With no cure, no approved treatment and no known means of slowing its progression, polycystic kidney disease is a biomedical cold case that affects more than 600,000 people in the U.S. alone — and some 12 million worldwide. Hoping to crack that case with science, MCDB professor Thomas Weimbs is working to develop a new therapeutic approach by targeting the mechanism that causes the cysts to grow. A new gift to his lab by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust of New York is providing a big boost to that effort.
It’s the most common cause of death in American hospitals and among the top five killers worldwide, but sepsis remains largely under the radar in conversations about public health — and in promising treatments.
A biomedical scientist at UC Santa Barbara may have a hand in reversing both those trends, thanks to his novel therapeutic approach and a big new grant from the National Institutes of Health.
MCDB’s Denise Montell is the recipient of a 2014 Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The annual award recognizes a select group of scientists whose bold and innovative “pioneering” approaches have the potential to make an unusually high impact on a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research. Montell, the Duggan Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and her research team at UCSB define and solve fundamental questions in cell and developmental biology using fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) genetics, mammalian cell culture and state-of-the-art imaging approaches. Her team and their collaborators recently discovered a surprising reversibility of the cell suicide process known as apoptosis. Cells that have progressed beyond steps previously considered to be points of no return can reverse the dying process, recover and go on to proliferate. Depending on the circumstances, this has the potential for significant consequences, both positive and negative.
Pioneering research using stem cells to regenerate eye tissue conducted by MCDB’s Dennis Clegg and co-workers may one day help people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As the first person to hold the newly endowed Wilcox Family Chair in BioMedicine, Clegg is poised to bring stem-cell-based therapy for AMD to Phase I clinical trials.
MCDB is home to a newly created endowed chair in biomedical research. This endowed chair was made possible by a generous gift of the Wilcox family in support of biomedical and translational research. The inaugural holder of the chair will be Professor Dennis Clegg who is being recognized for his pioneering research in regenerative eye research and for his leadership of the UC Santa Barbara Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering. Professor Clegg is Co-Director of the California Project to Cure Blindness, an effort to develop a stem cell-based therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The new chair was established by Sue and Gary Wilcox, both of whom are alumni of UCSB. Gary is currently Chairman and CEO of Cocrystal Pharma, Inc. and is Chairman of ADRx, Inc., companies founded to develop life-saving therapies through the application of leading-edge science. Gary and Sue are active in numerous UCSB boards and activities, among which are the UCSB Board of Trustees, UCSB Alumni Association and Sciences Dean’s Cabinet.
UCSB played an important role in revealing how illness-linked genetic variation affects neurons. Scientific consensus holds that most major mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, are genetically rooted diseases of synapses, the connections between neurons in the brain. New research has demonstrated how a rare mutation in a suspect gene corrupts the on-off switches of dozens of other genes underlying these connections in patients’ cells. The study appears online in the current issue of the journal Nature and was co-authored by MCDB’s Ken Kosik and members of his Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology Lab.
Sophomores and juniors selected for UCSB's Research Mentorship Program are spending six weeks this summer studying stem cells
About 70 high school students from Santa Barbara County — and far beyond — crowded into the Hatlen Theater at UC Santa Barbara this week, bright-eyed and waiting for a stimulating talk about the latest brain control research.
Dr. Denise Montell is the Duggan Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Stanford University, and afterwards completed an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship at the Carnegie Institute of Science. She served as a faculty member at the Carnegie Institute and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at UC Santa Barbara. Denise is with us today to tell us about her journey through life and science.
Kosik and collaborators simulate the benefits of a hypothetical megafund devoted to Alzheimer’s therapeutics
Britney Pennington is a PhD candidate in BioMolecular Science & Engineering. She received Bachelor’s degrees in both Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2008. She has served as a Teaching Assistant for General Biochemistry, Neurobiology II, and Introductory Biology laboratory, and volunteered as a TA for Stem Cell Biology in Health & Disease. She is noted not only as an excellent teacher by her students, but also as an accomplished and motivated researcher by her faculty colleagues. As one of her faculty references states, “In my 25 years at UCSB, she ranks at the very top in terms of teaching ability and enthusiasm for science education and teaching. She is also an intelligent and capable researcher with a strong and passionate commitment to science, and she is already making an impact on the field. She is one of a kind!”