Media Coverage

An article by Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry, looks at leghemoglobin, the ingredient that makes the plant-based Impossible Burger look and taste like real beef. “The commercialization of leghemoglobin represents an unanticipated consequence of inquiry into an interesting biological phenomenon. The benefits of scientific research are often unforeseen at the time of their discovery. Whether or not the Impossible Burger venture succeeds on a large scale remains to be seen, but surely food technology will continue to evolve to accommodate human needs as it has since the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago,” he writes.
An article about the results of a sweeping analysis of how astronaut Scott Kelly’s body changed and what returned to normal after a year in space interviews Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics graduate program, who was not involved in the study. “In this paper they showed there was no statistically significant difference in genetic modifications they could find between the twin in the space station with the one on the ground,” he said. “That’s good news.”
A $2 million National Institutes of Health grant to UB’s Hunter James Kelly Research Institute will fund a novel approach into understanding and ultimately curing Krabbe’s Disease, the disease that killed Hunter James Kelly, the son of Jim and Jill Kelly for whom the institute was named. “Krabbe is a devastating neurological disease of newborn babies, bringing them, unfortunately, to die within a few years of life," said M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology, and co-director of the institute.
Articles about prescription drug addiction in older adults quote Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addiction, who discussed the tendency for these patients to sometimes combine opioids with benzodiazepines because of an increased tolerance for these drugs. “They’re not using these medications to get high or for risk-taking but they’re using them to manage their pain,” he said. “Sometimes they combine them with benzodiazepines that they are prescribed. And many of the deaths that we see involve a combination of opiates and benzodiazepines.”
John J. Leddy, MD, clinical professor of orthopaedics and medical director of UB’s Concussion Management Clinic, was quoted in news outlets commented on a study finding increased levels of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder with mild traumatic brain injury, noting: “All in all, I think it's a good study for helping to predict who is at risk for depression and PTSD after a traumatic brain injury sustained in a car accident or from an assault," he said, "but the results cannot be generalized to athletes with a sport concussion."
Publications reported on an international study published in The Lancet Neurology and led by Gil I. Wolfe, MD, UB Distinguished Professor and Irvin and Rosemary Smith Chair of the Department of Neurology, that found that patients with the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis do better when they undergo surgery to remove the thymus gland even five years after the procedure than do patients who do not undergo the surgery.
A story about the growing popularity of the plant-based supplement Kratom, which a local man credits for saving his life, interviews Praveen K. Chandrasekharan, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, who said not enough is known about the drug to promote it. “There are a couple of components in Kratom that can act very similar to opioid substance and so there's a link towards addictive potential,” he said. “When the FDA says it needs to regulate it, it's definitely a concern.”
A story about the various illnesses that are going around now that the weather is becoming more spring-like interviews Stanley A. Schwartz, MD, PhD, UB Distinguished Professor of medicine and pediatrics. “The spring’s a funny time,” said Schwartz, chief of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology. “In the springtime there are a whole bunch of different viruses that become very prevalent. Most of them are harmless ... harmless in the sense that they're not going to kill you, but you may feel like you're going to die.”
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is teaming with Mariner Endosurgery to test a new 3D surgical navigation system. “This cutting-edge navigation system brings surgeons unprecedented 3D spatial awareness during minimally invasive abdominal procedures,” said Stephen D. Schwaitzberg, MD, professor and chair of surgery. “The potential to expand this to other types of surgery is intriguing as well.”
An article spotlights the work of Paresh Dandona, MD, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine and chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, and his colleagues at the Diabetes-Endocrinology Center of Western New York in Amherst.
A new research study co-authored by Jack Tseng, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, examines the oddly shaped skull of an extinct weasel called Leptarctus primus. The study found that the animal was likely a carnivorous predator, with capability for omnivory and a broader diet when prey was scarce, and had a skull that functioned similarly to that of the living American badger. “For a mammal, its skull is really strange,” said Tseng, who also serves as a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History. “It’s heavily built — like a tank — with very thick zygomatic cheek bones. The top of its head looks like it’s wearing a helmet.”
An article about a Florida man who was high on erotic-themed whippets when he crashed a car and killed a lawyer quotes Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions. Leonard described how whippets, which are cannisters of nitrous oxide, have taken a beat seat, in terms of usage and public policy, to other illicit drugs. “I haven't heard much about whippets for some time either. Opioids, heroin, and fentanyl, along with cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids remain among the top concerns (along with alcohol and tobacco),” Leonard said.
A roundup of appointments, resignations and other items notes that Jennifer A. Meka, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, has been named the inaugural director of the Medical Education and Educational Research Institute and assistant dean of medical education.
Articles about using cannabis to treat stress-induced depression report a study by Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD, senior research scientist in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions, that showed that cannabis could potentially help stabilize mood and treat stress-induced depression.
In an opinion pieceMichael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, describes how in 2011, the New York SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Western New York delegation in the Legislature and UB moved forward with the vision to create a world-class academic health center. He writes that that vision began to be realized with the new school’s opening downtown in December 2017 and that continued investment by the state is crucial, especially for hiring faculty in critical areas.