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Farnesol is released from nanoparticle carriers into cavity-causing dental plaque. (Graphic by Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

'Nanotechnology might soon save you a trip to the dentist'

"We're never at a loss for toothpaste choices, but we may see the addition of 'With Nanotechnology!' advertised on the tubes in the future," wrote Ben Ouyang at medGadget.

"Nanotechnology might soon save you a trip to the dentist," added Emily Conover at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's online Science site.

Both were reacting to a nanoparticle carrier that can attach to the surface of teeth, and then release therapeutic agents intended to reduce dental plaque and prevent tooth decay — without being washed away by saliva.

Developed by Danielle Benoit, Assistant Professor of BIomedical Engineering, and Hyun Koo at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental Medicine, the nanoparticle carrier consists of an outer layer of cationic — or positively charged — segments of polymers that help plaque firmly attach to teeth. A drug called farnesol is secured inside the carrier with hydrophobic and pH-responsive polymers.

The positively charged outer layer of the carrier is able to stay in place at the surface of the teeth because the enamel is made up, in part, of HA (hydroxyapatite), which is negatively charged. Because teeth are coated with saliva, the researchers weren't certain the nanoparticles would adhere. But not only did the particles stay in place, they were also able to stick to dental plaque.

The carrier's inner material destabilizes at acidic — or low pH — levels, such as 4.5, allowing the drug to escape more rapidly. And that's exactly what happens to the pH level in plaque when it's exposed to glucose, sucrose, starch, and other food products that cause tooth decay. In other words, the nanoparticles release the drug when exposed to cavity-causing eating habits — precisely when it is most needed to quickly stop acid-producing bacteria.

"It's quite clever," says oral microbiologist Robert Allaker of Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved with the research. "I think it was an innovative piece of work." Read more . . .

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New Humanities Center will support multidisciplinary research

Dean of Arts & Sciences Gloria Culver has announced the creation of a Humanities Center, which will support multidisciplinary engagement around literature, history, the arts, and philosophies of cultures past and present with the aim of fostering educated, contributing global citizens. The fundamental goal of the center is to enhance the study of the humanities at Rochester while strengthening the ties to related disciplines, she said.

Culver and Interim Director Joan Shelley Rubin, Dexter Perkins Professor in History and the history department's director of graduate studies, said that they had chosen "Humanities at the Crossroads: Charting Our Future" as the center's theme for its first year. Faculty and students will organize research projects, seminars and symposia around the theme. They expect that these activities will draw on the methods and insights of a variety of disciplines both within and outside the humanities as they address the theme.

Rubin expects very soon to call for applications for Humanities Center junior faculty fellows, external and internal, who will collaborate with Rochester faculty and students on research projects related to the first-year theme. She said that a generous gift from Jay and Deborah Last to strengthen the humanities had made the junior faculty fellowships possible for the next three years.

President Joel Seligman, who supports the Humanities Project with $150,000 from the President's Venture Fund, has committed a further $100,000 per year while he is president to support the Humanities Center. Read more. . .

Upcoming sessions focus on applying Data Science to health research

"Hitting the Accelerator: Health Research Innovation through Data Science" on May 28 will bring together health researchers and data scientists from across multiple institutions. Tim Dye, Director of Biomedical Informatics and Associate Director for Population Health for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute; Henry Kautz, the Robin & Tim Wentworth Director of the Institute for Data Science; and Norma Nowak, Executive Director of the University of Buffalo's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and founder and chief scientific officer of Empire Genomics LLC, will give a panel presentation on current examples of successful biomedical informatics methods applied to health research. The session, sponsored by the UNYTE Translational Research Network will be from 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. in Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). Details and registration are available here. The Call for Poster Abstracts is available here.

The 2015 Symposium on Immune Modeling in the Big Data Era on June 4 and 5 will bring together an international group of speakers to address the challenges of modeling immune responses from complex data. Registration is open to the Medical Center community by May 15. Deadline for the poster competition, which offers a cash award for the best three posters, is also May 15. Learn more . . .

The 2015 Summer School on Computational Immunology from June 1 to 4 will help computational biology graduate students at the earliest stages of their studies learn mathematical and computational models, in particular using differential equation models and their experimental data to address immunological questions. No computational modeling experience is required. Applications accepted until May 15, but seats are limited to 50 participants, comprised mainly of graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty from an immunology or virology background. Click here to learn more.

Workshop helps you create profile page at Google Scholar

Google Scholar offers a way to create a profile that showcases papers you have written and the citations they have received. A workshop today will help you create a Google Scholar citation profile page to track your h-index citation counts. The workshop will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in the Rush Rhees Library Training Room (214). Contact Mari Tsuchiya at 275-5506 or with any questions.

New round of Community Health mini-grants now open

The next quarterly application deadline for the Community Health Mini-Grant Program is May 10. The program awards grants of up to $1,000 for applications that look at ways to address barriers to pursuing community health partnerships. More information, including application and instructions, can be found here under the "Quick Links" section.

