Researchers Identify Patterns of Protein Synthesis Associated with Increased Longevity

February 23rd, 2017in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2017

CONTACT: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

(Boston)–Aging is a complex process that involves multiple metabolic and regulatory pathways. Previous studies have identified hundreds of genes whose deletion can significantly increase lifespan in model organisms. Yet, how these different aging genes and pathways are interconnected remains poorly understood.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have uncovered new regulatory factors that link gene expression profiles with aging. The study, which appears in the journal Cell Reports, could help identify new therapeutic targets for potential interventions for human diseases associated with old age, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Using a technique called ribosome profiling or Ribo-seq, the researchers identified common and unique patterns of protein synthesis associated with increased longevity.

“Hundreds of genes are known to affect aging and one of the major challenges now is to understand how different aging genes and pathways are interconnected. These findings could provide us a better view on what aging is and how we can manipulate some of these factors to improve the quality of life in older age,” explained corresponding author Vyacheslav Labunskyy, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at BUSM.

According to the researchers by expanding this analysis to dozens of additional mutants, they hope to build a comprehensive interaction network linking regulatory factors with aging-associated genes. “Given that many of these genes and pathways are present in higher species including mammals, such studies could help identify new therapeutic targets for potential interventions for human diseases associated with aging. However, more research is needed to study how activity of these regulatory factors and signaling networks changes with age.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

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Boston University and CGMF Collaborate on Innovative, Long-term Texas Water Management Project

February 22nd, 2017in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 22, 2017

CONTACT:
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
Brett Holmes
bholmes@cgmf.org

713-244-4178

Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy
Jill Totenberg
jtotenberg@totenberggroup.com
917-697-6900

(Austin and Boston) Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (CGMF) announced the funding and pursuit of a series of studies with the goal of assessing how siloed municipal water agencies in the state of Texas can transition to an Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) model.

The structure would increase water use efficiency in urban environments, revitalize aging infrastructure, and preserve freshwater inflow to the major bays and estuaries along the Texas Gulf Coast.  ISE’s work will focus on an integrated water utility financial modeling, and the model results will be used to establish recommendations to inform a viable path for utilizing an IUWM in Texas.

“Establishing new and effective management practices for urban water is a critical aspect of moving toward a sustainable energy future in Texas, given the energy-water nexus, and the collision of population growth, climate change, and aging water infrastructure,” said Dr. Peter Fox-Penner, professor of the practice at Boston University Questrom School of Business and director of the university’s Institute for Sustainable Energy. “ISE’s work in integrated water utility financial modeling will provide important data and inform practical recommendations to water management stakeholders on transitioning to effective integrated urban water management practices.”

Water scarcity coupled with increasing population growth, increasing water demand, and declining infrastructure systems poses a threat to both residents of Texas and the vital freshwater inflow needed to feed sensitive bays and estuaries along the Gulf Coast.  In order to increase the efficiency of water use in urban areas and enhance conservation of limited freshwater resources, many stakeholders are now considering fundamental changes in water management, including transitioning to IUWM-related approaches such as the One Water paradigm.

While there is growing interest in improving the manner in which Texas municipalities manage water, such as the establishment of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program by the Texas Legislature in 2013, there are significant hurdles to the implementation of an IUWM approach.

“Building a framework for a successful transition to an IUWM approach in Texas requires careful examination of existing regulatory, financial, cultural, and knowledge barriers, in addition to close collaboration with local water stakeholders and industry experts,” said Marilu Hastings, vice president, sustainability programs for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation. “Freshwater resources are already stretched beyond their limits, driven by factors such as increasing population, inadequate conservation, and climate change. We’re confident Boston University’s project will help inform a viable path to ensure future water supplies for our environment and the residents of Texas.”

As part of the study, the Institute for Sustainable Energy will form a National Advisory Committee of water experts with knowledge of water issues in Texas and in other geographies to inform its work, and pursue outreach to and ongoing engagement with key stakeholders in Texas.  At the conclusion of the project, ISE will disseminate an actionable report on its assessment of how IUWM can be advanced in Texas, with recommendations for decisionmakers and practitioners who are positioned to influence and drive change toward an IUWM.

