In this edition of Research Connections, find links to researchers in the news, updates on important deadlines, and more news for University of Rochester researchers.
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Enslaved people in colonial Mexican cities had recourse to religious protections

(This is the second installment looking at the research of the Humanities Center's two inaugural resident fellows — Pablo Sierra, assistant professor of history, and Kristin Doughty, assistant professor of anthropology, both of whom are featured in this issue. The Humanities Center fellowship program is supported by Jay Last '51.)

Maria de Terra Nova, an enslaved West African who lived in colonial Mexico during the 1620s, receives Pablo Sierra's nomination as "perhaps the most incredible fish vendor in history."

She made a lot of money for her owners, and was even allowed to keep a share as incentive, explains Sierra, an assistant professor of history. Eventually she bought her freedom in the city of Puebla — after promising her owner not to work for any of his competitors.

She promptly reneged on that promise — and was upheld by the courts.

Maria's story is part of the "forgotten history" of Mexico's "third root" — the enslaved Africans whose lives and contributions during the nation's colonial period have been largely undocumented, compared to those of the native Aztecs and Mayans and the Spaniards who conquered them. Sierra spent this past semester continuing his research in this area as one of the Humanities Center's inaugural resident fellows.

"When you start to consider a third contribution, from Africans coming in with their own languages and cultures and ways of thinking about families, it becomes a much more interesting space," says Sierra, who is finishing a book manuscript on slavery in his hometown of Puebla de Los Angeles.

The captives, most whom were brought to colonial Mexico from Angola in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, lived primarily in the cities and, more often than not, were or became members of the Catholic Church.

Those circumstances provided the slaves with both the mobility Maria enjoyed while selling her wares, and recourse to religious protections.

"It's very different from what we're used to hearing about 19th century Georgia or South Carolina," says Sierra.

For example:

The marriage of slaves and the baptism of their children into the Catholic Church "often translated into mitigating the rights of their owners" to break up families by selling a parent or child to a distant owner. "A slave had a right to search for other potential owners in the same city, even to fight his case in ecclesiastical court to retain his marriage and keep his family intact," Sierra said.

So rapid was the assimilation of Africans, Spaniards, South Asians, and indigenous people that, by the 18th century, urban Mexico "becomes such a mixed society that racial labels begin to disappear," Sierra said. That's why he believes a better understanding of what happened among different races in colonial Mexico could "hold a lot of clues" for what might happen this century in the United States.

"Colonial Mexico was incredibly diverse in the way that Rochester — that any major U.S. city — is today, where you have the interplay of people with different languages, educational levels and skills sets all coming together. What's interesting is to see the culture that is produced by that interplay."

Giving voice to enslaved people whose words were not recorded

What was it like for young slaves from Angola, likely still in their teens, to arrive in chains at Veracruz, Mexico, in the 1600s, and then endure a two- to three-week journey from sea level to a highlands slave market 7,300 feet up amid the Sierra Madres?

"It is a completely different environment (from coastal Angola)," says Sierra. "It is temperate in the highlands. It is cold at night; hot during the day. These captives find themselves in a place where everything looks different, smells different, tastes different. How do we understand the sensory experience of the slave road?"

Not easily. Few if any of these slaves, most of whom were illiterate, left first hand accounts of their experiences. Sierra said he might peruse a Spanish chronicle from the period and find only a single reference to slaves.

There is, however, an abundance of notarial records from the period, which document transactions involving just about everything — including enslaved people. Sierra has found them useful — in conjunction with other historical resources — for providing clues about the slave experience.

"I have been able to find transportation contracts where an incoming slave trader has approached a muleteer needing to transport 80 slaves from Veracruz into the highlands, a journey that will take two and half weeks," Sierra explained. "In the contract, the muleteer agrees to put two captives on each mule, stop at certain designated rest stops, and if all goes well, 'we'll see you in Mexico City.'"

The records have also helped him better understand the complex nature of the slave trade in colonial Mexico. "It's a network that connects to Mexico to Angola to Portugal to Seville. It's really kind of stunning when you understand how interconnected it is."

Notarial records, highly valued by scholars 40 years ago, are less so now. "Some scholars are very critical of using notarial resources, saying, for example, it reifies the power of slaveholders," Sierra said. "However, the risk in limiting these resources is that we end up omitting information about certain groups entirely."

(Next: A look at the Humanities Center's fellows for the 2016-17 academic year.)

