News & Events

How does neuropathy happen? New research reveals a pathway and a possible therapeutic option

Fluorescence microscopy image of in vitro model of myelin sheath (red) formation by Schwann cells around neuronal axons (green). Cell nuclei are blue. Credit: Keit Men Wong, UB.

May 12, 2017

UB researchers studying myelination are discovering how metabolic diseases like diabetes may cause neuropathy.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. While not life-threatening, it affects millions in the U.S. and elsewhere, and leads to limb amputations if left unchecked. But the reasons why metabolic disease can lead to neuropathy, which is damage to the peripheral nervous system, have never been well-understood.

Now, in a paper published this week online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) at the University at Buffalo report on research that illuminates what causes some kinds of neuropathy and may reveal potentially powerful therapies.

PhD Student Development Program Gains Renewed Funding from NIH

Mohamed Sharif, a doctoral candidate in the HJKRI, Park Laboratory.

May 10, 2017

National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grant aimed at providing professional development resources and mentoring for doctoral students in several UB schools has been renewed for another five years.

The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) will provide $2.3 million in funding to train 20 new biomedical and behavioral scientists from underrepresented groups between now and 2021.

The institutional grant benefits doctoral students in the following schools and institutes: Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Professions, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Roswell Park Cancer Institute Graduate Division.

[see sections entitled: "Flexibility Valuable Benefit of Program" & "Study Groups Encourage Interaction Between Students"...which quotes HJKRI Park Laboratory PhD Student, Mohamed Sharif]

Pathway Identified in Myelinating Glia Offers Hope for New Therapies

May 9, 2017

Researchers at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) are highlighting the critical role of a metabolic checkpoint kinase pathway in Schwann cells for the formation of myelin sheaths.

“We are encouraged by our findings and think that our discoveries could be exploited to regenerate myelin sheaths and nerve structure to help patients with neurological disorders.”

This pathway, centered around the molecule “mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR),” is known to play a paramount role in the regulation of cell metabolism, growth and cell division, as well as aging.

Nerve cells talk to each other by transmitting electrical signals along communication cables called axons, which are enwrapped by insulating myelin sheaths. The myelin sheaths produced by Schwann cells keep axons energized and healthy, and they facilitate the propagation of electrical signals by a process known as saltatory conduction.

Graduate Students Compete in First 3 Minute Thesis Event

April 20, 2017

Four graduate students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were among the 15 finalists of UB’s inaugural 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

African Trypanosomes, Krabbe Disease Among Topics

Nadav Weinstock

Nadav Weinstock, a fifth-year MD/PhD student, aspires to become a physician-scientist working on developing therapies for rare diseases that affect babies.

During his first two years of medical school, Weinstock became interested in global health and spent time providing medical care at local free health clinics and to underserved remote populations in the Himalayan Mountains of India.

In 2016, he was awarded an F30 fellowship from the NIH for his research on Krabbe Disease.

His adviser in the Medical Scientist Training Program is M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Weinstock’s presentation was titled “Understanding Krabbe Disease.”

Santiago-Gonzalez awared an ASN Young Investigator Educational Enhancement Travel Award

March 19, 2017

Diara Santiago-Gonzalez, HJKRI graduate student in the Paez laboratory, was selected to receive a Young Investigator Educational Enhancement (YIEE) travel award to attend the American Society for Neurochemistry (ASN) meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas from March 18 to 22, 2017.

The YIEE award winners were recognized Sunday morning, March 19th before the sessions, at 8 am., according to Donna Osterhout, PhD, the Chair of the YIEE Selection Committee or the American Society for Neurochemistry.

Calcium Channel Research May Help Improve MS Therapies

December 14, 2016

More researchers have identified a critical step in myelination after birth that has significance for treating neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

In MS and similar diseases, myelin — the protective coating that neurons need to function — becomes lost or damaged. 

New clues to myelination could help identify ways to intervene in neurodegenerative diseases

December 7, 2016

UB researchers have identified a critical step in myelination after birth that has significance for treating neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis, in which myelin is lost or damaged. Myelin is the protective coating that neurons need to function.

The preclinical research, published online in October in the Journal of Neuroscience, concerns oligodendrocytes, the cells that make myelin, and the progenitor cells that are their precursors.

The work involved the study of voltage-operated calcium channels, which are responsible for initiating many physiological functions.

How myelin-making cells mature

“Our findings show that these calcium channels modulate the maturation of oligodendrocytes in the brain after birth,” said Pablo M. Paez, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and a research scientist with the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) at UB, where most of the work was done.

“That’s important because it’s possible that the activity of this calcium channel can be manipulated pharmacologically to encourage oligodendrocyte maturation and remyelination after demyelinating episodes in the brain,” he said.

Three MD/PhD Students Receive NIH F30 Individual Fellowships

November 14, 2016

Three students in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) have received prestigious fellowships from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellowship (F30) is intended to enhance research and clinical training of promising predoctoral students who are matriculated in a combined MD/PhD training program and plan to pursue careers as physician-scientists.

