The Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) has partnered with Tufts to provide a professional core facility that has over 15 years of experience providing high quality services for the generation of mouse transgenic strains including the use of CRISPR/Cas, cryopreservation of mouse germ cells, and imaging, including MRI and microCT. Mice are generated in a full barrier, AAALAC-accredited animal facility in a transgenic production room that facilitates direct importation of mice into the Tufts barrier facility. Contact us to discuss your mouse and imaging projects.
We provide microinjection to generate your mouse models. Services include microinjection of fertilized oocytes with traditional DNA transgenes, or microinjection of CRISPR/Cas. ES cell injection is also performed. Contact us to design your CRISPR mouse project – cost depends on type of modification, strain of mouse, and days of injection. We have a high surveillance production room that will allow importation of mice direct into some barrier facilities.
Contact – Lucy Liaw, Ph.D., email@example.com
We house a Scanco high speed in vivo microCT scanner X-ray system. Our microCT facility has extensive experience in bone imaging and quantification, and can work on other projects where tissues are provided, i.e., vascular imaging of samples perfused with microfil. We provide quantification and any 3D images of the samples as required. Contact us to get a project quote. Pricing is based on hours of scanning and analysis time.
Contact – Lucy Liaw, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Animal MRI
Our MRI facility houses a Bruker Pharmascan 7T, 300 MHz imager with 100 μm resolution. Services include anatomical imaging of most organs, angiography, proton spectroscopy and localized spectroscopy, and cardiac imaging, including diastolic and systolic dimensions of the ventricle. We can house “clean” animals at our facility for studies requiring longitudinal imaging. Contact us for mor information.
The Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center (HNRCA) on Aging has invited the Nobel laureate Dr. Susumu Tonegawa to give a talk as part of the Drs. Joan and Peter Cohn Family lecture on nutrition, inflammation and chronic disease. This event also includes a panel discussion besides presentations from other distinguished speakers such as Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D. (Director, Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, University of Virginia), Simin Meydani (Director, HNRCA), Irwin Rosenberg, M.D. (Director, Nutrition and Neurorecognition lab, HNRCA) and Dennis Steindler, Ph.D. (Director, Neuroscience and Aging lab, HNRCA). This event will take place on Dec 17, 2015 from 1-6 pm at the HNRCA building. (Registration link – https://secure.www.alumniconnections.com/olc/pub/TUF2/events/event_order.cgi?tmpl=events&event=2363222)
Dr. Susumu Tonegawa is currently the director of RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics and holds the Picower professorship of Biology and Neuroscience. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1987 for his discovery of the genetic mechanism behind antibody diversity in the adaptive immune system. His experiments, that started in 1976, countered the contemporary dominant idea that each gene produced one protein as he went on to show that genetic rearrangements in mature B cells in adult mice, compared to embryonic mice, are responsible for the diversity observed in antibodies. Dr. Tonegawa received his Ph.D. in Biology from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1968. He then went on to work as a postdoctoral scholar at the Salk Insitute in San Diego, and later at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland where he performed his landmark experiments. His current research focuses on understanding the molecular, cellular and neural circuit mechanisms underlying learning and memory formation using genetically engineered mouse models that have spatially or temporally restricted neurotransmitter receptor and enzyme expression, or have conditional knock-out of specific cell populations that are suspected to be involved in memory formation. These mutant mice, along with control mice, are then subjected to analytical methods such as behavioral tasks, in vitro electrophysiology, and both in vivo and in vitro high resolution optical imaging. The main questions his research sees to answer include what happens in the brain during memory formation, consolidation of short-term memory to long-term, and memory recall. He also seeks to understand the role of memory in decision-making, and how other factors such as reward, punishment, attention and emotional state can affect learning and memory formation. These research questions have great implications in understanding memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s where patients are unable to form new memories, or PTSD where patients are unable to suppress recalling of a highly unpleasant memory.
On Tuesday, Dec 1, 2015, Dr. Caroline Genco, chair of the Integrative Physiology & Pathobiology, was installed as the inaugural Arthur E. Spiller, M.D. Professor This professorship was made possible by an estate gift from Dr. Spiller and this fund is meant to support “an outstanding biomedical researcher and educator at Tufts University School of Medicine who demonstrates expertise in the field of genetics”.
