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. Email not displaying correctly?
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Images of research

Streaming jets of high-speed matter, as seen in the images above, produce some of the most stunning objects seen in space. Astronomers have seen them shooting out of young stars just being formed, X-ray binary stars, and the supermassive black holes at the centers of large galaxies. Theoretical explanations have been around for years, but an experiment by French and American researchers using extremely high-powered lasers offers experimental verification of one proposed mechanism for creating them. Eric Blackman, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and one of the coauthors, says that he and his collaborators wanted to recreate conditions in the lab that lead to jets in space becoming collimated -- or beam-like -- rather than diverging. Theory and computational simulations had suggested the possibility that jets might be created by "shock focused inertial confinement." The experiment "confirms that this particular mechanism is viable, even though other effects are likely to also be taking place," Blackman said. The paper, published in Physical Review Letters and highlighted as an editor's suggestion, explains how the researchers used the laser laboratory facility, LULI, at the Ecole Polytechnique in France, to recreate the space jets. Collaborators at the University of Chicago supplied a sophisticated computer code FLASH that they developed and adapted to help analyze the results. The images above are an example of a collimated jet in space, showing changes over a five-year period in the disk and jets of the newborn star HH 30, which is about half a million years old.

Do you have an interesting photo or other image that helps illustrate your research? We would like to showcase it. Send a high resolution jpg or other version, along with a description of what it shows, to

Declining gene response and the aging process

A key to understanding the aging process is to identify the general principles that characterize it, across multiple levels of biological function -- from the organism as a whole, down through individual organs, cells and even genes, Dirk Bohmann, Professor of Biomedical Genetics, noted at a recent Aging Research Day sponsored by the University Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies and VWR.

"Ultimately, if you know deep down the root cause of aging you are in a much better position to do something about it," he said.

One such general principle, he suggested, is the loss of ability to sense signals from the surrounding environment and respond accordingly. Indeed, "I would suggest this loss of responsiveness is the key feature of the aging process," Bohmann said.

This loss of response can be seen at multiple levels in humans. For example, the decline in ability to process sensory input -- through hearing and vision, for instance -- occurs across the entire organism. Individual organs are also affected. Muscles lose their ability to repair injuries; the immune system gradually loses the capacity to mount effective responses to infection.

Even in individual cells, signal response becomes less vigorous. "We know that one phenomenon that underlies many age-associated metabolic changes is the inability of cells to respond to hormonal signaling through insulin, and that causes a number of age-related morbidities."

But does aging also affect our genes? "As we get older, genes also lose their ability to adjust to critical changes in the environment," Bohmann said. He describes this as an "increase in epigenetic entropy."

His lab, for instance, has isolated in fruit flies the equivalent of the Nrf2 transcription factor in humans -- a protein that controls the flow (or transcription) of genetic information from DNA to messenger RNA. Nrf2 helps activate more than 200 genes that are used by cells to metabolize drugs and toxins and guard against oxidative stress and inflammation. Experimental evidence from several researchers indicates that this signaling pathway may be a central regulator of the aging process.

Bohmann's lab has found that the Nrf2 pathway becomes ineffective in older flies, but can be restored by increasing levels of another gene, Maf-S, which helps regulate Nrf2 activity. Conversely, Nrf2 function declines even in young flies when Maf-S levels are reduced.

Furthermore, his lab has demonstrated that the Nrf2 pathway in flies can also be stimulated with Oltipraz, a drug that is also used in humans.

This opens promising avenues of research that might ultimately lead to ways of moderating the aging process in humans.

This concept that declining gene response is critical to aging is "now gaining traction in the aging field and a number of labs are pursuing this," Bohmann said. "And it is something to pay attention to."

(Next: A preventive problem-solving intervention program may help the elderly cope with disabilities associated with aging.)

PIlot awards support three projects

The Center for Integrative Bioinformatics and Experimental Mathematics in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology has presented pilot awards to two projects:

1. "Identification of Interferon Stimulated Genes Regulating Viral Latency" from Jian Zhu, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.

2. "Modeling Immune Response in 3-D Bioreactor Cultures of Human Secondary Immune Organ Cells" from David Wu, Professor of Chemical Engineering.

One pilot project awarded last year, "Quantitative Proteomic Analysis of Influenza-infected Mice" from Sina Ghaemmaghami, Assistant Professor of Biology, received a second-year renewal with supplementary funding.

Seminar for coordinators of human subject research

The 6th Annual SCORE Half-Day seminar, Health Research Management for the Human Subject Research Coordinator, will be held 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursday, June 5 in the Helen Wood Hall Auditorium, room 1w304. This seminar, for those who actively coordinate health research, will address these topics:

1. Essential Documents - It's Not Just a Binder.

2. Responding to Adverse Events Affecting Study Subjects - Evaluating, Reporting and Identifying Training Opportunities.

3. Research Study Data - Are Metrics a Burden or a Treasure?

There is no charge for this event. Click here to register by June 3.

Pure chromatography system acquired

The Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility recently acquired an ÄKTA pure chromatography system for purification of RNA, proteins, peptides or complexes thereof. For more information contact Jermaine Jenkins.

Congratulations to . . .

Ron Kaniel, recently installed as the inaugural Jay S. and Jeanne P. Benet Professor of Finance. Kaniel's research interests are in asset pricing, financial intermediation with a focus on portfolio delegation, and investments. His scholarship has enhanced the understanding of how fund managers' incentives impact funds investment decisions and how they impact security prices, the information contained in trading volume for predicting returns, and how herd behavior in financial markets can be rational. Kaniel has published articles in the Journal of Finance, Review of Financial Studies, and Journal of Financial Economics, among others. His work has been cited multiple times in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post.

Joanna Wu, recently installed as the first Susanna and Evans Y. Lam Professor of Business Administration. Wu has been a Simon School faculty member since 1999. Her research spans the areas of international financial reporting, the behavior of financial analysts, management compensation, voluntary disclosure, and mutual fund performance. Her work has been published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, Journal of Finance, Journal of Accounting Research, and Accounting Review, among others. Wu has been named to the Simon School Dean's Teaching Honor Roll numerous times. She is an editor of the Journal of Accounting and Economics.

Research in the news

In a recent review in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, Assistant Professor Taylor Starr, and Professor Richard Kreipe of the Department of Pediatrics put forward a timely update of research on anorexia and bulimia. Starr and Kreipe discuss epidemiological studies that question the existing stereotyping and profiling of those affected. These studies point out that eating disorders are not just affecting adolescent and young white females but prepubertal males and minority ethnic populations like Asian and Latina. Another important factor increasingly influencing the scope of eating disorders is the media. The authors also highlight research carried out on the two most affected organs in individuals with these disorders - the brain and the bone. Read more at the Research@URMC blog.

University of Rochester researchers have presented data from a Phase 1 trial on a new drug that could lower the risk of arrhythmias in patients who suffer from Long QT syndromes (LQTS). This is a group of inherited disorders that make the heart particularly susceptible to abnormal heartbeats that can lead to fainting, cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death. The new drug, developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc., is the first to effectively target and correct the sodium channel abnormalities in LQTS patients, who are not well protected with current treatment options. Read more here.

A collaborative study by the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Public Health Sciences has documented sleep behavior among children and adolescents with Down syndrome. The study found that 65 percent had significant sleep problems that were primarily behavioral in nature, according to the Research@URMC blog. Additionally, 46 percent screened positive for sleep-related breathing problems while 21 percent screened positive for sleep-related movement disorders. The authors hope their findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, will alert physicians that various types of sleep disorders are quite frequent among children with Down syndrome and augment the care these children receive.

PhD dissertation defenses

Jessica Smith, Chemistry, "Macrocyclic Organo-Peptide Hybrids (MOrPHs): Methodology and Application toward the Inhibition of Protein-Protein Interactions." 1 p.m. May 27, 473 Hutchison Hall. Advisor: Rudi Fasan.

Aslihan Ambeskovic, Genetics, "Essential Role for a Link between the Tricarboxylic Acid (TCA) Cycle and Polyamine Metabolism in Malignant Cell Transformation." 10 a.m. May 29, K-207 (2-6408). Advisor: Hartmut Land.

Ilker Yidirim, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, "From Perception to Conception: Learning Multisensory Representations." 10 a.m., May 30, Meliora 269. Advisor: Robert Jacobs

Steven M. Person, The Institute of Optics, "Optical Methods for Nanoparticle Detection and Imaging." 1 p.m., June 4, Wilmot Building Room 116. Advisor: Lukas Novotny

Maryia Fedzechkina, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, "Communicative Efficiency, Language Learning, and Language Universals." 1 p.m., June 9, Meliora 221. Advisor: Florian Jaeger.

Sayak Ghatak, Biology, "GERD to Barrett's: Dissecting the Initial Assault." 10:30 a.m., June 10, Computer Studies Building 209. Advisors: Tony Godfrey and Eileen Redmond.

Jiangkun Liu, Electrical & Computer Engineering, "Construction and Evaluation of Differential Phase-Contrast Cone Beam CT Imaging System." 3 p.m., June 12, Computer Studies Building 426. Advisor: Ruola Ning.

Mark your calendar

May 30: The 26th Annual URMC Genetics Day, 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. in the Class of '62 Auditorium. The annual one-day symposium showcases genetics research in oral and poster presentations. The Fred Sherman Lecture will be delivered by Randy Schekman from UC Berkeley, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 2013. Email Daina Bullwinkel for more information.

June 1: Deadline to apply for AS&E funding support for innovative and high-risk projects through PumpPrimer. Click here for more information.

June 5: Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) Annual Seminar, focusing on Health Research Management for the Human Subject Research Coordinator. 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Helen Wood Hall (1w-304). Click here for more information.

June 11: Annual Health Professions' Faculty Development Colloquium, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. A professional development conference for faculty, educators, health care professionals, and trainees, advancing quality and best educational practices. Keynote speaker is Richard I. Levin, Director and co-founder of the Harvard Medical School Cambridge Integrated Clerkship. Click here for the full program and to register. Please contact the Office for Faculty Development with any questions.

June 19: "Research in the New Age," a mini summer institute, 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the University of Rochester (exact location will be sent to those registered). It will help URMC investigators, clinicians and trainees increase their knowledge of the developments, opportunities and challenges emerging in T2-T4 research, including methods and approaches to garnering new sources of funding. Click here for more information and to register by June 13.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. To see back issues, click here.

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.