Principal Investigators

M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D. University of Rochester work Box 603 601 Elmwood Ave Rochester NY 14642 office: MC 5-8527A p (585) 275-5185
John A. Olschowka, Ph.D. University of Rochester work Box 603 601 Elmwood Ave Rochester NY 14642 office: MC 5-6312 p (585) 275-8238

Honors & News

  • May 18, 2016

    Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells

    Photo demo of conventional radiation therapy

    A new study shows that repeated radiation therapy used to target tumors in the brain may not be as safe to healthy brain cells as previously assumed. The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, show that the treatment also kills important support cells in the brain and may cause as much, if not more damage, than single dose radiation therapy.

    This study suggests that conventional repeated radiation treatments offer no significant benefit to brain tumor patients, said Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. It also shows that certain cell populations in the brain are vulnerable to radiation and this may help explain why so many brain cancer patients experience cognitive problems after treatment.

  • November 13, 2015

    NASA Grant Will Explore Impact of Space Travel on the Brain

    M. Kerry O'Banion

    Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., has been awarded $1.8 million from NASA to study whether extended deep space travel places astronauts at risk for neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

    The grant is one of nine announced by NASA that will fund research that employ beams of high-energy, heavy ions simulating space radiation. The studies will be conducted in part at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. By colliding matter together at very high speeds, the accelerators at Brookhaven can reproduce the radioactive particles found in space.

    The studies will seek to better understand and reduce the risks to humans associated with long journeys in deep space, specifically focusing on neurological and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Understanding the potential health impact of space travel is a priority for NASA as it develops future plans for maned voyages to Mars and other destinations.

  • November 4, 2015

    Study: Brain's Immune System Could Be Harnessed to Fight Alzheimer's

    M. Kerry O'BanionA new study appearing in the Journal of Neuroinflammation suggests that the brain's immune system could potentially be harnessed to help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

    This research confirms earlier observations that, when activated to fight inflammation, the brain's immune system plays a role in the removal of amyloid beta, said M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute, and the lead author of the study. We have also demonstrated that the immune system can be manipulated in a manner that accelerates this process, potentially pointing to a new therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease.

    The findings are the culmination of years of investigation that were triggered when O'Banion and his colleagues made a surprising discovery while studying mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. They observed that amyloid beta plaques – which scientists believe play a major role in the disease – were being cleared in animals with chronic brain inflammation.

    For more information, visit the URMC Newsroom

  • November 2, 2015

    Congratulation Fatima Rivera-Escalera

    Fatima Rivera-EscaleraFatima has successfully defended her PhD thesis.

    Congratulations Dr. Rivera-Escalera!!!

  • June 14, 2015

    Kerry O'Banion presents at the CTSI Workshop - Patent Infringement: COX Fighting

    Kerry O'Banion, interim chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and University President Emeritus Thomas Jackson will present Patent Infringement: COX Fighting, from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 17, in Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. The event is part of the CTSI workshop series, Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law.

  • April 3, 2015

    UR Toxicology Graduate Students Make Strong Showing at 2015 SOT Meeting

    Dr. Alison Elder and Elissa Wong

    UR Toxicology graduate students made a strong showing at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) annual meeting in San Diego, CA. last week. 3rd year graduate student, Elissa Wong (Majewska Lab) and 5th year graduate student, Sage Begolly (O'Banion/Olschowka Labs) both won travel awards to attend and present their posters.

    Elissa Wong and Dr. Alison Elder also attended the event, hosting the UR recruitment table at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI) session. Congrats to all!

    View all of the photos from the SOT meeting.

  • February 1, 2015

    MSTP Announces 40th Anniversary Celebration!

    Edward M. Eddy Rubin

    The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is excited to announce a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the MSTP NIH training grant on Friday, October 9, 2015.

    The keynote speaker will be an MSTP alumni from the Class of 1980: Edward Rubin, MD, PhD, Director, DOE Joint Genome Institute.

    Edward M. Eddy Rubin is an internationally-known geneticist and medical researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, where he became head of the Genomic Sciences Division in 1998. In 2002 he assumed the directorship of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to lead the JGI ’s involvement in the Human Genome Project (HGP).

    For more information and schedule of events for the day, please visit the MSTP 40th Anniversary page.

  • January 25, 2015

    Congratulations to Fatima Rivera-Escalera

    Fatima Rivera-Escalera

    Congrats to Fatima Rivera-Escalera, a fifth-year student in the Olschowka Lab who was awarded a Keystone Symposia Scholarship to attend the Keystone Symposium on Neuroinflammation in Diseases of the Central Nervous System in Taos, NM from January 25-30th, 2015.

