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Tom Mariani Receives Andy Tager Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Please congratulate Tom Mariani, who is this year’s recipient of the Andy Tager Award for Excellence in Mentoring!

Tom’s dedication to scientific inquiry into lung biology, and his enduring effort to lift all boats with a rising tide made him the perfect fit for this award!

"Assembly on Respiratory Cell & Molecular Biology Andy Tager Award for Excellence in Mentoring"

Dr. Andy Tager was a remarkable physician scientist who combined his talent as an astute and caring physician, with that of a creative and insightful scientist, and with a lifelong dedication to helping others. Dr. Tager received multiple national awards for his discovery of bioactive lipids as potential targets of therapy in interstitial pulmonary fibrosis and distinguishing himself as one of the few to fulfill the dream of taking his work from bench to bedside. He was a selfless mentor to trainees and colleagues at his home institution, caring for the careers of those he was mentoring at least as much as his own. Less obvious to others, through his many leadership roles at ATS, Dr. Tager helped promote the professional careers ATS of members, particularly the RCMB Assembly, from all over the world. The Andy Tager Award for Excellence in Mentoring is our tribute to the brilliant, caring man, whose selfless dedication touched so many hearts, in more ways than one.”

Matthew D. McGraw, 2020 Furth Fund Awardee

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Matthew D. McGraw, M.D., Assistant Professor, Pediatric Pulmonology and EHSC member, School of Medicine and Dentistry. McGraw recognized the need for additional research in the field of developmental biology and pulmonary toxicology. His research goal is to become a sustained contributor to in vitro and animal modeling of childhood fibrotic airways disease. These efforts will ultimately advance the health of children with debilitating lung diseases. McGraw’s motivation, creativity, and intelligence will help propel his research work at the Medical Center.

Congratulations Matt!

Georas & Mariani Awarded Grants

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Congratulations to EHSC members Drs. Georas and Mariani who all received the following grants:

P.I.: Steve Georas,  MD
NIH/NIAA

Award Number : 1 R01 AI144241-01A1

Title of Project: Novel role of protein kinase D in airway inflammation and antiviral immunity

Project Period: 3/13/20 – 2/28/25?

P.I.: Tom Mariani, PhD

Agency: CTSI Pilot Project Program/NIH

Award Period: 7/1/20 – 1/31/21

Total Award (TPC): $50,000

Title:  Airway Biomarkers for Prediction of ARI Etiology (Internal Grant)

The overall goal of this project is to show that airway sampling will provide optimal diagnostic biomarkers for determining bacterial involvement in ARI.

RNA Research by Lynne Maquat, Douglas Anderson & Dragony Fu May Help Develop COVID Treatments

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Researchers Douglas Anderson, Dragony Fu, and Lynne Maquat are among the scientists at the University of Rochester who study the RNA of viruses to better understand how RNAs work and how they are involved in diseases. (University of Rochester photos / Matt Wittmeyer / J. Adam Fenster)

How does coronavirus infect humans?

In mammals, such as humans, DNA contains genetic instructions that are transcribed—or copied—into RNA. While DNA remains in the cell’s nucleus, RNA carries the copies of genetic information to the rest of the cell by way of various combinations of amino acids, which it delivers to ribosomes. The ribosomes link the amino acids together to form proteins that then carry out functions within the human body.

Many diseases occur when these gene expressions go awry.

COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019,” is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Like many other viruses, SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus. This means that, unlike in humans and other mammals, the genetic material for SARS-CoV-2 is encoded in RNA. The viral RNA is sneaky: its features cause the protein synthesis machinery of our cells to mistake it for RNA produced by our own DNA.

While SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus, “it likely replicates and functions similar to related coronaviruses that infect animals and humans,” says Douglas Anderson, an assistant professor of medicine in the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute and a member of the Center for RNA Biology, who studies how RNA mutations can give rise to human disease.

graphic created by the New York Times illustrates how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enters the body through the nose, mouth, or eyes and attaches to our cells. Once the virus is inside our cells, it releases its RNA. Our hijacked cells serve as virus factories, reading the virus’s RNA and making long viral proteins to compromise the immune system. The virus assembles new copies of itself and spreads to more parts of the body and—by way of saliva, sweat, and other bodily fluids—to other humans.

