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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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