The enzyme PP1 has a key role in many of the body’s healthy functions and diseases. It’s so generally important that drug developers dare not target it.In a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Brown University scientists report a big leap in understanding how PP1 interacts with other proteins to behave specifically in distinct situations. That could lead to medicines that target it for precise benefits. Read More.
MPP Program PhD. Candidate Hilary Nicholson is part of the organization Science Cheerleaders that works to promote women in science and playfully challenge stereotypes about female scientists (and cheerleaders!). Hilary, a former college cheerleader, was recently profiled on their website and this month performed with the group at halftime during an NBA game in Philadelphia. Read More.
The skin’s response to the sun’s ultraviolet light is more than just a matter of tanning. Upon exposure, cells called melanocytes produce melanin to protect skin from damage. In studies in 2012 and 2013 Elena Oancea, assistant professor of medical science at Brown, and colleagues report a novel signaling pathway that mediates this response. In a new paper published Jan. 27 in the Journal of General Physiology, Dr. Oancea and lead authors Nicholas Bellono and Julia Najera, propose a model of the molecular pathways of the process. Read More
Wolfgang Peti, a biochemist who studies the structure, motions, and interactions of proteins at the atomic scale, has won an American Diabetes Association award to apply his expertise to type 2 diabetes, an epidemic that has touched his family. His goal is to help develop drugs to improve the body’s insulin signaling so that injections become unnecessary. Read More.
Dr. Edith Mathiowitz teaches medical science and engineering at Brown. And she’s been inducted into the National Academy of Inventors for developing new methods for helping the body absorb insulin and other difficult-to-deliver drugs. Insulin, for instance, can usually only be given by injection. Taken orally, if it isn’t destroyed by the stomach, it’s too big a molecule to be absorbed where it’s needed in the intestines. Mathiowitz may have solved the problem by wrapping smaller bits of the drug in nanoparticles. Read More.
The sales pitch for electronic cigarettes is that they don’t involve any harmful smoke, but the nicotine they deliver is still a matter of concern for health. In new research presented at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in New Orleans Dec. 15, Chi-Ming Hai, professor of medical science at Brown University in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology, described a connection between the addictive chemical and atherosclerosis. Read More.
The National Academy of Inventors has named Brown University professors Leon Cooper and Edith Mathiowitz among its 143-member class of 2013 fellows, the Tampa, Fla., organization of about 100 universities and other research nonprofits announced Dec. 10. “The academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow are named inventors on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation,” according to the announcement. Dr. Mathiowitz, professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology, holds 25 patents assigned to Brown or her company, Perosphere, from her research into advancing the means of delivering and enhancing drug uptake for biomedical therapies. Read More.
MPP PhD. Graduate Student Lauren Quattrochi received the Archambault Teaching Award's 1st Prize together with Michelle Fogerson of the Neuroscience Graduate Program for their course Drug Discovery: Treating Human Disease through Medicine.
The Reginald D. Archambault Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching in the Brown University summer programs. "This inspiring and thought provoking class stood out in that it covered an impressive amount material, yet the students were amazingly attentive, were asking deep questions, and were sincerely interested in learning as much as they could possibly absorb. Although the students were challenged considerably, learning appeared to remain fun and enjoyable." Read More.
Two Providence companies with intellectual property roots in Brown University research are featured in a national report released Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, by The Science Coalition. With 100 examples such as Nabsys Inc. and Tivorsan Pharmaceuticals, The Science Coalition’s report demonstrates the kind of economic impact that government investment in basic science research at universities can have around the country. Nabsys, founded in 2004 and led by Dr. Barrett Bready, adjunct assistant professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology, and biotechnology at Brown, develops advanced gene sequencing technology based on research by Xinsheng Sean Ling, professor of physics. Read More.
Autism gene stunts neurons; growth restored in mice.
