Research Highlights

NOTE: A major new award – the Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize – has been established by Facebook, Google and other technology firms to support research aimed at curing diseases and extending life. Five annual prizes of $3 million each will be granted in future years. The selection process allows anyone to nominate a candidate online for consideration. There are no age restrictions and the prize can be shared between any number of scientists. Winners will be invited to present public talks. (link to this website)

Here are some of the key research awards received by College of Medicine faculty during January.  In all, College of Medicine faculty received 13 new research awards totaling $3.9 million in new funding.

Shilpa Buch, Ph.D., pharmacology and experimental neurosciences, has received a $2.2 million National Institutes of Health grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  She will utilize microRNA profiling in combination with an opiate dependent animal model of neuroAIDS to understand how cross talk in the peripheral central nervous system can lead to disease progression.  Dr. Buch anticipates that this work could lead to the development of biomarkers for HIV-associated neuronal toxicity in opiate abusers, which could  be used as potential therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative disorders.

Thomas Porter, M.D., internal medicine – cardiology, has received a $380,000 National Institutes of Health grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.  This award will create a “theranostic system,” which combines the diagnostic and therapeutic effects of ultrasound with real time feedback to control the type and level of microbubble inducement, resulting in a non-invasive technique which could be used to rapidly treat patients with stroke or myocardial infarction.

Larisa Poluektova, Ph.D., pharmacology and experimental neurosciences, will be the UNMC lead for a National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded project initiated through the University of Rochester. This project will utilize Dr. Poluektova’s humanized mouse model to explore how changes in the permeability of the blood brain barrier impact inflammation in the brain and contribute to neurodegeneration in HIV-1 infections.

Nora Chapman, Ph.D., pathology and microbiology, will be the UNMC lead for a project funded through the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors Viral working group in collaboration with the University of Florida.  The group focuses on the role of viruses in type 1 diabetes. 

Javeed Iqbal, Ph.D., pathology and microbiology, has received a Lymphoma Research Foundation award to continue his exploration of gene expression profiling and pathway-targeted therapy in peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

Steven Tracy, Ph.D., pathology and microbiology, has received a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation award to explore the mechanisms by which intestinal viral infections may persist and mutate after the initial infection has passed and the role these persistent viruses may play in the development of diabetes.

Industry-sponsored contracts

The following industry sponsored contracts have also been received.  Information on clinical trials enrolling patients at UNMC can be found here.

Alan Langnas, D.O., surgery – tranplantation, is the UNMC lead for a Phase II Clinical Trial on the the safety and effectiveness on a current liver cancer therapeutic agent on preventing cancer recurrence in patients who have undergone liver transplantation as part of their cancer therapy.

Cyrus Desouza, M.D., internal medicine – diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism, is the UNMC lead for a multicenter, trial comparing the effectiveness of a newly formulated insulin analogue against the current formulation. This study is currently recruiting patients.

Stephen Rennard, M.D., internal medicine – pulmonary, is exploring the modulation of collagen types by lung fibroblasts.

John Bertoni, M.D., Ph.D., neurological sciences, is the UNMC lead for a multicenter, Phase II clinical trial exploring the safety and tolerability of a myeloperoxidase inhibitor of glial inflammation in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This study is not yet recruiting patients.

Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., pathology and microbiology, is evaluating the expression of cellular antigens in human vascular cell tumors.

William Burke, M.D., psychiatry, is the UNMC lead for a multicenter, Phase II clinical trial assessing the effectiveness and safety of a channel blocker of the NMDA class of glutamate receptors in patients with major depressive disorder who exhibit inadequate response to antidepressants.

Alexander Maskin, M.D., surgery – transplantation, is the UNMC lead for a multicenter, Phase I/II clinical trial testing whether a single dose of a prophylatic can prevent delayed graft function in patients undergoing deceased donor kidney tranplantation.

Notable research in scientific journals

John Chan, Ph.D., pathology and microbiology, in Feb. 18 online edition of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science) on how related F-box proteins control cell death in human lymphoma.

Kay-Uwe Wagner, Ph.D., and Kazuhito Sakamoto, Ph.D., both Eppley Institute, in Feb. 24 edition of Nature Immunology on the importance of transcription factor STAT5 to dendritic cells.