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Fall 2009

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Braking Research

Heart tissue repair using adult stem cells

Heart Tissue Repair Photo by Douglas Levere, BA '89

Researchers at UB have demon-
strated for the first time that injecting adult bone marrow stem cells into skeletal muscle can repair cardiac tissue, reversing heart failure.

Using an animal model, the researchers showed that this noninvasive procedure increased myocytes, or heart cells, by two-fold and reduced cardiac tissue injury by 60 percent. The therapy also improved function of the left ventricle, the primary pumping chamber of the heart, by 40 percent and reduced fibrosis, the hardening of the heart lining that impairs its ability to contract, by up to 50 percent.

“This work demonstrates a novel noninvasive mesenchymal stem cell therapeutic regimen for heart failure based on an intramuscular delivery route,” says Techung Lee, associate professor of biochemistry and senior author on the paper. Mesenchymal stem cells are found in the bone marrow and can differentiate into a variety of cell types.

Clinical trials of myocardial stem cell therapy traditionally have relied on surgery—invasive methods that can result in scar tissue, arrhythmia, calcification or small-vessel blockages. For these and other reasons, including the fact that patients with heart failure are not good surgical risks, Lee says “it made sense to explore a noninvasive cell-delivery approach.”

UB People

Scientist wins prize for ALS biomarker

Arbesman Arbesman

A UB dermatologist has won a $50,000 Prize4Life ALS Biomarker Challenge Discovery Prize for developing a promising biomarker that can be used to assess disease progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Harvey Arbesman, UB clinical assistant professor of dermatology and social and preventive medicine, working with colleagues from Columbia University Medical School and the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Research Center, adapted a technology commonly used in the cosmetic industry, the Cutometer, to noninvasively measure skin elasticity.

In a pilot study, Arbesman and colleagues were able to show that changes in skin elasticity correlated with disease progression in ALS patients. ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, is a fatal condition that for decades has stymied those searching for a treatment or cure.

“As patients got sicker, the elasticity of the skin decreased. We think the skin is reflecting in some manner what is going on in the nervous system. We think this biomarker has a lot of potential as a way to monitor progression of the disease, which will be helpful in developing new medications, and possibly as an aid in diagnosis. It may also help us to better understand the underlying disease process itself,” says Arbesman.

Arbesman presented his findings in April at the American Association of Neurology meeting in Seattle, WA. He will use the funds to continue research on the biomarker and to compete for the $1 million ALS Biomarker Challenge, sponsored by Prize4Life.

Breaking Research

Skills not pills

Behavior treatment works as well as drugs for children with ADHD and bypasses the risk of medication’s side effects, a meta-analysis of 174 studies on ADHD treatment conducted at UB has shown.

The results, published in the March 2009 issue of Clinical Psychology Review, found that teaching parents and teachers how to respond when children do things the right way—as well as when they display harmful or aggressive behavior—is effective and, in some cases, more effective than medication for ADHD.

“This review shows that behavioral treatments work, and in general work well,” says Gregory A. Fabiano, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology in UB’s Graduate School of Education, and first author on the paper.

“For the past couple of decades, there has been considerable professional controversy about the role and adequacy of behavior modification treatments in the care of children with ADHD. The next step is to figure out how to make them work for individual families over the long run, because we now know that ADHD is a lifelong condition.”

William Pelham Jr., UB Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry, is coauthor on the study.

Breaking Research

Improving crime-scene investigation

A shoe print etched in blood or dust can make a crucial difference in a criminal case, but it all depends on the ability of human examiners to identify a matching shoe-print pattern from thousands in their databases. It’s a laborious, inefficient task.

That’s why UB computer scientists, in research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, are developing tools to make the search-and-match process more like a Google search and less like hunting for a needle in a haystack. To do so, they are developing algorithms for searching and matching shoe prints.

“We want to automate the process enough so that it works like a targeted Google search, where the query is the crime-scene evidence and the match will be the list of results that help us determine which brand of shoe is closest to the print extracted from the crime scene,” says project leader Sargur Srihari, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and director of UB’s Center of Excellence for Document Analysis and Recognition.

The goal: a software package that could narrow down the possibilities for the crime-scene investigator to search.

Speaking Of

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindland

“Reading is a pathway to another world—a world without geographic boundaries or class boundaries or even the steep risers of time. In my mind, in a democracy, it is more of a threat to cut library budgets than defense budgets.”

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Anna Quindlen, Distinguished Speaker Series, Center for the Arts, March 4, 2009.

Tony Blair and Bill Maher are among the speakers in the 2009–2010 Distinguished Speakers Series. For ticket information and lineup, go to www.specialevents.buffalo.edu.

UB By the Numbers

Research Growth*

*Fiscal year ending June 30, 2008
Source: Office of the Vice President for Research

348.2
dollars in millions that set a research record for expenditures
7.6
% increase over previous FY
157.5
federal funding in millions
65
percent of funded research devoted to life sciences
118.3
combined institutional and industrial funding in millions
3,000
jobs at UB supported by research

University News

Feathered Friends

Feathered Friends Photo: Douglas Levere, BA '89

A pair of rare peregrine falcons took up residence this spring in the tower of MacKay Heating Plant on the east side of the South Campus. In May, as bird lovers watched with excitement, the pair produced four chicks. Click here to see more about the falcons.

