better result – namely, a more complete knock out or deletion of a desired gene.
Read More: Review: Giving Gene Editing Technology CRISPR-Cas9 a Boost
Catherine Ovitt receives 2016 IADR Innovation in Oral Care Award
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Catherine Ovitt is one of this year’s three recipients of the 2016 IADR Innovation in Oral Care Awards. She accepted the award from IADR President Dr. Marc Heft at the IADR/APR General Session & Exhibition in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The three prestigious awards recognize research in innovative oral care technologies that may maintain and improve oral health, and are supported by GlaxoSmithKline.Read More: Catherine Ovitt receives 2016 IADR Innovation in Oral Care Award
Elissa Wong receives Neuman Scholarship Award
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Elissa Wong, a fifth year toxicology graduate student in Ania Majewska’s lab, received the Margaret and William F. Neuman Scholarship Award in Environmental Medicine for exemplary scholarship and citizenship. Dr. William Neuman was the chair of the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics for many years and helped to create the Toxicology Training Program and the Environmental Health Science Center. Dr. Margaret Neuman received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester. Later, working here, she researched the effects of uranium on bone biochemistry, and was an expert on the regulation of bone minerals.
The criteria for receiving this are as follows: 1) scholarship, 2) scientific excellence, 3) productivity, and 4) exceptional citizenship to the field of toxicology.
Claire McCarthy Wins Travel Award
Monday, June 13, 2016
Congratulations to Claire McCarthy, the newest recipient of the Medical Faculty Council UR-SMD Trainee/Student Travel Award for Spring 2016.
Clara Kielkopf Receives EvansMDS Discovery Research Grant
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Biochemistry & Biophysics Associate Professor, Clara Kielkopf's project, entitled, Structural mechanisms and targeting of MOS-relevant pre-mRNA splicing factors has been selected by EvansMDS for funding for 2016. This year EvansMDS requested 12 full DRG proposals and were able to fund 6 of them. Their hope is that these findings will translate into improvements in therapy that can be delivered to MDS patients.
The Kielkopf lab investigates splicing defects in hematologic malignancies; roles of human pre-mRNA splicing factors in HIV-1 infectivity; development of engineered splicing factors for correction of splicing defects and splice sites and their associated proteins as therapeutic targets.
Mallory Scott Selected for Summer Internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals
Friday, June 10, 2016
Mallory Scott, Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology PhD student, in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Kammermeier, has been selected for a summer internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Whippany, NJ in Global Regulatory Affairs. Mallory will gain valuable work experience in the healthcare industry while working with regulatory professionals on various projects to learn about the role of regulatory affairs in drug development and product registration as well as the regulatory landscape. Mallory will be working in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) division. Her project is focused on quality by design in continuous manufacturing.
Swapping Sick for Healthy Brain Cells Slows Huntington’s Disease
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Researchers have successfully reduced the symptoms and slowed the progression of Huntington’s disease in mice using healthy human brain cells. The findings, which were published today in the journal Nature Communications, could ultimately point to a new method to treat the disease.
The research entailed implanting the animals with human glia cells derived from stem cells. One of the roles of glia, an important support cell found in the brain, is to tend to the health of neurons and the study’s findings show that replacing sick mouse glia with healthy human cells blunted the progress of the disease and rescued nerve cells at risk of death.
“The role that glia cells play in the progression of Huntington’s disease has never really been explored,” said Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “This study shows that these cells are not only important actors in the disease, but may also hold the key to new treatment strategies.” Read More: Swapping Sick for Healthy Brain Cells Slows Huntington’s Disease
Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Epigenetics is a popular, yet still mysterious concept in health and medicine. It’s the study of a variety of biological processes that alter the expression of our genes. Sometimes this involves modifying the structure of our chromosomes to mask or unmask genes, and other times the actual genetic code is changed in certain cells. Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., a longtime professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has studied epigenetics in a research focus known as RNA and DNA editing since it was introduced two decades ago. He was invited to write a commentary on the progress and future of this research, published today in Trends in Biochemical Sciences, and answers a few questions about the subject.Read More: Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing
Post-doctoral Fellow wins the 2016 Weiss Toxicology Scholar Award
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Dr. Luisa Caetano-Davies (Biomedical Genetics) was the postdoctoral winner of the third annual Weiss Toxicology Award. The award was created to strengthen training and research in the Toxicology Training Program by enhancing support of talented future leaders in the field of toxicology, particularly those with an interest in neurotoxicology. The award is presented annually to a meritorious trainee with an interest in Neurotoxicology. Dr. Caetano-Davies is member of the Proschel lab and is studying the effects of environmental toxicants on early stages of Parkinson Disease pathology, in particular with a focus on astrocyte dysfunction. Carolyn Klocke (Cory-Schlechta Lab) was the winner of the graduate student category. Congratulations!
2016 Graduating Class
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
We had 22 total graduates this year: 1 Epidemiology PHD, 17 Masters’ in Public Health, 3 Masters’ in Clinical Investigation and 1 Masters in Health Services Research and Policy. Congratulations to all of our graduates!Read More: 2016 Graduating Class
Dr. Michael Nussenzweig Gives Melville A. Hare Lecture
Monday, May 30, 2016
Michael Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D. gave the Melville Hare Memorial Lecture on May 12. The lecture, "The HIV Vaccine Problem" was organized by the students of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and co-sponsored by the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research.
GDSC Graduate Nirmalya Chatterjee reports a novel role of Bet proteins in the control of the oxidative stress response pathway.
Friday, May 27, 2016
Bet proteins are a subclass of bromodomain containing epigenetic “readers”. These proteins have complex and incompletely understood functions in the control of gene expression and chromatin organization. The human Bet proteins Brd3 and Brd4 have been implicated in cancer and thanks to the availability of specific inhibitors, have emerged as promising drug targets. The paper by Nirmalya Chatterjee, Min Tian and others describes experiments in Drosophila that discovered a novel function for Bet proteins: the regulation of the transcription factor Nrf2. The reported data show that a Drosophila Bet protein is part of a previously unknown pathway that can control Nrf2 activity. This is of interest as Nrf2 plays a prominent role in the defense against oxidative stress, protection against various diseases, and aging. Nirmalya Chatterjee, a recent member of the Bohmann Lab, received the PhD last September and is currently working as a postdoc in the group of Norbert Perrimon at Harvard Medical School.
