By Department Of Pharmacology
Hirohide Asai, M.D., Ph.D., a physician scientist working as a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular NeuroTherapeutics, was recently recognized by BrightFocus Foundation (formerly the American Health Assistance Foundation). Dr. Asai has been awarded a 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Research Fellowship for his work on the cellular mechanism of tau dissemination under the supervision of Dr. Tsuneya Ikezu, Professor of Pharmacology and Neurology. Hiro is among a handful of recipients to receive one of the two-year fellowships, which carry a monetary value of $100,000.
Hiro is involved in finding a cellular mechanism to understand how tau protein, a primary component of neurofibrillary tangles found in Alzheimer’s disease brain, start aggregation in the specific brain region (entorhinal cortex) and stereotypically disseminates to the other specific brain regions (hippocampal fields). This has been pathologically known for many years but the exact mechanism is yet to be understood. He will elucidate the role of microglia and exosomal pathways for the uptake and secretion of tau proteins using molecular and cellular approaches.
Before joining Dr. Ikezu’s laboratory, Hiro had over 10 years of experience as a clinical neurologist, the last two years of which he worked as a staff neurologist in Japan. During this period he was responsible for the care of over 1000 Alzheimer’s patients or other neurodegenerative disease patients. His research career started in 2003 when he pursued a PhD in neuroscience, which he was ultimately awarded in 2009 with his thesis on the “involvement of the DNA repair system in neurodegenerative diseases”.
Hiro says, “Before coming here, I was wondering whether to be a physician or a research scientist. My experience in Dr. Ikezu’s lab and in this department helped me realize that I would like to be a physician scientist. Although it is very difficult to balance the weight of a physician (neurologist) and neuroscientist, I sometimes hesitate to engage in two trades, but in the end I believe that the hints for research can be seen in patients.” He also says, “I am grateful that Dr. Ikezu has made the most of my experience as a neurologist in our basic research projects. Under his supervision, my career goal as a physician scientist is coming into my view. One of my aims in joining this department was to work with and learn from the researchers who devote themselves to science.”
Stefan Yohe, a graduate student working under the supervision of Dr. Mark J. Grinstaff in the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology, recently completed the Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. degree and Biomolecular Pharmacology training program. In November he successfully defended his dissertation, entitled “Superhydrophobic Materials for Drug Delivery”. Stefan received multiple job offers from all over the country and ultimately decided to join Bayer’s Berkeley site as a Process Development Engineer working in the formulation of protein therapeutics.
In only 4.3 years as a graduate student at Boston University, Stefan completed two publications as first author and one as co-author, one paper in press as first author, and two submitted papers as first author.
In 2007 Stefan earned his undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Penn State University. Before that, he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America for 14 years, completed his Eagle award at the age of eighteen, and was involved with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega during college.
We wish Stefan all the best as he embarks on the next journey in his research career!
Dr. Leach received a 1st class honor degree in cellular and molecular science from Anglia Ruskin University in the U.K. in 1989 and worked under Dr. Tim Crowe at the Clinical Research Center in Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, UK as part of the UK Medical Research Council. He studied under Dr. David H. Farb and was awarded the Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics from Boston University School of Medicine in 1997.
Upon graduating, Dr. Leach served as a consultant at CuraGen Corporation, designing structure and build out informatics, and, soon after, became Vice President for Informatics. His work at CuraGen spanned the entire pharma research and development continuum and included informatics strategy, design, implementation, support, and integration across basic research, pre-clinical, development, clinical, and regulatory functions. He was also responsible for corporate IT at CuraGen.
In 2005, Dr. Leach joined Booz Allen Hamilton as a Principal. At Booz Allen he worked with the partnership to establish and build out the PharmaIT practice. This spanned the entire pharma value chain with projects such as post-merger integration, IT strategy, informatics strategy, organizational change and design.
Dr. Leach became Executive Director of Basic Research & Biomarker IT at Merck in 2007. At Merck, he worked with leadership in Basic Research to develop and manage a portfolio of research applications and systems and high performance computing infrastructure to support target ID through lead optimization. Biomarker IT support reaches beyond Basic Research and with tight collaboration with Clinical Development IT delivers IT solutions to enable and support Translational Research.