  • June 12, 2014

    Paige Stepping Aside as Chair of Neurobiology & Anatomy

    Gary D. Paige, M.D., Ph.D., is stepping down after 16 years of service as chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy. M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., will serve as interim chair effective July 1, 2014 while a national search for a permanent chair is conducted.

    Read the entire Faculty Focus article.

  • February 11, 2013

    NGP Student, Simantini Ghosh, Wins Travel Award to AD/PD Conference

    Simantini receiving the award from AD/PD conference chair, Dr.Roger Nitsch.

    Congratulations to NGP Graduate Student, Simantini Ghosh on winning a travel award to present her work at the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer's & Parkinson's Disease in Florence, Italy on March 6-10, 2013. Simi works in Dr. Kerry O'Banion's lab, studying the effects of sustained Interleukin 1 beta overexpression on Alzheimer's disease pathology in transgenic mice.

  • January 3, 2013

    A Trip to Mars Could Increase Chances of Alzheimer's for Astronauts

    As if space travel was not already filled with enough dangers, a new study out today in the journal PLOS ONE shows that cosmic radiation – which would bombard astronauts on deep space missions to places like Mars – could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

    Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts, said M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy and the senior author of the study. The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

  • November 3, 2011

    Jacqueline Williams, Major Lab Collaborator, Appointed to Prestigious Leadership Positions

    Jacqueline P. Williams, Ph.D., a University of Rochester faculty member and internationally recognized expert in radiation biology, has been named to leadership positions at three of the leading radiation oncology and research organizations in the world.

    The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) named Williams chair of its Scientific Research Council at the Society's 53rd annual meeting, held in Miami Beach, Fla. Williams was also recognized as one of 21 distinguished members that received ASTRO's Fellow designation at a ceremony during the meeting.

  • August 11, 2010

    Jacqueline Williams, Major Lab Collaborator, Awarded $15M to Expand Bioterrorism Research

    The University of Rochester Medical Center has received $15 million in federal bioterrorism funding that allows investigators to build on several discoveries made during the past five years to improve the ability to treat radiation injuries, especially from an act of terrorism.

    URMC was awarded an initial grant of $21 million in 2005 to become part of a national research network, Centers for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation. The centers were charged with researching how best to respond to a dirty bomb or other radiological or nuclear attack.

    A second, $15 million, five-year award, received this month from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, will allow URMC researchers to focus on testing known drugs and experimental agents and their ability to ward off systemic radiation injury that affects the lungs, brain, skin and bone marrow.

  • January 27, 2010

    Jacqueline Williams, Major Lab Collaborator, Chairs National Space Biomedical Research Institute Science Committee

    Jacqueline Williams, Ph.D., was named chair of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's Scientific Advisory Committee for its Center of Acute Radiation Research. Williams is grant director and core leader of the Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

    NSBRI is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight and developing countermeasures to mitigate the risks. The CARR, which is headed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is responsible for studying the acute effects of exposure to space radiation during exploration missions. The Scientific Advisory Committee provides advice on the Center's productivity and effectiveness.

  • October 1, 2009

    Dr. Kerry O'Banion featured in NASA Fall Newsletter

    The son of two educators, Kerry O'Banion has always adopted a broad view in his scientific pursuits. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, he investigated pair bonding behavior in common prairie voles, but chose Microbiology for his PhD work because of the promise of immersing himself in molecular biology. Indeed, at the same time he was learning about human pathophysiology and how to do a proper neurological examination as an MD-PhD trainee in the nascent Medical Scholars Program, also at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Kerry entertained working with Carl Woese, who had established the existence of a new kingdom of organisms (Archaea) by sequencing rRNA. Ultimately Kerry carried out his thesis work with Manfred Reichmann in Microbiology and John Sundberg in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology to characterize and clone novel animal papillomaviruses. All together, he cloned viruses from six animal species and witnessed at national and international conferences the recognition that oncogenic human papillomaviruses caused cervical and other epithelial cancers.

  • March 7, 2009

    Dr. Kerry O'Banion Presents & Co-Chairs the NIDA-sponsored session: 40th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Neurochemistry

    Dr. Roger Sorensen, DBNBR, and Dr. Diane Lawrence, ARP, organized a colloquium titled: "Neurotoxicity or Neuroprotection: The Two Sides of Drug Abuse Action" that was held on March 7, 2009 in conjunction with the 40th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Neurochemistry (ASN) , Charleston, SC. The purpose of this colloquium was to disseminate current research findings on the biological mechanisms underlying neurotoxicity or neuroprotection produced by drugs of abuse, including the role of glia in these processes. The presenters were: M. Kerry O'Banion (University of Rochester Medical Center); Katherine Conant (Johns Hopkins University Medical Center); Jean-Christopher Rochet (Purdue University); and Stanley Thayer (University of Minnesota Medical School).