Nirmalya Chatterjee2, Min Tian3, M., Kerstin Spirohn, Michael Boutros & Dirk Bohmann (2016) Keap1-Independent Regulation of Nrf2 Activity by Protein Acetylation and a BET Bromodomain Protein, PLoS Genetics, will go to press 5/27/2016. PMID: 27233051
Congratulations to all of our Retreat awards winners
Thursday, May 26, 2016
The Toxicology program would like to congratulate the following on their 2016 Retreat awards:
- Elissa Wong won the William F. and Margaret W. Neuman Award for exemplary scholarship and citizenship in the Toxicology Training Program
- Amanda Croasdell won the (student) Robert F. Infurna Award for publishing the best research paper in toxicology (this award was started in 1998)
- Lisbeth Boule won the (postdoc) Robert F. Infurna Award for publishing the best research paper in toxicology (this award was started in 1998)
- Carolyn Klocke won the (student) Weiss Toxicology Scholar Award
- Luisa Caetano-Davies won the (Postdoc) Weiss Toxicology Scholar Award
Luisa Caetano-Davies wins “Best Oral Presentation” Award.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Luisa, a post-doctoral fellow in the Proschel Lab
, received the award for her presentation on “Astrocyte dysfunction in Parkinson Disease” at the 2016 Environmental Medicine and Toxicology Training Program retreat. Her presentation described the use of both iPSC-based disease-in-a-dish and in vivo animal models to identify early astrocyte defects in PD disease etiology. Congratulations, Luisa!
Congratulations Karl Smith, AAAS Mass Media Fellowship Recipient
Monday, May 23, 2016
Karl Smith, 5th year graduate student in the Biophysics Structural and Computational Biology PhD program, laboratory of Dr. Jim McGrath, has received an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Mass Media Fellowship. Karl, sponsored by the American Physical Society, will be spending 10 weeks this summer working at Scientific American in their Manhattan offices as part of his fellowship.
Since its inception, the AAAS Fellowship Program has supported more than 625 student scientists, engineers and medical professionals who, in some cases, produced the only original science-news reporting at their assigned media outlets over the summer. The current 15 fellows, selected from a pool of 130 outstanding applicants, are likely to generate between 200 and 300 original science stories for print articles, blogs, podcasts, radio segments, and multimedia features.
Past participants in the Mass Media Fellows program include Mark Dumont, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who received the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship in 1975, the second year that it was in existence. Over that summer, he wrote 26 news articles for the San Diego Union.
Other recipients include Erica Goode and Kenneth Chang of the New York Times; Richard Harris, David Kestenbaum, and Joe Palca of NPR; renowned biologist Eric Lander, co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; physician and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Executive Producer Neal Baer; Victoria Bruce, author of No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz; and many others. - from AAAS's website.
GDSC Student Xuan Li publishes on the role of Cdk12 in response to stress.
Monday, May 23, 2016
The phosphorylation of RNA polymerase II in the C-terminal domain, or CTD, is an essential step for the transcription of all eukaryotic protein coding genes. The paper be Xuan Li and colleagues describes the unexpected discovery that a certain CTD kinase, called CDK12, is not universally required, but is only needed for the transcription of genes that are inducible by stress, such as heat, DNA damage or reactive oxygen species. This finding suggests that CTD phosphorylation plays a role in the regulation of specific gene expression programs, rather than being a generic step of transcription. This work involved a large-scale robotic RNAi screen in collaboration with the Boutros lab in Heidelberg, as well as genetic and biochemical experiments in the Drosophila model system. Xuan Li, a graduate student in the Bohmann Lab is currently doing an internship at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Boston and will defend her PhD in November.
Xuan Li1, Nirmalya Chatterjee2,, Kerstin Spirohn, Michael Boutros & Dirk Bohmann (2016) Cdk12 Is A Gene-Selective RNA Polymerase II Kinase That Regulates a Subset of the Transcriptome, Including Nrf2 Target Genes. Scientific Reports, 6:21455. PMID: 26911346
Proposal by Amy Kiernan Receives University Research Award
Monday, May 23, 2016
A collaborative project involving Associate Professor Amy Kiernan of the Flaum Eye Institute has been chosen as one of the 2016-17 University Research Awards. One of just eight applications chosen by senior research leadership, the proposal entitled, "Understanding cell turnover and injury recovery in the corneal endothelium” will be funded $75.000 annually.
Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
A new study shows that repeated radiation therapy used to target tumors in the brain may not be as safe to healthy brain cells as previously assumed. The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, show that the treatment also kills important support cells in the brain and may cause as much, if not more damage, than single dose radiation therapy.
“This study suggests that conventional repeated radiation treatments offer no significant benefit to brain tumor patients,” said Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “It also shows that certain cell populations in the brain are vulnerable to radiation and this may help explain why so many brain cancer patients experience cognitive problems after treatment.” Read More: Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells
Karl Smith places third in University’s Falling Walls Competition
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Karl Smith, a PhD student in Biophysics and a member of the lab of James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, won third place in the University of Rochester’s Falling Walls Competition for describing his use of physics to make water behind a filter form a mixer vortex, reducing the difficulty of normal stirring when fluids stick to surfaces. A total of 19 presenters competed.
The competition is associated with the Falling Walls foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters discussions on research and innovation and promotes the latest scientific findings to society. The Rochester winner’s idea will compete with others from around the world at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in November in Berlin. This event selects the participants for the annual Falling Walls Conference the following day: an international forum for science and innovation to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speakers at the conference have included Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse; and young inventors from around the world. BBC London said it was where the “brightest minds on the planet” meet.
