By Surya Chalil
As of October 2013, Stony Brook Medicine has become the first site in Long Island and tenth in North America to clinically offer simultaneous whole-body PET/MRI scans.
In this new Siemens Biograph mMR hybrid imaging system, molecular information from positron emission tomography is combined with soft-tissue contrasts from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This lowers the body’s exposure to radiation and further enhances the accuracy and precision of both images.
Simultaneous PET/MRI aids doctors in giving patients finer clinical diagnoses. According to Mark Schweitzer, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging and Chair of the Department of Radiology, the dual capability of this machine allows patient exams to be faster and more inclusive, while the advanced imaging quality provided allows disease staging to be more accurate.
This technology is also a significant advancement for groundbreaking medical research. Stony Brook plans to use this device for a variety of future investigations, including studies on radioisotopes and new cancer treatment tracers, and on psychiatric diseases and their neurological causes.
What makes this PET/MRI technology a notable research development is that it enables scientists to perform functional and structural studies at the molecular level. Because of this, many major diseases can be further understood. “With this acquisition, we look forward to being one of the preeminent molecular imaging facilities in the country.” said Ramin Parsey, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, and Director of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Research.
“Stony Brook Medicine Among First Clinical Sites in US for simultaneous PET/MRI.” Stony Brook Newsroom. 16 October 2013. Stonybrook.edu. Web.
SBU Faculty Member Invented Mobility Device That Will Now Be Manufactured by Biodex
Anurag Purwar, Associate Professor of Stony Brook University, works as a researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Purwar was faced with a proposition to create a device that would facilitate the movement of individuals and help his friend, Dr. Hari B. Pillai. Dr. Pillai suffers from post-polio syndrome and struggles to lift himself out of a chair in order to use his walker.
“Today, in the United States, there are more than two million people over the age of 64 who find it difficult to rise from a chair without assistance,” explained Professor Purwar. “Biomechanically, sitting and standing involve complex movements that require muscle strength greater than other activities of daily life.”
Consequently, he produced the state-of-the-art patented invention, Mobility Assist. In 2012, Purwar received a $50,000 award from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund to prototype the device, and was granted a $30,000 from the New York State Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence program with the Center for Biotechnology and Biodex. It was announced in October 2013 that it will finally be manufactured by Biodex Medical Systems and made available to patients in 2014.
The device resembles and functions in the same way as a walker. However, it also incorporates support bars, a pelvic harness, and a linkage that is controlled by the user with a remote. These ingenious elements enable the user to imitate the natural standing motion of a human body. Mobility Assist has the potential to serve countless patients and residents once it becomes marketed to physical and occupational therapists, living facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Mobility Device Patented at SBU Will Now Be Manufactured at Biodex. 2013. Stony Brook Happenings. http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/happenings/featuredpost/mobility-device-patent-biodex.
SBU Mechanical Engineering Professor Invents Portable Mobility Assist Device. 2013. Stony Brook University Press. http://commcgi.cc.stonybrook.edu/artman/publish/index.shtml.
Stony Brook University is Chosen by NASA to Explore Space Virtually
NASA has formed the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), which has carefully chosen nine research teams from seven states. The research teams will create a virtual setting where they can address issues related to space science and human space exploration. Topics include scientific questions about the moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. In November 2013, Stony Brook University was laudably selected to be the lead institution for one of the research teams. The Stony Brook project is called “Remote, In Situ and Synchroton Studies for Science and Exploration” (RIS4E) and is led by Timothy Glotch, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook.
The RIS4E project will focus on four areas of research. The first area is interpreting the data transmitted to Earth from orbiters and landers. The second area is simulated human space exploration, which is led by Dr. Jacob Bleacher of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Researchers will travel to locations that mimic the volcanic terrains of outer space bodies. The third component involves the intertwining of geology and medicine. A team of geologists led by Martin Schoonen, a Stony Brook University professor and chair of the Environmental Science Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, will work with two Stony Brook pharmacology professors, Bruce Demple and Styliani-Anna Tsirka, to understand how the dust that astronauts breathe on the planetary bodies could affect their health. Lastly, Stony Brook scientists will use the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), which will begin operating in 2015 and be one of the brightest x-ray light sources in the world. The $5.5 million NASA-funded research collaborative will enable opportunities for future space exploration and will provide vital information for the possible use of humans and robots in the exploration of our solar system.
