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GDSC Fall Retreat

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Our graduate program in Genetics, Development and Stem Cells (GDSC) celebrated another successful season of research and academic growth. On the afternoon of Friday October 26th 2018, the faculty, students and families of GDSC held our Fall Retreat at the Ellison Park Pavilion Lodge. Among our many reasons to celebrate was our Department’s recent faculty expansion including, Brian J. Altman, Stephano Spano Mello, and Patrick J. Murphy. Welcome! We also celebrated the faculty promotion of Benoit Biteau to Associate Professor. Finally, we celebrated the future research of faculty members Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Douglas Portman, Chris Pröschel, and Andy Samuelson each of whom obtained prominent research grants earlier this year. Our festivities included pumpkin carvings, board games and a cocktail hour. There were also three hotly contested rounds of Science Trivia. (The final scores for the first and second place teams were separated by a margin of half a point!) The winning team “Smooth ER” included members Derek Crow, Li Xie, Shen Zhou, Yungeng Pang, Mark Noble, Daxiang Na, and Andy Samuelson. Additionally, Jessie Hogestyn won our “Hidden Facts” contest testing one’s knowledge of eccentric or esoteric trivia regarding GDSC faculty and students. Photos of GDSC’s genetic festivities can be seen below.

GDSC Fall Retreat 2018

Biological Sex Tweaks Nervous System Networks, Plays Role in Shaping Behavior

Thursday, March 8, 2018

By Mark Michaud

New research published today in the journal Current Biology demonstrates how biological sex can modify communication between nerve cells and generate different responses in males and females to the same stimulus. The findings could new shed light on the genetic underpinnings of sex differences in neural development, behavior, and susceptibility to diseases.

“While the nervous systems of males and females are virtually identical, we know that there is a sex bias in how many neurological diseases manifest themselves, that biological sex can influence behavior in animals, and that some of these differences are likely to be biologically driven,” said Douglas Portman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Departments of Biomedical Genetics, Neuroscience, and the Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “This study demonstrates a connection between biological sex and the control and function of neural circuits and that these different sex-dependent configurations can modify behavior.”

The findings were made in experiments involving the nematode C. elegans, a microscopic roundworm that has long been used by researchers to understand fundamental mechanisms in biology. Many of the discoveries made using these worms apply throughout the animal kingdom and this research has led to a broader understanding of human biology. In fact, three Nobel Prizes in medicine and chemistry have been awarded for discoveries involving C. elegans.

The study focuses on the different behaviors of male and female worms. There are two sexes of C. elegans, males and hermaphrodites. Although the hermaphrodites are able to self-fertilize, they are also mating partners for males, and are considered to be modified females.

The behavior of C. elegans is driven by sensory cues, primarily smell and taste, which are used by the worms to navigate their environment and communicate with each other. Female worms secrete a pheromone that is known to attract males who are drawn by this signal in search of a mate. Other females, however, are repelled by the same pheromone. It is not entirely understood why, but scientists speculate that that the pheromone signals to females to avoid areas where there may be too much competition.

Read More: Biological Sex Tweaks Nervous System Networks, Plays Role in Shaping Behavior