Last year’s Falling Walls Lab Rochester winner, Ryan Trombetta, a BME PhD student in Dr. Awad’s lab, finished 12th (out off a 100 finalists worldwide) in the Berlin competition for his description of using 3D printed bone grafts to treat osteomyelitis. See his presentation here.
From left to right, Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.
Cindy (Xiaowen) Wang in the Noble Lab wins 2016 GSS Poster Prize
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Cindy (Xiaowen) Wang in the Noble Lab wins 2016 GSS Poster Prize with her work on:
Identifying c-Cbl as a critical point of intervention in acquired tamoxifen resistant breast cancer.
(Co-authors Jennifer L Stripay, Hsing-Yu Chen and Mark D Noble).
Garry Coles wins 2016 Vincent du Vigneaud Award For Excellence in Graduate Research
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Garry Coles, graduate of the Genetics, Development and Stem Cell program received this years du Vigneaud commencement award. The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry recognizes outstanding post-baccalaureate research efforts and promising PhD candidates through the Vincent du Vigneaud Award, in honor of Vincent du Vigneaud, himself a PhD graduate of the University of Rochester and recipient of the 1955 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Gary's PhD thesis, entitled "KIF7 and microtubule dynamics function to regulate cellular proliferation and cell cycle progression" focuses on deciphering the role of Kinesin family member 7 (Kif7) on cell cycle control during mammalian development. The work was conducted in Dr. Kate Ackerman's laboratory and has been published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), PLoS Genetics and Developmental Biology.
Dr. Wellington Cardoso, Director for the Center for Human Development at Columbia University Medical Center, comments: "I have been closely following the work of Dr. Coles and his mentor Dr. Kate Ackerman, since we share a similar research interest. Dr. Coles has made important contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms regulating diaphragm and lung morphogenesis… I am confident that he will continue to make great contributions to the field in his future career."
This outlook is also shared by Dr. Hartmut Land, Chair of the Department for Biomedical Genetics and Director of Research at the Wilmot Cancer Center: "Garry is an incredibly driven and inquisitive scientist, and he has a fabulous enthusiasm for his work…(He) has grown tremendously during his time in graduate school. His maturity and independence are ahead of the curve for most post-doctoral fellows." Dr. Land concludes, "Given (Garry's) exceptional talent to make things work, his curiosity and great persistence, I am certain that he will contribute significantly to any scientific environment... (and)… become a leader in his field".
Class of 2014 Prelim season begins
Thursday, May 12, 2016
On Friday, May 6th, Andrew Albee opened the 2016 season of Prelim Exams. According to his committee, Andrew passed his qualifying exam with flying colors, and the committee looks forward to the outcome of his work. His studies on the function of Lmx Homeobox transcription factors in early somatic progenitors of the Drosophila ovary are also the basis of an F31 application submitted in February of this year. Congratulations, Andrew!
28th Annual Genetics Day Meeting
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Dr. Michael Levine
This year's Genetics Day provided another opportunity to celebrate the impact of Genetics on science and medicine. An excellent selection of speakers from the University of Rochester Medical Center highlighted the importance of diverse genetic mechanisms ranging from chromatin remodeling in erythropoesis (Laurie Steiner) and DNA damage repair (Xi Bin) to translational control by riboswitches (Joe Wedekind) and di-codon usage (Elizbeth Grayhack). Genetics Day concluded with the Fred Sherman lecture by Dr. Michael Levine (Princeton University). His presentation on visualizing the mechanisms of transcriptional enhancers was equally entertaining and insightful. Originally from the Hollywood area, and by his own admission a closet movie producer, Dr. Levine wowed audiences with in vivo movies of enhancer reporters, shedding new light on what we all thought was an established principle of molecular genetics.
Manisha Taya – Hammes Lab
The Role of Estrogen Signaling in a Mouse Model for Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (Lam)
Sam Carrell – Thornton Lab
Silencing of Myotonic Dystrophy Protein Kinase (Dmpk) Does Not Affect Cardiac or Muscle Function In Mice
Walter Knight – Yan Lab
The Role and Mechanism of Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterase 1c in Regulating Pathological Cardiac Remodeling and Dysfunction
Vincent Martinson - Jaenike lab
Gut Microbiota of Distantly Related Drosophila Species Share Similar Bacterial Diversity
Genetics Day has been a long standing tradition at the University of Rochester And more recently includes the Fred Sherman lecture in memory of Fred Sherman a renowned biochemist and geneticist, who led international efforts to establish the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the premier genetic eukaryotic model system. The lecture is made possible by a generous fund endowed by Fred Sherman's wife, Elena Rustchenko-Bulgac, herself a research professor at the URMC.
When the Physical World is Unreliable: Study Finds Visual and Tactile Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
A new study out today in the journal Translational Psychiatry sheds further light on the idea that schizophrenia is a sensory disorder and that individuals with the condition are impaired in their ability to process stimuli from the outside world. The findings may also point to a new way to identify the disease at an early stage and before symptoms become acute.
Because one of the hallmarks of the disease is auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, researchers have long suspected a link between auditory processing and schizophrenia. The new study provides evidence that the filtering of incoming visual information, and also of simple touch inputs, is also severely compromised in individuals with the condition.
“When we think about schizophrenia, the first things that come to mind are the paranoia, the delusions, the disorganized thinking,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., the chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neuroscience and senior author of the study. “But there is increasing evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way these patients hear, the way they feel things through their sense of touch, and in the way in which they see the environment.”Read More: When the Physical World is Unreliable: Study Finds Visual and Tactile Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia
Denise Skrombolas Receives Award
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Dr. Denise Skrombolas was awarded the Rochester Vaccine Fellowship created by a donation from Dr. Michael Pichichero in honor of Dr. Porter Anderson one of the pioneers in the Hib vaccine.
