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Strategies to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic

Strategies to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic—Widespread use and misuse of prescription opioids has led to a nationwide opioid epidemic. Better public health policies and strategies are needed to address the crisis. Joanna Starrels, M.D., M.S., treats and studies both chronic pain and addiction. Dr. Starrels has received a five-year, $943,000 NIH grant to mentor junior investigators to conduct research that will improve patient care and public policy approaches to curb the opioid epidemic. For example, she will study how best to reduce opioid doses for patients with chronic pain who are treated in primary care or HIV treatment settings. Dr. Starrels is associate professor of medicine and attending physician at Montefiore Health System. (1K24DA046309-01)

Thursday, March 22, 2018
Mechanisms in Diabetic Bone Loss

Mechanisms in Diabetic Bone Loss —Diabetes affects the way sensory fibers in bones receive mechanical and neural signals. That means bone mass doesn’t increase as it normally does in response to mechanical stimulation. With a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Mia M. Thi, Ph.D., and Sylvia O. Suadicani, Ph.D.,  will build on previous research suggesting that the protein complex Panx1-P2X7R influences bones’ ability to receive and respond to signals. They will examine whether diabetes affects the bones’ sensory fibers; if regulating Panx1-P2X7R is essential for bone adaptation; and if dysfunction of this protein complex triggers inflammation that impairs bone growth. Using animal models of type 1 diabetes, they will investigate new treatments for stemming diabetic bone loss. Dr. Thi is an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and an instructor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience. Dr. Suadicani is associate professor of urology and is an assistant professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience. (1R01AR073475-01)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Visual Clutter and Impaired Vision

Visual Clutter and Impaired Vision—Visual crowding—clutter’s interference with our ability to recognize individual objects—can be a significant problem for people with macular degeneration and other eye diseases. Adam Kohn, Ph.D., has received a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Eye Institute to determine the neural underpinnings of visual crowding. In research using monkeys and focusing on the brain’s visual cortex, Dr. Kohn will examine how crowded visual displays affect the ability of nerves to absorb sensory information. His findings may lead to better therapies for the impaired central vision that characterizes macular degeneration. Dr. Kohn is professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and of ophthalmology and visual sciences and systems & computational biology. (1R01EY028626-01)

Friday, March 09, 2018
Insights into Autoimmunity

Insights into Autoimmunity—There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, which occur when immune cells aberrantly attack the body’s own cells or tissues. CD8 T cells strongly contribute to the pathology observed in type 1 diabetes and many other autoimmune diseases. Teresa DiLorenzo, Ph.D., and Steven Almo, Ph.D., have received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fill in critical knowledge gaps regarding the protein-protein interactions that occur when CD8 T cells target and damage tissue. CD8 T cells also help eliminate disease-causing microbes and tumors, so knowledge gained from studying autoreactive CD8 T cells should improve understanding of T-cell biology in general. The research may also lead to more effective ways to manipulate and harness the immune system to prevent disease and improve health. Dr. DiLorenzo is professor of microbiology & immunology and of medicine and Diane Belfer, Cypres & Endelson Families Faculty Scholar in Diabetes Research at Einstein. Dr. Almo is professor and chair of biochemistry, professor of physiology & biophysics, and Wollowick Family Foundation Chair in Multiple Sclerosis and Immunology at Einstein. (1R01AI123730-01A1)

Tuesday, March 06, 2018
How Nuclear Pore Traffic Cops Do Their Job

How Nuclear Pore Traffic Cops Do Their Job—The nuclear envelope of eukaryotic cells must be permeable — messenger RNA molecules must exit the nucleus to be translated into proteins in the cytoplasm, for example, and newly translated chromatin protein must enter the nucleus to help form chromosomes. This two-way traffic passes through gatekeepers known as nuclear pore complexes endowed with the paradoxical ability to transport thousands of molecules both rapidly and very specifically (i.e., allowing some molecules through while blocking others). To discover the secret to the nuclear pore complexes’ success, David Cowburn, Ph.D., and collaborators looked at interactions between transiting molecules and intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) that line the pore’s central channel. Surprisingly, in a report published online on January 26 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry,the binding between IDPs and transiting molecules is energetically weak, allowing for rapid interactions. Simultaneously, the many phenylalanine-glycine repeats within the IDPs makes for more frequent contacts between IDPs and transiting molecule, enhancing specificity. In the February 8 online issue of Structure, Dr. Cowburn and colleagues used neutron scattering experiments to gain insights into the conformational changes that IDPs undergo. Dr. Cowburn is a professor of biochemistry and of physiology & biophysics at Einstein. Samuel Sparks, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Cowburn’s lab, was co-first author of the Journal of Biological Chemistry paper and first author of the Structure paper.