“The three F30 fellowships represent a significant achievement for the students as well as for our MD/PhD training,” says Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD, director of the Medical Scientist Training Program and senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities.

The awards:

Research Focused on Krabbe Leukodystrophy

Title: “Cell Specific Ablation of Galc and the Pathogenesis of Krabbe Disease”
Principal investigator: Nadav Weinstock
Length of project: Four years
Total funding: $153,772

Weinstock is a fifth-year student who works in the lab of M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Through his work at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI), Weinstock developed a shared project on Krabbe Leukodystrophy (KL) with Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, HJKRI director and professor of neurology and biochemistry; and Daesung Shin, PhD, research assistant professor at HJKRI.

Weinstock aspires to become a physician-scientist in the field of pediatric neurology. His goal is to care for patients as a clinician while also conducting basic science research.

 

UB honors exceptional scholars, innovative teachers

July 7, 2016

Fifteen of UB’s best and brightest teachers and researchers have been named recipients of the university’s 2016 Exceptional Scholar and Teaching Innovation awards.

All will be honored at the annual Celebration of Faculty/Staff Excellence, to be held on Oct. 20.

Research Shows Role of Mechanical Signaling in Myelination

M. Laura Feltri

July 6, 2016

UB researchers led by M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology, have discovered that mechanical forces play a critical role in the formation of myelin. Their findings, published online June 6 in Nature Neuroscience, may signal a path to new therapies for multiple sclerosis and other myelin-related diseases.

Higgins announces $239,250 federal grant to UB for work at Hunter James Kelly Research Institute

Brian Higgins

June 10, 2016

Grant aimed at early, accurate diagnosis of Krabbe disease, and aiding in the treatment of newborns.

Congressman Brian Higgins announced the State University of New York at Buffalo was awarded a federal grant totaling $239,250 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toward the goal of enhancing the accuracy of newborn screening for Krabbe disease.

June 6, 2016

Mechanical forces play a critical role in myelination, the formation of the protective coating that neurons need to function, researchers at the University at Buffalo have discovered.

Physician Scientists Association Grants Local Chapter to UB

March 11, 2016|

The University at Buffalo’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) has been named a local chapter of the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA).

Park Receives $1.8M Grant to Study Transcription Factor in Myelination

With funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Yungki Park is researching the fundamental mechanism of myelin regulatory factor.

October 20, 2015

Yungki Park, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, has received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study a transcription factor key to developing and maintaining myelin in the central nervous system.

 

New Research Technique Boosts Understanding of Myelin Diseases

Research by Yannick Poitelon, PhD (left), and M. Laura Feltri, MD, boosts understanding of myelin diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

October 6, 2015

Researchers at the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) have discovered a new way to study the interface where cells in the myelination process connect — a method that may lead to a better understanding of myelin diseases.

 

New candidate drug 'dials down' protein synthesis to treat demyelinating diseases

Lawrence Wrabetz MD

April 21, 2015

UB researcher contributes to study on new candidate drug that may help treat misfolded protein diseases like CMT, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Motor function in the animals returned to normal, the amount of myelin destruction was reduced by 70 percent and myelin thickness improved remarkably” ...

Biochemist IDs Pathway Central to Stability of Nerve Axons

Bogdan K. Beirowski, MD, PhD

December 15, 2014

A University at Buffalo biochemist led the first study to identify the liver kinase B1 (LKB1) pathway as a possible therapeutic target for neuropathies, including diabetic neuropathy.

Steven J. Fliesler, PhD (left) and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD

Vision, Neurology Experts Named UB Distinguished Professors

July 15, 2014  

Steven J. Fliesler, PhD, Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor of ophthalmology and professor of biochemistry, and Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry, have been named University at Buffalo Distinguished Professors, effective Sept. 1.

They are among five UB professors receiving this honor in 2014 in recognition of their scholarly distinction and leadership.

Yungki Park, PhD

5 Departments Welcome New Faculty

February 21, 2014

Department of Biochemistry--Yungki Park, PhD, is an assistant professor. Park's research aims to increase knowledge about how oligodendrocyte differentiation is regulated for central nervous system myelination. His work could provide a firm basis for developing more effective therapeutics for demyelinating diseases.

Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, director of UB’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute

UB Chosen to Co-Lead Major State Effort to Spur Genome Research

January 9, 2014  

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that the University at Buffalo will co-lead a statewide effort to position New York State as a national leader in genomic medicine.

At his State of the State address, Cuomo said UB will partner with the New York Genome Center (NYGC) in Manhattan to accelerate recent advances in genomic medicine directly into clinical care.

As part of this effort, UB will receive $50 million to increase research capacities.

UB will provide NYGC - a consortium of 16 educational and research organizations - with expertise and supercomputing power.

UB Study Seeks Molecular Mechanism Leading to Myelination

Pablo Paez, PhD

August 14, 2013

Pablo M. Paez, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, will use a $1.74 million grant to study how cellular processes involving calcium channels contribute to myelination and myelin pathology.