Dr. Julie Kauer - MPPB Dept published in Neuron
In a new study in Neuron, Brown University researchers report that mutation of a gene associated with some autism forms in humans can hinder the proper growth and connectivity of brain cells in mice. They also show how that understanding allowed them to restore proper cell growth in the lab. Read More.
Partners share info on research assets at website
featuring Dr. Edward Hawrot - MPPB Dept
A new website, CoresRI.org, lists hundreds of shared research instruments and services at 12 academic and medical institutions around the state. The resource is open to any scientist looking to arrange access to needed facilities for research purposes. Read More.
Using NMR and small-angle X-ray scattering data, we generated a model of the p38α:STEP complex and define molecular differences between its resting and active states. Together, these results provide insights into molecular regulation of p38α by key regulatory proteins. Read More.
More intestinal cells can absorb larger particles
Dr. Edith Mathiowitz - MPPB Dept published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
A new study reports that the small intestine uses more cells than scientists had realized to absorb microspheres large enough to contain therapeutic protein drugs, such as insulin. The finding in rats, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is potentially good news for developing a means for oral delivery of such drugs. Read More.
Jeffrey Morgan is a Brown University professor and co-director of Brown's Center for Biomedical Engineering, who developed a new kind of petri dish that allows cells to grow in three-dimensional clusters, a step closer to actual tissue.
In a new study, a “bioadhesive” coating developed at Brown University significantly improved the intestinal absorption into the bloodstream of nanoparticles that someday could carry protein drugs such as insulin. Such a step is necessary for drugs taken by mouth, rather than injected directly into the blood. Read More.
NMR Advance Brings Proteins into the Open
Dr. Nicolas Fawzi - MPPB Dept published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
A key protein interaction, common across all forms of life, had eluded scientists’ observation until a team of researchers cracked the case by combining data from four different techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Read More.
Credit: Fawzi lab/Brown University
On Saturday, May 25th, the Brown Bookstore welcomes alumni authors who will sign their books in the store:
4:00 - 6:00pm: April, Brenna, and William Brucker sign their respective works: "I Came, I Saw, I Sang", "Cellular Organelles", and "Cellular Respiration".
Leon Goldstein: Tribute to an Early Leader
A new scholarship honors an admired faculty member
Leon Goldstein, a professor emeritus of medical science, passed away on December 30, 2012. This would have marked his 45th year in the Ocean State, where he had a significant influence on biomedical education. He advocated strongly for the creation of Brown's medical school and of the University's section of physiology, which he chaired for more than 20 years before becoming vice chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology (MPPB). Read More.
Davis: The mechanics of biofuel bacteria
Jennifer R. Davis' Joukowsky Award-winning dissertation explaining how certain bacteria can turn plant matter into the precursors of biofuels was a novel project in Jason Sello's chemistry lab. It is also a tour (de force) of genomics, bioinformatics, biochemistry, and structural biology that has made a promising scientist even more broadly skilled. Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, 16 May 2013
Jennifer R. Davis: "I've learned a variety of new techniques that are applicable in many different fields. That was one of the most rewarding things about my research." Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
MPPB Faculty Member, Dr. Elena Oancea, Awarded 2013 Salomon Award
Investigating the Function of a Novel Ultraviolet-Activated Pathway in Mice with Humanized Skin
Human skin is constantly exposed to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), a powerful environmental risk factor for skin cancer, which accounts for more than half of all human malignancies. Exposure to low doses of ultraviolet radiation results in increased skin pigmentation, while exposure to high doses correlates with skin cancer. The larger goal of Oancea's research is to understand the molecular processes that control the human skin's ability to detect and respond to UVR. Read More.
MPPB Faculty Member, Dr. Wolfgang Peti, Awarded 2013 Seed Award
Phosphatase Inhibitor Design – A Unique Possibility for Brown University
The specific and reciprocal relationship between kinases and phosphatases controls most biological processes. Thus, when the balance is disrupted, the result is often disease. To date, efforts to modulate phosphate signaling to treat these diseases have focused on inhibiting kinases. However, it has recently become evident that the exquisite regulation of phosphorylation signaling is driven by tyrosine and serine/threonine phosphatases, rather than by kinases. Thus, one of the fastest growing areas of research is to identify potent, specific inhibitors of phosphatases. The Seed team, including Dr. Christopher Seto and Dr. Paul Williard, will combine expertise in biochemistry, structural biology, biophysics and synthetic organic chemistry in order to develop novel, potent inhibitors of phosphatases. Read More.
