BUSM researchers have discovered that the anti-seizure drug ezogabine, reduced alcohol consumption...
By Lisa Brown
BUSM researchers have discovered that the anti-seizure drug ezogabine, reduced alcohol consumption in an experimental model. The findings, reported in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, may lead to more effective treatments for alcoholism.
Excessive consumption of alcohol is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the U.S. and has significant negative economic impact by limiting the productivity of workers and necessitating huge health care expenditures.
According to the researchers, this study provides the first evidence that alcoholism can be treated by this newly discovered mechanism that helps to regulate brain activity known as Kv7 channel modulation. “This finding is of importance because ezogabine acts by opening a particular type of potassium channel in the brain, called the Kv7 channel, which regulates activity in areas of the brain that are believed to regulate the rewarding effects of alcohol,” explained lead author Clifford Knapp, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM. “This research indicates that drugs that open Kv7 channels might be of value in the treatment of alcoholism,” he added.
Previous studies conducted by this research group helped to establish the value of anti-seizure drugs as medications to treat alcoholism. However, further research needs to be conducted to establish that the effects of this drug result primarily from its actions on Kv7 channels. “Because of the close proximity of the doses at which ezogabine reduces drinking and those at which it is reported to produce motor impairment, it is still important to continue to investigate how selective the actions of ezogabine are on the neuronal mechanisms that control alcohol consumption,” said Knapp.
The researchers believe these finding will encourage the search for other drugs that act on this system to discover more effective treatments for alcoholism.
This work was supported by the NIH Grant R01AA015923 (to senior author Domenic A. Ciraulo, MD) and by funds received from the Gennaro Acampora Charitable Trust Fund.
At a gathering of students, faculty and staff a plaque was unveiled celebrating the Medical Student Residence (MSR) official certification by the U.S. Green Building Council as LEED Gold.
“We are here to celebrate our LEED certification, which is a tribute to our Facilities department,” said BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD. “They planned for sustainable design and construction because it is the right thing to do and that over the long term it is less expensive to run and maintain.”
LEED, an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000, LEED provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. It promotes sustainable building and development practices.
This is the second building on the Medical Campus to achieve LEED certification. The first was 670 Albany Street in January 2008. Throughout the University eight buildings have been certified and this is the fifth to achieve Gold.
“The MSR is more than a building, it is a learning community for our students,” said BUSM Associate Dean for Student Affairs Angela Jackson, MD. “They walk together to class. They know each other so much better because they live here together. The MSR community has expanded to include Medical Campus students who use the Field of Dreams that surrounds the building for recreation and to grow vegetables in the garden.”
The MSR was designed and built with the goal of reducing waste sent to landfills, conserving energy and water, providing a healthier and safer indoor environment for its occupants, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some highlights of the sustainable building strategies used at the MSR include:
- 18 percent more energy efficient than required by the building code
- Rainwater harvesting for landscape irrigation
- 40 percent water use reduction through efficient plumbing fixtures
- 88 percent of construction waste was recycled
- 33 percent recycled content of all construction material
Arguments counter city councilman’s attempt to ban Biosafety Level 4 research
In a discussion whose outcome may determine if Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) will conduct research involving pathogens such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, speakers for and against research at BioSafety Level 4 (BSL-4) faced off last night at a lengthy Boston City Council hearing on a proposed ordinance to ban that level of research in the city. The ordinance was put forth by Councilman Charles Yancey, who told the standing-room-only crowd that he feared that BSL-4 research could pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the community.
While Yancey and several opponents of BSL-4 research tried to persuade the city council to support the ban, proponents, including Barbara Ferrer (SPH’88), director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), and M. Anita Barry director of the BPHC Infectious Diseases Bureau, argued that reliable safety precautions have been put in place. Representatives of the biotech industry also spoke in favor of BSL-4 research, maintaining that banning BSL-4 research would inhibit the growth of life sciences research in Boston.
Ferrer told the council that Boston has the toughest safety regulations on infectious disease research of any city in the country. She said that while there are 15 labs in the country that conduct research at BSL-4, Boston is the only city whose public health authorities regulate the permitting and inspection of the labs. She said the nine labs in Boston that currently conduct research at Biosafety Level 3 are also strictly regulated by the Public Health Commission. Ferrer told the council that her agency has been preparing for BSL-4 research since 2006 and has trained hundreds of police officers and firefighters to respond to potential emergencies.
