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Faculty Profiles

John, Canty, Jr.
Canty, Jr., John, MDSUNY Distinguished Professor, Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor and Chief, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Email: canty@buffalo.edu
Phone: 829-2663

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cardiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Apoptosis and cell death; Cardiac pharmacology; Gene therapy; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular Basis of Disease; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
As chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at UB, I am responsible for the clinical, teaching and research programs related to adult patients with heart disease. I care for patients at the UBMD Internal Medicine practice group in Amherst, the Gates Vascular Institute (GVI) of Buffalo General Medical Center (BGMC) and the Buffalo VA Medical Center (VAMC). My clinical areas of expertise are in diagnosing and caring for patients with coronary artery disease and heart failure. My research group conducts translational studies directed at advancing our mechanistic understanding of cardiac pathophysiology as well as developing new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for the management of patients with chronic ischemic heart disease. Our ongoing areas of preclinical investigation apply proteomic approaches to identify intrinsic adaptive responses of the heart to ischemia and studies examining the ability of intracoronary stem cell therapies to stimulate endogenous cardiomyocyte proliferation and improve heart function. We also conduct basic and patient-oriented research to understand how reversible ischemia modifies the cellular composition and sympathetic innervation of the heart to help develop new approaches to identify patients at risk of sudden cardiac arrest from ventricular fibrillation. In addition to my laboratory investigation, I serve as the deputy director of the UB Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) and the director of the UB Translational Imaging Center. The Translational Imaging Center offers researchers opportunities to perform multimodality research imaging using PET molecular imaging, high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray computed tomography (CT). Our overall goal is to use advanced cardiac imaging to translate new applications between the bench and bedside in order to identify new imaging biomarkers of pathophysiological processes such as chronic myocardial ischemia and cardiac arrhythmogenesis. I am engaged in the cardiology profession at national and international levels, including as former president of the Association of Professors of Cardiology.

Michael, Farkas
Farkas, Michael, PhDAssistant Professor
Email: mhfarkas@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-834-9200 x5638

Specialty/Research Focus:
Bioinformatics; Eukaryotic Pathogenesis; Gene Expression; Gene therapy; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular Basis of Disease; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular genetics; RNA; Stem Cells; Vision science

Richard, Gronostajski
Gronostajski, Richard, PhDProfessor of Biochemistry; Director of the Genetics, Genomics & Bioinformatics Graduate Program; Director, Western New York Stem Cell Culture and Analysis Center (WNYSTEM)
Email: rgron@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-3471

Specialty/Research Focus:
Bioinformatics; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Molecular genetics; Neurobiology; Gene Expression; Stem Cells; Transgenic organisms

Research Summary:
My research goal is to gain a better understanding of how proteins that interact with DNA regulate RNA transcription, DNA replication and metazoan development. I mentor undergraduate and graduate students in my lab; we focus on the structure and function of the Nuclear Factor I (NFI) family of site-specific DNA binding proteins, and we are investigating their roles in development. Our work has been made possible by our development of loss-of-function mutations of the NFI genes in the mouse and C. elegans. We are addressing four major questions in my laboratory and in collaboration with a number of talented collaborators: What is the structure of the NFI DNA-binding domain? How does NFI recognize and interact with DNA? Does NFI change the structure of DNA when it binds? What proteins interact with NFI to stimulate RNA transcription and/or DNA replication? These research questions are explored in my lab through two major projects focused on the role of NFIB in lung development and the role of NFIX in brain development. When NFIB is deleted from the germline of mice the animals die at birth because their lungs fail to mature normally. This provides a good model for the problems that occur with premature infants, whose lungs also fail to mature normally. We are using this model to determine how NFIB promotes lung maturation with the goal of being able to stimulate this process in premature infants. In our NFIX knockout animals, the brains of the animals are actually larger than normal and contain large numbers of cells in an area known to be the site of postnatal neurogenesis. We have evidence that NFIX may regulate the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells, which produce new neurons throughout adult life. Our aim is to understand the specific target genes that NFIX regulates in the adult brain to control this process of neurogenesis.