Dr. Genco completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at State University of New York (SUNY-Fredonia) and did her graduate work in microbiology at University of Rochester School of Dentistry & Medicine. She went on to work as a postdoctoral scholar at Center of Disease Control (CDC) and later, walked the path of an academic that led her to Boston University School of Medicine (BUMC) prior to Tufts. At BUMC, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Research & Service (2012). She has also served on numerous NIH study sections, worked with & advised several pharmaceutical companies, and has mentored a host of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars throughout her career.
Dr. Genco’s research spans basic, translational and global health in relation to mucosal pathogens, with a particular interest in genetic elements of host-pathogen interactions in systemic inflammatory disease states. Some of her notable works include establishing the connection between oral mucosal bacteria and their role in atherosclerosis and plaque formation. Her current work focuses on innate immune responses to mucosal pathogens, regulatory mechanisms in bacterial pathogens and the association between the microbiome and chronic inflammation, with an interest in pancreatic cancer. More details are available at her Sackler webpage – http://sackler.tufts.edu/Faculty-and-Research/Faculty-Research-Pages/Caroline-Genco.
Besides her academic accomplishments, Dr. Genco also serves as the President and Treasurer of the Christina Clarke Genco Foundation, Inc. This non-profit was established in honor of Christina Genco, who passed away in a tragic biking accident in 2011. This organization embodies the values of late Ms. Genco and seeks to empower young adults so they can make a difference in their communities. In addition, the organization also focuses on improving biking safety, providing scholarship to female athletes and assisting affordable housing initiatives.
In the spirit of this publication connecting science and communication, the Insight team is excited to announce a new endeavor: an essay contest. Here is your chance to sound off on a topic near and dear to all of our hearts and careers, namely our education. Science is a rapidly evolving field, and to produce excellent scientists, training programs need to incorporate those changes. So, here is what we are asking you:
What component, topic, or field do you consider critical to a PhD education, and why should it be prioritized in training?
Essays can address anything from incorporating bioinformatics into training, to the need for grant-writing assignments in classes, to how collaborations significantly improve research projects. We only ask that these essays address a general PhD education, not one at Tufts’ specifically. More rules can be found below.
Max. Length: 1500 words
Due Date: January 31st, 2016
Winner(s) will be determined via a school-wide poll on the Insight blog and awarded prize(s). If you are interested in entering or have questions, please email email@example.com.
This is always a busy time of year, and whether you are traveling or staying local, taking time off or continuing to work, here are some things to make this season more merry and bright:
Sleep. On a bed, not your lab bench or desk. Get a lot of it to catch up after committee meetings and final exams.
Eat. Try a new recipe at home (here are some recipes and here are some tips on cooking as a grad student) or make a list of new restaurants to taste test.
Travel, even for just for a day or within an unexplored neighborhood of Boston. Experiencing some place new will help shake up your routine and maybe even your perspective.
Reconnect with friends and family, either in Boston or at home. Knowing you have a support system can do a lot for morale, motivation, and overall wellbeing.
Find a new TV show to binge watch. Winding down with the latest adventure saga or drama-filled reality show can give your brain a rest, making you more alert and ready to work the next time you’re scanning PubMed or sitting down at your bench. Feel free to contact the InSight team for suggestions!
Wanted to try rock climbing or pottery or paint night? Now’s the time to do it! You might even be able to find some holiday deals too. For those staying local, take a walk around the Boston Common and maybe stop by the Frog Pond for skating.
Try experiencing science in a new and different way. As graduate students, thinking about our research isn’t something we really can never stop doing. What we can do during vacation, however, is examine it from a new angle. Look at your field from the perspective of the media, or medicine, or industry. It’ll make you feel productive while also freshening your thoughts on what you deal with on a day-to-day basis and maybe even propel you in a new direction when you return to the bench.
Happy holidays, Sackler!
Photo from www.phdcomics.com (“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham).
On Thursday October 8th, the Neuroscience Department hosted its 7th annual Neuroscience Symposium and William Shucart Lecture. The daylong event brings together neuroscience enthusiasts from the entire Tufts community, including the Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Neurology as well as the basic science departments of Tufts University School of Medicine. The day is filled with talks celebrating the cutting edge of neuroscience research and stimulating conversations. The final lecture of the day honors William Shucart, MD. With nearly 200 people in attendance, the 2015 Symposium was a great success.