Gloria Waters, a BU vice president and associate provost of research, told the council that she cares very much about NEIDL not only in her BU role, but also as a person whose family lives in the area. “BU and Boston Medical Center attract researchers and students who want to make the city a safer place to live,” said Waters. “No research will be classified, and details of all research are open for public consumption.”
Ronald Corley, NEIDL associate director and a BU School of Medicine professor and chair of microbiology, emphasized the promise of a research lab that can bring together expertise in many disciplines, such as chemistry, microbiology, and engineering.
“The great discoveries in science these days are coming from these kinds of multidisciplinary efforts,” he said. “The University’s mission is educating the next generation of scientists.” Corley said the mission of NEIDL is to develop vaccines, diagnoses, and therapeutics for emerging infectious diseases. “The NEIDL is not going to produce biological weapons, and it is not going to do classified research,” he said.
Thomas Robbins, chief of the BU Police Department and executive director of public safety at BU, described the elaborate procedure designed to transport pathogens to NEIDL. He said every delivery is tracked with two GPS devices, one on the delivery vehicle and one in the package containing the pathogen. Robbins also talked about extensive background checks, including psychological screening and drug screening, of all NEIDL employees.
Opponents of BSL-4 research at the hearing argued that safety studies of the lab conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were inadequate, and that NEIDL was constructed in “an environmental justice community” without sufficient dialogue with residents. Roxbury-based community activist Claire Allen claimed that BU failed to adequately communicate with local residents during the initial planning stages of the NEIDL construction. “We have never tried to compete with BU,” she said. “We are the most polite protestors in the world.”
Mel King, a longtime community leader and former executive director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston, said the community surrounding NEIDL was never asked if it wanted a biological research lab in its backyard. King, who repeatedly referred to the lab as a “bio-terror lab,” called for ending all research at all biosafety levels.
Mary Crotty, a nurse attorney for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said she had opposed NEIDL since 2005, and feared that local hospitals were not prepared to handle a “surge” of medical emergencies that might result from an accident.
Construction of the $200 million NEIDL facility was completed in September 2008, but controversy and litigation have kept much of the building’s 192,000 square feet of laboratory space closed. The lab is part of a national network of secure facilities dedicated to the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments to combat emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.
Last year, after legal challenges to a NIH assessment of risks associated with BSL-3 and BSL-4 research, US District Court Chief Judge Patti Saris ruled that a Final Supplementary Risk Assessment was sound, and that such research could be conducted safely at the BU Medical Campus site. The risk assessment examined a series of scenarios and potential consequences of procedural failures, including containment system failures and malevolent acts.
In a 76-page opinion, Saris found that “the NIH provides sufficient scientific support for its ultimate conclusions that the risks to the public are extremely low to not reasonably foreseeable, and the differences between the Boston location and the suburban and rural sites are not significant. In light of the benefits of placing the lab in an urban area like Boston, which provides opportunity for expert medical research collaboration, and the low risk of harm to the public, NIH’s decision is rational.”
In March of last year, the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs gave approval for the lab to conduct research at Biosafety Level 3 and Biosafety Level 4. Since then the lab has received additional required approval for BSL-3 research, and scientists at the lab are now gearing up for BSL-3 tuberculosis research that could someday stem the disease’s lung lesions in humans and prevent TB transmission by coughing. Research at Biosafety Level 4 requires a wait for further approvals from state courts, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An editorial in the April 13 Boston Globe advised readers that passage of Yancey’s ordinance “would be to overestimate any danger that the biolab poses to nearby residents—and to retreat from the singular role that Boston plays as the world’s greatest repository of life-saving expertise.”
The Globe cited the elaborate security measures that protect the lab, including perimeter fencing and walls that would resist truck bombs, auxiliary generators, a requirement that scientists who work in BSL-4 biohazard areas clean up after themselves and assist with medical emergencies that occur in biohazard areas, and elaborate biometric security systems in high-level laboratory areas that require the presence of two scientists, “reducing the possibility that one scientist working alone with pathogens could spirit a vial outside.”
The newspaper also pointed out that Yancey “had been invited more than once to tour the lab but hasn’t yet done so.”
The Boston City Council is expected to decide whether or not to vote on Yancey’s proposed ordinance in the coming weeks.
This BU Today story was written by Art Jahnke. Amy Laskowski did additional reporting for this article.
Approximately 40 students, staff and faculty from Boston University’s Charles River and Medical Campuses performed an impromptu lunchtime concert today for the caregivers at Boston Medical Center to commemorate the anniversary of Marathon tragedy.
The event was personal; some of the musicians were friends with BU student Lu Lingzi, who died from injuries sustained from the bombings and others who were injured at the Finish Line, many from the College of Fine Arts.
The performance, which lasted approximately 15 minutes, included an instrumental performance of Danzon no. 2 by composer Arturo Marquez and a musical and choral performance of “You Raise Me Up.”
According to Moisès Fernández Via, Arts Outreach Program director, “The goal of the event was to provide the BMC community with an unexpected moment of collective shared beauty.”
All BU Medical Campus faculty, staff and students are encouraged to stop by Talbot Green for the fun, interactive BUMC Earth Day Festival.
- Bring hard-to-recycle items: batteries, Styrofoam, printer ink and toner cartidges, etc.
- Bring your bike for a tune-up and free lights
- Bring your old clothes and help us reach our 100 ton donation goal of clothing to Goodwill
Cheer on BMC’s Marathon Team
At noon there will be a Team BMC pep rally for the 104 BMC runners participating in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Don’t miss free food (while supplies last)! Test drive a new Lincoln automobile, receive a gift card and BMC will receive a donation from Lincoln.
BUMC Earth Day Festival
- Thursday, April 17
- 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
- Talbot Green
Boston University researchers have learned new information about the consequences of overeating high-calorie foods. Not only does this lead to an increase in white fat cell production, the type prominent in obesity, but it also leads to the dysfunction of brown fat cells, the unique type of fat that generates heat and burns energy.
This study is the first to describe how overeating causes brown fat cells to “whiten.” Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the results illustrate the important role that a healthy diet plays in overall health and the pivotal role that brown fat plays in metabolism.
Using experimental models, the researchers demonstrate that over-nutrition leads to a cellular signaling dysfunction that causes brown fat cells to lose neighboring blood vessels, depriving the cells of oxygen. In turn, this causes the brown fat cells to lose their mitochondria, which leads to their inability to burn fatty acids and produce heat. This collapse can have far-reaching effects on the development of metabolic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
“If we go back to when humans were hunter-gatherers, days could pass between when they could eat, so it was a survival advantage to be able to store excess energy in white fat cells,” said Kenneth Walsh, PhD, director of the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and the study’s senior author. “What served us so well as primitive organisms is now hurting us because we have a continuous food supply and are accumulating too many white fat cells.”
The study results highlight the important relationship between fat tissue and the cardiovascular system and indicates that the cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension and high cholesterol that contribute to blood vessel damage, could also lead to the dysfunction of brown fat cells.
“In addition to the expansion of white fat cells, our study shows that overeating causes brown fat cells to get locked into a death spiral, leading to their ultimate dysfunction,” said Walsh, who also is professor of medicine at BUSM. “More research needs to focus on whether stopping these activities from happening in brown fat cells could help combat obesity.”
This study was led by Ippei Shimizu, MD, PhD, an instructor of medicine in the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Funding for this study was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health under grant award numbers HL081587, HL68758, AG034972, HL116591 and HL120160.
Projects will increase academic flexibility, raise global signature
Geography and time are playing less of a role than they once did in higher education, and the Digital Learning Initiative’s first seed grants for online innovation are taking full advantage of the trend.
Thanks to these EdTech grants, medical professionals will soon earn microcredits for skills they didn’t have time to learn in their graduate school years. Dozens of Chinese graduate students will attend orientation before, not after, they arrive in Boston. Students of Korean, Hindi, and Urdu will be able to access grammar lessons on their smartphones, and undergraduates considering study abroad will get a firsthand view of life in Italy, Spain, and England before they get on a plane.
“Education is a process that prepares people for success and happiness in life,” says Chris Dellarocas, director of the DLI, which develops BU’s MOOCs (massive open online courses) and which awarded the University’s first EdTech grants last semester. “Every single dimension of this process has room for innovation and improvements through technology. BU needs to be on the forefront of innovation on all those dimensions.”
BU’s Council on Educational Technology & Learning Innovation (CETLI), which established the DLI last year, sent out the first call for distance learning proposals last spring to gather ideas from faculty and staff. Applicants were asked to consider three focus areas: expanding academic flexibility for University students, leveraging assets unique to BU, and supporting or extending BU’s global signature. Since choosing the awardees late last fall, Dellarocas, who is also a School of Management professor of information systems, DLI associate director Romy Ruukel, and members of a selection committee have been working with faculty and staff to develop their visions.
