Reproductive Endocrinology; Apoptosis and cell death; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Endocrinology; Gene Expression; Molecular genetics; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics; Vitamins and Trace Nutrient
My research focuses on developing, promoting, and evaluating effective means of pharmacology instruction at the undergraduate, graduate, professional, and interprofessional levels. Developing a competency-based curriculum in pharmacology for students at all levels, I have incorporated specific instructional methods into existing core courses that has in effect taken a sometimes intimidating subject like pharmacology and presented it to students in manageable way. Studies of the effectiveness of these methods are conducted in collaboration with the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and its Division of Pharmacology Education of which I am a recently appointed Fellow. Specific instructional methods in the study include: patient case presentations by dental students which utilize rubric descriptors of performance quality; Pharm Fridays with second year medical students incorporating organized lists of pertinent drugs to recognize, student-oriented learning objectives, pharmacology study guides, and active participation clicker sessions with relevant board-style pharmacology questions; development of performance-based pharmacology questions within the multidisciplinary objective structured clinical exam (OSCE) taken by all DDS candidates; and video clip presentations within classes demonstrating pertinent pharmacology topics such as medical sedation, use of emergency drugs in the clinic, and alternative means for pain management with interviews of clinical experts. These and other instructional methods in the study are highly rated by students and proven effective by outcomes on standardized exams.
Neurology; Neurodegenerative disorders; Pathophysiology; Apoptosis and cell death; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular genetics; Neurobiology; Protein Folding; Gene Expression; Transcription and Translation; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
My research is aimed at finding the cause and a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is defined by a characteristic set of locomotor symptoms (rest tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia and postural instability) that are believed to be caused by the selective loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in substantia nigra. The persistent difficulties in using animals to model this human disease suggest that human nigral dopaminergic neurons have certain vulnerabilities that are unique to our species. One of our unique features is the large size of the human brain (1350 grams on average) relative to the body. A single nigral dopaminergic neuron in a rat brain (2 grams) has a massive axon arbor with a total length of 45 centimeters. Assuming that all mammalian species share a similar brain wiring plan, we can estimate (using the cube root of brain weight) that a single human nigral dopaminergic neuron may have an axon with gigantic arborization that totals 4 meters. Another unique feature of our species is our strictly bipedal movement, which is affected by Parkinson’s disease, in contrast to the quadrupedal movement of almost all other mammalian species. The much more unstable bipedal movement may require more dopamine, which supports the neural computation necessary for movement. The landmark discovery of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) made it possible to generate patient-specific human midbrain dopaminergic neurons to study Parkinson’s disease. A key problem for dopaminergic neurons is the duality of dopamine as a signal required for neural computation and a toxin as its oxidation produces free radicals. Our study using iPSC-derived midbrain dopaminergic neurons from PD patients with parkin mutations and normal subjects shows that parkin sustains this necessary duality by maintaining the precision of the signal while suppressing the toxicity. Mutations of parkin cause increased spontaneous release of dopamine and reduced dopamine uptake, thereby disrupting the precision of dopaminergic transmission. On the other hand, transcription of monoamine oxidase is greatly increased when parkin is mutated. This markedly increases dopamine oxidation and oxidative stress. These phenomena have not been seen in parkin knockout mice, suggesting the usefulness of parkin-deficient iPSC-derived midbrain DA neurons as a cellular model for Parkinson’s disease. Currently, we are using iPS cells and induced DA neurons to expand our studies on parkin to idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. We are also utilizing the molecular targets identified in our studies to find small-molecule compounds that can mimic the beneficial functions of parkin. The availability of human midbrain DA neurons should significantly speed up the discovery of a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Molecular and Cellular Biology; Neurodegenerative disorders; Transcription and Translation; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
My lab studies the receptor signaling mechanisms for a family of neurotrophic factors that includes ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), leptin, interferon gamma, and cardiotrophin-1. These factors use the Jak/STAT pathway to regulate neuronal survival, development and response to trauma. Our interests are in how activity of the receptors and their pathway components are regulated. Currently this has focused on the impact of cellular oxidative stress on the inhibition of Jak tyrosine kinase activity. Increases in oxidative stress in neurons result in the blockade of not only CNTF family factor effects, but of many other cytokines that also use the Jak/STAT pathway for signaling such as interferons and interleukins. Non-nerve cells appear resistant to these effects of oxidative stress. Ongoing projects include testing the theory that environmental contaminants known to increase oxidative stress in cells may promote neurodegenerative diseases by inhibiting growth factor signaling. We have been studying the effects of certain heavy metals (cadmium & mercury) and pesticides (e.g. rotenone) on nerve cells in culture to determine the molecular basis for Jak inhibition. Another examines a possible role of oxidative stress in obesity. This study tests the hypothesis that the loss of the ability of the hormone leptin to regulate metabolism and appetite during obesity is a result of oxidative reactions that inhibit Jak-mediated signaling in the hypothalamus and other brain regions.
