Student on CTSA diversity supplement is co-first author on MS study

Jessie Polanco (right), recipient of a CTSA diversity supplement, at the 2017 ACTS Translational Science conference.

Published August 25, 2017

Jessie J. Polanco, recipient of a 2016 diversity supplement from UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), was co-first author of a study published August 8 in Stem Cell Reports.

Polanco, a doctoral neuroscience candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been continuously funded by NIH training grants since entering the program in 2014, first through the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) R25 Initiative for Maximizing Student Development, which was followed by this diversity supplement to the CTSA.

The research seeks to understand how myelin production differs in human and mouse cells. Myelin is the fatty sheath that allows nerve cells to communicate with one another. Multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological diseases occur when the myelin sheath is damaged.

Most new treatments for MS are first tested in mice, but oftentimes those results don’t hold up in human populations. Thanks to groundbreaking research led by Fraser Sim, PhD, senior author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, investigators now have a method for determining whether findings from mouse models are relevant to the human disease.

 “The CTSA diversity supplement is allowing Jessie Polanco to progress successfully through his predoctoral training, focusing his research on translating knowledge gain in mouse models to human,” said Margarita L.  Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguish Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion. “As such,” she said, his work is “significantly advancing the development of potential treatments for MS.” 

The diversity supplement awarded to UB’s CTSA is designed for people from groups underrepresented in clinical and translational science, including individuals traditionally underrepresented in STEM, biomedical and health disciplines, those with disabilities, and those from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

UB received a four-year, $15 million CTSA from the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in 2015.

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