This year, Dr. Thomas Biederer of the Neuroscience department served as symposium director. Invited speakers included Dr. QiuFu Ma from Dana-Farber/Harvard Medical School: “Spinal circuits transmitting mechanical pain”, Dr Scott Soderling from Duke University Medical Center: “Actin badly – cytoskeletal drivers of neuropsychiatric disorder”, Dr. Elly Nedivi from MIT: “Structural dynamics of inhibitory synapses”, Dr. Pavel Osten from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories: “Automated analysis of functional and anatomical circuits in the mouse brain”, and Dr. Christina Alberini from New York University: “Molecular mechanisms of memory consolidation and enhancement”. Students and post docs had the opportunity to meet the speakers in small groups during lunch and talk more in depth about their research and experiences.
The day concluded with Dr. Gordon Fishell from New York University giving the 2015 William Shucart Lecture on his work in the field of interneuron development. Dr. Philip Haydon, chair of the Neuroscience Department, describes in his welcome Dr. Shucart’s contribution to the Neuroscience Department, “…William Shucart, MD, who at that time was chair of Neurosurgery, recognized the importance of basic Neuroscience and was unwavering in his support for the formation of our Department. It is only fitting therefore that the last lecture recognizes his important contributions.” Previous Shucart Lecturers include Dr. Martha Constantine-Paton, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and Dr. Mark Schnitzer to name a few. More information can be found on the Symposium website at http://medicine.tufts.edu/Education/Academic-Departments/Basic-Science-Departments/Neuroscience/Neuroscience-Symposium-and-Shucart-Lecture and the Neuroscience Department’s Facebook page.
Michaela Tolman is a Neuroscience PhD Candidate in the Yang lab, studying astrocyte maturation and functional development. She is also the current President of the Sackler Graduate Student Council.
Of the myriad skills a scientist must have in his repertoire, arguably the most important is the ability to clearly present his findings. Whether speaking amongst colleagues, giving a talk at a scientific meeting or simply answering the age-old question, “So, what do you do?” at a cocktail party, the need for better scientific communication skills is ever present. But how does one improve their public speaking abilities insofar as they relate to science? The answer is as simple as it is nerve-wracking (at least for some); that is, speaking publicly about science.
With this in mind, on October 20th, the Sackler Graduate Student Council Career Paths committee and the Tufts Biomedical Business Club teamed up to present the first “Sackler Science Open Mic Night”. The goal of the event was for students to present short, two to three minute talks covering some aspect of their research and to help each other workshop these talks, in the hopes of improving. This “flash talk” style of presentation is challenging as it leaves only enough time for the speaker to present the most crucial aspects of their research, but it is also one of the most frequently used skills whether it be at a networking event, an interview, or even in response to that question at a cocktail party.
Professor Dan Jay joined students for the event and to kick it off he gave a flash talk of his own on a favorite subject of his, “the intersection between art and science”. Student presenters from all over Sackler gave talks ranging from astrocytes (and their communication with neurons via vesicular release of transmitters) to v-ATPases (and the signaling pathways that control their assembly). Presenters and spectators alike made the event a success, providing tons of feedback on how to improve those talks for future presentations. Keep an eye out for more events similar to the Sackler Science Open Mic Night in the future as the Sackler Graduate Student Council and Tufts Biomedical Business Club look for more ways to promote scientific communication.
Alex Jones is a Neuroscience PhD student in the Reijmers lab studying changes in molecular profile of neurons during memory formation. He also serves as the current Treasurer of the Sackler Graduate Student Council.
The Charlton Lectureship, named in honor of Mr. Earle P. Charlton, has been held annually since 1975. This celebrated lectureship has evolved over the years to include a student poster competition. Held in conjunction with the lectureship, the poster competition is a platform to recognize outstanding research work being done by Tufts graduate, medical, dental, and veterinary students. The Charlton Poster Competition and Lecture are sponsored and hosted by the Academic Research Awards Committee of the Tufts University School of Medicine.
This year’s lecture was held on October 27, 2015, in the Sackler DeBlois Auditorium. The 2015-16 Charlton Lecturer was delivered by Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD. Dr. Lee obtained her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California in San Francisco (1973) and an MBA at the Wharton School of Business (1984).