“Once the virus is in our cells, the entire process of infection and re-infection depends on the viral RNA,” Maquat says.

Read More: RNA Research by Lynne Maquat, Douglas Anderson & Dragony Fu May Help Develop COVID Treatments

Earth Day: Coronavirus clears the air in Rochester and beyond

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Across the planet, COVID-19 is doing one thing to help people breathe easier: it’s curbing driving. People have been ordered to stay at home as much as possible and many of the places they’d drive to or take buses to have been temporarily shut down.

The dramatic decline in traffic has led to an equally dramatic decrease in nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant linked almost exclusively to fossil fuel combustion. Researchers have documented the likely link in China, Italy, and parts of the United States.

The trend is also playing out in greater Rochester, where state stay-at-home orders have thinned out traffic on area roads.

Lee Murray, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester, said the area’s nitrogen dioxide emissions in March were 40 percent lower than they were in March 2019, based on measurements taken by the European Space Agency’s TROPOMI satellite.

Nitrogen dioxide is “a really good local indicator of fossil fuel combustion and most of that is from gasoline burning,” Murray said. “The reason that we're seeing so much NO2 plummeting is because people are pretty much just not driving anywhere."

The satellite data aligns with nitrogen dioxide measurements from a pair of state Department of Environmental Conservation air quality monitoring stations in Rochester, one of which is located along the westbound side of Route I-490, just before the Culver Road on-ramp. Murray tracks those measurements and said the March average measurement of 6 parts per billion was roughly 30 percent lower than the March 2019 average measurement of 9 parts per billion.

Read More: Earth Day: Coronavirus clears the air in Rochester and beyond

LETTER: Coronavirus and vaping — pandemic meets epidemic

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

To the Editor:

The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. The U.S. Surgeon General declared teen vaping a national epidemic. Research will show how much they are linked, but evidence already supports advice to quit vaping (and smoking) to help protect people from COVID-19.

Both vaping and smoking damage the lungs, and the recent vaping-related outbreak of lung disorders shows how serious that damage can be. People with weaker lungs are less able to fend off the effects of coronavirus, and people who have lung disease are at higher risk of more serious coronavirus illness.

In all the messaging about hand-washing and social distancing to prevent coronavirus, we also need to emphasize the importance of quitting smoking and vaping.

To stop vaping or smoking, contact your doctor and the NYS Smokers' Quitline at 1 (866) 697-8487 and at nysmokefree.com.

SCOTT McINTOSH, PhD

Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester

Read More: LETTER: Coronavirus and vaping — pandemic meets epidemic

As Vaping-Related Illnesses Rise, Researchers Search for Answers

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Electronic cigarettes have been around for over a decade, but that’s a relatively short time in the world of science and medicine. So very little is known about the long term health effects, like what the flavors and propellants may be doing to the respiratory system. 

But as research picks up on that, what’s even more pressing right now, is understanding the vaping products people are getting on the streets that is making them sick and even causing deaths. 

Pulmonary scientist Irfan Rahman has been studying the impact of electronic cigarettes on the lungs. We followed him to a vape shop in Rochester, NY. He often visits many of the stores surrounding his lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Rahman’s team has found and published research that shows the combination of nicotine, flavors and propellants in e-juices changes cells in the lungs. “Anything [that] goes in the lung, it has to be pure. It has to be fresh,” said Rahman, “[the] lung is not meant for these chemicals.”

There is a growing body of research like this, showing that while vaping may be less harmful to the body than smoking, it’s not exactly safe because it may affect the lungs’ ability to protect against foreign agents.

Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of Genetics at Weill Cornell Medicine did a small study with non-smokers, who have never vaped, and gave them electronic cigarettes with a very small amount of nicotine.