Jennifer, Lang
Lang, Jennifer, MDAssistant Professor
Email: jklang@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-6118

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cardiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Gene Expression; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Signal Transduction; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
As a general cardiologist, I diagnose and treat a wide range of problems that affect the heart and blood vessels, including but not limited to coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, heart failure, diseases of the myocardium and pericardium, cardiac arrhythmias, conduction disorders and syncope. I attend on the inpatient Coronary Care ICU (CCU), Cardiac Step-down Unit, and Cardiology Consult service at Buffalo General Medical Center as well as see patients in my outpatient clinic. In addition to treating pre-existing cardiac conditions, I also believe in strong preventive care and addressing modifiable risk factors for coronary disease. I take time to get to know my patients, and I talk with them about measures they can take to reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease and improve their health. As a clinician-scientist, I have a special interest in developing new stem cell based treatments for heart disease. My research is focused on understanding what stem cell secreted factors are responsible for improved heart function, what their targets are and how these can be modulated to develop new cell-free therapies that can help patients with a wide spectrum of coronary disease and heart failure. I welcome medical students, graduate students, residents and fellows to conduct research with me in my lab. As a native Buffalonian, I am honored to partner with the patients in our community to help improve their heart health and cardiac knowledge base. I am equally excited to be involved in shaping the next generation of physicians through the teaching I conduct at the medical student, resident and fellow level.

Patricia, Masso-Welch
Masso-Welch, Patricia, PhDAssociate Professor
Email: pmwelch@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-829-5191

Specialty/Research Focus:
Apoptosis and cell death; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Immunology; Signal Transduction; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
My independent research at The University at Buffalo focuses on targeting the mammary gland microenvironment by evaluating cellular and tissue responses during specific developmental windows of mammary gland remodeling including puberty, the period of hormonal withdrawal during estrous cycling, or post-lactational involution. My choice to focus on discrete times of development for chemopreventive intervention, rather than long-term (and often life-time) intervention, represents a unique approach of short-term exposure at critical points of mammary gland development. Our goal is to allow women to bypass the need for lifelong compliance to a chemopreventive diet or drug regimen in order to attain lifelong protection against breast cancer. Developmentally targeted dietary interventions being investigated in our lab include continuous administration of oral contraceptives, dietary exposure to conjugated linoleic acid, and ethanol.

Xiuqian, Mu
Mu, Xiuqian, MD, PhDAssociate Professor
Email: xmu@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-881-7463

Specialty/Research Focus:
Bioinformatics; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Gene Expression; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular genetics; Stem Cells; Transcription and Translation; Transgenic organisms; Vision science

Research Summary:
We are interested in the fundamental mechanisms underlying the shift of cellular states from progenitors to fully functional mature cell types along individual cell lineages during development. We address this issue by studying cell fate specification and differentiation in the developing neural retina. Our efforts are on identifying key regulators, uncovering their roles in individual lineages, and understanding how they carry out these roles. Current projects are emphasized on how transcription factors influence the epigenetic landscape along the retinal ganglion cell lineage. We conduct our research using a combinatorial approach encompassing genetics, molecular biology, genomics, single cell analysis and bioinformatics.

Debanjan, Sarkar
Sarkar, Debanjan, PhDAssistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Email: debanjan@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 645-8497

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cell growth, differentiation and development; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
Development of regenerative therapeutics involves understanding and application of molecular, cellular and tissue engineering principles. Integrated strategies include biomaterials, therapeutic molecules and stem cells to create bioengineered systems for regenerative medicine. Therefore, understanding fundamental interactions between different components and utilizing these concepts will provide tools to engineer tissue regeneration and develop treatment options for diseases. The translational aspect of regenerative medicine depends on proper integration of engineering and medicine. This hierarchical roadmap is tissue or disease specific and thus requires step-wise approaches. Our current goals are to develop strategies for therapeutic angiogenesis, soft and elastic tissue regeneration and delivery of drugs. We are interested to integrate the different components for effective therapeutic strategies