Dr. Lee is the John H. Ware 3rd Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, and directs the center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Lee’s work was instrumental in demonstrating that tau, α-synuclein, and TDP-43 proteins form unique brain aggregates with a central role in numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The poster competition was held on October 26, 2015 with finalists competing again the following morning. Students with similar levels of training are evaluated with their peers:
Sackler Senior Category: Sackler biomedical PhD students in years 4 and above, MD/PhD students in Sackler years 4 and above, and Sackler CTS PhD students
1ST PLACE – Kevin Goncalves, CMP
Angiogenin promotes hematopoietic regeneration by dichotomously regulating quiescence and expansion of stem and progenitor cells
2ND PLACE – Jennifer Shih, NRSC
Partial genetic deletion of the astrocytic glutamate transporter GLAST disrupts organization of the cerebral cortex and causes network hyperexcitability
3RD PLACE – Brian Lin, CMDB
Neuronally committed progenitors can dedifferentiate, become multipotent, and generate nonneuronal cell lineages following injury
Sackler Junior Category: Sackler PhD students in years 1-3, MD/PhD students in Sackler years 1-3, and Sackler MS students
1ST PLACE – Joseph Sarhan, IMM
Basal levels of Interferon β Regulates Necroptosis in Macrophages
2ND PLACE – Danish Saleh, NRSC
Kinase activities of RIPK1 and RIPK3 are required for GNB-induced IFN-I synthesis
3RD PLACE – Payel Ghatak, GENE
Digital ELISA Based Ultrasensitive Strategy to Detect microRNAs at Subfemtomolar Concentration.
Professional Category: All Medical, Dental, and Veterinary Medicine students and MD/PhD students in TUSM years 1 and 2.
1ST PLACE – Mary Tam, Medical
The HBP1 Gene: A Pre-clinical Model for Genetic and De novo epilepsies
2ND PLACE – Seda Babroudi, Medical
A Novel Compound, Membrane-Tethered E2, Selectively Activates the ER Rapid Signaling Pathway – Implications for Vascular Benefit
3RD PLACE- Marianna Papageorge, Medical
Cyst Aspiration of Endometriomas Prior to In-Vitro Fertilization
Congratulations to all participants, finalists, and award winners.
First awarded in 1901; The Nobel Prize is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of physiology or medicine, chemistry, physics, economics, and literature. Nobel Prizes are awarded annually in recognition of outstanding academic, cultural and/or scientific advances. Each Nobel Laureate receives a Nobel Foundation medal, a diploma, and a sum of money, which is decided by the Nobel Foundation. As of 2012, each prize was worth approximately $1.2 million (USD).
This year, Nobel prizes in the fields of physiology or medicine and chemistry were awarded for: discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria and infections caused by roundworm parasites; and mechanistic studies of DNA repair, respectively.
Novel Therapies for Parasitic Infections
Diseases caused by parasites have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and well-being. This year’s Nobel Laureates for the field of physiology or medicine developed therapies that revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases. The Nobel was awarded ½ to Youyou Tu and ¼ each to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura.
Youyou Tu is recognized for her discovery of Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from Malaria. William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura are recognized for their discovery of Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually.
The discoveries of Artemisinin and Avermectin have fundamentally changed the treatment of parasitic diseases. Malaria infects close to 200 million individuals yearly. Artemisinin is used in all Malaria-ridden parts of the world. When used in combination therapy, it is estimated to reduce mortality from Malaria by more than 20% overall and by more than 30% in children. For Africa alone, this means that more than 100 000 lives are saved each year. Today the Avermectin-derivative Ivermectin is used in all parts of the world that are plagued by parasitic diseases. Ivermectin is highly effective against a range of parasites, has limited side effects and is freely available across the globe. The importance of Ivermectin for improving the health and well-being of millions of individuals with River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, primarily in the poorest regions of the world, is immeasurable. Treatment is so successful that these diseases are on the verge of eradication, which would be a major feat in the medical history of humankind.
The discoveries of Artemisinin and Avermectin have revolutionized therapy for patients suffering from devastating parasitic diseases. Tu, Campbell, and Ōmura have transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases. The global impact of their discoveries and the resulting benefit to mankind are truly unfathomable.
The cells’ toolbox for DNA repair
Each day our DNA is damaged by UV radiation, free radicals and other carcinogenic substances, but even without such external attacks, a DNA molecule is inherently unstable. Thousands of spontaneous changes to a cell’s genome occur on a daily basis. Furthermore, defects can also arise when DNA is copied during cell division, a process that occurs several million times every day in the human body. The reason our genetic material does not disintegrate into complete chemical chaos is that a host of molecular systems continuously monitor and repair DNA.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for having mapped, at a molecular level, how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information. Their work has provided fundamental knowledge and insight into how a living cell functions.