Institute for Sustainable Energy
The Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy is dedicated to facilitating the transition to a sustainable, climate-safe global energy system.  Through interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, and collaborative engagement, ISE’s mission is to ensure that the energy systems of the world provide abundant, sustainable, and universally accessible energy services to both emerging and advanced economies. For more information, visit www.bu.edu/ise.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
The Austin-based Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is a mission‐driven grantmaking foundation that seeks innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems. The foundation works as an engine of change in both policy and practice in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity, and economic vibrancy. Since 1978, the late George P. Mitchell and Cynthia Woods Mitchell and CGMF have distributed or pledged more than $500 million in grants to a number of causes, programs, and institutions. For more information, visit www.CGMF.org.

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AXIS DANCE COMPANY IN RESIDENCE AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY THIS MARCH

January 25th, 2017in 2017, News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2017
CONTACT: Sarah Collins, 617-358-0489 or sarahkc@bu.edu

AXIS DANCE COMPANY IN RESIDENCE AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY THIS MARCH 

We are pleased to announce that the Boston University (BU) Arts Initiative – Office of the Provost, The Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, the BU Dance Program, and the BU Office of Disability Services will welcome the critically-acclaimed, California-based AXIS Dance Company to Boston University for a six-day residency from Monday, March 13th to Saturday, March 18th, 2017.

AXIS Dance Company was founded in 1987 and has paved the way for a powerful contemporary dance form called physically integrated dance, which features dancers with and without disabilities. Nearing their 30th year, AXIS Dance Company recently announced Marc Brew as the new Artistic Director. Under the artistic direction of Judith Smith since 1997, AXIS’ list of collaborators includes Bill T. Jones, Stephen Petronio, Yvonne Rainer, Ann Carlson, David Dorfman, Meredith Monk, Joan Jeanrenaud, and Fret Frith. AXIS has toured major dance venues and festivals in more than 100 cities nationwide as well as internationally to Europe and Russia. Their work has been honored with seven Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, and the company was featured twice on FOX TV’s So You Think You Can Dance.

Bill T Jones, choreographer and MacArthur Fellow said “there is no more defiant a land that I can think of than AXIS. They showed me what dance could be.” Lucia Maro of the Chicago Tribune noted that “audiences unaccustomed to seeing such inventive movement generated from what could be considered limitation may find themselves re-evaluating their own ideas of artistic perfection.”

The residency at Boston University will commence with a symposium titled Performing Arts and Disability: Leadership, Inclusion, and Training, featuring regional artists, activists, and arts leaders participating in a panel discussion and break out conversations. The panel will be moderated by Charles Washburn, Vice President and COO of VSA Massachusetts, the State Organization on Arts and Disability. Symposium co-sponsors include VSA Massachusetts, HowlRound (who will livestream key parts of the symposium), New England Foundation for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, StageSource, Cultural Access New England, and the Boston Dance Alliance. “We are pleased to be able to host this important community conversation on ways in which performing arts organizations and artists can build a stronger, more inclusive community that welcomes all artists and affords resources, training, and leadership opportunities for anyone,” says Ty Furman, Managing Director of the BU Arts Initiative.

Other elements of the residency will include master classes, workshops, class visits, and panel discussions on both the BU Charles River campus and the BU medical campus. The residency will conclude with a matinee performance for local middle and high school children on Friday, March 17th and a full-length performance, free and open to the public, on Saturday, March 18th. The performance will feature three pieces: Dix Minutes choreographed by Sonya Delwaide, Divide choreographed by incoming Artistic Director Marc Brew, and to go again choreographed by Joe Goode. More information on which residency programs are free and open to the public can be found at bu.edu/arts/axis. RSVPs for each event are required.

