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Heart of the Issue — In the November 17 online issue of Atherosclerosis, Dr. Robert Kaplan and colleagues examine whether blood cholesterol levels in HIV-positive women predict atherosclerosis, a disease that results from deposits of cholesterol (fats) in the arteries.  An ultrasound scan of the carotid arteries of the neck can detect atherosclerosis – this measure was compared in HIV-infected women with different blood cholesterol levels.  The researchers found a strong association between higher cholesterol levels and more atherosclerosis among women on HIV medications, but not among women who were not receiving HIV treatment. These results offer important implications for detecting cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among patients with HIV, suggesting that standard blood cholesterol levels may not be an adequate indicator of CVD in untreated HIV infected women.  Other Einstein investigators included Dr. Kathryn Anastos and Christina Parrinello who was the paper's lead author. Dr. Kaplan is professor of epidemiology & population health; Dr. Anastos is professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health; and Ms. Parrinello was a research associate in epidemiology & population health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Tending to Tendons — Dr. Hui (Herb) Sun has received an NIH grant of $2.5 million over 5 years from the National Institute of Aging, which will fund research aimed at understanding how tendon stem cells change with age and if they can be manipulated to improve their repair capabilities. As we age, tendons become more susceptible to injury and less able to heal. Working with colleagues from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Sun will explore how age-related decline in tendon integrity may be the result of changes in the stem cells that are responsible for maintaining these tissues. Through their research, the collaborators hope to gain new insights into the basis for tendon disorders that could lead to new strategies for tendon repair and regeneration. Dr. Sun is associate professor of orthopedic surgery and of radiation oncology at Einstein.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 
Vern Schramm

Transitioning to Drug DiscoveryDr. Vern Schramm has been awarded a $2.5 million grant over four years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The funding supports his continued work with enzymes – the biological molecules that help carry out important chemical reactions – as targets for drug development. Dr. Schramm’s research on enzymatic transition states has demonstrated significant promise in this arena. The fundamental aspects of the research are providing insights into the essential catalytic nature of enzymes. Use of that information is applied to drug targets. Through license agreements from Einstein, several drugs using this approach are in clinical development with industry partners. Dr. Schramm is the Ruth Merns Chair of Biochemistry, and professor and chair of biochemistry.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

New Way of Seeing Cells — Drs. Matthew Levy and Erik Snapp have received a grant from the Single Cell Analysis Program of the National Institutes of Health’s Common Fund, whose goal is to support transformative, high-risk/high-reward research that addresses specific knowledge gaps. Currently, there are no tools available to visualize unmodified endogenous secretory proteins in live cells, since existing technologies rely on either genetically engineering proteins with fluorescent tags or preservation methods that require killing the cells prior to labeling of target proteins. Drs. Levy and Snapp will address this gap in single-cell imaging tools by developing their proposed Secretory Targeting Aptamer Beacons (STAB) technology, which uses fluorescently labeled aptamers, a nucleic acid-based small molecule, that can enter live cells and bind to a specific protein. This technology would be used to visualize the presence and level of secretory proteins -- which are robust markers for many diseases -- that could be used for both laboratory and clinical diagnostic purposes. Dr. Levy is assistant professor of biochemistry and Dr. Snapp is associate professor of anatomy and structural biology.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Imaging Excellence — David Gaita, a college student who participated in the 2012 Summer Undergraduate Research Program, won the “Novel Application Image of the Year” category of the Siemens Preclinical Image of the Year contest, along with his mentors. The award showcases images acquired as part of cutting-edge preclinical research using Siemens imaging systems. The award-winning images tested the feasibility of utilizing a widely used medical radioisotope, Technetium-99m (Tc-99m-MAA), to image the live goldfish brain. The winning images showed that Tc-9mm-MAA readily localizes to the gills, brain, and the suprabranchial chamber of the goldfish.  The experiment was conducted using a novel device ? specially designed and constructed by Wade Koba, operations manager of the MicroPET Core Facility ? that immobilizes aquatic animals in their natural environment. (Einstein has filed a patent application related to this research, which is available for licensing.) Results from the experiment demonstrated the ability to obtain repeated imaging without harm to the fish. This lays important groundwork for the possibility of imaging conscious zebra fish, an important vertebrate model organism used in such diverse fields as genetics, developmental biology, cancer, and immunology.  