University of Rochester

Rochester Review
September-October 2009
Vol. 72, No. 1

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In Review

Citations Research Roundup

Food Dye May Hold Promise in Treating Spinal Cord Injury

A compound strikingly similar to the common food additive that gives M & Ms and Gatorade their blue tint may offer promise for preventing the additional—and serious—damage that follows a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. Rochester researchers report that the compound known as “Brilliant Blue G” stops a cascade of molecular events that cause secondary damage. The research builds on earlier Rochester work showing that ATP, the energy source for the body’s cells, pours into areas surrounding spinal cord injuries, paradoxically killing otherwise healthy cells. In work published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Maiken Nedergaard, a professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, reported that the “blue G” compound could block ATP’s effects.

Breast Cancer Drug Shows Potential Against Serious Infections

An FDA–approved drug used to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer may help fight life-threatening fungal infections common in immune-compromised patients such as infants born prematurely and patients with cancer. Research—led by Damian Krysan, an assistant professor of pediatrics—indicates that the drug tamoxifen kills fungus cells, the source of often deadly infections among patients in intensive care units, patients with HIV, and patients taking immune-suppression medications for chronic conditions. The journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy published the research.

‘Life Force’ Linked to Body’s Ability to Withstand Stress

The ability to withstand stress-related, inflammatory diseases may be associated not just with race and sex but with personality as well, according to a study by Rochester researchers published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Especially in aging women, low levels of the personality trait identified as “extraversion” may indicate that blood levels of a key inflammatory molecule—interleukin 6—have crossed over a threshold linked to a doubling of risk of death within five years. Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor in the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research, part of the Department of Psychiatry, was lead author of the study.

OJ Worse for Teeth than Whitening

With the increasing popularity of whitening teeth, researchers at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health set out to learn if there are negative effects on teeth from using whitening products. YanFang Ren, a laboratory technician in biochemistry and biophysics, and his team determined that the effects of 6 percent hydrogen peroxide, the common ingredient in professional and over-the-counter whitening products are insignificant compared to acidic fruit juices. Orange juice decreased hardness by 84 percent and increased roughness of tooth enamel. No significant change in hardness or surface enamel was found from whitening. The research was published in Journal of Dentistry.

Genetic Source of Muscular Dystrophy Neutralized

Medical Center researchers report that they may have found a way to block the genetic flaw at the heart of a common form of muscular dystrophy. The results of the study, published in the journal Science, could pave the way for new therapies to treat symptoms of the disease. Using a synthetic molecule, the team reported that they broke up deposits of toxic genetic material and reestablished some cellular activity disrupted by muscular dystrophy. Senior study author Charles Thornton, a professor of neurology and codirector of the Medical Center’s Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative, says that because most common forms of muscular dystrophy in adults flow from the single genetic flaw, neutralizing it could potentially restore muscle function in people with the disease.