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Study Pokes Holes in Fetal Alcohol Hypothesis

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

fetal alcohol syndrome

A new study published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity appears to challenge the theory that cells in the brain’s immune system are the culprit behind the neurological damage that occurs in children exposed to alcohol while in the womb.

“In order to develop treatments for this condition, we must first understand how alcohol affects the developing brain,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “While the hypothesis that dysfunctional immune cells play a role in fetal alcohol syndrome is logical and enticing, it appears that this idea may be a scientific dead end.”

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a condition that causes lifelong physical and cognitive impairments, and for which there is no available treatment. The symptoms suffered by individuals with FASD can range from poor impulse control and attention, learning disabilities, compromised fine motor skills, and delays in the ability of the brain to process visual and auditory information. FASD is diagnosed in about one out of every 100 babies born in the U.S.

Read More: Study Pokes Holes in Fetal Alcohol Hypothesis

Rebecca Lowery and Ania Majewska publish a paper in Glia

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Microglial Fractalkine Receptor is not Required for Activity-Dependent Plasticity in the Mouse Visual System

Microglia have recently been implicated as key regulators of activity-dependent plasticity, where they contribute to the removal of inappropriate or excess synapses. However, the molecular mechanisms that mediate this microglial function are still not well understood. Although multiple studies have implicated fractalkine signaling as a mediator of microglia–neuron communications during synaptic plasticity, it is unclear whether this is a universal signaling mechanism or whether its role is limited to specific brain regions and stages of the lifespan. Here, we examined whether fractalkine signaling mediates microglial contributions to activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adolescent visual system. Using genetic ablation of fractalkine's cognate receptor, CX3CR1, and both ex vivo characterization and in vivo imaging in mice, we examined whether fractalkine signaling is required for microglial dynamics and modulation of synapses, as well as activity-dependent plasticity in the visual system. We did not find a role for fractalkine signaling in mediating microglial properties during visual plasticity. Ablation of CX3CR1 had no effect on microglial density, distribution, morphology, or motility, in either adolescent or young adult mice across brain regions that include the visual cortex. Ablation of CX3CR1 also had no effect on baseline synaptic turnover or contact dynamics between microglia and neurons. Finally, we found that fractalkine signaling is not required for either early or late forms of activity-dependent visual system plasticity. These findings suggest that fractalkine is not a universal regulator of synaptic plasticity, but rather has heterogeneous roles in specific brain regions and life stages.

Read More: Rebecca Lowery and Ania Majewska publish a paper in Glia

Lowery Receives Vincent du Vigneaud Award at Commencement 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ania-Majewska Speaking About Rebecca Lowery

Rebecca Lowery and Edith Lord

ania-Majewska Speaking About Rebecca Lowery

Ania Majewska Speaking about Rebecca Lowery

Rebecca Lowery, Ph.D., a graduate of the laboratory of Dr. Ania Majewska, received the Vincent du Vigneaud Award at Commencement 2017 for her thesis titled “The Role of Microglia and Fractalkine Signaling in Experience-dependent Synaptic Plasticity”.

This award is conferred by the Office of Graduate Education at the School of Medicine and Dentistry to a graduating student from any program whose thesis is judged superior and unique in potential for stimulating and extending research in the field. The award is given in honor of Vincent du Vigneaud, (1901-1978) who received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry (formerly known as Vital Economics) in 1927 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, studying on the sulfur component of insulin.

Monique Mendes Serves as Judge at STEP UP to Medicine Poster Session

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Regional Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP UP) to Medicine conference was hosted by the University of Rochester on March 4th, 2017. NGP student, Monique Mendes was invited to serve as a judge at the poster session during the event based on her earlier involvement with that Program. Back in fall 2016, Monique and the Pre-doctoral Organization for Neurosciences (PONs), was invited to meet with the STEP UP to MEDICINE participants to discuss the brain and to share their neuroscientific research experiences. STEP UP to MEDICINE is a state funded program intended to help gifted and motivated high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds into undergraduate and graduate Science and Technology programs across the state of New York. On March 4th, the University of Rochester hosted STEP UP to Medicine conference attended by 15 statewide STEP programs representing 10 students each. The high school students had a chance to meet with their peers from other institutions, the UR physicians, technical staff, medical, and graduate students.

Read More: Monique Mendes Serves as Judge at STEP UP to Medicine Poster Session