UB People

USA Today honors for graduating senior

USA Today honors for graduating senior Krolikowski Photo by Douglas Levere, BA '89

Aaron Krolikowski of Glenwood, NY, who graduated in May with an outstanding record of academic and environmental achievement, was named to the USA Today All-USA College Academic First Team, an award honoring students for their outstanding accomplishments as undergraduates.

Krolikowski was one of 20 students nationwide chosen for the first team, announcement of which was made in the paper’s April 29 edition. Selection was based on grades, academic rigor, leadership, activities and an essay written by the nominee. Krolikowski wrote about his efforts to establish a village irrigation program in northwest Tanzania, part of a project he did for the UB Honors College.

Krolikowski graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in political science and interdisciplinary social sciences concentrated in environmental studies. This fall, he is attending Oxford University, which has awarded him a prestigious four-year postgraduate Clarendon Scholarship to pursue a DPhil degree in development studies, an interdisciplinary program that draws from the fields of economics, anthropology, and political science and policy.

University News

Major gifts for law, pharmacy schools

UB’s Law School and School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences both recently received $1 million gifts.

The Law School received an unrestricted gift of $1 million from two well-known alumni, Ross M. Cellino Jr., JD ’82, and Stephen E. Barnes, JD ’83 & BA ’80, shareholders in the Buffalo-based personal-injury law firm Cellino & Barnes P. C. It is one of the largest cash gifts UB Law has received in its 122-year history.

Cellino and Barnes, whose firm has been listed in Best Lawyers of America and has represented clients in 37 different states, are among the most successful alumni of UB Law School. The Law School will name its main conference center, located on the fifth floor of O’Brian Hall, in their honor.

The namesake of Fay’s Drugs, Faye Panasci, has given $1 million to the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where her husband and father-in-law began their quest to build the highly successful chain of pharmacies that catered to their customers’ every need.

Along with her son, David Panasci, and daughter, Beth Leventhal, Faye Panasci is continuing the family’s tradition of giving back to UB begun by Henry A. Panasci Jr., BS ’52 & BA ’48, and his father, Henry A. Panasci Sr., BA ’25, by contributing $1 million to fund the atrium of the new home for the pharmacy school, John Kapoor Hall on the UB South Campus. In honor of the family’s generosity, UB will name the atrium the Panasci Atrium.

Academic Insight

America’s affair with ‘happy pills’

America's Happy Pills

The spectacular increase in the use of psychiatric drugs since the 1950s, according to UB assistant history professor David Herzberg, has redefined not only what Americans consider “‘normal’ mental health,” but has made “happiness” an obligation of middle-class citizenship.

In Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), Herzberg considers a wide range of psychiatric medications hailed in pharmaceutical marketing as “wonder drugs” and the social changes they provoked. He examines how Americans have come to see “normalcy” in light of the drugs’ mood-altering capabilities, and how they continue to respond to the barrage of drug advertising aimed directly at consumers.

After World War II, “a vast and powerful system of commercial medicine anchored by pharmaceutical companies brought the values and practices of the consumer culture to psychotropic medications,” according to Herzberg.

This system, he adds, “drastically changed the way we viewed normal mental health by dramatizing emotional problems to promote pharmaceutical solutions. As a result, the products sold well, made the drugs themselves household names and the conditions they treated part of the public conversation about health.”

Flashback 1899

First women receive UB law degrees

First women to receive UB Law Degrees

The first female graduates of the UB Law School received their degrees 110 years ago. Two women—Cecilia (sometimes shortened to Cecil) B. Wiener (left) and Helen Z. M. Rodgers (right)—and 44 men made up the Class of 1899. In the final rankings, Rodgers finished first in the class and Wiener eighth.

UB was among the first law schools to admit women, and when they enrolled in 1897, Rodgers and Wiener were following other female students attending UB’s professional schools. The first female graduate in the medical school was Mary Blair-Moody in 1876; Rosa Schorp was in the pharmacy school’s first graduating class in 1888 and Annette Rankin was in the dental school’s third class in 1895.

Wiener became the first judge of what is now the Erie County Family Court. Rodgers was the first woman to practice law in Buffalo and the first woman to argue a case before the New York Court of Appeals. In 1919, she argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Rodgers was associated with the firm of Moot, Sprague, Brownell & Marcy from 1906 until 1940, and was an unsuccessful congressional candidate in 1936.

Wiener and Rodgers practiced law for 20 years before they were allowed to vote. The women remained friends throughout their careers, and both worked to expand the rights of women and children. Both died in 1960. Twenty years later, Rodgers’ papers were found in a basement storeroom at 1141 Delaware Avenue, her last residence. They now are housed in the University Archives.


—John Edens, University Archives