Umesh, Sharma
Sharma, Umesh, MD, PhDAssistant Professor
Email: sharmau@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-829-2663

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cardiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Internal Medicine; Radiology; Cardiopulmonary physiology; Immunology; Gene Expression; Cardiac pharmacology; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
I am a cardiologist with specialized training in advanced cardiac imaging. I see outpatients at the Heart and Lung Center of Buffalo General Medicine Center (BGMC), and I care for inpatients through the cardiology consult and inpatient services at BGMC. As an advanced imaging cardiologist, I am responsible for developing and advancing the cardiac computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) programs at the Gates Vascular Institute (GVI) and providing these services to patients. These advanced, noninvasive imaging techniques allow physicians to perform in-depth, 3-D evaluation of the coronary tree, myocardium, heart valves, pericardium and great vessels. These imaging tools allow for the best possible diagnoses and care of patients. My research spans basic science, translational and clinical fields and combines the cross-discipline expertise on magnetic resonance (MR) technology with molecular biology. My overall goal is to study the consequences of ischemia-induced myocardial injury, with a focus on their therapeutic reversal. My research laboratory at UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) is devoted to the development of novel time-and-tissue-targeted MRI methods for integrative understanding of cardiovascular pathophysiology in preclinical models. We have several interesting research projects, e.g., we have recently discovered that the presence of high-risk plaques in the carotid arteries predict future incidence of myocardial infarction and stroke. The results emphasize that the nature of atherosclerosis and the use of comprehensive non-invasive computed tomography angiography (CTA) will help identify patients who are at higher risk of developing ischemic stroke. These research results will help physicians employ early therapeutic strategies for these high-risk patients. I mentor medical students, residents and fellows both in clinical and research settings, and I precept cardiology fellows at the Heart and Lung Center at BGMC. In addition, I am deeply engaged in furthering the research and clinical education of our house staff. Our trainees have published their research in highly esteemed peer-reviewed journals, and many have routinely presented their work at national and international scientific conferences. I am committed to facilitating the career goals of my mentees while I continue to advance my own career as a clinician, researcher and mentor.

Michal, Stachowiak
Stachowiak, Michal, PhDProfessor, Director Molec. and Structural Neurobiol. Gene Therapy Prog. Director Stem Cell SCEF
Email: mks4@buffalo.edu
Phone: (716) 829-3540

Specialty/Research Focus:
Bioinformatics; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Gene Expression; Gene therapy; Genome Integrity; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular Basis of Disease; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Neurobiology; Signal Transduction; Stem Cells; Transcription and Translation