“The residency with AXIS Dance Company provides our students and the community with an opportunity to challenge their perception of how dance is defined and who gets to perform,” says Micki Taylor-Pinney, Director of the BU Dance Program. “I expect it will be a paradigm-shifting experience for all of us as we question our political, aesthetic and cultural biases. What makes dance relevant, beautiful, and meaningful?”

Every public component of the AXIS Dance Company residency at Boston University will provide accessible accommodations for audience and participants.

More information on the AXIS Dance Company Residency at Boston University including detailed schedules can be found at bu.edu/arts/axis. More information on AXIS Dance Company can be found at axisdance.org.

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards $175,000 to Boston University for Sawyer Seminar on the Philosophy of Emerging Computational Technologies

January 25th, 2017in News Releases

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards $175,000 to Boston University for Sawyer Seminar on the Philosophy of Emerging Computational Technologies

Supported by a grant of $175,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Boston University will convene a Sawyer Seminar in 2016-2018, titled “The Philosophy of Emerging Computational Technologies: Humans, Values and Society in Transition.” The seminar will be led by professors Juliet Floyd (BU Philosophy), James E. Katz (BU Division of Emerging Media) and Russell Powell (BU Philosophy). The aim is to foster an inclusive, reflective conversation in the Boston area about how best to thematize, research, and reason about philosophical, social and ethical understandings of everyday life in an age of rapid technological transformation.                                                                                                                                        

The Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer Seminar program, which was first established in 1994, provides support for research on important scholarly topics, both historic and modern. BU’s seminar will consist of at least six workshops and public events that will highlight ethical, social, legal, and theoretical issues arising out of new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, “big data,” and wearable tech. Experts from other top universities in and around Boston will also participate in these discussions, providing a wide and varied array of local viewpoints.

“As we find our way in a computationally-driven world that is rapidly and radically transforming the ways in which we understand society, the earth, and the nature of what it is to be human, ethics and philosophy must orient us,” says Floyd, of BU.  

Specific topics will include Social Media and Democracy, Human-Machine Interface and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and the End User, Hypertext and Digital Humanities Resources, and Privacy in the Digital Age.

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Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities, a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Study Finds Postdoc Jobs in Biomedicine Don’t Yield Positive Returns in the Labor Market

January 10th, 2017in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2017

CONTACT:
Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 or kjastive@bu.edu
Jill Totenberg, 212- 704-0352 or jtotenberg@totenberggroup.com

(BOSTON) – Federal research agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, tout postdoctoral positions as valuable for those pursuing for scientific careers.

However, a new study by Boston University Questrom School of Business and University of Kansas researchers has found that postdoc jobs don’t yield a positive return in the labor market, and that these positions likely cost graduates roughly three years’ worth of salary in their first 15 years of their careers.

“A majority of biomedical PhDs enter postdocs that last an average of 4 years. These scientists hope that the postdoc will propel them into their ideal career in tenure track academia. The problem is that 80 percent of them are going to have made this investment for naught and will be sorely disappointed,” said Shulamit Kahn, professor at the Boston University Questrom School of Business. “They would be much better off if they moved directly into the same industry or staff scientist jobs that they will end up working in anyway.”

The study by Kahn and co-author Donna Ginther, professor of economics at the University of Kansas, is published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers said their study is the first to compare later careers of otherwise comparable biomedical PhDs, some who had postdoc experience and those who didn’t. They examined biennial longitudinal data from the 1981 to 2013 waves of the National Science Foundation Survey of Doctorate Recipients matched to the 1980-2013 NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates.

“Ours is the first study to document the opportunity cost of taking a postdoc on the subsequent career outcomes of former postdocs. We show that the cost in terms of foregone earnings is very high,” the researchers said.

The problem is not just that the median annual starting salary during postdocs their first four years after earning their doctorate was $44,724 in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars, compared with $73,662 for those who directly entered the workforce. It was also that after they completed their postdocs, on average these scientists get the same entry-level salary that they would have gotten if they’d skipped the postdoc.

