Albany, NY, United States
Albany, NY, United States

The New York State Department of Health is the department of the New York state government responsible for public health. It is headed by the Health Commissioner, a position held January 24, 2011 through May 4, 2014 by Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.. Since May 4, 2014, Howard A. Zucker, M.D., J.D. has been the acting commissioner. Wikipedia.

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News Article | April 17, 2017

When people think about spinal cord injuries, thoughts generally turn toward Christopher Reeve who was thrown from his horse during trial events for an equestrian competition in 1995, and Steven McDonald, who was shot three times in 1986 after serving two years as an officer with the New York Police Department. Reeve’s and McDonald’s heroic and visible survival stories brought the severity of spinal cord injuries into the international dialogue. Today at the College of Staten Island (CSI), Maria Knikou, PhD, is holding clinical trials of her breakthrough research designed to develop effective rehabilitation strategies to improve the walking ability of persons with spinal cord injuries that have affected the function of the central nervous system. During her ongoing trials, she has recently worked with eight people with spinal cord injuries, including a 20-year-old who fell out of a golf cart and broke his neck nine months ago, and a Midwestern woman who broke her neck. These people, who have been diagnosed with tetraplegia (a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra or within cervical sections Cervical 1-8) and severe paralysis of the legs, came to CSI to participate in the research trials. After completing four to six weeks of therapy with Dr. Knikou, the patients saw motor function improve, with increased control and reduced spasticity. According to, “The spinal cord carries nerve fibers traveling both from the brain to the rest of the body and from the body back to the brain. Those coming from the brain are responsible for voluntary control of muscles. Those traveling toward the brain carry sensation.” Dr. Knikou’s non-invasive therapy focuses on assessing the signal transfer from the brain to the legs in order to strengthen and enhance that pathway and provide gains in motor function. Patients who undergo the phase one therapy may be eligible for the phase two Robotic Gait Training, designed to further stimulate brain, spinal, and muscular health on a pathway for improved mobility. People who participate in the trials are provided a stipend, and certain expenses may be covered. Persons who are interested in learning if they are eligible candidates for this unique therapeutic approach should contact Dr. Knikou, Professor of Human Neurophysiology in the Physical Therapy Department of the School of Health Sciences at 718.982.3316 or maria.knikou(at) All trials are conducted on the Willowbrook campus of the College of Staten Island in New York City. "Dr Knikou's forward-thinking and expertise in human neurophysiology have enabled her to be extremely successful, with ongoing grant support from New York State and other private foundations," commented Dean Maureen Becker, PhD. "She is one of the leading researchers in the School of Health Sciences at the College of Staten Island and her work, one day, will impact the lives of millions of individuals with spinal cord injury." Dr. Knikou’s research project is funded by the New York State Department of Health, Spinal Cord Injury Research Board, under the Project to Accelerate Research Translation (PART) award. She mentors high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral research fellows and junior faculty. Dr. Knikou serves on several editorial boards and has published her research work in high-ranking, peer-reviewed scientific journals. For more information about the College of Staten Island School of Health Sciences visit About the College of Staten Island The College of Staten Island is a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY) offering Doctoral programs, Advanced Certificate programs, and Master’s programs, as well as Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees. CSI is ranked 3rd in New York State by MONEY magazine for Best Colleges and 6th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index. CSI is also a “Top Master’s University,” as ranked by Washington Monthly; in the Top 15% for Alumni Salary Potential according to Payscale; and has been named a Military Friendly School for seven consecutive years by GI Jobs magazine. The CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center, one of the most powerful supercomputers in the New York City region, handles big-data analysis for faculty researchers and their student research teams, as well as researchers nationwide. The 204-acre park-like campus of CSI, the largest in NYC, is fully accessible and contains an advanced, networked infrastructure to support technology-based teaching, learning, and research. Dolphin Cove Resident Halls, the college’s new apartment-style luxury suites, celebrates its third year at full occupancy housing students from across NYC, the United States, and the world.

Wolpaw J.R.,New York State Department of Health
Neuroscientist | Year: 2010

The work of recent decades has shown that the nervous system changes continually throughout life. Activity-dependent central nervous system (CNS) plasticity has many different mechanisms and involves essentially every region, from the cortex to the spinal cord. This new knowledge radically changes the challenge of explaining learning and memory and greatly increases the relevance of the spinal cord. The challenge is now to explain how continual and ubiquitous plasticity accounts for the initial acquisition and subsequent stability of many different learned behaviors. The spinal cord has a key role because it is the final common pathway for all behavior and is a site of substantial plasticity. Furthermore, because it is simple, accessible, distant from the rest of the CNS, and directly connected to behavior, the spinal cord is uniquely suited for identifying sites and mechanisms of plasticity and for determining how they account for behavioral change. Experimental models based on spinal cord reflexes facilitate study of the gradual plasticity that makes possible most rapid learning phenomena. These models reveal principles and generate concepts that are likely to apply to learning and memory throughout the CNS. In addition, they offer new approaches to guiding activity-dependent plasticity so as to restore functions lost to injury or disease. © The Author(s) 2010.