Research Summary:
The long term mission of our laboratory, which I co-direct with Dr. Ewa Stachowiak, is to understand the principles governing molecular control of neural development, the implications for developmental- and aging-related diseases and the wide ranging effects on brain functions including behavior. The main achievement of our program has been the discovery of “Integrative Nuclear FGFR1 Signaling”, INFS a universal signaling mechanism which plays a novel integral role in cell development and complements other universal mechanisms such as mitotic cycle and pluripotency .Based on these revolutionary findings we have formulated a new theory called “Feed-Forward End-Gate Signaling” that explains how epigenetic factors either extracellular like neurotransmitters, hormonal or growth factors or intracellular signaling pathways control developmental gene programs and cellular development. This discovery is a product of our twenty-year multidisciplinary research that has been reported in several peer-reviewed papers in major journals including Proc. Natl. Acad. of Science (USA), Integrative Biology, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Journal of Cell Biology, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Physical Chemistry (etc.). In addition, we have applied this theory to analyze the etiology of neurodevelopmental /neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer in order to utilize it in new potential therapies. Towards these goals we have employed new technologies for an in vivo gene transfer, developed new transgenic mouse models for Schizophrenia and Parkinson-like diseases and established an interdisciplinary Molecular and Structural Neurobiology and Gene Therapy Program which has o engaged researchers from the different UB departments, other universities in the US as well as foreign institutions including Hannover Medical School (Germany), Gdansk Medical University, and Polish Academy of Science. Detailed research activities and future goals of our research program: 1. Molecular mechanisms controlling development of neural stem and related cells. In studying molecular mechanisms controlling development of neural stem and related cells we have established a novel universal signal transduction mechanism -Feed-Forward-And Gate network module that effects the differentiation of stem cells and neural progenitor cells. In the center of this module is the new gene-controlling mechanism "Integrative Nuclear Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor-1 (FGFR1) Signaling" (INFS), which integrates diverse epigenetic signals and controls cell progression through ontogenic stages of proliferation, growth, and differentiation. We have shown that, Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor-1 (FGFR1) a protein previously thought to be exclusively involved with transmembrane FGF signaling, resides in multiple subcellular compartments and is a multifactorial molecule that interacts with diverse cellular proteins In INFS, newly synthesized FGFR1 is released from the endoplasmic reticulum and translocates to the nucleus. In the nucleus, FGFR1 associates with nuclear matrix-attached centers of RNA transcription, interacts directly with transcriptional coactivators and kinases, activates transcription machinery and stimulates chromatin remodeling conducive of elevated gene activities. Our biophotonic experiments revealed that the gene activation by nuclear FGFR1 involves conversion of the immobile matrix-bound and the fast kinetic nucleoplasmic R1 into a slow kinetic chromatin binding population This conversion occurs through FGFR1’s interaction with the CBP and other nuclear proteins. The studies support a novel general mechanism in which gene activation is governed by FGFR1 protein movement and collisions with other proteins and nuclear structures. The INFS governs expression of developmentally regulated genes and plays a key role in the transition of proliferating neural stem cells into differentiating neurons development of glial cells, and can force neoplastic medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma cells to exit the cell cycle and enter a differentiation pathway and thus provides a new target for anti-cancer therapies. In our in vitro studies we are using different types of stem cells cultures, protein biochemistry, biophotonics analyses of protein mobility and interactions [Fluorescence Recovery after Photobleaching (FRAP), Fluorescence Loss In Photobleaching (FLIP), and Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)] and diverse transcription systems to further elucidate the molecular circuits that control neural development. 2. Analyses of neural stem cell developmental mechanisms in vivo by direct gene transfer into the mammalian nervous system. An understanding of the mechanisms that control the transition of neural stem/progenitor cells (NS/PC) into functional neurons could potentially be used to recruit endogenously-produced NS/PC for neuronal replacement in a variety of neurological diseases. Using DNA-silica based nanoplexes and viral vectors we have shown that neuronogenesis can be effectively reinstated in the adult brain by genes engineered to target the Integrative Nuclear FGF Receptor-1 Signaling (INFS) pathway. Thus, targeting the INFS in brain stem cells via gene transfers or pharmacological activation may be used to induce selective neuronal differentiation, providing potentially revolutionizing treatment strategies of a broad range of neurological disorders. 3. Studies of brain development and neurodevelopmental diseases using transgenic mouse models. Our laboratory is also interested in the abnormal brain development affecting dopamine and other neurotransmitter neurons and its link to psychiatric diseases, including schizophrenia. Changes in FGF and its receptors FGFR1 have been found in the brains of schizophrenia and bipolar patients suggesting that impaired FGF signaling could underlie abnormal brain development and function associated with these disorders. Furthermore the INFS mechanism, integrates several pathways in which the schizophrenia-linked mutations have been reported. To test this hypothesis we engineered a new transgenic mouse model which results from hypoplastic development of DA neurons induced by a tyrosine kinase-deleted dominant negative mutant FGFR1(TK-) expressed in dopamine neurons. The structure and function of the brain’s DA neurons, serotonin neurons and other neuronal systems including cortical and hippocampal neurons are altered in TK- mice in a manner similar to that reported in patients with schizophrenia. Moreover, TK- mice express behavioral deficits that model schizophrenia-like positive symptoms (impaired sensory gaiting), negative symptoms (e.g. low social motivation), and impaired cognition ameliorated by typical or atypical antipsychotics. Supported by the grants from the pharmaceutical industry we are investigating new potential targets for anti-psychotic therapies using our preclinical FGFR1(TK-) transgenic model. Our future goals include in vivo gene therapy to verify whether neurodevelopmental pathologies may be reversed by targeting endogenous brain stem cells. Together with the other researchers of the SUNY Buffalo we have established Western New York Stem Cells Analysis Center in 2010 which includes Stem Cell Grafting and in vivo Analysis core which I direct. Together with Dr. E. Tzanakakis (UB Bioengineering Department) we have written book “ Stem cells- From Mechanisms to Technologies’ (World Scientific Publishing, 2011). Educational Activities and Teaching: I have participated together with the members of our neuroscience community in developing a new Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the SUNY, Buffalo. I am teaching neuroanatomy courses for dental students (ANA811) and for graduate students (NRS524). At present I participate in team-taught graduate courses in Neuroscience and Developmental Neuroscience (NRS 520, 521 and NRS 524). I am serving as a mentor for several undergraduate, graduate (masters and doctoral students) and postdoctoral fellows in the Neuroscience Program, Anatomy and Cell Biology Program and in the IGERT program in the Departments of Chemistry and Engineering. Additionally to mentoring master and Ph.D. students at the UB, I have helped to train graduate students in the University of Camerino (Italy) and Hannover Medical School (Germany). The works of our graduate students have been described in several publications.

