Alumni Fund of the Alumni Association for the College of Medicine at SUNY Downstate Awards Three Research Scholarships for 2016-2017
Brigitte DeLashmette – partial scholarship
During my research year I will be working in the Neuroendocrinology Unit at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. I will be studying the mechanisms by which the brain controls pituitary function and energy balance. An important focus is
on the hypothalamic melanocortin system, which plays a critical role in maintaining energy balance in humans and animals. This system consists of the proopiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived MSH peptides, the MSH antagonist agouti related protein (AgRP) and the brain melanocortin receptors (MCRs). α-MSH suppresses appetite and stimulates energy expenditure, while AgRP stimulates appetite and decreases energy expenditure.
Part of my project will consist of testing the hypothesis that plasma AgRP can be used as a biomarker for hypothalamic AgRP. I will also be examining the effects of fasting and leptin on hypothalamic AgRP mRNA and peptide levels in relation to changes in plasma AgRP levels. Another aspect of the work relates to AgRP as a mediator of the suppressive effects of caloric restriction and energy deficits on reproduction via suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. I will study the serum of normal woman compared to women with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) related to chronic energy deficiency in the setting of exercise and reduced food intake.
Cherease Street – partial scholarship
I am Cherease Street a rising fourth year at SUNY Downstate. With the support of the Alumni Association I am able to dedicate the 2016-2017 academic year to investigating the effects of PD-1 immunotherapy on neuroblastoma. My research will be conducted at Columbia University Medical Center in the Pediatric Tumor Biology Lab. Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor in the pediatric population. At the time of presentation more than half of the patients have metastatic disease. High-risk patients have a very poor prognosis with a 5-year survival of roughly 50%. The treatment modalities traditionally utilized are a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Recent advances in immunomodulation have demonstrated that immunotherapy may be a useful adjunct to the multimodal approach to neuroblastoma. Data yielded from this research will demonstrate the efficacy of anti PD-1 immunotherapy on neuroblastoma. This could give patients, families and providers hope for novel treatments on the horizon.
Karrah St. Laurent-Ariot – full year research scholarship
The brain is chief among all the organs. In the face of structural or chem ical adversity, executive function, personality, even the ability to form and access memory may be diminished. Due to the generosity of the Alumni association and the mentorship of Dr. Peter Bergold, I have been afforded the opportunity to gain better insight into what role neuro-inflammation plays and its contribution to cognitive impairment. Specifically, the focus will be on the relationship between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Both PTSD and TBI are major health concerns in America. Approximately 25 million Americans have PTSD and there are 2.6 million new cases of TBI annually. The difficulties of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with comorbid TBI-PTSD helped raise public awareness of the risk of TBI patients to develop PTSD.
Persistently elevated neuro-inflammation contributes to affective and cognitive deficits in both TBI and PTSD, yet the role of this inflammation is unknown. After inducing TBI and PTSD via chronic variable stress, behavior and memory will be observed and measured utilizing Barnes maze, acoustic startle, elevated plus maze, and active place avoidance. Stress and anxiety as indicated by serum cortisol levels will also be analyzed and correlated with histology. It is our objective to delineate the cognitive deficits and stress symptoms that arise, explain whether neuro-inflammtion is a causative contributor, and describe how neuro-inflammation and brain histology have been altered after experimental TBI, PTSD, or comorbid TBI-PTSD. This study will have a great impact on treatment since the detailed analysis of neurotrophins, cytokines and inflammatory markers may identify serum biomarkers and potential drug targets to treat comorbid TBI-PTSD.