Stony Brook Interdisciplinary Team Plays Lead Role in NASA “Expedition” to Explore Space Virtually. 2013. Stony Brook University Press. http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/news/general/131106ExploreSpaceVirtually.php?=marquee2.
Brown, D. Hoover, R. 2013. NASA Selects Research Teams for New Virtual Institute. NASA News Release. http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/november/nasa-selects-research-teams-for-new-virtual-institute/#.UyDtz_ldV1X.
“SBU Scientists Develop a New Cancer Targeting Technique to Improve Cancer Drugs”
Currently, working cancer drug treatments successfully attack cancer cells, but they also attack the healthy cells, making recovery for patients difficult. But Dr. Nobuhide Ueki, a research scientist in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, and his team are working on a new approach to drug therapy that targets only the cancer cells. Their findings were published in Nature Communications in November 2013.
His team first discovered two enzymes that were very highly active in the cancer cells they tested: histone deacetylase (HDAC) and cathepsin L (CTSL). They took a commercial chemical tag substrate and attached it to cancer prodrugs, which are drugs used to help improve cell interaction selectivity before the primary drugs are administered. Removing the acetylated and unacetylated lysine groups of this substrate released the puromycin antibiotic upon cells. This protected normal cells, as only the two enzymes in the cancer cells were able to cleave this tag.
Several in-vitro proof-of-concept studies and in-vivo mice studies proved the efficacy of the prodrug. “This cancer-selective cleavage of the masking group is a promising strategy for the next generation of anticancer drug development, and could be applied to many other cytotoxic agents,” said Dr. Ueki.
Further studies include trying to modify the substrate to make it more efficient. Dr. Ueki also thinks that this compound, due to its supposed ability to attach to other drugs, could play a role in other various applications, such as acting as cancer cell markers in imaging.
“SBU Scientists Develop a New Cancer Targeting Technique to Improve Cancer Drugs.” Stony Brook Newsroom. 6 November 2013. Stonybrook.edu. Web.
Stony Brook Researchers Receive $3.8 Million NIH Grant to develop new class of painkillers
The Institute for Chemical Biology & Drug Discovery (ICB&DD) at Stony Brook has become responsible for a project called “Targeting FABPS.” The research team is led by Dale Deutsch, Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University and member of the ICB&DD. The project also includes an eclectic group of individuals from various Stony Brook University departments, the ICB&DD, and the Laufer Center for Quantitative and Physical Biology, and started with their discovery that fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) could be intracellular transporters that transfer a neurotransmitter known as AEA (endocannabinoid anadamide) into the interior of the cell. Once AEA enters the cell, it is destroyed and triggers an increase in the amount of pain signals. In November 2013, a subsection of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), has offered a five-year, $3.8 million grant to the research team after recognizing this discovery as a ground-breaking frontrunner for developing new drugs that can treat pain, inflammation, and potentially drug addiction.
Professor Deutsch stated, “The major goal of our drug discovery proposal is to develop drugs that inhibit these neurotransmitter transporters. We expect that by targeting FABPs with certain compounds made by the ICB&DD group, endocannbinoid levels will increase within the brain, essentially resulting in anti-pain and anti-inflammatory effects.”
It is a promising goal after their discovery of the FABP inhibitor alpha-truxilic acid. In the future, this type of drug could also have the added benefit of reducing symptoms of drug withdrawal. Furthermore, the drug would have no negative side effects, since the research project attempts to increase neurotransmitter levels naturally.
Berger, W. et al. 2012. Targeting Fatty Acid Binding Protein (FABP) Anandamide Transporters – A Novel Strategy for Development of Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Nociceptive Drugs. PLoS One. 7(12):e50968.