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Who killed who is not the only question
that needs answers in genocide's aftermath

(This is the second of two parts looking at the research of Kristin Doughty, assistant professor of anthropology — the Humanities Center's other inaugural resident fellow.)

While attending sessions of the grassroots courts that Rwanda put in place to address the genocide that occurred there, Kristin Doughty was struck by how often the discussions centered as much on the return of a stolen goat or cow, as meting out punishment for a killing.

"In conditions of great economic scarcity, these discussions were indexes of people's needs for livelihood," said Doughty, an assistant professor of anthropology, whose book Remediation in Rwanda (University of Pennsylvania Press) has just been published.

As a result, one the key arguments she makes in her book is that "paying attention only to (the specific crime of) genocide obscures clarity about the kinds of things people are really thinking about, and what it really means to recover from genocide."

A major purpose of Rwanda's 11,000 gacaca (genocide) courts and the similarly structured mediation committees for lesser offenses, Doughty said, was "reconciliatory justice" — emptying the prisons, not filling them, so that the country could get on with rebuilding. Within a few years, the gacaca courts handled one million cases.

In many instances, they released perpetrators of genocide or related offenses to resume living side by side with the families they had victimized, purely on the basis of a confession and time already served.

As a result, the discussions in the gacaca courts often involved "broader questions of obligation, that were really about people working out repayment of both moral caring and economics amongst neighbors who knew each other before and were going to have to again live side by side. The courts created a space for people to work through this messy process of rebuilding relationships, in a way that hadn't been talked about before publically," Doughty said.

The genocide that occurred in Rwanda resulted in more than senseless killings; for example, the waves of initial Hutu-instigated crimes, followed by Tutsi reprisals, caused entire populations to relocate in and out of the countryside. Combined with the destruction of official records, this resulted in multiple cases of contested land ownership and inheritance rights, Doughty noted.

Therein lies another valuable lesson for nations dealing with the aftermath of genocide, she argues: Much as courts try to neatly define a crime like genocide, and draw careful boundaries of jurisdiction among different types of courts, "peoples' lives are not like that in the wake of genocide.

"In a court's view, a land dispute has nothing to do with genocide, but for a person who has lived through genocide, they are 100 percent bound up with each other."

Antioxidant may help joint replacements last longer

Infusing antioxidants into the plastic surface between metal components of total joint replacements may help the implants last longer and reduce damage to surrounding bone, according to researchers in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research. They have shown that an antioxidant, called COVERNOX™, promotes both destruction and rebuilding of bone in a mouse model, but favors rebuilding.

About 7 million people in the United States are currently living with a hip or knee replacement, which is a common last resort for end-stage joint disease. Many adults with severe osteoarthritis in their 50's or 60's are undergoing total joint replacement surgery, meaning that implants may need to last 30 or 40 years. However, 20 percent of patients experience implant failure within 10 years of their original surgery.

"Joint replacement surgery is largely regarded as the most successful medical procedure of the 20th century, but implants are not permanent," says Edward Schwarz, director and Richard and Margaret Burton Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research. "They wear out like tires on a car."

Schwarz and Chao Xie, BMed, assistant professor of orthopaedics, demonstrated that COVERNOX™ antioxidant could help tip the bone destruction-to-rebuilding balance toward rebuilding. The group infused the antioxidant into plastic that is commonly used to coat metal joint replacement implants and tested its effect in mice. The COVERNOX™-infused particles resulted in a net gain of new bone, whereas the non-infused particles showed no net gain or loss. Read more here.

Exercise reduces neuropathy caused by chemotherapy

Researchers at the Wilmot Cancer Institute have discovered that something simple and inexpensive can reduce neuropathy in hands and feet due to chemotherapy — exercise.

The study, involving more than 300 cancer patients, will be presented this weekend and honored as a "Best of ASCO" among 5,800 abstracts at the world's largest gathering of oncologists, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting 2016. More than a dozen other Wilmot scientists also were invited to present data at the meeting.

Investigators for the exercise study directly compared the neuropathic symptoms in non-exercisers to the pain among patients who took part in a specialized six-week walking routine with gentle, resistance-band training at home. The exercisers reported significantly fewer symptoms of neuropathy — which include shooting or burning pain, tingling, numbness, and sensitivity to cold — and the effects of exercise seemed to be most beneficial for older patients, said lead author Ian Kleckner, a biophysicist and research assistant professor in Wilmot's Cancer Control and Survivorship program. Kleckner also won an ASCO Merit Award in the pain and symptom management category, and was invited to give a talk about his work. Read more here.