Myelination Researcher Honored as Distinguished Postdoc Mentor

M. Laura Feltri, MD

July 30, 2013  

M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry, has been honored with the 2013 Distinguished Postdoc Mentor Award. "I learned that the best strategy for me is to have a personalized approach. I give close to complete freedom to the best post-docs; others need more nurturing, especially at the beginning."

Sponsored by the University at Buffalo's Graduate School Office of Postdoctoral Scholars, the award was presented June 13 during the Postdoctoral Research Symposium.

"I am extremely honored by the award." says Feltri. "I feel it has true meaning because the nomination comes directly from my fellow co-workers.

Researchers ID Neuropathy Cause, Restore Myelination

Lawrence Wrabetz, MD

May 22, 2013

Neuroscientists at the University at Buffalo's Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) and European colleagues have provided proof of principle for how a genetic mutation leads to some neuropathies.

The international team also used a research drug to successfully alleviate the protein synthesis misstep, thereby improving myelin. Myelin is the fatty material that wraps the axons of neurons and allows them to signal effectively.

As a result, a potential new treatment strategy may be on the horizon for patients with a host of neurological disorders that result from misfolded proteins.

New Research Suggests Treatment for Neurological Disorders such as CMT, Alzheimer's

April 29, 2013  

A potential new treatment strategy for patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is on the horizon, thanks to research by neuroscientists now at the University at Buffalo's Hunter James Kelly Research Institute and their colleagues in Italy and England.

The institute is the research arm of the Hunter's Hope Foundation, established in 1997 by Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, and his wife, Jill, after their infant son Hunter was diagnosed with Krabbe Leukodystrophy, an inherited fatal disorder of the nervous system. Hunter died in 2005 at the age of eight. The institute conducts research on myelin and its related diseases with the goal of developing new ways of understanding and treating conditions such as Krabbe disease and other leukodystrophies.

Charcot-Marie-Tooth or CMT disease, which affects the peripheral nerves, is among the most common of hereditary neurological disorders; it is a disease of myelin and it results from misfolded proteins in cells that produce myelin.

CURCA Funds Student's Biochemistry Research

February 28, 2013

An exchange student investigating the metabolic exchange that occurs between myelin and axons has received an award from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA).

Gustavo Della Flora Nunes, a scholar with Brazil's Science Without Borders program, conducts research with M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Shedding Light on Axonal Damage Nunes' research could help scientists design protection for axons in demyelinating disorders like multiple sclerosis. He is studying what happens to axons when the metabolism of its surrounding glial cells is damaged. His research involves eliminating a crucial energy-producing component in myelinating glia. Myelin, made by glial cells, is the fatty sheath surrounding an axon, the part of a neuron that transmits impulses away from the cell body. Scientists believe that myelin cells provide nutrients and energy to neurons.

Postdoctoral Biochemist Awarded $40,000 Neuropathy Fellowship

September 5 , 2012

Sophie Belin, PhD, a postdoctoral research scientist in biochemistry, has received the 2012 Peripheral Nerve Society(PNS) Neuropathy Fellowship.

She was selected for the competitive $40,000 grant to investigate a pharmacological approach to treat hereditary neuropathy of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease type.

Studying Arthritis Drug in Mouse Model of CMT Belin will work on the project with her mentor, Lawrence Wrabetz, MD, professor of neurology and biochemistry and director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute.

Arrival of Wrabetz and Feltri moves work of Kelly institute forward

Lawrence Wrabetz and Laura Feltri

November 3, 2011  

The mission of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) is moving forward with great fervor with the recent arrival of highly regarded neuroscientists Lawrence Wrabetz and Laura Feltri.

Dubbed "physiccian-scientist superstars" by Michael Cain, dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, at the press conference in 2010 announcing the pair's recruitment to UB, Wrabetz is the institute's first director and holds a primary appointment in the Department of Neurology, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Biochemistry; Feltri has a primary appointment in Biochemistry.

The husband-wife research team arrived in Buffalo in late spring from Milan, Italy, with family and laboratories, including 10 research associates-eight of Italian and two of French descents-and 56 lines of transgenic mice.

Attending a press conference to announce the appointments of Lawrence Wrabetz and Laura Feltri were, from left, Wrabetz, Feltri, Jill Kelly, Jim Kelly, Patricia Duffner and Michael Cain

Noted Researchers Join Kelly Institute

August 12, 2010

Lawrence Wrabetz, head of the myelin biology unit at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, has been appointed director of the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI) at UB.

Laura Feltri, who heads the neuroglia unit at the Italian institute and is Wrabetz's spouse, also has been recruited to the HJKRI, which was established in 2004 by UB and the Hunter's Hope Foundation. Wrabetz and Feltri will begin transitioning their laboratories to Buffalo this fall.

Both are highly regarded neuroscientists with significant backgrounds in basic and translational research on myelin, known as white matter-the sheath protecting brain nerve fibers that is essential for all normal functioning of the nervous system. They will work as a team in the HJKRI, located in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo.