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Vol.25, No.1 Summer 2015

A Leader in Research

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For more than a century, NYU Winthrop’s culture has been shaped by an ever-deepening com- mitment to integrating the highest quality patient care services with dynamic medical education programs and rigorous research initiatives. The opening of the new Research and Academic Center signals continued progress in groundbreaking research from the Hospital, and three recent generous grants highlight the Hospital’s success in this arena. The strides made by researchers at the Hospital will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the health of our communities.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded NYU Winthrop with a major grant for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Research. The Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research, based on the work of Eitan M. Akirav, PhD, Research Scientist at NYU Winthrop, is providing $440,000 over two years for NYU Winthrop to develop new biomarkers (measurable indicators) of primary and secondary progressive MS.

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“The Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Research will help NYU Winthrop address a very important issue that can have a significant impact on public health. We deeply appreciate the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s generosity to make our research efforts in this arena possible,” said Alan Jacobson, MD, NYU Winthrop’s Chief Research Officer.

The grant is enabling Dr. Akirav’s team, together with Mark Stecker, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Neurosciences at NYU Winthrop, to use cellular and molecular approaches to identify novel biomarkers of cell loss in the brains of patients with MS.

“By measuring DNA in the blood of patients with primary and secondary progres- sive MS, it is our hope to provide a new way of detecting, monitoring and ultimately treating MS,” said Dr. Akirav. “And by monitoring damage in the brain, these bio- markers will allow us to better understand the disease mechanism and unlock the ‘black box’ of progressive MS. In turn, this will allow for better clinical trials, better drug selection and more personalized medicine.”

American Heart Association

NYU Winthrop has received a highly competitive $198,000 three-year grant from the American Heart Association. The title of the project is “The Effects of Sleeve Gastrectomy on Cardiovascular Disease associated with Diabetes and Obesity.”

“Our research is aimed at understanding why obese individuals who undergo a specific type of weight-loss surgery immediately experience a reversal of their diabetes, even before any significant weight loss,” said Louis Ragolia, PhD, Director of Biomedical Research at NYU Winthrop and Principal Investigator. Co-investigators include Collin E.M. Brathwaite, MD, Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Bariatric Surgery; and Raymond Lau, MD, Endocrinologist at NYU Winthrop.

“In addition, we are also trying to see if the effects of this type of weight-loss surgery will have similar weight-independent effects on cardiovascular disease. We will define the precise hormone signals responsible for these remarkable effects observed in response to this weight-loss surgery.”

The goal of the study is to understand the signaling that is responsible for the immediate reversal of diabetes and subsequent cardiovascular disease prior to any weight loss, according to Dr. Ragolia. Once this is understood, it could open the door for the development of new drugs to simulate and implement these positive effects without the need for surgery.

Dr. Ragolia’s team also includes Sunil Kumar, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate; Thomas Palaia, MS, Senior Lab Technician, and Christopher Hall, BS, Lab Technician.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

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The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) recently presented a check for $23,123 to NYU Winthrop to help fund research on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Allison Reiss, MD, Head of the Inflammation Section of the NYU Winthrop Research Institute, and Mark Stecker, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Neurosciences at NYU Winthrop, and their team will use the grant to conduct an innovative study called “Platelet-Rich Plasma in the Study of Alzheimer’s Pathophysiology.”

The team, which also includes Michael Littlefield, BA, and Isaac Teboul, BA, Laboratory Technicians at NYU Winthrop, and Iryna Voloshyna, PhD, Research Associate, will be studying platelet-rich plasma of patients with and without AD, as well as interactions of the blood with neural progen- itor cells (manufactured cells that behave like neurons from a person’s brain). The study is expected to help researchers predict who is at risk for AD, and aid in developing treatments for this disease.

“The study is based on the belief that Alzheimer’s is not just going on in the brain, but that it is a whole body disease,” said Dr. Reiss. “This study will have incredible implications for predicting who may be predisposed to Alzheimer’s, and for testing drugs to help fight the disease.”

“We are grateful to be working with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in research that may have such significant benefits to patients in the future,” said Dr. Stecker.

“We strongly feel that partnerships like this one will have a tremendous impact on the health of the population.”

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