A tangle of talents untangles neurons
Brown's growing programs in brain science and engineering come together in the lab of Diane Hoffman-Kim. In a recent paper, her group employed techniques ranging from semiconductor-style circuit patterning to rat cell culture to optimize the growth of nerve cells for applications such as reconstructive surgery. Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, 3 May 2013
The secrets of Schwann-like substrates
Cristina Lopez-Fagundo, left, and Diane Hoffman-Kim are figuring out optimal designs for implants that will guide neuron growth in new tissue. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University
Wayne Bowen, Ph.D., Diane Hoffman-Kim, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Morgan Ph.D. are recognized for their collaborations within the MPPB Department. Hoffman-Kim is using technology invented by Jeffrey Morgan, also an associate professor of medical science in the Department of MPPB, to create three-dimensional cultures of brain cells. Read More: Organic Synergy.pdf
“Our overarching theme is that we carry out basic and applied research to understand disease mechanisms and develop novel therapies,” says Bowen, Chair of the Department of MPPB. “We span the spectrum of figuring out the basic physiology, illuminating the molecular underpinnings of disease, identifying therapeutic targets, and facilitating organ repair and regeneration, all the way up to delivering therapeutic agents.”
Complete Biomed Annual Report 2012
Jennifer Reeve Davis, Ph.D. Receives Outstanding Dissertation Award
Jennifer will receive the Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award for the 2012-2013 academic year. Jennifer was one out of four Ph.D. candidates to receive this award for her thesis titled, "Genetic, Biochemical and Biophysical Investigations of Lignocellulose Degradation by Actinobacteria for Bioenergy Applications". We commend her achievement and look forward to seeing more of her distinguished and illuminating scholarship in the years ahead.
Dr. Jeffrey Morgan Lab’s 3-D technology is featured in Nature
In an article titled, Cell Culture: A better brew, "Scientists explore three-dimensional environments in which they can foster the tissue-like growth of cell clusters.... Advances in cell culture media mean that scientists increasingly know what has gone into the mix, and cells are enjoying a more natural environment — even in the lab." Credit: Vivien Marx, Nature 496, 253–258 (11 April 2013). Read More at Nature.com or Nature apr 11 a better brew.pdf
Featured Novel by Professor Donald Jackson
MPPB Professor Emeritus Donald Jackson writes a book of prose and poems about the diversity of the creatures he encounters in, "Celebrating Life: An Appreciation of Animals in Verse and Prose". Dr. Jackson is also the author of “Life In A Shell: A Physiologist's View of a Turtle”.
A reading and book signing will take place at the Brown University Bookstore, 244 Thayer Street, on April 10th at 5:30PM. More Info.
Dr. Barrett Bready Helps Raise $20 Million for Nabsys
Barrett Bready, Adjunct Assistant Professor of MPPB and President/CEO of Nabsys- a life sciences company, helped raise $20-million from three venture capital firms. This money will help develop a better understanding of the role of DNA in cancer cells and help Nabsys sell its innovative DNA sequencing system. Dr. Bready also teaches BIOL 0080 - Biotechnology Management for the department of MPPB at Brown University.
Read More in the Providence Journal.
Study stops stress-based drug relapse in rats
In a new study in Neuron, scientists identified specific key steps in the chain of events that causes stress-related drug relapse. They identified the exact region of the brain where the events take place in rat models and showed that by blocking a step, they could prevent stress-related relapse. Read More.