Stony Brook Researchers Receive $3.8 Million NIH Grant to Develop Drugs for Pain, Inflammation. 2013. Stony Brook Newsroom. http://stonybrookmedicine.edu/newsroom/nida-grant.
Stony Brook Research Group Unearths Clues to the Origin of Human Bipedalism
Habitual terrestrial bipedalism is noted as being one of the earliest characteristics to develop in human history. It is a major evolutionary step that has provided human beings with the ability to walk upright on two legs, but questions regarding the origins of human bipedalism have been left largely unanswered. However, after analyzing the femur of a six-million-year-old Orrorin tugenesis, known as the “Millenium Man,” research published in December 2013 has revealed ground-breaking insights into the origin of human bipedalism. 3D geometric morphometric analyses have provide further evidence that the Orrorin femur serves as a noteworthy “intermediate” between the fossil apes from 23 to 5 million years ago and the late human ancestors called hominins. This disputes the idea of living apes being our only ancestral models. This research was led by Dr. Sergio Almécija, a Research Instructor from the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and co-authored by Dr. William Jungers, Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Chair of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
This study set a precedent by comparing Millenium Man’s femur to numerous hominin fossils, great apes, apes in the family Hylobatidae, and fossil apes from the Miocene period. The use of cutting-edge techniques provided an incredible morphometric analysis of more than 400 species. Dr. Almécija stated, “Our paper provides quantitative results of the Orrorin femur as a unique mosaic and stresses the need to incorporate fossil apes into future analyses and discussions dealing with the evolution of human bipedalism, an investigation that should stop considering chimpanzees as default living ‘starting point’ models.”
Almécija, S. et al. 2013.The femur of Orrorin tugenensis exhibits morphometric affinities with both Miocene apes and later hominins. Nat. Commun. 4:2888.
Early Tree-Dwelling Human Ancestor was Similar to Ancient Apes but not Living Apes. 2013. Stony Brook Newsroom. http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/news/general/131204earlytreedwelling.php
Johnson, D. 2006. How Bipedalism Arose. Nova. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/what-evidence-suggests.html.
Angioplasty May Not Always Be the Answer in Heart Disease
The most common treatment for stable coronary artery disease (CAD) today is angioplasty, a procedure that opens blocked coronary arteries in the heart. However, a survey conducted by cardiologists at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in December 2013 has shown that patients with CAD who are not enduring a heart attack nor have an abnormal stress test may not benefit from angioplasty, as opposed to drug therapy alone. The study is published in the first edition of JAMA Internal Medicine online.
David L. Brown, MD, and Kathleen Stergiopoulos, MD, PhD, Professors in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine of the Department of Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, organized the meta-analysis in conjunction with colleagues globally. The study joined clinical trials data from 1970 to 2012 of two groups of patients- those who received percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), commonly referred to as angioplasty, in conjunction with drug therapy, and those who received drug therapy alone. All of the clinical trials included in the study reported death and nonfatal myocardial infarction. At least 50 percent of the patients, in both the “angioplasty alone” group and “drug therapy alone” group, needed to use statins to lower cholesterol. In addition, at least 50 percent of the patients who received PCI needed to have a stent inserted. This was to ensure the study reflected the nature of current cardiovascular treatments. The study contained five clinical trials consisting of a total of 4,074 patients with myocardial ischemia.
In patients with controlled CAD and documented myocardial ischemia, PCI with drug therapy did not lead to a decrease in death, nonfatal myocardia ischemia, unplanned revascularization, or angina, as compared to drug therapy alone. This corroborates prior thinking that angioplasty should not be considered the first option for patients with stable CAD and ischemia.
Brown. (2013, Dec 6). Angioplasty May Not Be Better than Drug Therapy in
Stable Disease. Retrieved from http://stonybrookmedicine.edu/newsroom/david-brown
Stergiopoulos K, Boden WE, Hartigan P, et al. Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Outcomes in Patients With Stable
Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease and Myocardial Ischemia: A Collaborative Meta-analysis of Contemporary Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Intern Med.2014;174(2):232-240.