Mounting evidence suggests that age-related cognitive decline is caused not by nerve cell death, as it is in Alzheimer’s disease, but from a disruption in synapses, the structures that allow a nerve cell to transmit a signal to other nerve cells. Demonstrating these synaptic disruptions in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and linking such disruptions to synaptic health, has been challenging for scientists—until now.
The creation of a trachea engineered from stem cells that can be transplanted in people with lung or airway diseases is being pioneered by physicians at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals. The promising technology will be presented at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons 50th Annual Meeting in Orlando in late January by a team led by Faiz Bhora, MD, Director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology and Thoracic Surgery Research at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals.
There are more than 23 million people in the United States, including 1.6 million in New York State, who have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body is resistant to the action of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas to lower the blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with obesity, can result in kidney failure, limb amputations, blindness, heart disease, and stroke when blood sugar levels are uncontrolled.
“Many of these individuals who are living with type 2 diabetes and obesity are trying tirelessly to manage their diabetes and blood sugar, but without success,” says Aida Saliby, MD, of the Department of Endocrinology at Beth Israel Medical Center. “They do not respond fully to diet and lifestyle modifications, or they become resistant to the effects of oral medications, requiring additional treatments to manage their disease. Given the severe and growing diabetes epidemic, there is a substantial need to develop new, more effective therapies,” she says.
The topic of “team science” took center stage at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s second annual SinaInnovations conference on Monday, November 18, and Tuesday, November 19. Hundreds of scientists, students, and participants from diverse industries gathered in Stern Auditorium for keynote addresses and panel discussions that examined how teamwork drives creativity. The conference also featured smaller breakout sessions run by leaders in academia and industry that explored topics such as scholarship and diversity within team science.
A joint research project between the Department of Neurosurgery and the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine is evaluating the use of meditation to decrease pain after spine surgery. This particular meditation technique has been shown in clinical trials to reduce patient’s need for pain medication for those with chronic pain, and has been shown to reduce people’s perception of the severity of a painful stimulus. Arthur L. Jenkins, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, and Patricia Bloom, MD, associate professor in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, devised a research trial to see if teaching this technique to patients could reduce the amount of pain medicine needed to manage their pain after spine surgery.
Oncologists have long puzzled over the fact that after cancer treatment, disseminated tumor cells are quick to grow and form secondary tumors in certain organs, while in other organs they metastasize more slowly. Such is the case with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells, which remain dormant when lodged in bone marrow but rapidly form tumors when they make their way into the lungs.
Research in Mark Baxter’s laboratory, the Glickenhaus Laboratory of Neuropsychology, focuses on the neural systems underlying memory and other higher cognitive functions, and understanding how disturbances in these systems impair cognitive function in brain disorders. Our general approach is to study the effects on behavior of specific manipulations of neural circuits in animal models, to gain insight into how similar disruptions in human disease may be responsible for cognitive impairment.
In recent years there have been major breakthroughs in the identification of novel molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of brain disorders. For instance, thanks to state-of-the-art molecular techniques, current stem cell research not only allows in-vitro recapitulation of disease expression, but also for the discovery of novel disease-associated cellular mechanisms.
We all know that it is easier to learn a new language or musical instrument as a child rather than in adulthood. At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills and sensation to higher cognitive processes like language – than it does during childhood. This experience-dependent process occurs at distinct time windows called “critical periods”, which are times of great opportunity but also of great vulnerability for the developing brain. Early disruption of proper sensory or social experiences will result in mis-wired circuits that will respond sub-optimally to normal experiences in the future. Comparable effects are also seen for the development of vision, where if a child’s binocular vision is compromised and not corrected before the age of eight, amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) is permanent and irreversible.