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Matters of the Heart -- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded Dr. Bin Zhou a $1.6 million, four-year grant for his study of the mechanisms underlying coronary ostium formation and coronary artery patterning. Coronary ostia are openings on the aorta through which blood is circulated via the coronary arteries, supplying the heart with oxygen and other nutrients. Dr. Zhou will examine the roles of two proteins, Vegfr-2 and Nfatc-1, in regulating the connection between the coronary arteries and the aorta, as well as in coronary artery development. The results from this research could help our understanding of the cause behind congenital heart defects. Dr. Zhou is associate professor of genetics, of pediatrics and of medicine.

Thursday, August 22, 2013
 

 

Heads Up on Brain Injury -- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has awarded Dr. Michael Lipton $3 million over five years to study brain injury due to soccer heading. Preliminary studies using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) – an advanced MRI imaging technique – have shown that soccer players who head the ball more than 884 to 1,800 times per year are more vulnerable to brain injury and cognitive impairment. The funding will support Dr. Lipton’s further investigations on the influence of soccer heading on structural and functional effects in the brain. This research could help in devising player safety guidelines to alleviate brain injury related to frequent heading in soccer. Dr. Lipton is associate professor of radiology, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and of neuroscience. He also is associate director of Einstein’s Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center.

 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
 

Exceptional Science — An Einstein research paper, “REST-dependent Epigenetic Remodeling Promotes the Developmental Switch in Synaptic NMDA Receptors,”published in the October 2012 issue of Nature Neuroscience, has received an “exceptional” rating from the Faculty of 1000 (Neuroscience). Co-authored by Einstein investigators Dr. Alma Rodenas-Ruano, Dr. Andres Chavez-Navarrette, Maria Cossio, Dr. Pablo Castillo and Dr. R. Suzanne Zukin, the study observed the brain activity of rat pups that were separated from their mother for one hour per day. The researchers noted a series of changes that suggested a strengthening of connections between brain cells and enhanced plasticity, offering perspective on how adverse experience may alter gene expression in the brain. In identifying a pathway by which experience leads to functional changes in the brain, the study also provides insight into how environment alters development of the infant brain. These findings have striking implications for treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress associated with early maternal separation. The researchers are all members of the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience. Dr. Zukin is the F. M. Kirby Chair in Neural Repair and Protection and director of Einstein’s Neuropsychopharmacology Center. Dr. Castillo is a Harold and Muriel Block Chair of Neuroscience.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
 

Insights into Stem Cell Potential — The National Eye Institute has awarded Dr. Wei Liu $2 million over five years to investigate gene regulation of retinal cell generation. Defective generation of mature and functional retinal cells causes developmental abnormalities of the eye, which impair visual function. While stem cell-based therapies provide potential for the regeneration and replacement of damaged cells, understanding the processes involved in the development of mature retinal cells is critical. Dr. Liu and colleagues previously identified three proteins (Six3, Six6 and Otx2) that play essential roles in retinal cell differentiation. Through further investigation, they hope to determine the signals and molecular mechanisms that control the expression of these proteins and the pathways they regulate. They also aim to design novel strategies for generating mature retinal cells from stem cells, such as photoreceptor cells, to model and treat human retinal diseases. Dr. Liu is assistant professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences and of genetics.

Monday, August 19, 2013
 

Shedding Important Light — In two, new journal articles, Dr. Vladislav Verkhusha, and postdoctoral fellows Drs. Kiryl Piatkevich and Grigory Filonov, described their further development of novel technologies that use fluorescent proteins derived from bacterial phytochromes. These proteins permit visualization in the near-infrared spectrum range of light – a range at which mammalian tissues are most transparent, allowing light to penetrate deeper so that researchers can conduct deep-tissue and whole body imaging in living mammals. In the July 10, 2013 paper in Nature Communications, the Verkhusha team reported on a new, near-infrared protein that can be activated by a red light source adjacent to the skin covering the tumor, which thereby can be “turned on” in cancer cells that have been engineered to contain it. And, in the July 23, 2013 paper in Chemistry & Biology, they detailed a technology that places the halves of a fluorescent probe on two interacting proteins; during the protein-protein interactions, the probe halves join, marking the activity by fluorescing in near-infrared. These imaging advances may help researchers to better understand the roles and interactions of proteins in living animals, while providing insights into the effect of protein dysfunction in disease development. The studies correlate with a June 16, 2013 Nature Methods paper by Dr. Verkhusha, previously highlighted in Research Round-up, and with a 2011 Nature Biotechnology paper by Dr. Verkhusha. He is professor of anatomy and structural biology.