Gen, Suzuki
Suzuki, Gen, MD, PhDAssociate Professor
Email: gsuzuki@buffalo.edu
Phone: 829-2710

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cardiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Internal Medicine; Apoptosis and cell death; Cell Cycle; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Gene therapy; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
I am a researcher with formal training and practice in both general and interventional cardiology. My research expertise is in coronary physiology and physiological studies in large animals with ischemic heart disease. Based on my background, my research is focused on therapeutic approaches to effect cardiac regeneration in large animals with acute and chronic ischemic heart disease. In my laboratory, I use a preclinical porcine model of hibernating myocardium with chronic left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery occlusion and collateral-dependent myocardium or infarcted myocardium caused by coronary ischemia-reperfusion. I have addressed the problem with several different therapeutic approaches involved in gene therapy, pharmacological and stem cell therapies. We routinely perform physiological studies on these porcine models with quantitative analyses of myocardial morphometry and immune-histochemical analyses. The information we have collected in completed work demonstrates remarkable functional recovery and myocyte regeneration in the adult porcine heart. Intracoronary adenoviral gene transfer with fibroblast growth factor (FGF-5), the HMG-CoA inhibitor pravastatin and intracoronary mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) all stimulate the proliferation of endogenous cardiac myocytes and, to some extent, generate new myocytes and vessels. Our current work is focused on understanding the regenerative capability of cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) originating from heart tissue in acute or chronic ischemic myocardium. The result of this work will play an important role in advancing the care of many patients with acute and chronic ischemic heart disease. In my laboratory, I mentor research fellows through their rotation. Fellows who work in my laboratory have the unique opportunity of being exposed to large animal experimentation and learning skills related to it--in physiology and coronary angiography, as well as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. Under my supervision, fellows also may work on independent projects and learn about cell biology and molecular biology, with the chance to present at international meetings and to publish as an author in international journals.

Brian, Weil
Weil, Brian, PhDResearch Assistant Professor
Email: bweil@buffalo.edu
Phone: 716-829-3599

Specialty/Research Focus:
Cardiology; Cardiovascular Disease; Stem Cells

Research Summary:
My research program is focused on the investigation of mechanisms underlying functional and structural cardiac remodeling in heart disease, as well as novel therapeutic interventions to prevent or reverse left ventricular dysfunction caused by myocardial ischemia and hemodynamic overload. These studies generally utilize non-invasive advanced cardiovascular imaging techniques and invasive hemodynamic assessment to assess cardiac performance in vivo, along with ex vivo analysis of myocardial tissue to examine cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying observed changes in physiological function.