Moving Forward — A team of Einstein researchers led by Dr. Hernando Sosa, has been awarded $1.7 million over four years by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study the regulation of kinesins, a group of proteins involved in transporting materials between different parts of the cell, as needed. In contrast to most kinesin regulation research, which has focused on accessory parts of the protein, Dr. Sosa’s laboratory will employ advanced biophysical, microscopical, and computational techniques to study the regulation of its functional core. Because the kinesins chosen for study play key roles in fundamental cellular processes in a variety of tissues, improved understanding of kinesin functionality will provide a foundation for the development of therapeutics in many human diseases, including motor neuron diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. Other researchers involved with the grant include Drs. Gary Gerfen, Ao Ma, and David Sharp. Drs. Sosa and Gerfen are associate professors of physiology & biophysics; Dr. Ma is assistant professor of physiology & biophysics; and Dr. Sharp is professor of physiology & biophysics.
Chain of Events — Diabetes causes nerve damage—“diabetic neuropathy”—in the majority of people with this disease. Painful diabetic neuropathy is the most incapacitating neuropathy syndrome. A paper in the May 13 issue of Nature Medicine describes for the first time the molecular chain of events responsible. Among the paper’s chief authors was Dr. Michael Brownlee, Einstein Diabetes Center’s Associate Director for Biomedical Sciences and the Anita and Jack Saltz Chair in Diabetes Research. The authors found that elevated levels of a toxic by-product of glucose metabolism called methylglyoxal (MG) bind to and change the structure of a sodium channel called Nav 1.8, found only in neurons involved in signaling pain. Consequences of this change in the “pain channel” include an increase in its electrical excitability. These findings may provide new therapeutic options for treating painful diabetic neuropathy.
Advancing Leadership — Dr. Ellie Schoenbaum has been appointed the new director of medical student research at Einstein. As she undertakes this new role, she will be introducing a new program for medical students in the Class of 2016, called SOAR (Scholarly Opportunity for Academic Research), a mentor-guided scholarly concentration program. Dr. Schoenbaum developed the project over the past year, during her fellowship with the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women, at Drexel University School of Medicine. She also is professor of epidemiology & population health, as well as director of the Clinical Research Training Program and the Ph.D. program in clinical investigation.