University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Graduate Students Compete in First 3 Minute Thesis Event

April 20, 2017|
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Four graduate students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were among the 15 finalists of UB’s inaugural 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

One of them, Danielle Twum, a doctoral candidate in the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Graduate Division, won second place in the competition that celebrates research by graduate students.

African Trypanosomes, Krabbe Disease Among Topics

Nadav Weinstock

Nadav Weinstock, a fifth-year MD/PhD student, aspires to become a physician-scientist working on developing therapies for rare diseases that affect babies.

During his first two years of medical school, Weinstock became interested in global health and spent time providing medical care at local free health clinics and to underserved remote populations in the Himalayan Mountains of India.

In 2016, he was awarded an F30 fellowship from the NIH for his research on Krabbe Disease.

His adviser in the Medical Scientist Training Program is M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Weinstock’s presentation was titled “Understanding Krabbe Disease.”

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Calcium Channel Research May Help Improve MS Therapies

December 14, 2016|
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Researchers have identified a critical step in myelination after birth that has significance for treating neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

In MS and similar diseases, myelin — the protective coating that neurons need to function — becomes lost or damaged.

The preclinical research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, concerns oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin, and the progenitor cells that are their precursors.

Channels Modulate Maturation of Oligodendrocytes

The work involved the study of voltage-operated calcium channels, which are responsible for initiating many physiological functions.

“Our findings show that these calcium channels modulate the maturation of oligodendrocytes in the brain after birth,” says co-author Pablo M. Paez, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and research scientist with the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI).

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New clues to myelination could help identify ways to intervene in neurodegenerative diseases

December 7, 2016|
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UB researchers have identified a critical step in myelination after birth that has significance for treating neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis, in which myelin is lost or damaged. Myelin is the protective coating that neurons need to function.

The preclinical research, published online in October in the Journal of Neuroscience, concerns oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin, and the progenitor cells that are their precursors.

The work involved the study of voltage-operated calcium channels, which are responsible for initiating many physiological functions.

How myelin-making cells mature

“Our findings show that these calcium channels modulate the maturation of oligodendrocytes in the brain after birth,” said Pablo M. Paez, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and a research scientist with the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) at UB, where most of the work was done.

“That’s important because it’s possible that the activity of this calcium channel can be manipulated pharmacologically to encourage oligodendrocyte maturation and remyelination after demyelinating episodes in the brain,” he said.

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Three MD/PhD Students Receive NIH F30 Individual Fellowships

November 14, 2016|
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Three students in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) have received prestigious fellowships from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellowship (F30) is intended to enhance research and clinical training of promising predoctoral students who are matriculated in a combined MD/PhD training program and plan to pursue careers as physician-scientists.

“The three F30 fellowships represent a significant achievement for the students as well as for our MD/PhD training,” says Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD, director of the Medical Scientist Training Program and senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities.

The awards:

Research Focused on Krabbe Leukodystrophy

Title: “Cell Specific Ablation of Galc and the Pathogenesis of Krabbe Disease”

Principal investigator: Nadav Weinstock

Length of project: Four years

Total funding: $153,772

Weinstock is a fifth-year student who works in the lab of M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Through his work at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI), Weinstock developed a shared project on Krabbe Leukodystrophy (KL) with Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, HJKRI director and professor of neurology and biochemistry; and Daesung Shin, PhD, research assistant professor at HJKRI.

Weinstock aspires to become a physician-scientist in the field of pediatric neurology. His goal is to care for patients as a clinician while also conducting basic science research.

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UB honors exceptional scholars, innovative teachers

July 7, 2016|
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Fifteen of UB�s best and brightest teachers and researchers have been named recipients of the university�s 2016 Exceptional Scholar and Teaching Innovation awards.

All will be honored at the annual Celebration of Faculty/Staff Excellence, to be held on Oct. 20.

The Exceptional Scholars Award honors faculty members for their outstanding research performance at different stages of their careers. There are two awards: Sustained Achievement Awards for senior scholars and Young Investigator Awards for untenured scholars who received their terminal degree within the past eight years. Both awards recognize work that has �garnered public and/or professional accolades beyond the norm.�

Sustained Achievement recipients are selected based on their body of work over a number of years. The award is not meant to serve as a lifetime achievement honor, but rather as recognition for outstanding performance in a recent segment of a scholar�s career.

Recipients for 2016 are Brahm Segal, professor, Department of Medicine; Irus Braverman, professor, School of Law; Thomas Feeley, professor, Department of Communication; Doreen Wackeroth, professor, Department of Physics; M. Laura Feltri, professor, departments of Biochemistry and Neurology; Murali Ramanathan, professor, departments of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Neurology; and Kui Ren, professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

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Research Shows Role of Mechanical Signaling in Myelination

July 6, 2016|
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UB researchers led by M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology, have discovered that mechanical forces play a critical role in the formation of myelin. �We know ... that after a bone fracture, one should put weight on the broken bone because this mechanical stimulation improves the formation of new bone cells. Now we know that a similar phenomenon is occurring with myelin cells.� Their findings, published online June 6 in Nature Neuroscience, may signal a path to new therapies for multiple sclerosis and other myelin-related diseases.