EdTech grants provide faculty with an opportunity to develop ideas that are out of the box or that push the envelope beyond traditional education methods, says CETLI cochair Azer Bestavros a College of Arts & Sciences professor of computer science and director of the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. Bestavros says online technology encourages “flexibility on both sides: for the teacher to try pedagogies that are impossible to do face-to-face…and for students to be flexible about when and where they take courses.”
Faculty at the College of Communication were among those who welcomed the grant announcement. For the past five years, COM has seen a steady increase in the number of Chinese graduate students applying to its programs, quadrupling from 10 registered students in 2009 to 44 in 2013. The faculty welcomed the students, but saw that many struggled with the cultural nuances or classroom expectations taken for granted by native-born colleagues.
“We felt that we have an obligation to do all we can within reason to ensure success,” says Stephen Quigley, a COM associate professor of public relations. Along with Micha Sabovik (COM’96,’06), a COM assistant dean, Quigley is co–principal investigator of the college’s seed grant. “We saw this as an amazing opportunity to erase the geography” and facilitate Chinese graduate students’ transition to BU, he says.
COM will use its EdTech grant to pilot a series of summer online workshops and a weekly webinar that give entering Chinese graduate students an opportunity to ask questions about anything from culture and the English language to internships and professions. When they arrive in the fall, students will attend monthly seminars that focus on English writing and speaking. Current students and alumni from China will help faculty plan and present material. The experience is free and is optional for this year’s incoming class, but Quigley says it could someday become a two-credit course.
Gail March (CFA’73), a School of Medicine assistant professor and director of instructional design and faculty development, proposed the creation of the BUSM+ Medical Education Badge Program. The EdTech program would award digital badges—similar to Boy Scout and Girl Scout merit badges—to medical professionals who complete up to 10 online sessions covering lifelong learning skills. Enrollees would display their badges in electronic portfolios, CVs, or on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
March’s pilot course, Teaching and Learning, will be available in October, and she envisions three more courses—Curriculum Design, Academic Leadership, and Medical Education Research—covering skills, she says, that medical students and professionals want to learn, but often don’t have time to pursue in traditional classes.
Gisela Hoecherl-Alden, a CAS assistant dean, director of language instruction, and a professor of the professional practice in German, will use her EdTech grant to reimagine how languages can be taught online. “Up until now, there’s been no real technology platform to replicate what we do in a classroom,” she says.
Working with an Information Services & Technology team, Hoecherl-Alden plans to identify software that facilitates oral and written instruction in a virtual classroom, with enrollment held to a maximum of 16 students. Beginner Korean, Hindi, and Urdu will be the trial courses, but Hoecherl-Alden believes many others could follow once the technology is perfected. Fall classes will feature some online segments, and—if the template works well—spring classes might be fully online. The EdTech project will allow more students from around Boston, and around the globe, to access the University’s language courses.
“Once the beginning levels have usable templates,” she says, “it will be much easier to move advanced courses online.”
Willis Wang, vice president and associate provost for global programs, and his team of Charles River Campus and international colleagues will use their EdTech grant to develop online courses that enhance study abroad students’ predeparture preparation, in-country experience, and reentry to the United States.
Using technology that will be available as early as spring 2015, the courses will also provide students with a “platform to reflect on what they’ve learned and measure it,” Wang says.
Ruukel points out that each of the projects is still an experiment. “We want them to be successful experiments,” she says, “but they can also be a proof of concept.” She says the COM course could someday become required curriculum for Chinese graduate students, or serve as a template for other schools and colleges welcoming international students into their degree programs.
Dellarocas and Ruukel are now sorting through the second round of EdTech grant proposals, which have a new set of focus areas: potential MOOCs, how to enhance the residential experience, and how to reduce the cost of a BU education or increase the University’s revenue stream.
Although the latest round of grants was officially due by January 31, Dellarocas says, “if people really have some ideas and they have a burning desire to implement them, they can approach us at any time.”
All Medical Campus students, faculty and staff are encouraged to share their thoughts in an anonymous survey regarding the University’s engagement with its international student population.
BU’s success in attracting students from diverse backgrounds and around the world has brought a renewed set of challenges and opportunities for self-evaluation and development of the university as a vibrant and fully international global learning community.