In the early 1970s, scientists believed that DNA was an extremely stable molecule, but Tomas Lindahl demonstrated that DNA decays at a rate that ought to have made the development of life on Earth impossible. This insight led him to discover a molecular machinery, base excision repair, which constantly counteracts the collapse of our DNA.
Paul Modrich has demonstrated how the cell corrects errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division. This mechanism, mismatch repair, reduces the error frequency during DNA replication by about a thousand fold. Congenital defects in mismatch repair are known, for example, to cause a hereditary variant of colon cancer.
Aziz Sancar has mapped nucleotide excision repair, the mechanism that cells use to repair UV damage to DNA. People born with defects in this repair system will develop skin cancer if they are exposed to sunlight. The cell also utilizes nucleotide excision repair to correct defects caused by mutagenic substances, among other things.
These Nobel Laureates have provided fundamental knowledge and insight into how a living cell functions. Their respective breakthrough discoveries have been applied and used for the development and advancement of novel cancer treatments.
Who wouldn’t want to be a space pirate? Granted, if you had to be stranded alone on a barren planet for over a year for that chance to happen, it might not be so appealing. Still, space pirate: think of the possibilities.
It is this optimistic, jocular tone that Ridley Scott’s The Martian, based on the book by Andy Weir, takes as it follows astronaut and botanist Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, through the trials and tribulations of having to remodel rudimentary living conditions after being presumed dead and left behind by his crew during a mission to Mars. Stranded initially without means of communication to Earth, Watney’s life-saving ventures range from making water using hydrogen and oxygen gas (which almost gets him blown up) to growing potatoes in a homemade greenhouse (you don’t want to know where he got the fertilizer for that project, just saying). His life gets a little less difficult when an observant mission control operator notices a moving rover on the satellite surveillance of Mars’ surface late one night, giving those on Earth the first sign that Watney is in fact alive. With some quick thinking and teamwork, they rig up a way to communicate and suddenly Watney isn’t so alone anymore. They continue to help him survive in the harsh conditions of the planet, which he does all to the lively beats of disco hits, as that is apparently all his team’s commander, played by Jessica Chastain, loaded into the system during their stay, much to his chagrin.
The 1970s soundtrack calls back to the post-space race era, using the backdrop of where we have been to throw into sharp relief how far we have come, and also how far we can still go in exploring the stars. Still, The Martian, at its heart, is not a two-hour promotion for NASA and its programs. Though it does get ample on-screen time, political maneuverings and calculated public relations decisions made in board rooms rival the time spent problem solving in mission control or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), giving the organization an almost ominous corporate vibe. Driven by Jeff Davis’ performance as the callous program director, NASA becomes the antagonist when the decision is made to keep the news of Watney’s survival from his crew, who are making their way back to Earth, in an attempt to keep their focus on the mission to return home safely.
It is this theme–balancing the lives of several versus one–that refracts throughout the back half of the film, making the humanity of this survival story begin to outshine the science in a subtle and heartwarming way. Thus it comes as no surprise that the returning Ares III crew chooses to risk their lives in a genius attempt, crafted by an eccentric but endearing JPL engineer, to change course and retrieve Watney even though NASA initially rejects the plan. As every pirate adventure should, mutiny and risky swashbuckling ensue, ending in a daring rescue attempt that requires the brains and particular STEM skills of all six members of the Ares III team. In a breathtakingly beautiful and nerve-wracking sequence, an injured, exhausted, and bearded Watney attempts to launch into Mars’ atmosphere with a jerry-rigged pod to reach his crew’s ship which is orbiting by, all while the whole world watches on.
Whether or not he makes it–well, you’ll have to go see The Martian yourself to find out the answer to that question. Though the AMC Loews Boston Common 19 will no longer screen the sci-fi adventure after this week, Regal Fenway Stadium 13 and AMC Assembly Row 12 have showings scheduled for the next two weeks, so catch it while you can.
Lastly, for those interested in how accurate Watney’s scientific efforts to remodel his surroundings are, NASA  and The Guardian  both addressed this question, and Neil deGrasse Tyson also weighed in on the matter via Twitter with some very amusing and pointed commentary .