Toxicology and Xenobiotics
Dr. Paul Kostyniak‘s primary research program has focused on the toxicology of heavy metals, chlorinated organics, and antidote development. His lab is studying mechanisms of xenobiotic disposition and investigating the role of exogenous nutrients in the elimination of toxic pollutants. Other ongoing projects involve the assessment of risk associated with exposure to PCB isomers found in fresh water fish; and the development and testing of antimicrobial surface coatings. As the director of the Toxicology Research Center, Dr. Kostyniak has organized an interdisciplinary research and teaching program which applies the expertise of toxicologists, pharmacologists, chemists, acquatic biologists, biochemists, pathologists, epidemiologists, geologists and physicians to basic and applied research problems in toxicology. The Center conducts coordinated scientific inquiries into health problems created by toxic chemicals. Dr. Kostyniak also oversees the center‘s analytical toxicology laboratory and the center‘s Atlantic OSHA Professional Education Program.
Toxicology and Xenobiotics
Assessing the Health Risks of Exposures to Organophosphate (OP) Pesticides • Characterization of the in vitro and in vivo metabolism and disposition of OP pesticides in animal models and humans. • Identify new biomarkers of susceptibility to OPs by investigating the function of genetic variants in key enzymes (CYP2B6, CYP2C19, PON1) which regulate OP metabolic activation and detoxification. • Investigate the relationship between biomarkers of exposure, effect and susceptibility in human populations with environmental and occupational exposures to pesticides. • Utilize enzyme-specific physiologically based pharmacokinetic /pharmacodynamic (PBPK/PD) models to better assess human exposure, target tissue dose and subsequent effects of OPs. Assessing the Biological and Toxicological Effects of Exposures to Persistent Halogenated Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Including Dioxins, Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). • Assessing Human Exposures to dioxins, PBDEs, and PCBs • Characterize the metabolism and disposition of dioxins, PBDEs, and PCBs in humans. • Utilize toxicogenomic approaches to understand the relationship between exposures to dioxins and/or PCBs that are ligands for the Ah receptor and mechanisms for their adverse health effects.
Drug abuse; Apoptosis and cell death; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Neurobiology; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
My laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular and cellular actions of drugs of abuse such as ethanol and hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). This information is a requisite step in the ultimate development of therapeutic interventions to alleviate the major healthcare and social burden associated with use and abuse of these drugs. In addition, these drugs provide an avenue to explore the basic workings of the brain under pathological conditions that are manifested as various psychiatric disorders. Previous studies, in collaboration with Dr JC Winter in the Dept of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UB, have investigated the roles of the various serotonin receptors subtypes and their associated signaling pathways as well as glutamatergic neurotransmission in the subjective effects of LSD-type hallucinogens. Our other studies have been aimed at understanding the adverse developmental effects of ethanol exposure that result in the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders with the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) as the most severe manifestation. Using zebrafish and neuronal cells in culture as model systems, my laboratory in collaboration with Dr CA Dlugos in the Dept of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at UB have investigated the morphological and histological changes associated with ethanol exposure during different developmental stages as well as the mechanisms by which developmental ethanol exposure causes neuronal loss. Currently, we are investigating the neurotoxic interaction of ethanol with pesticides. Because of the wide-spread use of pesticides, people are continually exposed both voluntarily and involuntarily to an array of toxic chemicals. In addition, since consumption of alcohol is pervasive in our society with a very high prevalence of alcohol use and abuse, it is extremely likely that people with be co-exposed to both ethanol and pesticides. Because simultaneous or sequential exposure to multiple chemicals can dramatically modify the ensuing toxicological responses, we are using both in vitro (e.g., cells in culture) and in vivo (e.g., zebrafish) model systems to begin assessing the possible health risk of co-exposure to ethanol and pesticides. Using the herbicide paraquat, which is widely used throughout the world, as a test compound, we have found that ethanol synergistically increases the in vitro neurotoxicity of this pesticide. Our efforts are now aimed at ascertaining whether a similar interaction occurs in vivo as well as determining the molecular mechanism responsible for this synergistic neurotoxicity. Teaching is a naturally complement to research. Accordingly, I have also been engaged in efforts to both improve how we provide the knowledge base to our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and also how we help students learn to integrate and apply this information in problem-solving at the clinical and basic science levels. Efforts include: 1. using “clickers” in large class formats to assess student’s understanding of the material and well as provide each student instantaneous feedback for their own self-assessment; 2. using cases studies and a small group learning format; and 3. Having students write short grant proposals based upon the current literature as well as reviewing and critiquing their classmate’s proposals.