In the paper published March 6, "Kappa Opioid Receptors Regulate Stress-Induced Cocaine Seeking and Synaptic Plasticity", researchers at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated specific steps in the sequence of neural events underlying stress-related drug relapse and showed that they take place within a brain region called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which helps reinforce behaviors related to fulfilling basic needs. Credit: , March 6, 2013
Peti Laboratory Research Makes the Cover of PLoS Biology
The article titled, “The Molecular Mechanism of Substrate Engagement and Immunosuppressant Inhibition of Calcineurin”, by Simina Grigoriu, Rachel Bond, Pilar Cossio, Jennifer A. Chen, Nina Ly, Gerhard Hummer, Rebecca Page, Martha S. Cyert, and Wolfgang Peti, was featured on the cover of the February 2013 issue of PLoS Biology. Read More.
Calcineurin Cover Image: Transplantation medicine was revolutionized by the introduction of the immunosuppressant drugs cyclosporin A and FK506 that prevent rejection of transplanted organs by the recipient's immune system. These drugs work by inhibiting calcineurin, a conserved protein phosphatase. Read More. Image Credit: Simina Grigoriu/Peti Lab.
How a microbial biorefinery regulates genes
Current MPP Graduate Student in the Sello Lab, Jennifer Davis, and MPP Ph.D. Alumna from the Page Lab, Breann Brown, are recognized for their achievements in gene regulation. Research: Streptomyces bacteria are among few microorganisms known to degrade and consume lignin. Now a group of researchers at Brown University has unlocked the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind a key part of that process. Read More. The results are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. Credit Kevin Stacey, February 14, 2013
The protein PcaV in the presence of protocatechuate
Digesting lignin, a very stable, plentiful polymer in biomass, is a limiting step in the production of biofuels. Brown researchers have identified a microscopic chemical switch that lets bacteria get to work, breaking lignin down into its component parts. Credit: Sello lab/Brown University
Eric Darling Wins NSF CAREER Award
Eric Darling, Assistant Professor of Biology in the Department of MPPB, was one of three faculty members from Brown University to receive one of the most prestigious awards of NSF, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. He will receive $401,792 to look at gene expression and mechanical properties of stem cells to learn more about how they turn into more specific tissue cells. Read More.
Study in mice yields Angelman advance
In a new study in mice, a scientific collaboration centered at Brown University lays out in unprecedented detail a neurological signaling breakdown in Angelman syndrome, a disorder that affects thousands of children each year, characterized by developmental delay, seizures, and other problems. With the new understanding, the team demonstrated how a synthesized, peptide-like compound called CN2097 works to restore neural functions impaired by the disease. Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, February 13, 2013
Two schematics: CN2097
The binding of the synthetic compound CN2097 (yellow in these renderings) to the synaptic protein PSD-95 restores healthy neural function in mice with the Angelman syndrome gene mutation. Credit: Marshall Lab/Brown University
Magnet sends lab capacity ‘through the roof’
As a crane lowered a powerful 3.8-ton magnet through the roof of the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine at 70 Ship St. today, Brown began work on deploying a powerful new tool for molecular biology research.
But much greater than the $2.9-million magnet itself is the potential of the research it will enable. Its job is to provide the incredibly strong magnetic field used in NMR spectroscopy. The technology allows chemists and biologists to determine the structure and motions of proteins down to the level of their individual atoms. Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, February 1, 2013
Watch Video of 850 NMR Installation:
Study explains skin’s response to UVA light
Nicholas Bellono- MPP Graduate Student (Oancea Lab)
Last year, a team of researchers at Brown University discovered that certain skin cells use a light-sensitive receptor found outside of the eye to sense ultraviolet light and quickly begin pumping out melanin to protect against DNA damage. In a new study, lab members identify a key player in that biomolecular chain of events that could someday become a pharmacological target for improving this protective response. Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, January 21, 2013
In search of a light-sensitive trigger Certain skin cells respond to ultraviolet light by pumping out melanin, the pigment responsible for the tanning response. The hunt for a light-receptor mechanism outside the eye led to an ion channel called TRPA1. Credit: Mike Cohea/ Brown University
MPPB Welcomes New Faculty Member Dr. Nicolas Fawzi
Structural biologist Nicolas Fawzi, once a student of business and marketing at Penn, knows the value of a good investment. That would include Brown’s recent acquisition of a 20-Tesla nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. Before Nicolas Fawzi could begin making discoveries about the physical behavior of proteins, he had to rediscover that he wanted to be a scientist at all. Read More. Dr. Fawzi started with the Department of MPPB at the first of the year as an Assistant Professor of Medical Science. Credit: David Orenstein, January 2, 2013
John Marshall’s article featured in Nano Letters, Trojan-Horse Nanotube On-Command Intracellular Drug Delivery, is reviewed in C&EN
The article titled "Nanotubes To Deliver Chemo Where And When It's Needed", written by Tim Wogan, features insight about Dr. Marshall's new findings. Unusually large and roomy carbon nanotubes could deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors and release them on command, according to a new study by MPPB Faculty member John Marshall. Read More.