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Higgins announces $239,250 federal grant to UB for work at Hunter James Kelly Research Institute

June 10, 2016|
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Grant aimed at early, accurate diagnosis of Krabbe disease, and aiding in the treatment of newborns.

Congressman Brian Higgins announced the State University of New York at Buffalo was awarded a federal grant totaling $239,250 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toward the goal of enhancing the accuracy of newborn screening for Krabbe disease.

"This federal investment will support exceptional research happening right here at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute that is providing promising advancements toward achieving better detection and treatment for Krabbe disease," Higgins said.

Krabbe disease is diagnosed through a series of tests, which often includes a blood test to determine the level of GALC enzyme activity. Other tests can include a MRI, CT, nerve conduction study and genetic testing for mutation analysis. Effective newborn screening can lead to correct and early diagnosis and treatment. Patients diagnosed before the disease is too far progressed may be eligible for a cord blood transplant, which can halt the progress of the disease.

"This grant to the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute is aimed at improving diagnosis of Krabbe disease by newborn screening," said Thomas J. Langan, M.D., principal investigator on the grant, clinical director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, and associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and physiology and biophysics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. "One of the biggest challenges with newborn screening of Krabbe's disease is false positives, test results that suggest that a disease is present, when it actually is not."

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Myelin cells feel the force, UB researchers find

June 6, 2016|
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Myelination depends on mechanical as well as chemical signaling and that may signal a new path to treatments for myelin diseases, such as MS.

BUFFALO, N.Y. � Mechanical forces play a critical role in myelination, the formation of the protective coating that neurons need to function, researchers at the University at Buffalo have discovered.

The paper was published online June 6 in Nature Neuroscience.

The authors are scientists at UB�s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI), one of a handful of research institutes in the world with an exclusive focus on myelin and diseases of myelin, such as multiple sclerosis and leukodystrophies, and how they may be treated. The institute, part of UB�s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, was established in 1997 by Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, after their infant son, Hunter, was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy, an inherited, fatal disorder. He died in 2005 at the age of 8.

The UB researchers found that Schwann cells, the cells that form myelin in the nervous system, respond to mechanical stimuli by activating certain molecules that are then transferred to the nucleus to trigger myelination.

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Physician Scientists Association Grants Local Chapter to UB

March 11, 2016|
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The University at Buffalo�s Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) has been named a local chapter of the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA).

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Park Receives $1.8M Grant to Study Transcription Factor in Myelination

October 20, 2015|
Yungki Park, PhD

Yungki Park, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study a transcription factor key to developing and maintaining myelin in the central nervous system.

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New Research Technique Boosts Understanding of Myelin Diseases

October 6, 2015|
Yannick Poitelon, PhD and M. Laura Feltri, MD

Researchers at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) have discovered a new way to study the interface where cells in the myelination process connect ?a method that may lead to a better understanding of myelin diseases.

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New candidate drug 'dials down' protein synthesis to treat demyelinating diseases

April 21, 2015|
Lawrence Wrabetz, director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, University at Buffalo

UB researcher contributes to study on new candidate drug that may help treat misfolded protein diseases like CMT, Alzheimer�s and Parkinson�s.

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Biochemist IDs Pathway Central to Stability of Nerve Axons

December 15, 2014|
Bogdan K. Beirowski, MD, PhD

A University at Buffalo biochemist led the first study to identify the liver kinase B1 (LKB1) pathway as a possible therapeutic target for neuropathies, including diabetic neuropathy.

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Vision, Neurology Experts Named UB Distinguished Professors

July 15, 2014 |
Fliesler, Wrabetz named University at Buffalo Distinguished Professors

Steven J. Fliesler, PhD, Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of ophthalmology and professor of biochemistry, and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry, have been named University at Buffalo Distinguished Professors, effective Sept. 1.

They are among five UB professors receiving this honor in 2014 in recognition of their scholarly distinction and leadership.

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5 Departments Welcome New Faculty

February 21, 2014|
Yungki Park PhD

Department of Biochemistry--Yungki Park, PhD, is an assistant professor. Park's research aims to increase knowledge about how oligodendrocyte differentiation is regulated for central nervous system myelination. His work could provide a firm basis for developing more effective therapeutics for demyelinating diseases.

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UB Chosen to Co-Lead Major State Effort to Spur Genome Research

January 9, 2014 |
Myelination Researcher Honored as Distinguished Postdoc Mentor

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that the University at Buffalo will co-lead a statewide effort to position New York State as a national leader in genomic medicine.

At his State of the State address, Cuomo said UB will partner with the New York Genome Center (NYGC) in Manhattan to accelerate recent advances in genomic medicine directly into clinical care.

As part of this effort, UB will receive $50 million to increase research capacities.