“We find a substantial financial penalty for starting biomedical careers in a postdoc. Those differences accumulate,” the researchers said. Controlling for all factors, the 10-year post-PhD salaries of those who started in a postdoc averaged $12,002 lower than those who skipped postdocs the research reports.

Kahn hopes this information will help PhD graduates make more informed choices at graduation, weighing the 20 percent chance of a tenure-track job against the financial and personal advantages of starting their career four years earlier in life.  She also expressed the hope that PhD programs and professors educate themselves and their students about the variety of research jobs inside and outside of academia that don’t require postdocs.

“The current system of postdoctoral training benefits the postdocs’ supervisors, mentors, their institutions, and funding agencies by providing them with highly educated labor willing to work long hours to produce cutting-edge science at low cost,” said the researchers. “Meanwhile, the present system entails significant foregone-income costs to individual PhDs and may discourage the best and brightest from pursuing careers in biomedical science in favor of alternatives like medicine and finance with shorter training periods and better pay.”

The study suggests ways that universities and funding agencies could address these issues, including:

  • Universities hiring staff research scientists to assist tenured faculty with their research instead of postdocs.
  • Paying postdocs more to reduce the reliance of faculty on “cheap” labor.
  • Instituting term limits on postdoc positions to encourage researchers to start in permanent positions sooner rather than later.
  • Academic departments could consider tenure-track hires for the top new graduates allowing them to bypass conventional postdoc jobs.

“This may allow young researchers to direct their own research perhaps in more creative directions,” the researchers said.

Boston University Questrom School of Business educates visionary leaders empowered to anticipate change, harness it, and impact society to create value for the world.  Our real-world approach prepares students with a core foundation of essential business skills combined with experiential programs and insight into the forces transforming the global economy: digital technology, social enterprise and sustainability, and health and life sciences.

 Founded in 1913, we have always been pioneers—from being one of the first to admit women to launching the Business Education Jam, a global online brainstorm that dared to raise bold questions about the future of business education and our innovative Masters of Science in Management Studies that launches non-business majors into business leaders in just nine months. Questrom offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and executive programs. Learn more at bu.edu/questrom

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Bionic pancreas system successfully controls blood sugar without risk of hypoglycemia

December 19th, 2016in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2016

CONTACTS:
Mike Morrison, mdmorrison@partners.org, 617 724-6425
Kira Jastive, kjastive@bu.edu, 617 358-1240

(BOSTON) – The bionic pancreas system developed by Boston University (BU) investigators proved better than either conventional or sensor-augmented insulin pump therapy at managing blood sugar levels in patients with type 1 diabetes living at home, with no restrictions, over 11 days. The report of a clinical trial led by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) physician is receiving advance online publication in The Lancet.

“For study participants living at home without limitations on their activity and diet, the bionic pancreas successfully reduced average blood glucose, while at the same time decreasing the risk of hypoglycemia,” says Steven Russell, MD, PhD, of the MGH Diabetes Unit. “This system requires no information other than the patient’s body weight to start, so it will require much less time and effort by health care providers to initiate treatment. And since no carbohydrate counting is required, it significantly reduces the burden on patients associated with diabetes management.”

Developed by Edward Damiano, PhD, and Firas El-Khatib, PhD, of the BU Department of Biomedical Engineering, the bionic pancreas controls patients’ blood sugar with both insulin and glucagon, a hormone that increases glucose levels. After a 2010 clinical trial confirmed that the original version of the device could maintain near-normal blood sugar levels for more than 24 hours in adult patients, two follow-up trials – reported in a 2014 New England Journal of Medicine paper – showed that an updated version of the system successfully controlled blood sugar levels in adults and adolescents for five days. Another follow-up trial published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology in 2016 showed it could do the same for children as young as 6 years of age.