Jennifer Judge Wins the University of Rochester’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Jennifer Judge presenting at the 3MT competition
Jennifer Judge, a Toxicology graduate student in the Sime Lab, has won the Judge's Vote and People's Choice Award at the University of Rochester’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The event was held today in the Class of ’62 auditorium, as 8 finalists delivered their research in only three minutes.
The judges will picked a winner ($1,000 in travel funds), then the students voted for whom they thought should receive the
People’s Choice award ($500 in travel funds!). Congrats to Jennifer for winning both!
SA Government names Professors of the Year
Monday, May 2, 2016
Join us in congratulating Laurel for being selected as one of 4 Professors of the year from a extraordinary field of 63 candidates.
Laurel Carney, professor of biomedical engineering, won in the Engineering field. Her research focuses on the complex network of auditory nerve fibers that transmit the inner ear’s electrical signals to the brain with the goal of better hearing aids.
Carney earned her M.S. and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University and professor of biomedical engineering at Syracuse University before joining the Rochester faulty in 2007. She serves as professor in three departments – biomedical engineering, neurobiology and anatomy, and electrical and computer engineering.Read More: SA Government names Professors of the Year
Elissa Wong Awarded Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from NIAAA
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Elissa Wong, a 4th year Toxicology Graduate Program student in Dr. Ania Majewska's lab received a perfect 10 review score and was awarded an NIH (NRSA) Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the NIAAA. The title of her project is: Synaptic plasticity and microglial-synapse interactions after developmental alcohol exposure (2016-2018).
NGP Graduate Alum, Grayson Sipe, Wins Doty Thesis Award
Friday, April 29, 2016
Grayson Sipe, recent doctoral graduate from the Majewska lab, received the Robert Doty prize for the 2016 outstanding dissertation in neuroscience. The Doty prize is named in the honor of longtime faculty member Robert Doty, who made great contributions to neuroscience research at the University of Rochester and nationally. It is awarded on the basis of the impact and importance of research, novelty of experimental design, independence and creativity of the student and research implications and relevance for neuroscience. Grayson’s thesis entitled “The Role of P2Y12 in non-pathological microglial functions during synaptic plasticity”, which he successfully defended on February 19th, 2016, embodied all these characteristics. Grayson has now moved to his postdoctoral position with Dr. Mriganka Sur at MIT. Dr. Peter Shrager presented Grayson the prize at the annual neuroscience retreat on Friday, April 29th.
Subtle Chemical Changes in Brain Can Alter Sleep-Wake Cycle
Friday, April 29, 2016
A study out today in the journal Science sheds new light on the biological mechanisms that control the sleep-wake cycle. Specifically, it shows that a simple shift in the balance of chemicals found in the fluid that bathes and surrounds brain cells can alter the state of consciousness of animals.
The study, which focuses on a collection of ions that reside in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), found that not only do these changes play a key role in stimulating or dampening the activity of nerve cells, but they also appear to alter cell volume causing brain cells to shrink while we sleep, a process that facilitates the removal of waste.
“Understanding what drives arousal is essential to deciphering consciousness and the lack thereof during sleep,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study. “We found that the transition from wakefulness to sleep is accompanied by a marked and sustained change in the concentration of key extracellular ions and the volume of the extracellular space.”
The current scientific consensus is that the brain is “woken up” by a set of neurotransmitters – which include compounds such as acetylcholine, hypocretin, histamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine – that originate from structures deep within the brain and the brain stem. This cocktail of chemical messengers serve to activate – or arouse – a set of neurons in the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and learning, placing the brain in a state of wakefulness.Read More: Subtle Chemical Changes in Brain Can Alter Sleep-Wake Cycle
Heather Natola Wins 2016 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Thursday, April 28, 2016
We are proud to announce that Heather Natola has been selected to receive the 2016 Edward Peck Curtis Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Ms. Natola received high praise from her students, faculty in the Department of Biomedical Genetics and Rochester Museum and Science Center.
Ms. Natola is a graduate student researcher in the Pröschel Lab, where she investigates new therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injury as part of the UR Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute.
"Ms. Natola was particularly instrumental in providing students with in-depth and detailed training, which had a significant positive impact on the student’s engagement and learning"
-Hartmut Land, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Biomedical Genetics
"Despite her ambitious and demanding research work, Heather has volunteered for all of these teaching activities. Clearly she has not only become an ambassador for science as a whole, but has helped fulfill the mission of our school. What more can we ask of a graduate student?"
Christoph Proschel, Ph.D., Program Director - Genetics Development & Stem Cells Ph.D. Program
Heather is enthusiastic and committed to promoting interest in science and an attitude of life-long learning
-Kara Verno, Program Supervisor - Rochester Museum and Science Center
Community Talk on Zika Virus Features Infectious Disease Expert from Brazil
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
As the warm summer season approaches, the possibility of a Zika outbreak in the United States looms large. The greatest concern is for women of childbearing age, as studies continue to link exposure to the virus in pregnancy to serious birth defects like microcephaly, hearing loss and blindness.
Esper Kallas, M.D., Ph.D., an infectious diseases specialist and professor of Medicine at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil will speak about Zika virus on Monday, May 9 at 7:30 pm in the Eisenhart Auditorium at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The event is free and open to the public. Kallas will be joined by a panel of experts from the University of Rochester Medical Center:Read More: Community Talk on Zika Virus Features Infectious Disease Expert from Brazil
Congratulations to NGP student Aleta Steevens
Friday, April 8, 2016
Aleta Stevens, an NGP student in Dr. Amy Kiernan's lab, secured a 3-year NIH Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship, F31 entitled, "Elucidating the role of SOX2 in inner ear development."
Excellent work Aleta!
Harold Smith Inducted into Royal Society of Biology
Friday, April 8, 2016
Dr. Harold Smith, Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics has been inducted into the Royal Society of Biology.