Monday, March 05, 2018
Bone Cancers Without Biopsies

Bone Cancers Without Biopsies—In a study involving patients with osteosarcoma, Einstein-Montefiore researchers have shown for the first time that tumor DNA circulating in the blood (ctDNA) can be identified and tracked over time—a potential boon for patients with this common type of bone cancer. Until now, most disease-monitoring technology has focused on radiologic imaging techniques—an approach that is not very sensitive for tracking the tumor. Daniel Weiser, M.D., and colleagues applied a highly sensitive DNA sequencing method to identify non-cancerous DNA and tumor DNA from the blood of seven osteosarcoma patients. The results, published online on January 18 in Oncotarget, showed that ctDNA could potentially be used to monitor disease progression and tumor response to treatment, without the need for invasive biopsies or imaging. Dr. Weiser is an assistant professor of pediatrics and genetics at Einstein and the medical director of the Intra-Abdominal Solid Tumor Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

Thursday, March 01, 2018
A Genetic Link Between Stroke and Depression

A Genetic Link Between Stroke and Depression—Stroke and depression are major global health problems. Previous epidemiological studies had found a relationship between depressive symptoms and stroke risk, but for the first time a genetic link between the two conditions has been found. A study published in the journal Stroke online on February 8, has found that a genetic risk for Major Depressive Disorder (MMD) is associated with a higher risk of stroke. The study involved nearly 14,000 stroke cases and more than 28,000 controls among people of European and African ancestry. All underwent genetic testing (resulting in a polygenic risk score for MDD) to test whether genetic risk for MMD is associated with stroke risk.  Overall, for both ancestries, a higher risk for MMD was associated with higher risk for ischemic (clot-caused) stroke. In particular, the researchers found that a higher risk for MMD was associated with higher risk for the small vessel occlusion subtype of stroke in both those of European and African ancestry.  The lead author was Einstein’s Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., distinguished university professor emerita of epidemiology & population health.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Finding How a Natural HIV-1 Blocker Works

Finding How a Natural HIV-1 Blocker Works—The protein SERINC5, found in cell membranes, is known to inhibit HIV-1 from infecting human T cells. But how the protein interfered with HIV-1 was unclear. Now, Felipe Diaz-Griffero, Ph.D., has identified the mechanism. When HIV-1 particles are produced within infected human T cells, SERINC5 becomes incorporated into the membrane of the newly produced viral particles. The presence of SERINC5 in the viral particle changes the shape of the viral envelope, and that change in the envelope’s conformation restricts HIV-1 from invading new T cells. The findings, published online on December 18 in Virology, suggest that a therapeutic version of SERINC5 might be able to inhibit HIV-1 in the bloodstream before the virus can infect T cells. Dr. Diaz-Griffero is associate professor of microbiology & immunology and the Elsie Wachtel Faculty Scholar at Einstein.

Monday, February 26, 2018
Studying How HIV and Herpes Virus Interact

Studying How HIV and Herpes Virus Interact—When people are co-infected with HIV and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2, the primary cause of genital herpes), the combined infection can reactivate latent HIV-1 infection. But the biological mechanisms which contribute to interactions between HIV and HSV-2 are not well understood. The NIH has awarded Betsy Herold, M.D., and colleagues a five-year, $2.49 million grant to investigate those mechanisms. They will test their hypothesis that HSV-2 triggers changes in CD4+ T cells (including reducing intracellular levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin 32) that promote latent HIV-1 to reactivate. Their findings may lead to new strategies for eliminating HIV. Using HSV-2 coinfection as a tool, they will identify pathways and molecules that could be targeted to block HIV reactivation caused by HSV-2. Conversely, the researchers will explore ways to purposely reactivate latent HIV as part of an HIV eradication strategy known as “shock and kill.” Dr. Herold is professor of pediatrics, of microbiology & immunology, and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health. (1R01AI134367-01A1)

Thursday, February 22, 2018
Targeting TB Enzymes

Targeting TB Enzymes—Myobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), infects a third of the world population and is a leading cause of mortality. However, drug-resistant strains of Mtb continue to hinder TB control efforts. In a study published online on January 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Einstein researchers, led by Catherine J. Vilcheze, Ph.D., and William R. Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D., focused on three NADH dehydrogenase enzymes (Ndh, NdhA and Nuo) involved in the electron transport chain. The researchers found that deleting the gene that codes for Ndh reduced Mtb virulence the most and that compounds that could target both Ndh and Nuo would be good candidates for anti-Mtb drugs. Dr. Jacobs is the Leo and Julia Forchheimer Chair in Microbiology and Immunology, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a professor of genetics and microbiology and immunology at Einstein. Dr. Vilcheze is an instructor in microbiology and immunology at Einstein.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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