The Scoop: A Publication of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Produced by the Office of Communications // January 5, 2012

Medical School researchers present at space biology meeting

From left, Johnson Space Center scientists Mayra Nelman-Gonzalez and Brian Crucian and Medical School faculty Drs. J.K. Actor and Shen-An Hwang.

From left, Johnson Space Center scientists Mayra Nelman-Gonzalez and Brian Crucian and Medical School faculty Drs. Jeffrey Actor and Shen-An Hwang.
Click image to enlarge.

Two faculty members in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine recently were invited to collaborate with a group of NASA scientists to examine the alteration in the immune status of mice traveling aboard Atlantis’ final mission last July.

Dr. Jeffrey Actor, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and Dr. Shen-An Hwang, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, were invited to present their results at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology meeting in San Jose, Calif., in November.

The experiments they discussed are part of a tissue sharing program, sponsored in collaboration with Clarence Sams and Brian Crucian of NASA Johnson Space Center’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Division.

“It was a unique experience to travel to Kennedy Space Center and exchange scientific knowledge with worldwide leaders in space biology,” Actor said. “It was the event of a lifetime and such an honor to work with scientists and astronauts as participants in the final shuttle mission.”

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Research helps decipher the language of brain networks

Dr. Valentin Dragoi

Dr. Valentin Dragoi

Two publications recently emerged from the lab of Dr. Valentin Dragoi as the result of research funded from his four-year NIH EUREKA grant, which he received in 2009 to study “Real-time population coding underlying behavioral decisions.”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Neuroscience published papers on this work regarding how networks of brain cells encode and process visual information. Bryan Hansen, a senior graduate student, and Ye Wang, a research fellow in Dragoi’s lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, are the first authors of these papers.

“These two studies are important because they show us how the brain adapts as we inspect the environment. We found that network adaptation occurs on a very rapid time scale, at a fraction of a second. Our work shows for the first time how neurons work together within their local network to synchronize their responses in order to optimize information encoding,” explained Dragoi, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy.

The research was done in two important areas of the brain visual cortex that are representative of the way in which circuits in cerebral cortex process sensory information.

“What we are beginning to learn is the language of populations of brain cells,” Dragoi said. “Understanding how neurons work together to efficiently control the flow of visual information could be representative of other areas of the brain that deal with other sensory modalities, such as hearing or touch.”

Human models, especially patients with epilepsy, will be targeted for future studies, Dragoi added.

“This research can shed light on information encoding in human brain circuits, which could potentially speed up our understanding of the causes of brain disease,” he said.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School

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New Investigator program kicks off in February

The Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic & Research Affairs is pleased to once again offer the New Investigator Development Program.

Grants 101 consists of two half-day sessions (Feb. 2, 3) for junior faculty members and research staff and provides an overview of the process of preparing and submitting a grant application from UTHealth.

Grants 102 is an in-depth six-month workshop and follow-up of Grants 101 for junior faculty members during which participants develop a grant application that is peer reviewed and ready to submit to an external agency upon completion of the program.

Please visit the website for more information and to register.

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TMC Library reinstates subscription to Microbiology

The TMC Library has reinstated its online subscription to Microbiology (1350-0872).

Microbiology (formerly Journal of General Microbiology) is one of the world's leading microbiological journals. For over 60 years it has been publishing high-quality research across the whole spectrum of the subject. Microbiology is published by the Society for General Microbiology, a learned society that promotes microbiology at all levels.

To access Microbiology, visit the Library website, select «Find Library Materials», select «Journals», and look for Microbiology.

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You gotta have heart

Staff members in the Department of Family and Community Medicine proudly show off the result of their holiday slipper exchange.

As part of its continued effort to fund research broadly related to cardiovascular disease and stroke, the American Heart Association presents a check for just over $1 million in grant funding to the Medical School to investigator-initiated career development and knowledge discovery projects.





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Events to know

January 5

Acid Reflux Information Session: Dr. Erik Wilson, associate professor of surgery, and patient Lance Zierlein present an informational seminar.
6:30 p.m., Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Hermann Conference Center.
Free registration: call 713.222.CARE (2273) or email.

January 6

Cadaver Memorial Service.
Noon, Fifth Floor Gallery.

January 9

Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. William Mitch (Baylor College of Medicine) presents, “Mechanisms for and treatment of uremia-induced muscle wasting.”
4–5 p.m., MSB 2.135.

January 10

Human Subjects Protection Training: Tina Marin, IRB; and Sujatha Sridhar, Research Compliance, Education and Support Services, present, “Consent Strategies in Unusual Circumstances.”
11:45 a.m.–1 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Lunch will be available for the first 25 attendees.

January 11

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner (UTMB Galveston) presents, “Update on the Treatment of Major Depression in Children and Adolescents.”
Noon–1 p.m., HCPC Auditorium.

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Brandy Jo McKelvy, assistant professor of internal medicine, presents, “Community & Nosocomial Pneumonia.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

January 12

Department of Surgery Grand Rounds: Dr. David Berger (Baylor College of Medicine) presents, “Re-Engineering Health Care.”
7 a.m., MSB 3.001.
CME credit is available.

UTHealth Combined Neurology/Neurosurgery Conference: Drs. Nitin Tandon and Giridhar Kalamangalam, Departments of Neurosurgery & Neurology, present, “Management of Status Epilepticus.”
8 a.m., MSB G.100.

Medical School Research Committee Workshop: Dr. Jair Soares, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, chairs, “Mood Disorders and Substance Abuse—When They Happen Together.”
9 a.m.–noon, MSB 2.135.
Speakers: Drs. Oscar Bukstein, Alan Swann, Prashant Gajwani, and F. Gerard Moeller.

Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Grand Rounds: Enrique Abarca, JD, presents, “Intellectual Property 101: An Interactive Primer.”
Noon, MSB 2.135.

January 18

Informational session on the MD/MPH dual degree program.
11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., MSB B.625.

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. Teresa Pigott, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, presents, “Update on Antipsychotic Medications—Is There a Rational Approach to Psychosis Treatment?”
Noon–1 p.m., HCPC Auditorium.

Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Richard Castriotta, professor of internal medicine, presents, “Sarcoidosis.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.

January 19

Department of Neurosurgery Grand Rounds: Drs. Michele Johnson and Karl Schmitt, Department of Neurosurgery, present, “Acute Management of Spinal Injury Protocol.”
8 a.m., MSB G.100.

January 21

21 The Neuroscience Research Center (NRC) 17th Annual Public Forum.
10:30 a.m.–noon, MSB 3.001.
Register here.

January 23

Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Gregg Roman (University of Houston) presents, “G(o) activation is required for presynaptic inhibition during memory formation in Drosophila.”
4–5 p.m., MSB 2.135.


Dr. Russell Kridel, facial plastic surgeon and attending physician in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, has been reelected to a second four-year term of service on the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health.

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