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O'Banion-Olschowka Labs

CNS Neuroinflammation Research

There is increasing recognition that inflammatory processes underlie many acute and chronic diseases, including those of the central nervous system (CNS). In particular, the glial and vascular components of the brain play significant and unique roles in inflammatory processes, both as sources of inflammatory mediators and as targets for local innate and acquired immune responses. Moreover, there is increasing recognition of the importance for glia in all aspects of brain function, ranging from normal homeostasis to repair and repopulation following injury. Our laboratories utilize mouse models to focus on the role of neuroinflammation in neurodegeneration and CNS injury.

Michael O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D.

Michael O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

John A. Olschowka, Ph.D.

John A. Olschowka, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Publications

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News

2610Grant Will Fund M. Kerry O'Banion's Work on Space Travel & the Immune System<div><p><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/people/21395963-michael-o-banion">M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D.</a> has been awarded $1.8 million from NASA to explore the effect space travel has on the immune system and bone marrow, and how that impacts brain function.</p><p>The grant is one of 21 research proposals recently awarded by NASA to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long-duration missions, including crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.</p><p>Using simulated space radiation produced by particle accelerators at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, O'Banion and his team will examine tissue and cellular changes in genes, blood flow, and immune cell function in mice. Behavioral tests and computer-assisted imaging will also be used to quantify damage and inflammation in the brain. </p><p>O'Banion -- Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience -- and colleagues previously worked with NASA on a study that showed exposure to a particular form of space radiation called high-mass, high-charged particles caused biological and cognitive changes in mice suggesting an <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/houston-we-have-another-problem">accelerated risk for the </a><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/houston-we-have-another-problem">development of Alzheimer's disease</a>.</p><p>This time around, O'Banion will be working with <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/people/20891886-laura-m-calvi">Laura Calvi, M.D.</a>, an endocrinologist and co-director of the UR Multidisciplinary Neuroendocrinology Clinic. Her preliminary data found space radiation changes in bone marrow suggestive of a skewed phenotype, in which white blood cells are changed into a more inflammatory phenotype. Similar changes are found with aging. "This helps to bind a common hypothesis about dysfunction and degeneration in multiple systems, with the bone marrow communicating to the brain through the vasculature," O'Banion said.</p></div>2020-12-01T00:00:00https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/del-monte-neuroscience/neuroscience-blog/november-2020-1/space-travel-and-the-brain-urmc-researchers-aim-to.aspx1974University Degree Conferral & Program Awards<div><p>Congratulations Rianne and Dawling on earning these awards!</p><h3><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/biochemistry-biophysics/awards/fenn-award.aspx"><b>The Wallace O. Fenn Award</b></a> -- <b>Dr. Rianne Stowell (Neuroscience)</b><br /> Dr. Ania Majewska, Advisor</h3><p>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. <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/biochemistry-biophysics/awards/fenn-award.aspx">Click here for full award description.</a></p><p>Rianne's thesis encompassed a large body of work characterizing the dynamics of microglia, and the mechanisms regulating these dynamics in different areas of the brain. It was published in a series of three first author research manuscripts and two reviews. Rianne's work put microglia in the spotlight, as heterogeneous, complex cells that are exquisitely tuned to activity in the brain. One of the main and surprising findings was that their activities are largely carried out in the quiescent or sleeping brain. This has very broad implications for understanding how microglia fit into the larger brain network and for developing novel therapeutics based on microglial function, for many different neurological diseases where microglial function is likely altered. The ideas behind the work are novel, the experiments rigorous and thorough, the implications are wide ranging and have already had a great impact on the field. The work highlights Rianne's strong independent streak and a great work ethic. That, coupled with her innate intellectual abilities and creativity, results in a winning combination that will take her far in the future. This thesis is a great beginning to an incredibly promising scientific journey.</p><h3><a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/biochemistry-biophysics/awards/duvigneaud-award.aspx"><b>The Vincent du Vigneaud Award</b></a> -- <b>Dr. Dawling Dionisio-Santos (Neurobiology and Anatomy)</b><br /> Dr. Kerry O'Banion, Advisor.</h3><p>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. Dr. du Vigneaud performed postdoctoral research with the famous John Jacob Abel at The Johns Hopkins University Medical School (1927-1928), at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dresden Germany, working with Max Bergmann, and at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He returned to the U.S. to take successive positions as Professor at the University of Illinois and then at George Washington University Medical School. In 1932 he became a Professor at the Cornell Medical School, in New York City, where he remained until retiring to emeritus status in 1967. He accepted an invitation from Dr. Harold Scheraga, head of the Chemistry Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, to move his laboratory to Ithaca. He continued to do research in the Cornell Chemistry Research Building until suffering a stroke in 1974. <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/biochemistry-biophysics/awards/duvigneaud-award.aspx">Click here for full award description.