In May, 2011, Dr. Leach assumed the role as Chief Information Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where he will be leading IT and computational instrastructure.
Dr. Leach is interested in providing scientists greater access to all forms of information with the end goal of expediting their research. He has over a decade of industry experience managing highly technical software engineers and IT professionals.
The Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics department on the Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC) was selected as the pilot for the Green Department Certification initiative through sustainability@BU. This is the first department to achieve 100% Green Office Certification and has already taken considerable steps in changing their collective behavior and administrative activities. David H. Farb, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department has made waste and energy reduction a top priority for faculty members and staff and expects the department to be certified within the next month. Click here to read more on the Boston University Medical Campus site.
Benjamin Wolozin completed his undergraduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program. His postdoctoral fellowships were spent at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (1988-9) and the National Institute of Mental Health (1989–96). He joined Loyola University Medical Center in 1996 as an Associate Professor and rose to the rank of tenured full professor. He joined the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine in 2004 as a Professor and also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Neurology.
Dr. Wolozin is member of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Boston University Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders Center. His interests focus on the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. His work on Alzheimer’s disease examines the role of cholesterol in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, and stems from his discovery in 2000 that subjects taking the cholesterol-lowering medicines, termed statins, have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. His work on Parkinson’s disease examines the interaction between genes implicated in the disease, such as LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein, and environmental factors implicated in the disease. His work on ALS focuses on the response of RNA metabolism and protein translation to stress. He uses multiple approaches to study neurodegenerative disease, ranging from molecular approaches to epidemiology. These approaches include molecular biology, cellular biology, transgenic mice, transgenic C. elegans, study of human brain samples and epidemiological database analyses.
At present, Dr. Wolozin serves as the primary investigator for several funded studies including, LRRK2 and Neurodegeneration, Interaction between genes and mitochondria in Parkinson’s disease, Stress granules and the biology of TDP-43, Development of Opticogenetic switches for mitochondrial function, and LRRK2 interactions with pathways linked to protein folding and degradation.
Dr. Wolozin has received numerous awards for his research including the Donald B. Lindsley Prize, Society for Neuroscience, the A. E. Bennett Award and a Merit Award from Alzforum. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Proteotech Pharmaceuticals and CMD Bioscience LLC, and is on the executive board for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He also serves on numerous editorial boards, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and is a standing member of the NIH CMND study section.
Benjamin Wolozin to speak at The Alzheimer’s Association/Rhode Island Chapter 14th annual Brian R. Ott, M.D. Research Symposium on Thursday, 18 November 2010
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
NEUROLOGY EXPERT TO SPEAK AT
ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM
NOVEMBER 18, 2010
Dr. Benjamin Wolozin to discuss the causes and treatment of dementia and the link between heart and brain health
PROVIDENCE, R.I (October 25, 2010): The Alzheimer’s Association/Rhode Island Chapter is holding its 14th annual Brian R. Ott, M.D. Research Symposium to present the latest clinical research on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
This free research lecture, open to the general public, is planned for Thursday, November 18, 2010 at the Providence Hilton, 21 Atwells Avenue, in Providence from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Guest speaker is Benjamin Wolozin, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology and Neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine. The event open to the public with advance registration required. Caregivers, medical staff, volunteers, and families of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease are most welcome to attend.