Bioinformatics; Genomics and proteomics; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
Our laboratory seeks to understand hormone-triggered nuclear receptor signaling. Nuclear receptors are associated with various diseases including diabetes and cancer and the availability of several high resolution structures of their ligand binding domains make them attractive targets for drug discovery. Eight of the top 100 prescription drugs (accounting for about US $9 billion in sales) target a nuclear receptor. However, these drugs can cause a variety of side effects and some patients develop drug resistance. Tamoxifen, a drug designed to selectively target the nuclear estrogen receptor which is present in 70% of breast cancer patients, induces substantial regression of breast tumors and an increase in disease-free survival. Tamoxifen binds directly to the ligand binding domain of estrogen receptor and regulates estrogen-mediated growth of breast cancer cells. Tamoxifen mimics estrogen effects in other tissues thereby providing some beneficial effects including reduced risk of osteoporosis. However, breast cancers that initially respond well to tamoxifen tend to develop resistance and resume growth despite the continued presence of the antagonist. We specifically focus on protein interactions that regulate estrogen signaling by binding to estrogen receptors. Our objective is to identify the estrogen receptor conformation-sensing regions of the interacting proteins and to discover potential small molecule sensors using state-of-the art bioinformatics and structure-based discovery tools and use them to generate a new breed of small molecular therapeutics for breast cancer therapy.
Genomics and proteomics; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Regulation of metabolism; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
Dr. David Shubert has been at the University at Buffalo since 2006. He received is B.S in Pharmacy from Duquesne University and a Ph.D from the University at Buffalo. His research interests include the mechanism by which environmental chemicals initiate and promote cancer. He is the Assistant Dean for Biomedical Undergraduate Education and teaches pharmacology, toxicology and cardiovascular physiology. Dr. Shubert accepts undergraduate students interested in pursuing research in his areas of interest. He is an active member of the Society of Toxciology.
Cell growth, differentiation and development; Microbiology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Regulation of metabolism; Signal Transduction; Toxicology and Xenobiotics; Vitamins and Trace Nutrient
Dr. Willsky’s research focuses on the role of oxovanadium compounds in cellular metabolism. V is a trace metal believed to be required for growth. Oral administration of oxovanadium compounds alleviates the symptoms of Diabetes in animal models and humans. The techniques of genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and cell physiology are used. The diabetes-altered gene expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism, oxidative stress and signal transduction is returned to normal by V treatment of rats with STZ-induced diabetes, as demonstrated using DNA microarrays. Inhibition of tyrosine protein phosphatases is believed to be a major cause of the insulin-like effects of V. Our results implicate the interaction of V with cellular oxidation-reduction reactions as being important in the anti-diabetic mechanism of V complexes. A new project in the lab studies the mode of action of medicinal plant mixtures used by the native healers of Peru.
Behavioral pharmacology; Neuropharmacology; Toxicology and Xenobiotics
Research in my laboratory centers on the study of psychoactive drugs with special emphasis on nootropics and drugs of abuse. In collaboration with Dr. Richard Rabin of this department, behavioral data are correlated with biochemical indices of drug action in an attempt to understand at the receptor level the effects in intact animals of psychoactive drugs. Behavioral data are obtained using the techniques of operant behavior with special emphasis on the phenomenon of drug-induced stimulus control. Current interests include the serotonergic basis for the actions of indoleamine and phenethylamine hallucinogens including LSD and [-]-DOM as well as their interactions with selective monoamine reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine [Prozac]. In the area of nootropics, recent studies have examined the effects of EGb 761, an extract of Ginkgo biloba; for these investigations, a delayed non-matching to position task in a radial maze is employed. Currently, studies are in progress to assess the serotonergic basis for the cognitive effects of drugs of abuse including LSD and MDMA [Ecstasy]. Behavioral pharmacology of psychoactive drugs, including psychotherapeutic agents and drugs of abuse; mechanisms of action of hallucinogens. Research in Dr. Jerrold Winter‘s laboratory seeks to understand the ways in which drugs alter behavior. Many chemicals are candidates for study but attention in the last few years has centered on hallucinogens such as LSD, phencyclidine, DOM, and ibogaine. Another area of major interest is age-related memory impairment and those natural materials, including ginseng and gingko biloba, which are purported to influence that impairment. The behavioral effects of these drugs are studied in rats trained with the techniques of operant conditioning. Specific variables in use at the present time include drug-induced stimulus control, radial maze acquisition and performance, and conditioned place preference and aversion. In addition, Dr. Winter actively collaborates with Dr. Richard Rabin of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in order to correlate behavioral effects with biochemical indices of action at the receptor level and with functional efficacies in second messenger systems.