While minimal restrictions were placed on participants in the 2014 trials, participants in both spent nights in controlled settings and were accompanied at all times by either a nurse for the adult trial or remained in a diabetes camp for the adolescent and pre-adolescent trials. Participants in the current trial had no such restrictions placed upon them, as they were able to pursue normal activities at home or at work with no imposed limitations on diet or exercise. Patients needed to live within a 30-minute drive of one of the trial sites – MGH, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Stanford University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and needed to designate a contact person who lived with them and could be contacted by study staff, if necessary.

The bionic pancreas system – the same as that used in the 2014 studies – consisted of a smartphone (iPhone 4S) that could wirelessly communicate with two pumps delivering either insulin or glucagon. Every five minutes the smartphone received a reading from an attached continuous glucose monitor, which was used to calculate and administer a dose of either insulin or glucagon. The algorighms controlling the system were updated for the current trial to better respond to blood sugar variations.

While the device allows participants to enter information about each upcoming meal into a smartphone app, allowing the system to deliver an anticipatory insulin dose, such entries were optional in the current trial. If participants’ blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels or if the monitor or one of the pumps was disconnected for more than 15 minutes, the system would alerted study staff, allowing them to check with the participants or their contact persons.

Study participants were adults who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for a year or more and had used an insulin pump to manage their care for at least six months. Each of 39 participants that finished the study completed two 11-day study periods, one using the bionic pancreas and one using their usual insulin pump and any continous glucose monitor they had been using. In addition to the automated monitoring of glucose levels and administered doses of insulin or glucagon, participants completed daily surveys regarding any episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia, carbohydrates consumed to treat those episodes, and any episodes of nausea.

On days when participants were on the bionic pancreas, their average blood glucose levels were significantly lower – 141 mg/dl versus 162 mg/dl – than when on their standard treatment. Blood sugar levels were at levels indicating hypoglycemia (less than 60 mg/dl) for 0.6 percent of the time when participants were on the bionic pancreas, versus 1.9 percent of the time on standard treatment. Participants reported fewer episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia while on the bionic pancreas, and no episodes of severe hypoglycemia were associated with the system.

The system performed even better during the overnight period, when the risk of hypoglycemia is particularly concerning. “Patients with type 1 diabetes worry about developing hypoglycemia when they are sleeping and tend to let their blood sugar run high at night to reduce that risk,” explains Russell, an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Our study showed that the bionic pancreas reduced the risk of overnight hypoglycemia to almost nothing without raising the average glucose level. In fact the improvement in average overnight glucose was greater than the improvement in average glucose over the full 24-hour period.”

Damiano, whose work on this project is inspired by his own 17-year-old son’s type 1 diabetes, adds, “The availability of the bionic pancreas would dramatically change the life of people with diabetes by reducing average glucose levels – thereby reducing the risk of diabetes complications – reducing the risk of hypoglycemia, which is a constant fear of patients and their families, and reducing the emotional burden of managing type 1 diabetes.” A co-author of the Lancet report, Damiano is a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University.

The BU patents covering the bionic pancreas have been licensed to Beta Bionics, a startup company co-founded by Damiano and El-Khatib. The company’s latest version of the bionic pancreas, called the iLet, integrates all components into a single unit, which will be tested in future clinical trials. People interested in participating in upcoming trials may contact Russell’s team at the MGH Diabetes Research Center in care of Llazar Cuko (LCUKO@mgh.harvard.edu ).

El-Khatib is the lead author of the Lancet paper, and additional co-authors include David Harlan, MD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Bruce Buckingham,MD, of Stanford University, and John Buse, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Support for the study includes National Institute of Health grants R01DK097657 and DP3DK101084 and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences awards UL1TR001453, UL1TR001085 and UL1TR001111.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities, a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $800 million and major research centers in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, photomedicine and transplantation biology. The MGH topped the 2015 Nature Index list of health care organizations publishing in leading scientific journals and earned the prestigious 2015 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. In August 2016 the MGH was once again named to the Honor Roll in the U.S. News & World Report list of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

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Researchers Identify Protein Required for Breast Cancer Metastasis

November 15th, 2016in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 15, 2016

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

(Boston)—Researchers have identified a new pathway and with it a protein, BRD4, necessary for breast cancer cells to spread.