Mr. Gaita conducted his studies under the guidance of Dr. Linda Jelicks, associate professor of physiology and biophysics.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Examining Scientific Fraud — Dr. Arturo Casadevall’s research with collaborator Dr. Ferric Fang (University of Washington, Seattle), examining incidents of scientific fraud, was the “NewsFocus” feature in the January 24, 2013 issue of Science. The article chronicles how Drs. Casadevall and Ferric are taking a hard look at honesty in science and questioning the ethos of their profession. The publication, which is subscription-only, may be viewed at www.sciencemag.org. Dr. Casadevall is professor and chair of microbiology & immunology and the Leo and Julia Forchheimer Chair of Microbiology & Immunology.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Slowed Signaling Stumps Tumors  — Research by Drs. Jonathan BackerHashem Dbouk, and collaborators at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, UK, may reveal a novel target for anti-cancer drugs. The scientists found a method for blocking a specific enzyme, PI3Kβ, which is known to promote tumor formation.  PI3Kβ  can be activated by receptor tyrosine kinases and by G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), but the mechanism of GPCR activation was unknown. The researchers identified the region of PI3Kβ required for its activation by GPCRs. Expression of a mutant PI3Kβ that cannot be activated by GPCRs, or treatment of cells with a peptide inhibitor of PI3Kβ activation, prevented control cells from becoming cancerous, and prevented the invasion of tumor cells in an in vitro metastasis assay. The data suggest that inhibition of GPCR signaling may provide a novel approach to the treatment of some cancers. Dr. Backer is a professor of molecular pharmacology. Dr. Dbouk is a recently graduated Ph.D. student in Dr. Backer’s lab. The study was featured on the cover of the December 4, 2012 issue of Science Signaling.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Insightful Research Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) has presented Dr. Nicholas Baker with its Senior Scientific Investigator Award. This grant not only acknowledges Dr. Baker as a leader in the field of eye research, it allocates $150,000 in highly sought-after, flexible support for current research conducted by an established investigator. Dr. Baker aims to identify genes that enable some cells to prosper while neighboring cells perish. Such genes could also dictate whether a healthy eye cell will become diseased. A better understanding of the roles of these genes could reveal the causes of certain eye diseases and provide guidance for their prevention or treatment. RPB is the largest private funder of research into eye disease prevention and treatment, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in support since its inception in 1960. Dr. Baker joins a select group of 184 researchers who have been bestowed the Senior Scientific Investigator Award since its introduction in 1987. Dr. Baker is professor of ophthalmology & visual sciences, of genetics and of developmental & molecular biology.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Fate of fats and stem cells — Dr. Keisuke Ito has received $1.6 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease to study the role of lipid metabolism in the maintenance of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). HSCs have the potential to become all types of blood cells and are therefore important in maintaining the blood cell population throughout the lifespan of an organism. Understanding the mechanisms that determine the fate of HSCs will allow investigators to harness the potential of stem cells for clinical applications. The researchers will investigate how a key gene involved in lipid metabolism, PPARdelta, determines the fate and maintenance of this stem cell population, with a goal of identifying therapeutic approaches for manipulating the function of HSCs and clinical potential for enhancing and extending the health and well-being of patients. Dr. Ito is assistant professor of medicine and of cell biology, and director of Scientific Resources of the Stem Cell Institute.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Fateful Regulator — Researchers led by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Britta Will and her mentor, Dr. Ulrich Steidl, have identified a new critical regulator of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) fate called Satb1, a protein that has been linked to several types of cancer. HSCs are precursor blood cells that have the ability to mature into specialized cell types. They are guided by various factors within the cell to either commit to a particular cell lineage (differentiation commitment) or to maintain their immature form (self-renewal).  Although individual molecular mechanisms underlying each of these two opposing cell fates are understood, until recently, how they are coordinated has remained elusive. By studying stem cells lacking Satb1, the research team was able to show that the protein indeed coordinates the two processes:  Satb1 regulates self-renewal by simultaneously promoting quiescence (halting cell division) and by repressing differentiation commitment. The findings appear in the April 7 issue of Nature Immunology. Dr. Steidl is assistant professor of cell biology and of medicine (oncology).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 
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