Hamza T.H.,New York State Department of Health
Nature genetics | Year: 2010

Parkinson's disease is a common disorder that leads to motor and cognitive disability. We performed a genome-wide association study of 2,000 individuals with Parkinson's disease (cases) and 1,986 unaffected controls from the NeuroGenetics Research Consortium (NGRC). We confirmed associations with SNCA and MAPT, replicated an association with GAK (using data from the NGRC and a previous study, P = 3.2 x 10(-9)) and detected a new association with the HLA region (using data from the NGRC only, P = 2.9 x 10(-8)), which replicated in two datasets (meta-analysis P = 1.9 x 10(-10)). The HLA association was uniform across all genetic and environmental risk strata and was strong in sporadic (P = 5.5 x 10(-10)) and late-onset (P = 2.4 x 10(-8)) disease. The association peak we found was at rs3129882, a noncoding variant in HLA-DRA. Two studies have previously suggested that rs3129882 influences expression of HLA-DR and HLA-DQ. The brains of individuals with Parkinson's disease show upregulation of DR antigens and the presence of DR-positive reactive microglia, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce Parkinson's disease risk. The genetic association with HLA supports the involvement of the immune system in Parkinson's disease and offers new targets for drug development.

The tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), which is abundant in tobacco smoke, is a potent lung procarcinogen. The present study was aimed to prove that transgenic expression of human cytochrome P450 2A13 (CYP2A13), known to be selectively expressed in the respiratory tract and be the most efficient enzyme for NNK bioactivation in vitro, will enhance NNK bioactivation and NNK-induced tumorigenesis in the mouse lung. Kinetic parameters of NNK bioactivation in vitro and incidence of NNK-induced lung tumors in vivo were determined for wild-type, Cyp2a5-null and CYP2A13-humanized (CYP2A13-transgenic/Cyp2a5-null) mice. As expected, in both liver and lung microsomes, the loss of CYP2A5 resulted in significant increases in Michaelis constant (K m) values for the formation of 4-oxo-4-(3-pyridyl)-butanal, representing the reactive intermediate that can lead to the formation of O(6)-methylguanine (O(6)-mG) DNA adducts; however, the gain of CYP2A13 at a fraction of the level of mouse lung CYP2A5 led to recovery of the activity in the lung, but not in the liver. The levels of O(6)-mG, the DNA adduct highly correlated with lung tumorigenesis, were significantly higher in the lungs of CYP2A13-humanized mice than in Cyp2a5-null mice. Moreover, incidences of lung tumorigenesis were significantly greater in CYP2A13-humanized mice than in Cyp2a5-null mice, and the magnitude of the differences in incidence was greater at low (30mg/kg) than at high (200mg/kg) NNK doses. These results indicate that CYP2A13 is a low K m enzyme in catalyzing NNK bioactivation in vivo and support the notion that genetic polymorphisms of CYP2A13 can influence the risks of tobacco-induced lung tumorigenesis in humans.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 709.93K | Year: 2014

This research is focused on determining the sources of nitrous acid to the atmosphere. Nitrous acid can form hydroxyl radical, an important compound responsible for creating the air pollutant ozone. Nitrous acid can be produced on some environmental surfaces, in the presence of water and nitrogen dioxide. Quantifying the relative importance of the sources of nitrous acid to the atmosphere will improve the understanding of some of the causes of air pollution and climate change.

The objective of this research is to characterize and quantify photochemical sources of nitrous acid (HONO), an important precursor to the hydroxyl radical (OH). The photolysis of HONO significantly influences atmospheric pollutant oxidation and ozone production. Recent laboratory studies have shown that nitrophenols formed from the dark reaction of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with surface adsorbed polyphenolic compounds and the subsequent photolysis of surface-adsorbed nitrophenols may be a substantial source of HONO. But wavelength-dependent HONO yields, from the photolysis of the adsorbed nitrophenols, have not been characterized. This work will quantify photochemical HONO and the OH quantum yields from heterogeneous and gas phase photolysis reactions using laser photolysis combined with cavity ring-down spectroscopy and determine the UV/visible absorption cross sections of surface-adsorbed NO3 and nitrophenols as a function of wavelength using Brewster angle cavity ringdown spectroscopy. Additional experiments will provide data on the absorption cross sections of gas phase nitrophenols and HONO yields from nitrate and 2-nitrophenol adsorbed on surfaces that serve as surrogates for various environmentally relevant surfaces.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Genetic Mechanisms | Award Amount: 425.00K | Year: 2015