The findings, which appear in the journal Cancer Research, may provide a new target to suppress breast cancer metastasis.

Triple-negative breast cancer is considered the worst subgroup of breast cancer. It is highly aggressive and responds poorly to the current therapeutic tools resulting in a dismal prognosis for patients. Furthermore, the lack of identified targets has limited the development of new drug strategies.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) used breast cancer cell lines that present the clinical characteristics of an aggressive breast cancer subtype (clinically described as a triple-negative breast cancer). They then used an experimental design to model cancer cell metastasis. By suppressing the expression of the protein BRD4 in these cell lines, they observed that their dissemination capabilities were blocked, indicating that BRD4 drives breast cancer dissemination. In addition, they conducted a screening analysis of human breast tumors and found that tumors with a high expression of BRD4 were more likely to metastasize.

“The current treatment options for a triple-negative cancer are unacceptably limited. It is crucial to identify new therapeutic targets to tackle challenging cancer types, including triple negative breast cancer. BDR4 targeting represents an innovative strategy to ablate breast cancer metastasis,” explained lead investigator Guillaume Andrieu, PhD, a post-doctoral research associate at Boston University School of Medicine.

Although obesity per se is not thought of as a carcinogen, the abnormal, inflamed microenvironments found in obesity are critical for progression, invasion and metastasis of triple negative breast cancer. “Bromodomain and ExtraTerminal domain (BET) proteins, which include BRD2, BRD3 and BRD4, are known to regulate production of inflammatory mediators. Our study proposes that BRD4 couples inflammation to breast cancer dissemination. Thus, small molecules that block BET proteins possess anti-inflammatory properties that can be useful for therapy,” he added.

Although these findings primarily focus on breast cancer and metastasis, the researchers plan to expand their results to the treatment of prostate cancer, which they believe has similar pathways involved in its metastasis.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Cancer Institute.

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Study Finds Limited Sign of Soil Adaptation to Climate Warming

November 14th, 2016in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 14, 2016

CONTACT: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 or kjastive@bu.edu

(Woods Hole/Boston, MA) — While scientists and policy experts debate the impacts of global warming, the Earth’s soil is releasing roughly nine times more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than all human activities combined. This huge carbon flux from soil, which is due to the natural respiration of soil microbes and plant roots, begs one of the central questions in climate change science. As the global climate warms, will soil respiration rates increase, adding even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and accelerating climate change?

Previous experimental studies of this question have not produced a consensus, prompting Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) scientists Joanna Carey and Jianwu Tang, Boston University Associate Professor of Biology Pamela Templer, and colleagues to synthesize the data from 27 studies across nine biomes, from the desert to the Arctic. Their analysis is published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This represents the world’s largest data set to date of soil respiration response to experimental warming.

One conclusion from the synthesis is that rising global temperatures result in regionally variable responses in soil respiration, with colder climates being considerably more responsive.

“Consistently across all biomes, we found that soil respiration increased with soil temperature up to about 25° C (77° F),” says Carey, a postdoctoral scientist at the MBL. Above the 25° C threshold, respiration rates decreased with further increases in soil temperature.

“That means the Arctic latitudes, where soil temperatures rarely, if ever, reach 25° C will continue to be most responsive to climate warming. Because there is so much carbon stored in frozen soils of the Arctic, this has really serious repercussions for future climate change,” Carey says.

The team also found that soil microbes in experimental warming studies showed no sign of adaptation — meaning a muted respiration response to rising temperatures — in all of the biomes studied, except desert and boreal forest. This indicates that “soils will typically respond strongly to increasing temperature by releasing more carbon dioxide,” says Tang, co-lead investigator of the study.

“This work could not have been accomplished without data from multiple experiments around the globe,” says BU’s Templer, co-lead investigator of the study.