UB will provide NYGC - a consortium of 16 educational and research organizations - with expertise and supercomputing power.

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UB Study Seeks Molecular Mechanism Leading to Myelination

August 14, 2013|
Pablo Paez, PhD, Hunter James Kelly Research Institute, University at Buffalo

Pablo M. Paez, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, will use a $1.74 million grant to study how cellular processes involving calcium channels contribute to myelination and myelin pathology.

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Myelination Researcher Honored as Distinguished Postdoc Mentor

July 30, 2013 |
Myelination Researcher Honored as Distinguished Postdoc Mentor

M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry, has been honored with the 2013 Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award. "I learned that the best strategy for me is to have a personalized approach. I give close to complete freedom to the best post-docs; others need more nurturing, especially at the beginning."

Sponsored by the University at Buffalo's Graduate School Office of Postdoctoral Scholars, the award was presented June 13 during the Postdoctoral Research Symposium.

"I am extremely honored by the award." says Feltri. "I feel it has true meaning because the nomination comes directly from my fellow co-workers."

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Researchers ID Neuropathy Cause, Restore Myelination

May 22, 2013 |
Researchers ID Neuropathy Cause, Restore Myelination

Neuroscientists at the University at Buffalo's Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) and European colleagues have provided proof of principle for how a genetic mutation leads to some neuropathies.

The international team also used a research drug to successfully alleviate the protein synthesis misstep, thereby improving myelin. Myelin is the fatty material that wraps the axons of neurons and allows them to signal effectively.

As a result, a potential new treatment strategy may be on the horizon for patients with a host of neurological disorders that result from misfolded proteins.

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New Research Suggests Treatment for Neurological Disorders such as CMT, Alzheimer's

April 29, 2013 |
new treatment for patints with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

A potential new treatment strategy for patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is on the horizon, thanks to research by neuroscientists now at the University at Buffalo's Hunter James Kelly Research Institute and their colleagues in Italy and England.

The institute is the research arm of the Hunter's Hope Foundation, established in 1997 by Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, and his wife, Jill, after their infant son Hunter was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy, an inherited fatal disorder of the nervous system. Hunter died in 2005 at the age of eight. The institute conducts research on myelin and its related diseases with the goal of developing new ways of understanding and treating conditions such as Krabbe disease and other leukodystrophies.

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CURCA Funds Student's Biochemistry Research

February 28, 2013 |
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An exchange student investigating the metabolic exchange that occurs between myelin and axons has received an award from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA).

Gustavo Della Flora Nunes, a scholar with Brazil's Science Without Borders program, conducts research with M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Shedding Light on Axonal Damage Nunes' research could help scientists design protection for axons in demyelinating disorders like multiple sclerosis. He is studying what happens to axons when the metabolism of its surrounding glial cells is damaged. His research involves eliminating a crucial energy-producing component in myelinating glia. Myelin, made by glial cells, is the fatty sheath surrounding an axon, the part of a neuron that transmits impulses away from the cell body. Scientists believe that myelin cells provide nutrients and energy to neurons.

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Postdoctoral Biochemist Awarded $40,000 Neuropathy Fellowship

September 5 , 2012 |
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Sophie Belin, PhD, a postdoctoral research scientist in biochemistry, has received the 2012 Peripheral Nerve Society(PNS) Neuropathy Fellowship.

She was selected for the competitive $40,000 grant to investigate a pharmacological approach to treat hereditary neuropathy of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease type.

Studying Arthritis Drug in Mouse Model of CMT Belin will work on the project with her mentor, Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry and director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute.

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Arrival of Wrabetz and Feltri moves work of Kelly institute forward

November 3, 2011 |
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The mission of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) is moving forward with great fervor with the recent arrival of highly regarded neuroscientists Lawrence Wrabetz and Laura Feltri.

Dubbed "physiccian-scientist superstars" by Michael Cain, dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, at the press conference in 2010 announcing the pair's recruitment to UB, Wrabetz is the institute's first director and holds a primary appointment in the Department of Neurology, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Biochemistry; Feltri has a primary appointment in Biochemistry.

The husband-wife research team arrived in Buffalo in late spring from Milan, Italy, with family and laboratories, including 10 research associates-eight of Italian and two of French descents-and 56 lines of transgenic mice.

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Noted Researchers Join Kelly Institute

August 12, 2010 |
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Lawrence Wrabetz, head of the myelin biology unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, has been appointed director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) at UB.

Laura Feltri, who heads the neuroglia unit at the Italian institute and is Wrabetz's spouse, also has been recruited to the HJKRI, which was established in 2004 by UB and the Hunter's Hope Foundation. Wrabetz and Feltri will begin transitioning their laboratories to Buffalo this fall.

Both are highly regarded neuroscientists with significant backgrounds in basic and translational research on myelin, known as white matter-the sheath protecting brain nerve fibers that is essential for all normal functioning of the nervous system. They will work as a team in the HJKRI, located in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo.

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