Please assist by suggesting the next steps the University can take to support the academic and social engagement of international students while educating all BU graduates for success in today’s global society.
A newly convened Provost’s ad hoc Committee on International Student Experiences and Institutional Impacts requests input and advice from all faculty, staff, and students. The Committee has set up a website http://www.bu.edu/provost/initiatives/iseii/ for anonymous responses to the following questions:
How has the presence of a large international student population affected your work and experience at Boston University?
- Please specify the challenges and suggest opportunities for BU to improve the academic success of a growing international student population.
- Please specify the challenges and suggest opportunities for BU to improve social interactions/dynamics, mutual understanding, and learning opportunities within its diverse student population.
- Please specify the challenges and suggest opportunities for BU to improve support to faculty and staff who work with international students.
- Please describe efforts or success stories related to international students that you would recommend or suggest as best practices, and identify experts or resources of which the Provost’s Committee should be aware.
- Other comments
- Please indicate your BU affiliation: undergraduate student, graduate student, other student, faculty, staff, research staff, other ___________.
- Please indicate your US citizenship status: US citizen, US permanent resident, foreign national (non-US citizen/non-US permanent resident.
In an effort to promote wellness, BU Human Resources is hosting a Wellness Fair on the Medical Campus for faculty and staff. In addition to cardiac screenings there are a wide range of wellness offerings.
Highlights of the fair include:
- Private cardiac screening sessions (Registration required)
- 20 min fitness workshops and cooking demonstrations (Registration required)
- Chair massages, Skin analysis for sun damage, Glaucoma screenings and ergonomics demonstrations
- Select Departments and Schools of BU will provide information on their services
- Healthy refreshments and raffle prizes, including iPad minis
The Wellness Fair is presented in collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield. A representative will be available with information on health and dental plans.
BU Medical Campus Faculty & Staff Wellness Fair
- Tuesday, March 25, 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.
- BUSM Instructional Building, Hiebert Lounge
Faculty and staff unable to attend this event may choose to participate in Wellness Fairs on the Charles River Campus.
BU Charles River Campus Faculty and Staff Wellness Fairs
- Monday, April 7, 12:30-5 p.m. and Tuesday, April 8, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
- Fitness & Recreation Center, 915 Commonwealth Ave., Court 1 Upstairs Gym
Continuing his illumination of Boston University School of Medicine history, Doug Hughes, MD, associate dean for academic affairs, gave a presentation on Charles Eastman, MD, an 1890 graduate of BUSM and the first Native American to graduate from a medical school in the US. Hughes’ talk, titled “Oheyisha, Charles Eastman, MD, BUSM Alumnus: Tale of a man and of our school,” was hosted on March 17 by the BUSM Historical Society. He focused on the historical forces affecting Eastman’s early years and the School of Medicine’s tradition of accepting students regardless of race, creed, or gender noting for example that the first African-American woman to graduate from a medical school was Rebecca Lee Crumpler of the BUSM class of 1864.
Hughes’ “campaign” to bring important BUSM historical events and individuals and their contributions appears to be bearing fruit. Room L-112 was filled to capacity with faculty, staff and students where they learned that Oheyisha, Eastman’s birth name, was born in 1858 to the Sioux Nation in Minnesota. His early years were characterized by conflicts between the Sioux and the U.S. government including the battle of the Little Big Horn.
An 1887 graduate of Dartmouth College, Eastman came to BUSM where according to Hughes he thrived, eventually being chosen by his classmates as the class speaker. Shortly after Eastman returned to the west to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the Dakotas to bring medical care to his people, the attack on the Sioux at Wounded Knee took place. Eastman, with only a few months experience as a physician, and his wife cared for many of the wounded, which Hughes noted of the 51 in his care 44 survived.
“Eastman’s physician skills must have been excellent, to have saved so many lives under such dire circumstances is remarkable,” said Hughes. During his life, Eastman wrote a number of books and contributed articles to magazines, reviews, and encyclopedias.
Hughes also announced that a framed photograph of Dr. Eastman and framed monograph about him will be hung on the history wall in the first floor of the Instructional Building. The purchase of the hand crafted frames was made possible by a generous donation from Rafael Ortega, MD, associate dean for diversity and multicultural affairs and professor of anesthesiology.
The mission of the BUSM Historical Society is to expose students and the community to the rich history of the School, Boston Medical Center, medicine in Boston, and the medical profession, in general.