Carbon nanotubes (CNT, gray) containing hydrogel (yellow) and the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol, green) enter cells (left) but do not release their cargo until researchers apply a magnetic field (right).
Research of MPPB Faculty Member, Wolfgang Peti, Featured on the Cover of Science Signaling
The article titled "A CC-SAM, for Coiled Coil–Sterile α Motif, Domain Targets the Scaffold KSR-1 to Specific Sites in the Plasma Membrane", by Dorothy Koveal, Natasha Schuh-Nuhfer, Daniel Ritt, Rebecca Page, Deborah K. Morrison, and Wolfgang Peti, is featured on the cover of Science Signaling, Volume 5, Issue 255. Read the entire article on the AAAS Science website.
This research uncovers a second domain in the scaffold KSR1 named CC-SAM that mediates membrane binding. The image to the right shows the NMR solution structure of CC-SAM, highlighting the α helix required for membrane binding. Image Credit: Dorothy Koveal.
MPPB Faculty Member, Julie Kauer, Named AAAS Fellow
Julie Kauer has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society and one of its most prestigious. The AAAS honored her “for distinguished contributions in neurophysiology related to mechanisms of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and in circuits responsible for addiction.” Read More. Credit: David Orenstein, November 29, 2012.
Kirk Haltaufderhyde Featured on NYC Subway Ad
Kirk, MPP Graduate Student, was chosen for the CUNY “Award-Winners Mentor Award-Winners” achievement for his undergraduate work at York College and being awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Fellowship 2012. His current project at Brown University is titled "Characterizing Lariats to Discover Tissue Specific Differences in Branch Points". Congratulations Kirk on your numerous achievements!
Read more about Kirk’s background at the CUNY website.
MPPB Graduate Students Featured in the IMSD Newsletter
MPPB graduate students are recognized in the Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) newsletter for recent graduation, recent publications, creation of a new SACNAS chapter at Brown University, and participation in the IMSD Module Leaders Workshop. Read more in the IMSD_View_Oct_2012.pdf
Beacons light up stem cell transformation
Hetal Desai- MPP Graduate Student (Darling Lab)
In a new study, Brown University researchers demonstrate a new tool for visually tracking in real-time the transformation of a living population of stem cells into cells of a specific tissue. The "molecular beacons," which could advance tissue engineering research, light up when certain genes are expressed and don't interfere with the development or operation of the stem
Beacons for bone
Glowing green spots in these MG-63 bone cells (each blue dot is a nucleus) indicate that a fluorescent “beacon” molecule has bound to RNA produced by expression of the bone-specific ALPL gene. Credit: Darling Lab/ Brown University
Teresa Ramirez, MPP Ph.D. Candidate, shares her story about her SACNAS experience
“My undergraduate advisor, Dr. Laura J. Robles (California State University, Dominguez Hills) took me to my first SACNAS conference in 2000. For me, SACNAS was love at first sight At the SACNAS conferences I have met excellent mentors that have been instrumental in both my scientific and professional development and I have been exposed to many opportunities to further my education and pursue my career in science...” read more at the SACNAS website.