A long time member of the department, Dr. Smith's primary interest is understanding the composition, regulation and structure of macromolecular complexes involved in regulating gene expression at the level of messenger RNA expression and processing. The lab's focus is on a platform of enzymes that change the genetic code at the DNA or RNA level by deaminating cytidine to form uridine. Current data suggest that this family of cytidine deaminase function with other proteins (auxiliary proteins) as holoenzymes complexes which we refer to as editosomes (for RNA) or mutasomes (for DNA). RNA editing or DNA mutational activity by these enzymes affect the protein coding capacity of mRNAs and thereby can diversify the proteins that are expressed by cells (the proteome). Please visit the Smith Lab for more information. Dr. Smith has a 30 year track record of teaching and mentoring graduate students, medical students and undergraduates at the University of Rochester and has lead curriculum design and reform for these programs.
The Royal Society of Biology (RSB), previously called the Society of Biology, is a learned society in the United Kingdom created to advance the interests of biology in academia, industry, education, and research. Formed in 2009 by the merger of the Biosciences Federation and the Institute of Biology, the society has around 16,000 individual members, and over 100 member organizations. In addition to engaging the public on matters related to the life sciences, the society seeks to develop the profession and to guide the development of related policies.
Neuroscience Graduate Students Win Award for Teaching
Friday, April 8, 2016
Neuroscience Graduate Program students, Aleta Steevens (Dr. Amy Kiernan lab) and Heather Natola (Dr. Chris Pröschel lab) were awarded the 2016 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence for Graduate Student Teaching.
Only a handful of these are awarded each year, and all this year's nominees were extremely well-qualified.
Congratulations to both!!!
Christina Cloninger Defends Thesis
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Congratulations Dr. Cloninger on successfully defending your thesis!!
“Honeycomb” of Nanotubes Could Boost Genetic Engineering
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Electron microscope image of animal cells (colored blue) cultured on an array of carbon nanotubes
Researchers have developed a new and highly efficient method for gene transfer. The technique, which involves culturing and transfecting cells with genetic material on an array of carbon nanotubes, appears to overcome the limitations of other gene editing technologies.
The device, which is described in a study published today in the journal Small, is the product of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
“This platform holds the potential to make the gene transfer process more robust and decrease toxic effects, while increasing amount and diversity of genetic cargo we can deliver into cells,” said Ian Dickerson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the URMC and co-author of the paper.Read More: “Honeycomb” of Nanotubes Could Boost Genetic Engineering
Study: The Science behind Bodily Secretions
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The salivary gland secretes saliva that helps us chew and swallow the food we eat. The pancreas secretes digestive juices that enable our bodies to break down the fat, protein, and carbohydrates in the food. Secretions like these are important in countless activities that keep our bodies running day and night. A study published today in the journal Science Signaling uncovers a previously mysterious process that makes these secretions possible.
At the heart of the new study is calcium, which is present in all of our cells and is a gatekeeper of sorts: an increase in calcium in our cells opens up “gates” or “channels” that are required for the production and secretion of fluids like saliva. If calcium doesn’t increase inside cells the gates won’t open, a problem that occurs in diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s patients experience dry mouth due to a lack of saliva and have difficulty chewing, swallowing, and speaking, which severely hampers quality of life.
For the past 15 years David I. Yule, Ph.D., professor in the department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has studied calcium’s role in Sjögren’s and other disorders in which calcium and secretions are disrupted, like acute pancreatitis. In the new study he answers an important question that has stumped scientists for years: what does it take for a particularly important calcium channel to open and start these processes?Read More: Study: The Science behind Bodily Secretions
Professor Harold Smith to Organize Meeting on Drug Discovery
Thursday, March 31, 2016
The Clinical Science and Drug Discovery Conference had its inaugural meeting in 2015 in Baltimore, MD where Dr. Smith was asked to serve as a Keynote Speaker (and judge for poster sessions). The organizers of that meeting nominated him to organize this years meeting in Dundee, Scotland along with Drs. Ian Catchpole from GlaxoSmithKline in the UK and Nikolai Zhelev, professor at Abertay University, the hosting institution. The meeting will be held July 27-29. Dr. Smith will also deliver a keynote lecture at this meeting and chair a special topics session that he is bringing together on 'Host Cell Factors as Therapeutic Targets'. For more information, please visit the Drug Discovery Summit site, see also the CSDD Brochure.
Q&A: Biologist earns raves for work with yeast
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
David Goldfarb, professor of biology and biochemistry, researches yeast as a model organism for understanding the aging process in humans. Goldfarb joined the Rochester faculty in 1988, five years after earning his PhD in biochemistry at the University of California, Davis, and completing postdoctoral work at Stanford University.
Goldfarb holds four patents and has been recognized with more than a dozen honors, including the Johnson & Johnson “Focused Giving Program” Award, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Distinguished Member Award, and the March of Dimes Health Leadership Award in Education.Read More: Q&A: Biologist earns raves for work with yeast
Early Wiring of Brain's “Fear” Centers Could Produce Long-term Consequences
Monday, March 21, 2016
New research shows that our brains may be hardwired to become sensitive to stressful environments at an early age and, if overstimulated, this may contribute to anxiety disorders and even psychotic syndromes later in life.
The study, which appears in the journal Brain Structure and Function, focuses on two structures deep in the brain. The central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) is thought to be involved in responses to immediate threats and stimulus, such as becoming startled or freezing in reaction to a loud noise. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) is thought to be involved in regulating a person’s state of vigilance, such as determining whether or not an environment or a situation poses a potential threat. Animal and human studies show that when the BST is activated by a threatening situation, we tend to slow down, become quieter, and stress hormones spike.
While Ce and BST reside in different parts of the brain, the two areas are hardwired to each other by axonal tracts – basically, bundles of long distance axon fibers that enable the separate regions to communicate with each other. However, until now it has not been clear when these connections form or the way in which they interact with each other.
