Proceedings of the 7th Conference of
Specialized Neuroscience Research Programs
August 19-22, 2008
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) - in collaboration with the National Center on Minority
Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
Institute (NHLBI), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), and the National Institute
of Mental Health (NIMH) - supports an innovative funding mechanism called Specialized Center Cooperative Agreements.
The first Specialized Center Cooperative Agreement was awarded to the Morehouse School of Medicine in 1994 and fully funded in 1996. Success in the scientific accomplishments of this program and interest from academic institutions affiliated with the NCRR-supported Research Centers in Minority Institutions programs led to the creation of the Specialized Neuroscience Research Programs (SNRP) initiative in 1999. Combined, there are currently 14 Specialized Center Cooperative Agreement grantees affiliated with a consortium of 32 collaborating neuroscience research institutions.
The 7th Conference of Specialized Neuroscience Research Programs (SNRP) hosted by Hunter College, City University of New York, focused the theme on “Translating Neuroscience Research Excellence Into Improved Health”. SNRP Directors and investigators along with NIH staff convened for a three-day meeting to review program accomplishments and address the emerging issues of health disparities through basic, translational and clinical research.
In this conference participants had the opportunity to hear outstanding scientists in translational research and interact with SNRP scientists, students and fellows. The group was interdisciplinary, diverse, talented and knowledgeable and much was gleaned from general sessions and individual networks. The Conference was organized around the themes of Stroke, Aging, Alzheimer’s disease, Neurodegeneration and neuroprotection, Neurogenesis, development and regeneration, autonomic systems and sleep disorders, Neurotoxicology, behavioral neurosciences, and neurological complications of HIV and AIDS summarized below.
Dr. Marie Filbin opened the meeting introducing Dr. William Crowley whose welcoming talk outlined human disease models to elucidate genes critical to developmental biology. Dr. Crowley reviewed several genes that play a role in genetic disorders related to GnRH deficiency either with anosmia or with a normal sense of smell. GnRH secreting neurons control reproductive activity across the lifespan. These disorders of GnRH deficiency have been important models that have lead to an increased understanding of the abnormalities as well as normal processing of neurons during the lifespan. Dr. Crowley outlines what has been gleaned from such genes as KAL1, FGF1, FGF8, PROK2 and PROKR2 and their roles in dysgenesis of the olfactory bulb or neuronal migration defects. In summary these genes have recently been discovered to be critical elements to the development and establishment of the GnRH neural network.
Dr. Christopher Austin, Director of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and Senior Advisor to the Director for Translational Research transitioned into discussing the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and their work developing chemical probes for neurosciences and the Molecular Libraries Initiative. Founded in 2004 the NIH Chemical Genomics Center collaborates with over 100 investigators worldwide focusing on novel targets, rare and neglected diseases and providing innovative chemical “tools” for biological research and drug development.
Dr. Frank Walsh, Executive Vice President, Discovery Research at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals discussed early successes in the genomic revolution increasing drug targets from 500 to 15,00; today’s challenges and priorities include the complexity of neurological disorders, chronic inflammatory disorders, Diabetes/obesity and oncology. In keeping with the theme of translation, Dr. Walsh outlined the benefits of translational research to bridge the gap between discover and the clinic which allows us to understand the likely behavior of experimental medicines on humans. Translational medicine enables cost-effective determination of the efficacy and safety of drugs through the use of biomarkers. The key to success is biomarkers used to validate targets, quantify the interaction between compound and target and provides a correlation to physiological, pathological or clinical observations. Outlining the types of collaborations between academia and industry Dr. Walsh stressed that collaborations are key to success of drug development.
Dr. Blackstone outlined hereditary spastic paraplegia as a progressive lower limb spasticity and weakness caused by failure of the development of or degeneration of axons comprising the corticospinal tracts in a length-dependent manner. The rate for this disease is about 3 in every 100,000. Dr. Blackstone showed data on mutations of in the gene encoding of the large oligomeric GTPase atlastin-1 which are thought to be responsible for a common autosomal dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia. Current studies in his lab on spastic paraplegia involve the crystallization of atlastin-1 in complex with spastin and investigating the effects of atlastin on regulation of oligomerization of the reticulon family of “ER Shaping” proteins.
Participants attended one of three concurrent breakout sessions the first afternoon: 1)Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Participants in Clinical Studies given by Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala; 2) information on the NINDS Translational Program given by Dr. Jill Heemskerk; 3) Professional Development Seminar on Networking given by Dr. Robert Tillman.
Session I: Stroke
Chair and Moderator: Chelsea Kidwell, M.D., SNRP Director, Georgetown University
Life Among the Axons: Preserving and Rebuilding Brain Connections After Stroke
Mark P. Goldberg, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine
ePKC Activation Prolongs Ion Homeostasis in Ischemia-Tolerant Arctic Ground Squirrel Brain During Cardiac Arrest
Kelly L. Drew, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks
Barriers to Stroke Recognition and Action: Preliminary Assessment of an Underserved Urban Community
Amie Hsia, M.D., Georgetown University/Washington Hospital Center
Incidence of Stroke in Alaska Native People
Brian A. Trimble, M.D., Alaska Native Medical Center
Session II: Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, Neurodegeneration, and Neuroprotection
Chair and Moderator: Walter R. Frontera, M.D., Ph.D., SNRP Director, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
Human Relevance of a Common Alzheimer Mouse
Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Cembranoids: New Neuroprotective Drugs Acting Through a Novel Nicotinic Pathway
Pedro A. Ferchmin, Ph.D., Universidad Central de Caribe
Downregulation of Ferritin Heavy Chain Prevents Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's Disease Transgenic Mice
Guo-Huang Fan, Ph.D., Meharry Medical College
Neuroprotection by Neuregulin-1 in Acute Brain Injury
Byron Ford, Ph.D., Morehouse School of Medicine
Session III: Neurogenesis, Development, and Regeneration
Chair and Moderator: Charles J. Wilson, Ph.D., SNRP Director, University of Texas at San Antonio
Dissecting the Diverse Actions of Proneurotrophins
Barbara L. Hempstead, M.D., Ph.D., New York- Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College
22q13 Motor and Autism Syndrome: Islet Brain-2 as a New Candidate Disease Gene
Mitchell Goldfarb, Ph.D., Hunter College, CUNY
Prostaglandin J2: A Product of Inflammation That Plays a Key Role in Neurodegeneration?
