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Enhancing Integration — Autism has been characterized as a disorder in social cognition and communication that may  be related to defects in integrating corresponding multisensory social stimuli, such as auditory information in speech sounds and visual information from accompanying lip movements. In work published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, graduate student Alice Brandwein investigated the neurophysiological basis of previously reported sensory integration abnormalities in children with autism by examining how their brain integrates very basic, non-social audiovisual information.  In testing a large group of high-functioning autistic children, the researchers found severe  integration deficits in the processing of audiovisual inputs that were apparent a mere fraction of a second after the audiovisual stimulus. Their findings indicate that there are underlying neurophysiological differences in how children with autism integrate basic audiovisual information, which might contribute to characteristic social communication deficits. In future work, the investigators plan to test whether video game-based interventions directed at enhancing integration of multisensory inputs translate to gains in the ability of autistic patients to process complex audiovisual social information Ms. Brandwein conducted her research under Dr. Sophie Molholm, associate professor of pediatrics and of neuroscience, and the Muriel and Harold Block Faculty Scholar in Mental Illness.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Unraveling CancerDr. Matthew Gamble has been awarded $1.7 million over five years by the National Cancer Institute to study the relationship between macroH2A, a type of histone or protein around which long strands of DNA are spooled, which also is known to play a role in regulating gene activity and cancer.  Because decreases in macroH2A have been associated with a variety of cancers, the Gamble laboratory will explore what precipitates this decrease and its downstream effects on cancer cell growth and survival.  Additionally, these studies will inform ongoing efforts to fine-tune the use of PARP inhibitors in cancer treatment, which are known to interact with macroH2A.  Dr. Gamble is assistant professor of molecular pharmacology.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Global Access — Evidence-based medicine has increasingly become the standard for which U.S. medical care strives, and the Internet is one of the most important tools for accessing updated, evidence-based clinical guidelines. In resource-limited settings (RLS), however, access by health care workers (HCW) to such medical resources is comparatively scarce.  In order to determine whether Internet-based medical information resources would be useful in such settings, the publishers of UpToDate, a leading online medical knowledge database, donated their resource to four hospitals within Rwanda, Malawi and South Africa, and teamed up with Dr. Johanna Daily to track its usage in these RLS.  Dr. Daily’s study found that the majority of HCW accessed the database at least weekly and searched a variety of topics, and that all users reported that the tool increased their clinical knowledge.  This suggests that the provision of Internet-based medical resources could enhance global health care initiatives and improve patient outcomes.  Dr. Daily is associate professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Potential Modulator Dr. Teresa DiLorenzo was awarded a $1.4 million grant over four years by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study how the severity of Type I diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin to control blood sugar, may be reduced by retraining the immune system to ignore rather than destroy insulin-producing pancreas cells.  By harnessing the power of steady-state dendritic cells, a subset of immune cells that can prevent the immune system from destroying healthy tissue such as the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, Dr. DiLorenzo will explore how targeted modulation of the body’s own immune system may be the best medicine for this complex autoimmune disease.  This work will provide insights that could possibly guide the future development of therapies for Type I diabetes that modulate the immune system. Type I diabetes, which is often referred to as juvenile diabetes since most individuals are diagnosed during childhood through their early 20s, represents a growing public health problem and is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality.  Dr. DiLorenzo is professor of microbiology & immunology and of medicine.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Linguistic Comparison — In looking at the differences in language skills between young children with autism spectrum disorders(ASD) who were monolingual (speaking only English) or who were bilingual (speaking both English and Spanish), Einstein researchers led by Dr. Maria Valicenti-McDermott found that the only difference in language skills was that bilingual children were more likely to vocalize and use gestures than were monolinguals. No differences were found between the two groups (40 bilingual and 40 monolingual) in terms of cognitive functioning, developmental level or autistic characteristics. Dr. Valicenti-McDermott and colleagues conclude that bilingualism does not seem to confer an extra vulnerability in those children with ASD who speak two languages. Their findings – from the first study to include bilingual English/Spanish-speaking children - were reported in the Journal of Child Neurology. Dr. Valicenti-McDermott is assistant professor of pediatrics and a staff member at Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Exploring Ethics — The journal Health Affairs recently published a paper, "Given Financial Constraints, It Would Be Unethical to Divert Antiretroviral Drugs from Treatment to Prevention," by Drs. Ruth Macklin and Ethan Cowan, in which they make the point that recent advances in HIV prevention have set up an ethical dilemma concerning whether limited resources and supplies of lifesaving antiretroviral medications should be divided between treatment and prevention. After exploring several ethical principles used in formulating public health policy, the duo concludes that it would be unethical to allow patients with treatable AIDS to have their conditions worsen and possibly die, even with supportive care, so that medications for treatment can be diverted for prevention. Dr. Macklin also was among those to give a featured presentation during a special briefing hosted by the journal on July 10, in Washington, DC. She is professor of epidemiology & population health and the Dr. Shoshanah Trachtenberg Frackman Faculty Scholar in Biomedical Ethics. Dr. Cowan is assistant professor of emergency medicine and of epidemiology & population health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Purine Prohibition — In a paper recently published in Chemistry & Biology, Dr. Vern Schramm and MSTP student Keith Hazleton describe a novel approach that may prove effective in treating malaria, the disease caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum that causes 800,000 deaths per year.  Their research team used acyclic immucilin phosphonates (AIPs) to inhibit hypoxanthine-guanine-xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HGXPRT). This enzyme is essential to the parasite for making purines, a group of organic compounds with many critical functions that include serving as one of the building blocks of DNA.  The use of AIPs blocked HGXPRT’s function, resulting in the death of P. falciparum parasites that were in infected red blood cells, which are a primary target in human malarial infection. The duo’s findings validate HGXPRT’s viability as a potentially effective drug target for treating malaria.  Dr. Schramm is the professor and chair of biochemistry, and the Ruth Merns Chair in Biochemistry.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Good Night, Sleep Right — In a new publication in the journal Pediatrics, Dr.  Karen Bonuck discusses her finding that children with disrupted sleep patterns through five years of age were more likely to have special education needs (SEN) at eight years old.  Dr. Bonuck found that a prior history of sleep disordered breathing (SDB), coupled with behavioral sleep problems, were risk factors for SEN.  This extends her previous work, also published in Pediatrics earlier in 2012, which found children with SDB - which includes snoring, apnea, and open-mouth breathing - were more likely to have behavioral difficulties.  These reports contribute to the growing knowledge of the serious effects that sleep disorders can have on cognitive and emotional functions in children.  Dr. Bonuck is professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Stay Connected — The September 2012 issue of ICTR Connections is now available for viewing via the Einstein-Montefiore Institute for Clinical & Translational Research website.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 

Heavy Reality  In research published in the journal, Cancer, Dr. Joseph Sparano, found that just being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Dr. Sparano noted that the link between obesity and cancer remains regardless of treatment and that reducing weight may reduce risk of recurrence.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
 
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