This project will provide new insights into molecular interactions that govern how genes are turned on and off in living cells. The project focuses on a large protein complex called Mediator, which selectively turns on subsets of genes in both yeast and mammalian cells. Two central questions will be addressed. First, how does Mediator select and turn on its gene targets? Second, how does Mediator action in yeast compare to its action in mammalian cells? The comparative approach used in this project will have broad impact on fundamental understanding of gene activity in simple yeast versus complex mammalian cells. Some of the results will be in the form of big data--large data sets that describe molecular interactions across an entire genome--and these will be deposited in public archives where they can be freely accessed by scientists and the public. In addition, the project will provide training for undergraduates, a postdoctoral fellow, and two female graduate students, one of whom is a member of an underrepresented minority.

The Mediator protein complex consists of over twenty interacting proteins and is found in all cells with nuclei (eukaryotes). Mediator is known to play a critical gene activating role via association with the machinery responsible for RNA synthesis (transcription). However, how Mediator locates its gene targets and exactly what it does when it finds them, are not completely understood. This project will address these issues in three aims. The first will test the idea that proteins belonging to the general transcription machinery help Mediator to find its targets. The approach will be to compare Mediator association with its targets in normal yeast cells and in mutants in which components of the general transcription machinery are impaired, using a method called ChIP-seq that identifies where proteins associate with DNA across an entire genome. The second aim will follow up on previous results that suggested that Mediator association with different targets is related to differential dynamics--how fast Mediator finds its targets and how often and rapidly it leaves again. This idea will be tested using variations of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP, the basis of ChIP-seq) that provide information on binding dynamics. These first two aims will be done using the model system of bakers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which is easy to work with but is quite similar to mammalian cells in its molecular makeup. In the third aim, the effect of impairing function of specific subunits of Mediator in mammalian cells on gene transcription will be tested by knocking down expression of those subunits and measuring the effect on genome-wide transcription by high throughput sequencing. In yeast, this has been a productive strategy for understanding how Mediator structure relates to its function. Comparing the results obtained in mammalian cells will reveal similarities and differences with yeast, and thereby reveal the value and limitations of knowledge gained using the yeast system.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Genetic Mechanisms | Award Amount: 223.71K | Year: 2016

The transfer of DNA from one bacterium to another accelerates the evolution of new strains and species. On the negative side, DNA transfer could facilitate the spread of antibiotic resistance genes, complicating infectious disease treatment strategies. On the positive side, DNA transfer could also create bacterial strains with improved beneficial properties, such as the remediation of petroleum-contaminated soil. Mycobacteria are a branch of the bacterial kingdom that includes both pathogens and brownfield soil-dwelling species. A novel kind of highly effective DNA transfer process, in which two cells appear to swap DNA fragments along the whole chromosome, has been described for a common laboratory mycobacterial species. The current project will identify the genes involved in that process, also testing whether distantly related mycobacteria can partake in such a transfer. The project will provide opportunities for undergraduate students and local high school teachers to gain experience in research.

Conjugal DNA transfer has been described in Mycobacterium smegmatis, generating transconjugant genomes that are mixtures of the parental strains. Distributive Conjugal Transfer (DCT) differs from traditional plasmid-based conjugation systems both in creating mosaic genomes and in mechanism, and proteins usually found in plasmid transfer systems are absent from mycobacteria. A mating identity locus (mid), which determines donor or recipient activity, has been mapped to a six-gene cluster embedded within a 25-gene locus that encodes the ESX-1 secretion apparatus. The six genes comprising mid will be analyzed for their contribution to establishing mating identity, their functional association with ESX-1 secretion, and their impact on transcriptional pathways that respond to co-culture with a mating partner. DCT will also be tested in other isolates of M. smegmatis, and in other mycobacterial species. Genome sequencing of new isolates will provide comparative data for identifying the mosaicism that is a hallmark of DCT, and provide reference sequences for transconjugants generated in the laboratory. Successful implementation of this objective will provide a broader view of the impact of DCT on gene flow in the Mycobacterium genus, and provide additional genotype/phenotype information for the critical genes of the mid locus.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC ORGANISMS & ECOSYST | Award Amount: 549.99K | Year: 2014

Agglutinated foraminifera (forams for short) are early-evolving, single-celled organisms. These living fossils construct protective shells using sediment grains held together by adhesive substances that they secrete. During shell construction, agglutinated forams display amazing properties of selection - for example, some species build their shells of clear quartz grains, while other species use only grains of a specific size. Understanding how these single cells assemble complex structures may contribute to nanotechnology by enabling people to use forams as cellular machines to aid in the construction of nano-devices. This project will analyze the genomes of at least six key foram species, and then mine these genomes for technologically useful products and processes. The project will focus initially on the adhesive materials forams secrete, which may have wide application in biomedicine and biotechnology. Furthermore, the work will further develop a molecular toolkit which could open up new avenues of research on the physiology, ecology, and population dynamics of this important group of Antarctic organisms. The project will also further the NSF goals of making scientific discoveries available to the general public and of training new generations of scientists. Educational experiences related to the thrill of scientific exploration and discovery for students and the general public will be provided through freely-available short films and a traveling art/science exhibition. The project will also provide hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate students.