“There were biologic changes. And what's clear is that if you vape, then you are going to change the biology of the cells lining your airways. Of course, the important question is, does that lead to this disease?” said Crystal. “Nicotine itself probably changes the biology of the airway cells. But probably more concerning are the contaminants and that is the flavoring that goes into [the vaping liquid], the propellants that go into it.”

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/exploring-your-health/2019/12/20/as-vaping-related-illnesses-rise--researchers-search-for-answers

Read More: As Vaping-Related Illnesses Rise, Researchers Search for Answers

Researchers at URMC applaud federal vape ban, hope for further restrictions

Friday, January 3, 2020

As the federal Food and Drug Administration announced an impending ban on certain types of e-cigarettes, researchers at the University of Rochester applauded the move, but they also said it should only be the start of more regulations.

“It’s a great decision,” said Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab at URMC that studies the liquids used in e-cigarettes to figure out exactly what they contain.

“It should be a gateway to banning other products,” he continued.

The ban will cover only certain types of e-cigarettes. Starting next month, companies will not be allowed to sell flavored vaping cartridges that contain nicotine -- with exceptions for tobacco and menthol flavors.

The rules also carve out an exception for larger “open-tank” e-cigarettes where customers fill the reservoirs with vaping liquid themselves.

The FDA, which funds much of Rahman’s research, said the ban is targeting the vaping products most often used by teenagers and young adults. Rahman agreed, noting that the ban covers the flavors he encounters regularly in his analysis of the substances young people are vaping, such as bubble gum, candy or mango. “There are so many of them,” he said.

“They look like they are fruit juices, but they are not. They are chemicals which look they are safe, but they are not safe.”

Read More: Researchers at URMC applaud federal vape ban, hope for further restrictions

Vaping Linked to Higher Risk of Self-Reported COPD Diagnosis

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A new study reveals an elevated risk of self-reported chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — the third leading cause of death associated with smoking — among people using e-cigarettes. People who vaped were at increased risk even if they had never smoked tobacco, which casts doubt on e-cigarette companies’ claims that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. 

According to the study, people who vaped were at a 47-percent greater risk of self-reported COPD diagnosis as compared to people in the study who did not use tobacco products. Compared to ex-smokers, people who had quit smoking and switched to e-cigarettes were 27 percent more likely to report a COPD diagnosis.

The study, published by Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is based on 2016 and 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) national survey data of nearly one million adults. Survey participants were asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with COPD by their health-care provider.

Authors of the study, which was funded in part by the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI), the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration, are Zidian Xie, Ph.D., Deborah J Ossip, Ph.D.Irfan Rahman, Ph.D. and Dongmei Li, Ph.D.

“It is clear, based on the large sample size of this study, that there is a significant link between vaping and self-reported COPD diagnosis in adults, even among vapers who never smoked before,” said lead study author Zidian Xie.

Senior study author Dongmei Li, an associate professor in the UR CTSI, added, “More long-term clinical research is needed to determine how e-cigarette use is related to COPD, but our findings are consistent with other recent studies showing that e-cigarette use is associated with respiratory issues.”

“This study provides further evidence that vaping simply isn’t safe,” said Deborah Ossip, a tobacco research expert and professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “We hope that people begin to heed this message, especially young people who think vaping is cool and who are enticed by the thousands of available flavors.”

Recent statistics from the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey demonstrated the popularity of vaping among young people in the U.S. About one of every 10 middle school students and one out of four high school students reported in 2019 that they used electronic cigarettes.

Read More: Vaping Linked to Higher Risk of Self-Reported COPD Diagnosis

Irfan Rahman Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award at NCSCA 2019

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Dean's Professor of Environmental Medicine, Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., was awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the executive committee of the NCSCA-2019 at the 11th National Conference On Solid State Chemistry And Allied Areas (NCSCA-2019), December 20, 2019. Congratulations Dr. Rahman!

rahman award 1with plaquesplaque