Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Conversation with a Yogi
Next story: Wellness Gadgetry

What Are They Building in There?

A survey of local biomedical research

Ever wonder what the geniuses who labor behind the ultra-modern facade of the Hauptman-Woodward Institute are working on? Curious about what’s cooking in the laboratories at the University at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute?

So were we. Here are nine examples of the cutting-edge biomedical research taking place in the region:

• UB researchers, led by Dr. John M. Canty Jr, have found that new heart cells can be regenerated in a stem cell therapy potentially applicable to patients suffering from heart dysfunction arising from insufficient blood flow to the heart.

• A clinical trial that enlisted more than 500 Western New York women has confirmed that the drug exemestane significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer in high-risk, postmenopausal women. The research was led UB’s Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende.

• At Hauptman-Woodward, Dr. Andrew Gulick is leading an effort to starve pathogenic bacteria of the iron they need to proliferate. The molecules that these bacteria use to acquire iron are called peptide siderophores, and the production of these siderophores depends on several enzymes. Working with scientists at MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute, Hauptman-Woodward’s team is developing inhibitors which will prevent those enzymes from creating the iron-gathering siderophores, thus preventing the targeted bacteria from growing and causing an infection.

• In December 2011, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Genome Project won a $5.1 million grant as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Led by RPCI’s president and CEO, Dr. Donald L. Trump, and RPCI’s deputy director, Dr. Candace Johnson, a team will compile and analyze the detailed genetic data of 1,000 Western New Yorkers in the project’s two-year pilot phase.

• Dr. Christine Ambrosone, with collaborators from two other institutions, is leading a major national effort to learn why African-American women are more likely than those of European descent to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, and with poor prognoses. The study, funded by a $19.3 million award from the National Cancer Institute, will be the largest to date on breast cancer in African-American women.

• Since the onset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bacterium Acinetobacter—previously best known for causing infections in hospital intensive care units—has been responsible for a series of stubbornly resistant infections reported in injured US service members. UB’s Dr. Thomas Russo is working with Dr. Tim Umland and Dr. Wayne Schultz from Hauptman-Woodward to develop new antibiotics active against Acinetobacter and other bacteria resistant to antimicrobial agents.

• Dr. Kunle Odunsi, director of Roswell Park’s Center for Immunotherapy and chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, is beginning a phase I clinical study of a new cancer “vaccine,” which will be tested in combination with a drug called rapamycin, which may contribute to controlling tumor growth long-term, potentially preventing cancers from recurring. Also notable: The vaccine will be manufactured onsite using equipment custom-made for Roswell Park by a company in Oswego County.

• The first definitive advance in treating type 1 diabetics since the discovery of insulin is being tested by UB researchers led by Dr. Paresh Dandonas. The UB researchers conducted a small, preliminary study last year and found that liraglutide, used to treat type 2 diabetes, could also help type 1 diabetics improve control of their blood glucose levels.

• UB researchers have found proof at the molecular level that chronic stress has a more powerful effect on the brain during adolescence than in adulthood and now. Dr. Zhen Yan and her colleagues found there was a significant impairment in the ability of adolescent animals (but not adults) to remember and recognize objects they had previously seen. The research is significant because the onset of some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, typically occurs in late adolescence.

blog comments powered by Disqus