Explorers Cove, situated on the western shore of McMurdo Sound, harbors a unique population of foraminiferan taxa at depths accessible by scuba diving that otherwise are primarily found in the deep sea. The project will use next-generation DNA sequencing and microdissection methods to obtain and analyze nuclear and mitochondrial genomes from crown members of two species each from three distinct, early-evolving foraminiferal groups. It will also use next generation sequencing methods to characterize the in-situ prokaryotic assemblages (microbiomes) of one of these groups and compare them to reference sediment microbiomes. The phyogenomic studies of the targeted Antarctic genera will help fill significant gaps in our current understanding of early foram evolution. Furthermore, comparative genomic analyses of these six species are expected to yield a better understanding of the physiology of single-chambered agglutinated forams, especially the bioadhesive proteins and regulatory factors involved in shell composition and morphogenesis. Additionally, the molecular basis of cold adaptation in forams will be examined, particularly with respect to key proteins.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Cellular Dynamics and Function | Award Amount: 547.96K | Year: 2015

The interphase microtubule array is a key cellular scaffold that provides structural support and directs organelle trafficking in nearly all eukaryotic cells. Its arrangement is fundamentally important for cell secretion, cell shape, growth, motility, and communication. Although the basic assembly of microtubules is well studied, very little is understood on how the array itself is organized. This is particularly important in multinucleated animal cells where multiple microtubule arrays are present and must maintain spatial separation so as not to interfere with each other. Establishing how these microtubule arrays are organized represents a fundamental challenge in understanding the basic organizational principles of eukaryotic cells. The preliminary data have identified multiple motor and cross-linker proteins that interact with microtubules and when deleted, result in broad alterations in array organization. The research plan is four fold: to understand at the cellular level where these effector proteins operate, to understand at the biochemical level how these effector proteins interact and function, to develop computational models that incorporate these activities and can predict/test understanding in multiple different scenarios, and to provide robust educational experiences to stimulate the next generation of scientists. This project will provide training opportunities for undergraduates recruited from a local teaching college and through Wadsworths Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, will strengthen research ties with neighboring institutions in the Albany Capitol region, and develop a new working relationship with an expert computational modeler. The investigator will further initiate a mentoring activity for postdocs and new investigators that provides a fresh perspective on career opportunities and pathways in the biological sciences

In detail, the investigator will use combinations of fluorescent reporter fusions and live cell light microscopy to quantitate protein and organelle distributions in multiple mutant backgrounds. This work will provide quantitative values and context for relevant protein interactions in cells. Participants will purify the known effector proteins and develop in vitro assays to determine specific associations and mechanistic detail on how they function. Results obtained from these two objectives will be fed into stochastic agent-based modeling efforts to build simulations that replicate the live cell results, inform whether the investigators need to consider alternate strategies and, importantly, enable prediction on how other microtubule arrays are organized in a broad range of organisms and strategies that are generally understudied in the biosciences. This project will provide training opportunities for undergraduates and mentoring activity for postdocs and new investigators that highlight different career pathways in the biological sciences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL & DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY | Award Amount: 588.38K | Year: 2016

This project is investigating water vapor absorption of near ultraviolet (NUV) solar radiation in the atmosphere. The results of this research may help resolve a long-standing discrepancy between modeled and observed solar energy absorption under clear sky conditions in the atmosphere. This research combines laboratory experiments, field measurements, and modeling to investigate critically important issues regarding the role of water vapor absorption in determining the radiative equilibrium of the atmosphere.

The objectives of the project are to make laboratory measurements of water vapor near UV absorption cross sections and their temperature dependence at spectral resolution and intervals comparable to existing satellite/surface ozone monitoring instruments, to monitor water vapor near UV spectral absorption in the tropical atmosphere, and to evaluate the consequences of including this near UV absorption by water vapor on satellite/surface ozone retrievals and on models of atmospheric radiation, circulation, and climate. Field measurements will be acquired by piggybacking a UV radiation spectrometer on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project, the AERosols and Ocean Science Expeditions (AEROSE) field campaign in the equatorial Atlantic. A different partitioning of atmospheric absorption by ozone and water vapor could alter model simulations of large-scale atmospheric circulation.

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