Congratulations to the MPPB Graduate Students Awarded Degrees at the 2012 Commencement!
MPPB supports graduate education by providing a highly interdisciplinary framework for individual and thematic training programs within both classical and newly emerging areas in the biomedical sciences. View a list of our most recent graduates.
Kirk Haltaufderhyde- Named “Pride of the City” on the City University of New York Website
Kirk Haltaufderhyde (York College, BS in Biotechnology, 2011) is at Brown looking at the role light sensitivity and photoreceptors play in skin cells. At Brown he will get to explore the implications of light sensitivity in skin cells with the support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This is the most prestigious award a graduate student in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can receive. Read More. Credit: CUNY May 31, 2012.
Physical properties predict stem cell outcome
Tissue engineers can use mesenchymal stem cells derived from fat to make cartilage, bone, or more fat. The best cells to use are ones that are already likely to become the desired tissue. Brown University researchers have discovered that the mechanical properties of the stem cells can foretell what they will become, leading to a potential method of concentrating them for use in healing. Credit:
Stem cell potential
SACNAS Brown Chapter Established by MPP Graduate Student
Teresa Ramirez, MPP Graduate Student, helped establish a Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter at Brown University. This society will help support undergraduate and graduate students at Brown. A special thank you to all those who made this possible: Vice President: Marcela Soruco (MCB), Secretary: Ayed Allawzi (MPPB), Treasurer: Kristin Beale (MCB), National Liaison: Natalie Chavez (MCB), Undergraduate Student Liaison: King John Pascual (Pre-Med), and new members. Also, thank you to Dean Adetunji, Dr. Mark Johnson, Dean Bennett, Dean Campbell, Dean Targan, Dean Harrington, Dr. Ghee, and Dr. Andrew Campbell. Thank you all for your support.
Congratulations to Dana Lord, MPP Graduate Student
Dana Lord, MPP Graduate Student, received the EPSCoR Fellowship Award 2012- 2013 . Dana's research project was selected from a pool of outstandi ng nominees. Congratulations to Dana Lord for her academic success at Brown University so far. The MPP Graduate Program looks forward to seeing her succeed with her research.EPSCoR Fellowship 2012-2013.pdf
Congratulations to Teresa Ramirez, MPP Graduate Student
Congratulations to Teresa Ramirez for being awarded the 2012-2013 Hope Scholarship. Teresa was presented her award at the annual fundraising dinner, An Evening of Hope, to benefit the Biomedical Science Careers Program on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at The Westin Hotel Copley Place. The MPP Graduate Program commends her achievement and looks forward to seeing her succeed with her research.
Biotech Breakthrough: Artificial Ovary
Groundbreaking Innovation: Sandra Carson, M.D. and Jeffrey Morgan, Ph.D. are recognized for their development of the first-ever artificial ovary. Named by Time magazine as a 2010 “Top 10 Medical Breakthrough,” the ovary can grow oocytes, or egg cells, into mature human eggs in the laboratory and provides a potentially powerful new means of conducting fertility research. Biotech Breakthrough Artificial Ovary.pdf
Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, MPPB Associate Professor of Medical Science and Engineering, developed 3D Petri dishes which are made of a moldable gel that provides a nurturing template to encourage cells to assemble into specific shapes, such as a 3D ovary.
Complete Biomed Annual Report 2011
Meeting of the Minds
Brown Institute for Brain Science members explore the mysteries of the brain. Lipscombe (left) has been collaborating with Professor of Medical Science Julie Kauer (right) to overcome a major technical obstacle that has impeded researchers' progress in the study of pain.
"No one has ever shown what happens when pain travels from, say, the finger to the spinal cord to the brain, and nobody really even knows if there are distinct pain pathways," says Kauer. "Exploring the basic cellular mechanisms would open the door to understanding and possibly addressing the physiological changes underlying a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders." Brown Medicine Vol. 18 No. 2-1.pdf