Over the last four years, BBI has awarded seed funding to 27 teams of innovative interdisciplinary researchers from nearly 30 departments, centers, and institutes across campus. These have been extremely successful: BBI's $1.75M investment has yielded $12.5M in funding from NIH, NSF, and AFSOR.
Researchers at the National Eye Institute are launching a clinical trial to test the safety of a novel patient-specific stem cell-based therapy to treat geographic atrophy, the advanced “dry” form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among people age 65 and older, and the geographic atrophy form of AMD currently has no treatment. The protocol, which prevented blindness in animal models, is the first clinical trial in the U.S. to use replacement tissues from patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells. The use of an individual’s own blood cells is expected to minimize the risk of the body rejecting the implant.
An international team has created an experimental device made of a tangle of silver nanowires that exhibited characteristics analogous to certain behaviors of the brain—learning, memorization, forgetting, wakefulness, and sleep. Allowed to randomly self-assemble on a silicon wafer, the nanowires formed highly interconnected structures that are remarkably similar to those that form the neocortex, the part of the brain involved with higher functions such as language, perception, and cognition. The research is one early step along a path that could lead to machines capable of solving problems that contemporary computers struggle with.
Researchers say they have developed a new gene therapy technique that has the potential to reverse disease processes. The experimental therapy slowed tumor growth and prolonged survival in mice with gliomas, which constitute about 80% of malignant brain tumors in humans. The method takes advantage of exosomes, fluid-filled sacs that cells release as a way to communicate with other cells. The technique prompts cells to spit out millions of exosomes that, after being collected and purified, function as nanocarriers containing a drug. When injected into the bloodstream, the cells know exactly where in the body to find their target, even if this is in the brain.
The colorful lights above might look like one of the spectacular evening light shows from the holiday season. However, these lights are in fact illuminating the way to a much fuller understanding of the mammalian brain. The video shown here features a new research method called Barcoded Anatomy Resolved by Sequencing (BARseq), which enables scientists to map in a matter of weeks the location of thousands of neurons in the mouse brain with greater precision than has ever been possible before. With BARseq, researchers generate uniquely identifying RNA barcodes and then tag one to each individual neuron within brain tissue. These barcodes then allow scientists to track of the location of an individual cell amid millions of neurons.
Neuroscience has long accepted the general principle that different areas of the precentral gyrus specialize in controlling specific parts of the body, such as the hands, legs, face, and so on. One of these areas is the “hand knob,” which is a knobby region of the gyrus involved in hand and arm movements. Now, one research team suggests that the hand knob also has another, surprising function: some of its neurons are also active during speech, and their signals can be decoded to reveal the word or sound uttered. These results lend new insight into brain organization, and they could be useful in devising future brain-computer interfaces that would enable communication by people who cannot talk.
Stark gaps remain in the gender disparities in science and medicine: on average, female researchers still earn less, receive less funding at the crucial start of their careers, and are cited less often than their male counterparts. Now, a new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that subtle differences in how women describe their discoveries may affect their career trajectories. Compared to female authors, male authors were more likely to sprinkle words like “novel,” “unique,” and “excellent” into the abstracts that summarize their scientific papers. Such positively framed findings were more likely to be cited by peers later on, a key measure of the influence of a person’s research.
*New!* The NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) (PAR-20-066) supports educational activities that encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, to pursue further studies or careers in research. Applications due February 21, 2020. Internal UMD deadline January 13, 2020.
The NSF seeks applications both for the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization, and for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from among the most meritorious recent CAREER awardees. Applications due July 27, 2020.