PI Oversight: Different studies, different responsibilities

(This is part of a series of articles to help principal investigators understand their role in ensuring that human subject protection requirements are met in their studies.)

The nature and scope of human subject research can vary widely — ranging from a simple, one-time survey to a longitudinal clinical trial involving a drug, device or biologic with a complex study design. As the nature of your research varies, so do your responsibilities as a Principal Investigator. Thoroughly understanding those responsibilities and how to meet them are essential to effectively oversee and implement your research.

At the most basic level, all researchers conducting human subject research on behalf of the University must comply with federal regulations for the protection of human subjects (45CFR46), regardless of study sponsorship. Additional responsibilities are defined by state law, institutional policy and specific study protocols or sponsors. In addition, those conducting research with products regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (i.e., drugs, devices or biologics) have further responsibilities, as defined by FDA regulations (21CFR50, 21CFR56, 21CFR312 and/or 21CFR812), associated guidance documents and Investigator Agreements (e.g., Form FDA 1572).

Navigating the path to define your responsibilities as an Investigator can be difficult. The Office for Human Subject Protection (OHSP) provides clarity by combining and summarizing the requirements defined above in OHSP Policy 901: Investigator Responsibilities. This policy applies to any individual designated as a Principal Investigator (PI) conducting human subject research governed by the Research Subjects Review Board (RSRB) and defines responsibilities for:

• All Principal Investigators;
• PIs conducting research exempt from federal regulations;
• PIs conducting non-FDA regulated research; and
• PIs conducting FDA-regulated research

Corresponding 'Summary of Responsibilities' for exempt research, non-FDA regulated research and FDA-regulated research are also provided to supplement the policy. Each summary defines responsibilities before the research begins, during the conduct of the research, and after the research is complete. A hyperlink associating a specific study to the appropriate 'Summary of Responsibilities' is provided in each initial RSRB approval letter or confirmation of exemption. OHSP strongly encourages all investigators to review the applicable summary page prior to initiating the study.

Mentoring a non-faculty Investigator (e.g., a student, resident or fellow)? These requirements still apply if you're identified as a Principal Investigator on a project. Additional responsibilities, specific to mentoring, are also identified in section 6.5 of OHSP Policy 901.

Questions? Contact the Office for Human Subject Protection at 273-4127.

University researchers in the news

Kevin Fiscella, professor of family medicine, and coauthor Robert Morris of UCLA examine the risks of restrictive housing (popularly known as solitary confinement), especially for juvenile offenders, in an editorial for CorrectCare, the quarterly magazine of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Their editorial notes that the adolescent brain, which is still developing and highly sensitive to social and peer effects, is arguably especially sensitive to social isolation. Adolescents learn to self-regulate their emotions by interacting with peers and acquiring their norms. Social isolation undermines the establishment of emotional regulation, potentially increasing the risk for self-harm and hindering the adolescent self-regulatory development needed to adapt to society. In addition, restrictive housing may foster and reinforce an adolescent's identity as a "bad kid." Once such an identity takes hold, it can be difficult to change. Read their editorial here.

PhD dissertation defenses

Joseph Jackson, Microbiology and Immunology, "Elucidating the antiplatelet activity of minocycline: implications for HIV." 1 p.m., June 6, 2016. Adolph Auditorium 1-7619. Advisor: Sanjay Maggirwar.

Kelly Vore, Microbiology and Immunology, "Characterization of the LFR Genomic Islet in Staphylococcus aureus CC30." 10 a.m., June 13, 2016. K207 (2-6408). Advisor: Steven R. Gill.

Rakesh Chatrikhi, Biophysics, "Structure and Function of a Phosphorylated Complex Containing the Myelodysplasia-Relevant Pre-mRNA Splicing Factor U2AF35." 1 p.m., June 15, 2016. Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: Clara L. Kielkopf.

Mark your calendar

June 7: SCORE Half-day Seminar for research personnel. Click here to learn more.

June 24: Deadline is 5 p.m. for applications for Center for AIDS Research pilot awards in Focused Topic Areas and in General HIV/AIDS. Contact Laura Enders at or (585)273-2939.

July 1: Deadline to submit applications for AS&E PumpPrimer II awards. Faculty in Arts & Science should refer questions to Debra Haring and those in Engineering to Cindy Gary.

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.

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