Monday, August 19, 2013
 

Aggravating Aggregates — In the June 26, 2013 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Steven Walkley and recent Einstein Ph.D. graduate Dr. Matthew Micsenyi published their finding of a disease-causing mechanism for late-infantile Batten disease, a rare disorder of toddler-aged children that results in mental and physical deterioration, seizures, vision loss and, ultimately, premature death. This type of Batten disease is caused by a genetic deficiency in an enzyme, tripeptidyl peptidase I, which normally breaks down proteins within cellular compartments (lysosomes) where digestion of cellular debris takes place.  The researchers discovered a breakdown of the lysosomal membrane, a process called lysosome membrane permeability (LMP), caused abnormal protein accumulation in brain cells.  Notably, LMP stimulated a response by the macroautophagy adapter protein p62, whereby p62 surrounded damaged lysosomes within a shell-like structure. There is currently no treatment for Batten disease; this work identifies LMP as a possible target for developing therapeutics, which also might be applied to other protein aggregate-related diseases, such as Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.  Dr. Walkley is professor of neuroscience, of pathology, and of neurology and director of the Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
 

NCI Spotlight — A paper published by a multi-center research group led by Einstein investigators was recently selected as a “Research Highlight” by the National Cancer Institute / Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program. The paper, which focused on the five-year risk of cervical precancer and cancer among HIV-infected women with normal Pap test results and no evidence of tumor-causing HPV infection, showed that these risks was similarly low as found in a comparison group of HIV-uninfected women who also had normal Pap and HPV-negative test results. The findings raise the possibility of using HPV co-testing to reduce the burden of cervical cancer screening in HIV-infected women, equivalent to such testing in the general population. The lead author was Dr. Marla Keller, professor of medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health, while Dr. Howard Strickler, professor of epidemiology & population health, was senior author. Other Einstein faculty who were major co-investigators include: Drs. Robert Burk, Xianhong Xie, Kathryn Anastos, and Xiaonan Xue. To extend this research, Dr. Strickler and colleagues have initiated a new four-year NCI supported project, “Molecular Methods to Improve Cervical Cancer Screening in HIV+ Women.”

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
 

Powerful Abs — In the world of infectious diseases, “Abs,” or antibodies are critical to developing effective treatments. In a paper published in the August 6, 2013 online issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, a research team led by Dr. Bettina Fries has shown that antibodies that they generated successfully neutralized both a major virulent infection known as Staphylococcal enterotoxin B and a class 2 biological warfare agent. Additionally, the researchers were able to establish that these monoclonal antibodies could be used as an adjunctive (or secondary) therapy in complicated cases of MRSA infection – a major, deadly pathogen. In addition to NIH support for their work, this research represents a collaboration by Dr. Fries with Pfizer, through its prestigious Centers for Therapeutic Innovations award, which she received in 2011. The Pfizer funding supported Drs. Avanish Varshney and Xiaobo Wang, postdoctoral fellows who contributed to the discoveries. In addition, Pfizer will adapt the Ab generated by Dr. Fries’ team for use in humans and will publish the related data. Dr. Fries is professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
 

High Honors  Three members of the Einstein faculty – Drs. William Jacobs, Jr., Jeffrey Pessin, and Jeffrey Pollard – are among those recently elected to fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The honor is bestowed on AAAS members by their peers in recognition of meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. Dr. Jacobs is professor of microbiology & immunology and of genetics, and also is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Dr. Pessin is director of Einstein’s Diabetes Research Center as well as the Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg Professional Chair in Diabetes Research and professor in the departments of medicine and molecular pharmacology; and Dr. Pollard is the Louis Goldstein Swan Chair in Women’s Cancer Research as well as director of the Center for Study of Reproductive Biology and Women’s Health, deputy director of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center, and professor of developmental and molecular biology and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Editor’s Honor  Dr. Marina Reznik, associate professor of pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center, has been appointed to write editor’s choice articles for the journal Science Translation Medicine. Every six weeks, she will review recently published research in the field of pediatric translational medicine that would be of broad interest to the readership. Dr. Reznik also is an associate scientific advisor for the journal, which is an interdisciplinary publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science focusing on and promoting research that is applicable to human health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 
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