Introducing a new faculty member

Heikki Rantakari has joined the Simon School as an assistant professor of economics. His research interests are in applied microeconomic theory and organizational economics, and he is particularly interested in models of decision-making in organizations and organizational structures. He earned his PhD in Economics from MIT in 2007. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Applied Economics at MIT's Sloan School of Management from 2012 until 2015, and an Assistant Professor of Finance and Business Economics at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business from 2007 to 2014.

University research in the news

AnnaLynn Williams, a PhD student in Epidemiology, studies cancer survivors and the effects of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments. Her interest is more than academic. Now cancer-free, she received chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to treat acute myeloid leukemia. Read more about her story in this Woman to Watch article at the Democrat and Chronicle.

A multi-site study that included URMC researchers shows that a parent training program can help reduce the tantrums, aggression, self-injury and other serious behavior problems common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is the largest-ever clinical trial for autism. Results of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that parent training decreased serious behavior problems by 47.7 percent. The training program taught parents to identify environmental events that might contribute to behavior problems, presented strategies for preventing these problems, and emphasized positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior. "Parents often see their child's behavior improve within a few weeks," said Tristram Smith, Professor of Pediatrics, who was the lead investigator in Rochester. The other sites included Emory University, Indiana University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, and Yale University. Read more . . .

The FY 2016 Energy and Water bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee this week includes $68 million for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the same level as FY15, but $7.5 million above President Barack Obama's request. The bill is expected to go to the floor as early as next week.

Congratulations to . . .

Jennifer Anolik, Associate Professor of Medicine, who has been named a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, one of the nation's oldest and most respected medical honor societies. Anolik, who runs the Medical Center's lupus clinic and program, was nominated for her work conducting translational and basic science research on lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Mitch Lovett, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Simon School, who has been named a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar for 2015. This recognizes individuals who received their doctorate four to seven years previously, and whose work suggests they are potential leaders of the next generation of marketing scholars. Lovett's research interests include quantitative marketing, targeted advertising, advertising content and schedule choices, online and offline word of mouth, branding, social media listening, and consumer learning.

PhD dissertation defenses

Benson Cheng, Microbiology and Immunology, "Development of Live-Attenuated Arenavirus Vaccines." Noon, April 28, 2015, Whipple Auditorium (2-6424). Advisor: Luis Martinez-Sobrido.

Rialnat Lawal, Pathology, "Osteolineage Notch Ligand Jagged1 Regulates Bone Homeostasis and Parathyroid Hormone-Dependent Long Term Hematopoietic Stem Cell Function." 1 p.m., May 4, 2015. K 307 Auditorium (3-6408). Advisor: Laura Calvi.

Susanne Pallo, Neuroscience, "The Role of Tau and Amyloid-Beta in Alzheimer's Disease-Related Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Excitotoxicity." 2:30 p.m., May 19, 2015, K 307 Auditorium (3-6408). Advisor: Gail Johnson.

Erin Wasserman, Epidemiology, "Epidemiology and Correlates of Self-Reported Academic Dysfunction Following a Concussion in High School and College Students." 1 p.m., May 26, 2015, HWH 1W501. Advisor: Edwin van Wijngaarden.

Mark your calendar

April 26: Deadline to apply for Falling Walls Lab competition, to be held May 19 at Sloan Auditorium. Any grad student, post-doc, scientist or early career faculty member, born on or after Nov. 8, 1980, is eligible. Prizes include $500 and expenses-paid trip to Falling Walls conference in Berlin in November for the winner. Apply here. Questions? Contact

April 29: "Copyrights and Commercialization: Patient Outcome Measure Development," presented by Chad Heatwole and Scott Catlin as part of the Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law series. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304).

May 1: Deadline for pre-proposals for University Technology Development Fund. Click here for more details about applying.

May 5: Fulbright Faculty Workshop with Peter VanDerwater, Director of Outreach for the Fulbright Scholar Program, 3-5:30 p.m., The Meliora, Frederick Douglass Building. Includes panel of University Fulbright alumni. To reserve a space, email

May 7: Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) town hall meeting noon to 1 p.m. in the Evarts Lounge in Helen Wood Hall. Brief updates from directors, then opportunity to give input, including what CTSI could do to accelerate research.

May 10: Deadline for Community Health Mini-Grants of up to $1,000 for applications that look at ways to address barriers to pursuing community health partnerships. See "quick links" here for details.

May 28: "Hitting the Accelerator: Health Research Innovation through Data Science," sponsored by the UNYTE Translational Research Network . 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. in the Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). Details and registration are available here.

June 1: Applications due for Cancer Research Program Grants of up to $100,000 for one years. Click here to read the full request for proposals. Applications should be submitted electronically to Pam Iadarola, who can also be contacted for more information.

June 4-5: 2015 Symposium on Immune Modeling in the Big Data Era. Register here by May 15.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections, an index of people and departments linked to those issues, and a chronological listing of PhD dissertation defenses since April 2014, by discipline.

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter for all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.