</a></p><p>A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Dawling Dionisio-Santos entered Rochester's Medical Scientist Training (MD-PhD) Program in 2013 and the Neurobiology and Anatomy PhD program in 2015. Dawling's initial work examined the effects of anti-inflammatory cytokine signaling on tau phosphorylation in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Tau phosphorylation is a critical step in the development of neurofibrillary tangles, the pathological hallmark of AD that is most directly related to progression of cognitive deficits. Dawling demonstrated a remarkable inhibition of tau phosphorylation with acute IL-4 treatment that was accompanied by a shift in microglial phenotypes as well as improvements in behavioral endpoints. Motivated by a desire to move his research in a more translational direction, Dawling proposed and then initiated a series of experiments using glatiramer acetate, a drug currently prescribed for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. He discovered that besides reducing amyloid-? plaque levels, glatiramer acetate also reduced tau pathology and improved behavioral performance; thus, demonstrating clear translational relevance for patients with Alzheimer's Disease. Dawling Dionisio-Santos is a talented future physician-scientist with outstanding potential based on his demonstrated ability to carry out complex experiments and analyses, develop new ideas and experiments based on thorough evaluation of the literature, and inspire others with his passion for wanting to better understand neurodegenerative diseases.</p></div>2020-05-15T00:00:00https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/education/graduate/alumni/graduation-convocation.aspx2183Radiation Breaks Connections in the Brain<div><div class="bio" id="photo1" style=" float:left; width:250px;"><figure class="image image-style-align-left" style="margin: 5px; float: left;"><img src="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/prnews/story/uploadedimages/1335343920_microglia obanion 2_5603_605x605.jpg" alt="Image from study shows protein marker (green) that indicates activation of microglia (red) after exp" /></figure><div class="caption1">Image from study shows protein marker (green) that indicates activation of microglia (red) after exposure to radiation.</div></div><p>One of the potentially life-altering side effects that patients experience after cranial radiotherapy for brain cancer is cognitive impairment. Researchers now believe that they have pinpointed why this occurs and these findings could point the way for new therapies to protect the brain from the damage caused by radiation.</p><p>The new study -- which appears in the journal <i><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-55366-6">Scientific Reports</a></i> -- shows that radiation exposure triggers an immune response in the brain that severs connections between nerve cells. While the immune system's role in remodeling the complex network of links between neurons is normal in the healthy brain, radiation appears to send the process into overdrive, resulting in damage that could be responsible for the cognitive and memory problems that patients often face after radiotherapy.</p><p>"The brain undergoes a constant process of rewiring itself and cells in the immune system act like gardeners, carefully pruning the synapses that connect neurons," said <a href="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/labs/o-labs.aspx">Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D.</a>, a professor in the University of Rochester Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and senior author of the study which was conducted in mice. "When exposed to radiation, these cells become overactive and destroy the nodes on nerve cells that allow them to form connections with their neighbors."</p><p>The culprit is a cell in the immune system called microglia. These cells serve as the brain's sentinels, seeking out and destroying infections, and cleaning up damaged tissue after an injury. In recent years, scientists have begun to understand and appreciate microglia's role in the ongoing process by which the networks and connections between neurons are constantly wired and rewired during development and to support learning, memory, cognition, and sensory function.</p><p>Microglia interact with neurons at the synapse, the juncture where the axon of one neuron connects and communicates with another. Synapses are clustered on arms that extend out from the receiving neuron's main body called dendrites. When a connection is no longer required, signals are sent out in the form of proteins that tell microglia to destroy the synapse and remove the link with its neighbor.</p><p>In the new study, researchers exposed the mice to radiation equivalent to the doses that patients experience during cranial radiotherapy. They observed that microglia in the brain were activated and removed nodes that form one end of the synaptic juncture -- called spines -- which prevented the cells from making new connections with other neurons. The microglia appeared to target less mature spines, which the researchers speculate could be important for encoding new memories -- a finding that may explain the cognitive difficulties that many patients experience. The researchers also observed that the damage found in the brain after radiation was more pronounced in male mice.</p><p>While advances have been made in recent years in cranial radiotherapy protocols and technology that allow clinicians to better target tumors and limit the area of the brain exposed to radiation, the results of the study show that the brain remains at significant risk to damage during therapy.</p><p>The research points to two possible approaches that could help prevent damages to nerve cells, including blocking a receptor called CR3 that is responsible for synapse removal by microglia. When the CR3 receptor was suppressed in mice, the animals did not experience synaptic loss when exposed to radiation. Another approach could be to tamp down the brain's immune response while the person undergoes radiotherapy to prevent microglia from becoming overactive.</p><p>Additional co-authors of the study include Joshua Hinkle, John Olschowka, Tanzy Love, and Jacqueline Williams with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The research was funding with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, NASA and the URMC Wilmot Cancer Institute.</p></div>2019-12-16T00:00:00https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/5603/radiation-breaks-connections-in-the-brain.aspx3355Supriya Mohile Headlines MSTP 19th Annual Retreat<div><p class="align-center"><figure class="image image-style-align-left"><img src="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/education/md/md-phd/images/retreat-2019.jpg" alt="retreat photo" /></figure></p><p>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). </p><p class="align-center"><figure class="image image-style-align-left"><img src="https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/education/md/md-phd/students/images/First-years.jpg" alt="2019 MSTP Incoming Students" /></figure></p><p class="captionCenter">2019 Incoming Students</p><p class="clear">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. </p><p>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. </p><p>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!</p></div>2019-08-12T00:00:00

Contact Us

  Kerry O'Banion
KMRB G-9602
601 Elmwood Ave,
Rochester, NY 14642

 (585) 275-5185

  John Olschowka
KMRB G-9619
601 Elmwood Ave,
Rochester, NY 14642

 (585) 275-8238