Dr. Wolozin will present the topic, “The Causes and Treatment of Dementia: Perspectives from Vascular and Cellular Biology.” His talk will review the latest factors, medications and strategies used to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by keeping the heart healthy. “The number one thing that attendees can walk away with from this Research Symposium is the understanding that heart health means brain health,” states Dr. Wolozin. “As we age, our blood vessels become more fragile which makes the body worse at delivering the blood supply needed for the brain to perform its ‘think well’ function. Improving blood flow to the brain, such as through exercise, has immediate and direct benefits to cognition. Good cardiovascular health is the bottom line in preventing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
In 2000, Dr. Wolozin discovered that persons taking lower cholesterol medicine had lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. “The causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex but evidence increasingly points to three main risk factors: age, the accumulation of amyloid in the brain, and the deterioration of the cardiovascular system,” Dr. Wolozin explains. “In the 1990’s, I was studying the effects of cholesterol on the production of beta amyloid, which is a toxic protein that accumulates in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and I asked myself, ‘why am I looking at the effects of reduced cholesterol using cells on a petri dish when there are human beings out there already taking statins to reduce cholesterol?’ I then developed research methodology allowing study of (de-identified) digital records of U.S. Veterans over the age of 65 with cardiovascular disease who were taking cholesterol medication. The results showed a significant reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia among this population. More recently, we have shown that a particular class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure might reduce the incidence and progression of Alzheimer’s disease . Thus, medications used to treat hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol appear to help people with or at risk of cognitive diseases.”
Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular relationship with the brain is most important. “Diet and exercise play a key role in keeping the brain functioning well. Medications that promote vascular health seem to help prevent dementia. These treatments include medications such as statins, which reduce cholesterol levels and angiotension receptor blockers which treat high blood pressure,” Dr. Wolozin notes. “My lecture will show how these can reduce the progression of and delay onset and incidence of Alzheimer’s disease for many people.”
Dr. Wolozin serves as the primary investigator for several funded studies and serves on numerous editorial boards including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, PLosONE and Neurodegenerative Diseases. A standing member of the National Institute of Health Cell Death in Neurodegeneration (CDIN) study section, he has received numerous awards for his research including the Donald B. Lindsley Prize, Society for Neuroscience, the A. E. Bennett Award and a Merit Award from Alzforum. Dr. Wolozin received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NYC). His postdoctoral fellowships were spent at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (NYC) and the National Institute of Mental Health (Bethesda, MD). Prior to joining the Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology, he was a professor at Loyola University Medical Center (Chicago, IL).
The 14th annual Brian R. Ott, M.D. Research Symposium will begin with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and Dr. Wolozin’s lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. For more information or to register for the Brian R. Ott, M.D. Research Symposium, call the Alzheimer’s Association/Rhode Island Chapter office at (401) 421-0008 or (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/ri.
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The Alzheimer’s Association/Rhode Island Chapter, an affiliate of the National Alzheimer’s Association, is a private, non-profit organization which was started in 1989 by family caregivers and interested community healthcare professionals. It provides education, personal support, and advocacy around key issues of concern to those coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Programs and services include a phone helpline, support groups, training for family members and healthcare professionals, newsletter, resource library, and special fundraising events. Offices are located at 245 Waterman Street, Suite 306, Providence, RI 02906. Phone: (401) 421-0008; Fax: (401) 421-0115); Web: www.alz.org/ri
The lecture is named after the Alzheimer’s Association/Rhode Island Chapter former Board president, Dr. Brian Ott, a well-known neurologist at the Rhode Island Hospital Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Karen L. Reed, beloved Associate Research Professor of Surgery and Associate Professor of Pharmacology
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Hats off to Ms. Rebecca Benham and Ms. Diane Chan for receiving the coveted Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (predoctoral NRSAs). They are conducting their graduate thesis research in the respective laboratories of Drs. Russek and Wolozin who are in the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics.
Dr. Shelley Russek will speak at the upcoming American Epilepsy Society (AES) Meeting in Boston, December 6th at a symposium that addresses the emerging relationship between epilepsy and depression.
Epilepsy and Depression: The Two Faces of BDNF/Jak Dependent Neurogenesis
Sheraton – Constitution Ballroom B, 2nd Floor, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Moderator: Andre Lagrange, M.D., Ph.D.
Speakers: Linda Overstreet-Wadiche, Ph.D., Shelley Russek, Ph.D.,
Francis Lee, M.D., Ph.D.
Congratulations to Drs. Pietro Cottone and Dr. Valentina Sabino on their exciting finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regarding the relationship of binge eating to addictive behavior. Their work has been featured in a headline story for BU Today.