In the study published today, a team of researchers led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the Department of Neuroscience observed that these connections are made at a very early stage of development in non-human primates. They also found that the direction of the connection is essentially a one way street. The Ce – or immediate fear signaling center – conveys information to the BST, the structure that mediates general threat sensing or anxiety states. This arrangement suggests that repeated activation of the Ce by immediately fearful or traumatic events may shape long-term anxiety states in the BST.Read More: Early Wiring of Brain's “Fear” Centers Could Produce Long-term Consequences
Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Bacterial Lung Infections Associated with COPD
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Compounds derived from omega-3 fatty acids – like those found in salmon – might be the key to helping the body combat lung infections, according to researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
The omega-3 derivatives were effective at clearing a type of bacteria called Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi), which often plagues people with inflammatory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD, which is most often caused by years of smoking, is characterized by inflammation and excessive mucus in the lungs that blocks airflow. Quitting can slow the progress of COPD, but it doesn’t halt the disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the most common treatment, however they suppress the immune system, which can put people with COPD at risk for secondary infections, most commonly NTHi bacterial infections.
“Our biggest concern with patients who have COPD is bacterial infections, which often put their lives at risk,” says Richard Phipps, Ph.D. professor of Environmental Medicine and director of the URSMD Lung Biology and Disease Program. “If we can figure out how to predict who is likely to get an infection, physicians could put them on a preventative medication.”
In his recent study, which was featured in the top ten percent of the March 15 issue of The Journal of Immunology, Phipps and lead author, Amanda Croasdell, a graduate student in the Toxicology program, tested the effectiveness of an inhalable omega-3 derivative to prevent NTHi lung infections in mice.Read More: Omega 3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Bacterial Lung Infections Associated with COPD
The Brain’s Gardeners: Immune Cells ‘Prune’ Connections Between Neurons
Monday, March 7, 2016
Microglia (green) with purple representing the P2Y12 receptor which the study shows is a critical regulator in the process of pruning connections between nerve cells.
A new study out today in the journal Nature Communications shows that cells normally associated with protecting the brain from infection and injury also play an important role in rewiring the connections between nerve cells. While this discovery sheds new light on the mechanics of neuroplasticity, it could also help explain diseases like autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, which may arise when this process breaks down and connections between brain cells are not formed or removed correctly.
“We have long considered the reorganization of the brain’s network of connections as solely the domain of neurons,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and senior author of the study. “These findings show that a precisely choreographed interaction between multiple cells types is necessary to carry out the formation and destruction of connections that allow proper signaling in the brain.”
The study is another example of a dramatic shift in scientists’ understanding of the role that the immune system, specifically cells called microglia, plays in maintaining brain function. Microglia have been long understood to be the sentinels of the central nervous system, patrolling the brain and spinal cord and springing into action to stamp out infections or gobble up dead cell tissue. However, scientists are now beginning to appreciate that, in addition to serving as the brain’s first line of defense, these cells also have a nurturing side, particularly as it relates to the connections between neurons.Read More: The Brain’s Gardeners: Immune Cells ‘Prune’ Connections Between Neurons
The Future of Photonics
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
As hundreds of millions of dollar pour into Rochester to establish the nation's first Photonics Hub, Mark Gruba has a closer look at the technology in a News 8 special report, "The Future of Photonics."
Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling and detecting photons, which are particles of light. A display at the Rochester Museum & Science Center houses examples of its many applications. In one, a transmitter converts an audio signal from electrical pulses into light pulses. The laser beam sends that information to the receiver, which converts the light pulses back to electrical pulses and sends them to the speaker for your listening enjoyment.
"We work on optical bio sensors," said Dr. Ben Miller, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He's creating a sensor that can detect the presence of hundreds of viruses from a single blood sample, in real time. "We're working to make devices so that you can immediately get that information in the doctor's office," said Dr. Miller.Read More: The Future of Photonics
Hope, Hype, and Wishful Thinking
Monday, February 22, 2016
In a perspective piece appearing in the journal Cell Stem Cell, URMC neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lays out the current state of affairs with respect to stem cell medicine and how close we are to new therapies for neurological disorders.
The dawn of stem cell medicine some 25 years ago was greeted with great enthusiasm, particularly by scientists who study diseases in the central nervous system (CNS). Many of the diseases found in the brain and spinal cord are degenerative in nature; meaning that over time populations of cells are lost due to genetic factors, infection, or injury. Because stem cell medicine holds the potential to repair or replace damaged or destroyed cells, scientists have considered these diseases as promising candidates for new therapies.
However, as with other emerging fields of medicine, the race to cures has turned out to be more of marathon than a sprint. While scientists have become very adept at manipulating stem and progenitor cells and understanding the complex choreography of genetic and chemical signals that instruct these cells to divide, differentiate, and proliferate, researchers are still grappling with the challenges of how to integrate new cells into the complex network of connections that comprise the human brain.
Goldman, co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine, takes a sweeping view of where we stand and which CNS diseases may or may not ultimately benefit from future stem cell-based therapies.Read More: Hope, Hype, and Wishful Thinking
Congratulations Dr. Sipe!
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Make sure you congratulate Grayson Sipe on defending his thesis.
Way to go Grayson!
Richard Aslin's Rochester Baby Lab Shows
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Amelia Smith sits on the floor of a newly remodeled wing of the University of Rochester's department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The 8-month old wears a headband of cottony roses, and tiny bubbles form in the corner of her mouth. She's completely entranced by the commotion around her.
Though few adults in the room can resist oohing and aww-ing, little Amelia is not there to be fawned over. She's there to work. Researchers at the UR's Baby Lab want to know what she's thinking, what she's learned so far in her young life, and how she learned it.
But there's a problem: Amelia can't talk yet.
The work being investigated in Richard Aslin's Baby Lab was written up in the City Newspaper article "Signs of Intelligent Life".Read More: Richard Aslin's Rochester Baby Lab Shows
Tracking Melanoma Metastasis Leads to Key Gene Discovery
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
A Wilmot Cancer Institute investigator discovered a gene that’s required for the initiation of melanoma and the growth of disseminated melanoma cancer cells in the lungs.
The findings suggest that the gene’s signaling pathway may be proof that melanoma stem cells exist, a question that’s being debated by scientists.
Lei Xu, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is lead author of the study, which was recently published in PLOS ONE and funded by a Wilmot Cancer Institute pilot grant. The Xu lab investigates the multiple, complex steps that occur as cancer cells spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body.
Read More: Tracking Melanoma Metastasis Leads to Key Gene Discovery
Report Recommends More Treatment, Research, for Gulf War Vets
Monday, February 15, 2016
The cause of Gulf War illness is still a mystery but focusing on treatments and interventions might help the veterans of Operation Desert Storm as well as the troops of the future, according to an Institute of Medicine committee report led by University of Rochester Medical Center Professor Deborah Cory-Slechta.
In 1990 and ’91 nearly 700,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region for a short, intense war. Few injuries or deaths occurred, but troops were exposed to chemical and biological weapons, vaccines, oil-fires, air pollution, bomb blasts, pesticides, extreme desert temperatures, and constant false alarms and fear of nerve-gas attacks.
After the war ended a high number of the veterans reported debilitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and cognitive problems. This became known as “Gulf War illness.” During the past 25 years, 10 different committees of the nation’s top medical experts have searched for evidence that would better define Gulf War illness and possible treatments. The latest committee, headed by Cory-Slechta, concluded that no single mechanism can explain the multitude of symptoms seen in Gulf War illness—and that it’s unlikely a cause will ever be identified.Read More: Report Recommends More Treatment, Research, for Gulf War Vets
Doing something larger than you could ever do on your own
Friday, February 12, 2016
"There is a tendency for many investigators, especially early in their careers, to hold onto their work and not share it," says David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics; Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering; Director of the Center for Visual Science - and a leading eye expert who pioneered the use of adaptive optics for vision correction.
"They don't realize - and it's one of the things that took me longer to learn than I wish it had - that one of the best ways to build your reputation is to share your ideas or your technology with the hope that they will be adopted.
"I was lucky enough to realize that if I let my students take my adaptive optics technology and use it to build their own labs, for example, it not only helped them get their independent research programs off the mark but also enhanced my reputation because so many more people were able to access and deploy the technology."
Is it any wonder then, that of the five NEI Audacious Goals grants recently awarded to Williams and four other investigators:
- four of the projects use adaptive optics as their core technology?
- three of the other PI's are either current collaborators with Williams or former postdocs in his lab?
- which means that four of the PI's will be cooperating with each other, even as they individually collaborate with other experts in the field on their individual projects - in effect widening the opportunities for synergy?
"That's the excitement of this," Williams says. "Why should we compete when one group can do one piece of it, and a second group can do another, and as along as you can manage authorships and credit appropriately and fairly, we can be much more efficient and effective in getting things done?"
"One of the things I'm proudest about in this community of people around the world doing adaptive optics and retinal imaging is that almost all of us get along really well, and we're moving science forward as rapidly as we can by helping each other. That doesn't always happen in science."
As Dean of Research for Arts, Science and Engineering, Williams is always looking for young faculty throughout AS&E who have the right personality and vision to take on larger, multi-investigator, multi-institutional projects.
"You have to be gregarious and interested in working with other people and tolerating the quirks that they have, just as they have to tolerate the quirks you have," Williams said.
"The largest source of optimism for me about the AS&E research portfolio is the quality of our junior faculty members - their enthusiasm and energy. Many of them have cut their teeth on individual investigator awards and will reach a certain point in mid career when they realize they need to reach out for complementary expertise in order to do more."
Williams' advice: The best collaborator may not be the first one that comes to mind.
"One of the biggest mistakes faculty members make is to choose a collaborator who is just like them, who has the same interests in a problem and the same background and who they can easily begin a conversation with because they are so closely aligned. But that doesn't really help your research. You want to have somebody who . . . has a completely different skills set. As obvious as that is, it doesn't always get factored into planning how to accumulate the necessary wisdom to do something larger than you could ever do on your own."
Scientists Seek to Improve Flu Vaccine for the Very Young
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Scientists at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry have discovered a way to make a nasal spray flu vaccine safer for those who are at greatest risk of catching the flu, particularly infants under the age of 2. The work is early and a long way from being applied in people, but offers promise for a vaccine that could better protect the most vulnerable.Read More: Scientists Seek to Improve Flu Vaccine for the Very Young
Study Sheds Light on Source of Drug Addicts' Risk-Taking Behavior
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
A study out today provides new insight into how the brains of drug addicts may be wired differently. The findings, which appear in the journal Psychopharmacology, show that while drug users have very strong motivation to seek out "rewards," they exhibit an impaired ability to adjust their behavior and are less fulfilled once they have achieved what they desire. Addressing this disconnect between the craving for a drug and the ability to regulate behavior may be one of the keys to breaking the cycle of addiction.
"The vast majority of people, when faced with something they want, will assess how achievable the goal is and adjust their actions and expectations in order to maximize their potential to achieve it," said John Foxe, PhD, the chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center and senior author of the study. "However, it appears that the integrity of this system of assessment and self-regulation is impaired in substance abusers and this may contribute to the risk-taking behaviors and poor decision-making commonly associated with this population."Read More: Study Sheds Light on Source of Drug Addicts' Risk-Taking Behavior
Lead poisoning still an issue in Rochester
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
The Michigan city of Flint became ground zero of the nation's latest public-health outrage when it was learned in recent months that its tap water contained unsafe levels of toxic lead.
Though the aqueous cause of its lead problem is unusual, Flint is otherwise far from unique. Many American cities, including Rochester, continue to struggle with lead poisoning, particularly of children.
In fact, despite years of successful anti-lead work locally, the proportion of children in Rochester found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood still was roughly double that of their counterparts in Flint in 2014, the most recent year for which comparable data are available.