To understand how global carbon in soils will respond to climate change, the authors stress that more data are needed from under- and non-represented regions, especially the Arctic and the tropics.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher educa-tion and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 16 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

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Citation: Carey, Joanna A. et al (2016) Temperature response of soil respiration largely unaltered with experimental warming. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1605365113

Fatty Liver Disease Contributes to Cardiovascular Disease and Vice Versa

November 10th, 2016in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 10, 2016

CONTACT: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

(Boston)–For the first time, researchers have shown that a bi-directional relationship exists between fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease. Fatty liver disease can lead to increased cardiovascular disease risk and vice versa.

The findings, which appear online in the Journal of Hepatology, are important in understanding the link between fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease, which continues to be one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Due to the increased prevalence of obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has become the most common liver disease in the U.S., affecting 20-30 percent of the adult population. Obesity is also an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease—so both diseases exist in many patients. Previous studies have shown that there is a link between fatty liver and cardiovascular disease however it is not fully understood if fatty liver disease precedes or develops after cardiovascular disease.

Using data from participants in the Framingham Heart Study, researchers saw that individuals with fatty liver disease developed cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes within six years. In a parallel analysis, individuals with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high triglycerides had a higher likelihood of developing fatty liver disease.

“In our study, we observed a bi-directional association between fatty liver and cardiovascular disease,” explained corresponding author Michelle Long, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), who also is a gastroenterologist at Boston Medical Center (BMC). “We observed that fatty liver was an important factor in the development of high blood pressure and diabetes and the opposite also stands true – various cardiovascular diseases were associated with the development of fatty liver disease over six years,” she added.

Long believes this study highlights the need to develop both preventative and treatment strategies for fatty liver disease in order to improve the cardiovascular health of all people.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institute of Health and Boston University School of Medicine.

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Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center Receive NIH Funds for National Precision Medicine Research Program

October 13th, 2016in 2016, News Releases, School of Medicine

EMBARGOED by the NIH until Thursday, October 13, at 6:00 a.m. ET
CONTACT: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center Receive NIH Funds for
National Precision Medicine Research Program

(Boston)–The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today that Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) will join the national network of health care provider organizations (HPOs) that will implement the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program. The PMI Cohort Program is a landmark longitudinal research effort that aims to engage one million or more U.S. participants to enable research that will, over time, improve the ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.

BUSM and BMC, along with Partners HealthCare System (PHS), propose the creation of the “New England Precision Medicine Consortium,” a coordinated enrollment effort that encompasses these organizations.  The New England consortium joins awardees announced earlier this year to enroll interested individuals, gather participants’ health information and bio-specimens and provide input on developing plans for the program. The combined New England consortium will receive initial funding of $5.5 million to begin recruitment and build infrastructure.

Beyond extending the PMI Cohort Program’s geographic reach, BUSM and BMC have expertise in engaging racial and ethnic minority populations who have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. “We have a long and strong history of successfully engaging participants as partners in research and in sustaining longitudinal engagement using traditional as well as innovative IT approaches,” explained BUSM and BMC’s Principal Investigator George O’Connor, MD, professor of medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Sleep, and Critical Care Medicine and Director, Clinical Research, Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute at BUSM and Director of the Adult Asthma Program at BMC.

Participants will be invited to contribute a range of data about themselves by completing questionnaires, granting access to their electronic health records, providing blood and urine samples, undergoing a physical evaluation and sharing real-time information via smartphones or wearable devices. A primary goal of the PMI Cohort Program is to create a national resource for researchers, including citizen scientists, to help answer important questions about a variety of health conditions.

“We want this program to be open to everyone across the United States,” said Eric Dishman, director of the PMI Cohort Program. “These additional health care provider organizations will help us in our efforts to reach communities that have been underrepresented in research. By contributing their information, these communities will help people and their health care providers identify the right prevention strategies or treatments. With the PMI Cohort Program, we’re making a concerted effort to include people from all communities and walks of life, to make sure that the knowledge we gain benefits everyone.”

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