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Project Explores Machine Learning to Help Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

Friday, February 17, 2017

Feng Vankee Lin, assistant professor of Nursing, and Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, have been awarded a Collaborative Pilot Award in Health Analytics from the Goergen Institute for Data Science.

The one-year project will use big data in an effort to develop an algorithm for predicting Alzheimer’s disease. The project will analyze large brain-imaging datasets and use multiple machine-learning approaches to uncover diagnostic patterns and create a more reliable predictive model for detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

“It will help initiate a new research area focusing on neuroimaging methodology development in relation to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lin.

The award includes a $35,000 grant for the project, which runs from Feb. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018.

Located in Wegmans Hall, the Goergen Institute for Data Science is a hub for interdisciplinary data science research. Its work in health analytics – using data to predict individual health outcomes – includes advances in using data to help analyze the brain more effectively and sharing the data with other researchers to discover more ways to improve outcomes for patients.

Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Photo of Dr. Deborah Cory-SlechtaThe Society of Toxicology (SOT) Neurotoxicology Specialty Section (NTSS) Awards Committee has selected Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta as the recipient of the Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award. This award will be presented at the NTSS Reception that will be held on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at the Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 6.

Dr. Cory-Slechta has demonstrated a life-long commitment to neurotoxicology. She has been a pioneer in championing neurotoxicology and behavioral science, and in exploring the interactions of chemical and non-chemical stressors to understand the complex etiology of behavioral diseases. This research is highlighted, for example, in experimental work confirming that low-level lead exposure alters neurodevelopment, which was highly influential in setting federal guidelines for developmental lead exposures. Her more recent research including that on the interactions between air pollution exposure and socioeconomic stress on neurodevelopment also promises to be highly influential. In addition, Dr. Cory-Slechta has served extensively in a variety of administrative roles including as Department Chair, Institute Director, and Dean for Research at two prominent academic programs on occupational and environmental health. She also has served on numerous federal advisory panels and as an Officer and President of the NTSS. This overall record of research accomplishments and service marks a singularly distinguished career in neurotoxicology that is recognized by this award.

The committee considered three superb nominations for the Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award. The review panel (Drs. William Boyes (chair), Michelle Block, Aaron Bowman, Steven Lasley, and Marion Ehrich) carefully evaluated these nominations relative to contributions to the science of neurotoxicology, the use of neurotoxicological science in making risk assessment and regulatory decisions, and service to the NTSS and the field of neurotoxicology. All three nominees were outstanding, exceptionally accomplished, and each has made strong contributions to neurotoxicology. Unfortunately, in any one year we are able to select only one individual for the Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award.

The Neurotoxicology Specialty Section (NTSS) has a rich history of outstanding scientists advancing our field through research, regulatory, and service accomplishments. In the past, NTSS has recognized four scientists as Distinguished Investigators in the field of Neurotoxicology from 2001 through 2006 and Dr. Joan Cranmer in 2008 for Distinguished Service to Neurotoxicology. However, despite many accomplished scientists contributing greatly and in a variety of ways to the field, this award has been dormant since 2008. In an effort to establish a continuous mechanism to acknowledge the top leaders in our field, the NTSS leadership reinstated a career recognition award, now called the Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award. This year, we established clear criteria, defined procedures, encouraged nominations, and convened a committee to evaluate applications. For those interested, the details of this process can be found on the NTSS website.

Congratulations to Dr. Cory-Slechta

Lin Receives Pilot Award in Health Analytics from Goergen Institute for Data Science

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Feng Vankee Lin, Ph.D., RN, was recently awarded a Collaborative Pilot Award in Health Analytics from the University's Goergen Institute for Data Science.

Lin, an assistant professor at SON, is principal investigator on a one-year project which will use big data in an effort to develop an algorithm for predicting Alzheimer’s disease. The project will analyze large brain-imaging datasets and use multiple machine-learning approaches to uncover diagnostic patterns and create a more reliable predictive model for detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m grateful for this award and the opportunity to take my research in an exciting new direction,” said Lin. “It will help initiate a new research area focusing on neuroimaging methodology development in relation to Alzheimer’s disease.”

The award includes a $35,000 grant for the project, which runs from Feb. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018. Rajeev Raizada, Ph.D., assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, is co-principal investigator on the project.

Shawn Newlands Appointed Associate CMO for Ambulatory Care

Thursday, February 9, 2017

In a move that reflects the importance of our expanding outpatient network, Shawn Newlands, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A, has been appointed to the newly created role of Associate Chief Medical Officer for URMC’s ambulatory care enterprise.

“In many ways, this role formalizes and expands the successful work Shawn already does as chair of URMFG’s Clinical Operations Committee, where he has helped build a solid framework for faculty input and oversight of guidelines, policies and other decisions that impact the delivery of patient care in our ambulatory settings,” said Michael F. Rotondo, M.D., F.A.C.S., CEO of URMFG. “As a proven leader who builds consensus and finds the middle ground amid disparate views, he will be a focused and effective guide for our ambulatory enterprise.”

URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy

Monday, January 30, 2017

Major Step toward Longer-Lasting HIV Treatment

Image of hand stating Stop HIV

A drug developed at the University of Rochester Medical Center extends the effectiveness of multiple HIV therapies by unleashing a cell’s own protective machinery on the virus. The finding, published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is an important step toward the creation of long-acting HIV drugs that could be administered once or twice per year, in contrast to current HIV treatments that must be taken daily.

The drug, called URMC-099, was developed in the laboratory of UR scientist Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D. When combined with “nanoformulated” versions of two commonly used anti-HIV drugs (also called antiretroviral drugs), URMC-099 lifts the brakes on a process called autophagy.

Normally, autophagy allows cells to get rid of intracellular “trash,” including invading viruses. In HIV infection, the virus prevents cells from turning on autophagy; one of the many tricks it uses to survive. When the brake on autophagy is lifted, cells are able to digest any virus that remains after treatment with antiretroviral therapy, leaving cells free of virus for extended periods of time.

Photo of Dr. Gelbard

Harris A. (“Handy”) Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D.

“This study shows that URMC-099 has the potential to reduce the frequency of HIV therapy, which would eliminate the burden of daily treatment, greatly increase compliance and help people better manage the disease,” said Gelbard, professor and director of UR’s Center for Neural Development and Disease, who has studied HIV/AIDS for the past 25 years. The finding builds on previous research that Gelbard conducted with Howard E. Gendelman, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology/Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Read More: URMC Drug Extends Effectiveness of HIV Therapy

Liz Romanski to serve as President of Rochester Chapter of Society for Neuroscience

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Liz Romanski, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester, will serve as President of the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience for the 2017-2108 term.

The Chapter is involved in a number of activities designed to strengthen Neuroscience research, education, and outreach in the Rochester area. In addition to Dr. Romanski, the Chapter's current leadership council includes Secretary/Treasurer Chris Holt, Faculty Councilor Amy Kiernan, Past Presidents Krystel Huxlin and Doug Portman, Postdoctoral Councilor Sarah Heilbronner, Graduate Student Councilor Heather Natola, and Administrative Coordinator Ania Dworzanski.

Congratulations Liz!!

What humans, primates both know when it comes to numbers

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A study led by Jessica Cantlon, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, suggests that primates have the ability to distinguish large and small quantities of objects, irrespective of the surface area they appear to occupy.

Adults and children in the US, adults from a 'low numeracy' tribe in Bolivia and rhesus monkeys ALL possessed the ability to distinguish between large and small quantities of objects, regardless of the surface area they occupy. This ability is likely a shared evolutionary trait, according to a study. The nonverbal visual tests could be used in assessing early math education in young children.

Read More: What humans, primates both know when it comes to numbers

Kelli Fagan defends her thesis

Monday, January 23, 2017

journal cover

NGP student Kelli Fagan successfully defended her PhD thesis titled, “The Genetic Sex of the Sensory Neuron ADF Confers Pheromone Attraction in C. elegans”.

Congratulations Dr. Fagan!

Julianne Feola successfully defends thesis

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Congratulations to Julianne Feola on completing her PhD degree on Monday, January 17, 2017. Julie was a student in Dr. Gail Johnson lab. She wrote a PhD thesis on The Role of Astrocytic Transglutaminase 2 in mediating Cellular Viability Processes.

Best luck, Julie!

A Closer Look at the Eye: Researchers Develop New Retinal Imaging Technique

Thursday, January 5, 2017

David Williams, Ph.D.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a new imaging technique that could revolutionize how eye health and disease are assessed. The group is first to be able to make out individual cells at the back of the eye that are implicated in vision loss in diseases like glaucoma. They hope their new technique could prevent vision loss via earlier diagnosis and treatment for these diseases.

In a study highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ethan A. Rossi, Ph.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, describes a new method to non-invasively image the human retina, a layer of cells at the back of the eye that are essential for vision. The group, led by David Williams, Ph.D., Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering and the William G. Allyn Chair for Medical Optics at the University of Rochester, was able to distinguish individual retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which bear most of the responsibility of relaying visual information to the brain.

Read More: A Closer Look at the Eye: Researchers Develop New Retinal Imaging Technique

Mother’s Touch May Extend to Brain Development

Thursday, January 5, 2017

child and momA new study sheds light on changes in the brain that may explain why young infants who are placed in an orphanage or foster care often struggle with social relationships later in life.

The findings, which were published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, come from a team of researchers led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience.  The scientists revisited data from a study involving monkeys that took place more than a decade ago at the University of Pittsburgh and was designed to observe the behaviors of newborns that were separated from their biological mothers and raised by another group of females.  The original study noted that these monkeys differed in their social interactions – such as grooming, huddling together, and normal aggression – compared to those that were raised by their mothers.

Like humans, monkey’s brains are not fully developed at birth and the animals are dependent upon the nurturing of caregivers for many months early in life.  Fudge and her colleagues wanted to see if there could find an association between the absence of a primary caregiver and biological changes in the brain that could explain the lasting social impairment observed in the monkeys.

Read More: Mother’s Touch May Extend to Brain Development