Read More: Lead poisoning still an issue in Rochester
We have had a huge amount of progress here. We’ve had a nearly 90 percent reduction in the number of kids with elevated blood lead levels in the past 15 years, said Katrina Smith Korfmacher, an associate professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has long been involved in local anti-lead efforts.
But I would say it’s still a serious, or an ongoing, problem. The point is, it won’t ever go away entirely, because there is lead in the environment.
Scientists Discover Stem Cells Capable of Repairing Skull, Face Bones
Monday, February 1, 2016
The photo shows a blue-stained stem cell and a red-stained stem cell that each generated new bones cells after transplantation.
A team of Rochester scientists has, for the first time, identified and isolated a stem cell population capable of skull formation and craniofacial bone repair in mice—achieving an important step toward using stem cells for bone reconstruction of the face and head in the future, according to a new paper in Nature Communications.
Senior author Wei Hsu, Ph.D., dean’s professor of Biomedical Genetics and a scientist at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said the goal is to better understand and find stem-cell therapy for a condition known as craniosynostosis, a skull deformity in infants. Craniosynostosis often leads to developmental delays and life-threatening elevated pressure in the brain.
Hsu believes his findings contribute to an emerging field involving tissue engineering that uses stem cells and other materials to invent superior ways to replace damaged craniofacial bones in humans due to congenital disease, trauma, or cancer surgery.
For years Hsu’s lab, including the study’s lead author, Takamitsu Maruyama, Ph.D., focused on the function of the Axin2 gene and a mutation that causes craniosynostosis in mice. Because of a unique expression pattern of the Axin2 gene in the skull, the lab then began investigating the activity of Axin2-expressing cells and their role in bone formation, repair and regeneration. Their latest evidence shows that stem cells central to skull formation are contained within Axin2 cell populations, comprising about 1 percent—and that the lab tests used to uncover the skeletal stem cells might also be useful to find bone diseases caused by stem cell abnormalities.
The team also confirmed that this population of stem cells is unique to bones of the head, and that separate and distinct stem cells are responsible for formation of long bones in the legs and other parts of the body, for example.
The National Institutes of Health and NYSTEM funded the research.Read More: Scientists Discover Stem Cells Capable of Repairing Skull, Face Bones
Strong Star Certificate of Appreciation Awarded to Dr. Jermaine “JJ" Jenkins
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
On January 22, 2016, Dr. Jermaine Jenkins, who runs the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, was nominated for going 'above and beyond' in his work for a client of the facility. The client commented in their nomination:
The clinical trials group had a very tight timeline to meet for one of our clients. Testing had to be completed by the 25th of January so the client could present the data to the FDA. JJ was aware of the required quick turnaround time and he met the challenge. He worked the weekend so that our client's needs would be met. It is so impressive to work with such a dedicated scientist who takes his job so seriously. With JJ's help, URMC Labs Clinical Trials group made a very good impression on a client.
As Facility Manager of the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, Dr. Jenkins offers support services to determine macromolecular x-ray crystal structures, and to investigate protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid or protein-small molecule interactions. Professor Clara Kielkopf – a long time user and co-founder of the Facility commented,
JJ quickly, calmly and reliably responds to user needs. Co-director of the Facility Professor Joseph Wedekind added,
Dr. Jenkins is an outstanding and dedicated scientist. We are fortunate to have such a great colleague. Please join us in expressing your gratitude to JJ for his service and dedication.
CTSI Trainee Pilot supports better understanding of lupus
Friday, January 15, 2016
Lupus is a devastating disease that affects around 1 in 2,000 people in the U.S., and involves chronic inflammation and tissue damage in various organs including the skin, kidneys, and joints. Although the mortality rate for lupus has improved in recent decades, a diagnosis of lupus often means elevated risk of early mortality and lifetime of immunosuppressive therapy, which can carry significant side effects.Read More: CTSI Trainee Pilot supports better understanding of lupus
The Scientist as Storyteller
Friday, January 15, 2016
Graduate students Clarence Ling (left), Jon Baker,
and Karl Smith rehearse a script for The Bootleggers
at the WRUR studios in Todd Union. (Photo: Adam Fenster)
For Karl Smith, the storytelling bug began with a Montgomery Ward No. 22 typewriter purchased for $5 at a moving sale.
Typewriter perched on his lap, the doctoral student in biophysics has become a fixture at the Rochester Public Market, Corn Hill Arts Festival, and other Rochester-area arts-oriented venues. For 10 cents, he crafts a half-sheet-long tale about grandchildren, lost loves, pets, or the absurd. The clacking of keys on paper draws a curious crowd.
I derive a lot of meaning and joy from making things that other people draw joy from, says Smith.
As a graduate student at Rochester, Smith has been finding lots of ways to share his love of storytelling. In addition to his peripatetic typewriting, he’s the leader of Rocket Radio Theater, a troupe of radio performers whose core membership includes fellow like-minded medical science graduate students Clarence Ling, Jon Baker, Carolyn Klocke, Bronwyn Lucas, and Matt Payea.
The project began in 2013 with a recording at Smith’s kitchen table. The group, which now records in the studios of campus radio station WRUR, hosts several serial drama podcasts and stand-alone stories created by Smith. Its feature series, The Bootleggers, takes place during prohibition-era Rochester, playing up aspects of local history and landscapes.
In his research as a biophysicist, Smith explores nanoporous silicon membranes in the lab of James McGrath, professor of biomedical engineering. Smith describes the membranes as
coffee filters made of glass that are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
But he hopes to continue to combine storytelling and science after graduation, perhaps as a science journalist or a podcaster.
Read More: The Scientist as Storyteller
I want to live in a world, he says,
where people are standing on street corners writing stories.
What Frogs Can Teach Us About Tumors
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry are using frogs as a model to study human diseases. These frogs, called South African clawed frogs or Xenopus laevis, may not resemble humans on the outside, but they are very similar on a genetic level.Read More: What Frogs Can Teach Us About Tumors