Maria Figueiredo-Pereira, Ph.D., Hunter College, CUNY
Session IV: Autonomic Systems and Sleep Disorders
Chair and Moderator: Lawrence Duffy, Ph.D., SNRP Director, University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Role of the Circadian Dysregulation and Sleep and Metabolic Dysfunction
Fred W. Turek, Ph.D., Northwestern University
Circadian Clock and Melatonin Modulate Visual Processing in the Mouse Retina
Gianluca Tosini, Ph.D., Morehouse School of Medicine
Impact of Interrupted Neuropeptide Y (NPY) Inputs to the Hypothalamic Paraventricular Nucleus (PVN) on Cardiorespiratory Responses
Serdia Mack, Ph.D., Howard University College of Medicine
Brainstem Serotonin Neurons, Ventilatory Responses to CO2, and Insights Toward the Pathophysiology of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Michael Harris, Ph.D., University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Session V: Neurotoxicology, Addiction, and Behavioral Neurosciences
Chair and Moderator: Linda Chang, M.D., SNRP Director, University of Hawaii School of Medicine
If Nicotine Is a Developmental Neurotoxicant in Animal Studies, Dare We Recommend Nicotine Replacement Therapy in Pregnant Women and Adolescents?
Theodore Slotkin, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center
Prenatal Exposure to B(a)P During Neurogenesis Impairs Later Cortical Neuronal Function and Behavior
Darryl B. Hood, Ph.D., Meharry Medical College
Mesoprefrontal Dopaminergic Neurons Maintain Their Firing Pattern in the Presence of Amphetamine
Carlos A. Paladini, Ph.D., University of Texas at San Antonio
Activation of a Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Circuit in the Amygdala Facilitates the Consolidation of Emotional Memory
Lorey K. Takahashi, Ph.D., University of Hawaii, Manoa
Session VI: Neurological Complications of HIV and AIDS
Chair and Moderator: Jose Lasalde, Ph.D., SNRP Director, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
HIV-Associated Neurological Disorders: Still Relevant After 25 Years?
Carlos A. Pardo-Villamizar, M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
CSF Oxidative Stress Markers, Sex Hormones, and HAND in a Hispanic Cohort of HIV-Seropositive Women
Valerie Wojna, M.D., University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
Proteomic Biomarker Discovery for HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder
Loyda Melendez, Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus
Activation Phenotype of Monocytes as a Mechanism Leading to HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorder
Bruce Shiramizu, M.D., University of Hawaii School of Medicine
Conference attendees were honored during the Opening Keynote Reception to hear Dr. Richard Axel, MD, Nobel Prize in Physiology winner for his seminal work on the olfactory system, present on progress in understanding olfactory perception and information encoding. Dr. Axel described how projections from the olfactory epithelium are spatially organized in the brain’s olfactory bulb in units know as glomeruli and how single odors or combinations of odors produce the activation of unique combinations of glomeruli, which may help the olfactory cortex to identify and differentiate odors. Dr. Axel also reviewed recent results dissecting the neuronal circuits responsible for pheromone response in male and female fruit flies. Using a novel technique that employs photoactivatable fluorescent proteins to trace and visualize the projections of neurons, Dr. Axel has been able follow an entire sexually dimorphic behavioral circuit in the model organism Drosophila. Using this technique, Dr. Axel progressively identified the neurons responsible for the detection of a male pheromone, those involved in processing of the sensory information in various areas of the fly's brain, and finally the motor neurons that would eventually produce the behavioral response. Female flies respond differently than male flies to the male pheromone, and Dr. Axel was able to show that the behavioral dimorphism was the result of male and female-specific connections from the antennal lobe to the protocerebrum.
The conference also highlighted a tribute to Dr. Musa Haxhiu whose work on central autonomic control, aging and oxidative stress at the Howard University SNRP program and his passion for the development of junior faculty will be greatly missed. The six Haxhiu-N.E.U.R.O.N. poster finalists showcased their work in a short presentation session on Friday where judges awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes in two categories: graduate student and postdoctoral candidate.
Graduate Finalists Postdoctoral Finalists
Andrea Corcoran – Gold Mustafa Siddiq – Gold
Nilza Biaggi-Labiosa – Silver Lynn Anderson – Silver
Huifang He – Bronze Elena Nikulina - Bronze
The SNRP Conference brought together scientists from many career stages to interact and network in what was overall an exciting and informative conference. The organizers and sponsors wish to thank all who participated to make this a successful meeting and look forward to the 8th Conference in 2010.