Tag Archive | "miller school of medicine"

Human Research Protection Program Receives Accreditation

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Human Research Protection Program Receives Accreditation

Special to UM News


From left are AAHRPP’s Michelle Feige, executive vice president, and Elyse I. Summers, president and CEO; and UM’s Dushyantha Jayaweera, Thomas J. LeBlanc, and Pascal J. Goldschmidt.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 23, 2015) —The University of Miami’s Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) has been awarded full accreditation by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs.

“AAHRPP accreditation is a ‘gold seal’ that offers assurances—to research participants, researchers, sponsors, government regulators, and the general public—that an HRPP is focused first and foremost on excellence,” said Dushyantha T. Jayaweera, M.D., professor of medicine and associate vice provost for human subject research, who directs the Miller School of Medicine’s Human Subject Research Office.

“Accreditation demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the most comprehensive protections for human research participants, and to high quality and ethically sound research,” Jayaweera said. “Becoming accredited is a remarkable achievement and a true testament to what we can accomplish together.”

The Institutional Review Boards, supported by the Human Subject Research Office, are the backbone on which UM’s HRPP is built, but accreditation acknowledges the critical contributions and collective excellence of the entire HRPP team. That includes principal investigators and their study teams, Research Compliance and Quality Assurance, Clinical Research Operations and Research Support, Research Information Technology, Disclosure and Conflict Management, and the Office of Research Administration.

“AAHRPP accreditation is a voluntary process that exemplifies the University of Miami’s commitment to high-quality clinical research and the protection of human subjects,” said UM Interim President Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost. “By choosing to undergo this accreditation process, we have demonstrated our confidence in the faculty and staff who conduct clinical research, serve on the Institutional Review Boards, and oversee human subject research.”

“When you hold yourself up to the highest standards, your efforts will be recognized and rewarded,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth. “The AAHRPP accreditation confirms that we meet the highest standards of research with human subjects, and it will open new doors to collaborative ventures and additional funding.”

“This accreditation is a real milestone for our HRPP on its journey to the top tier,” said John L. Bixby, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and neurological surgery, and vice provost for research. “The process is demanding, and our Human Subject Research Office deserves huge praise for organizing and leading the entire effort.”

Jayaweera says the AAHRPP accreditation was an involved process that required two years of effort, but it was eased by strong support from top administration at the Miller School and at UM.

“It fosters a spirit of trust among research and industry partners, as well as federal agencies,” he said. “This enables us to be in a better position to compete for the pharmaceutically sponsored trials, serve as the IRB of record for national multi-center studies, and continuously look at our processes.

“The preparation for accreditation is a comprehensive review of the entire program. It serves as a form of quality assurance in an effort to minimize the risk of noncompliance to the institution, enhance protection of the human subjects, and make the operation more efficient.”

AAHRPP is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body that uses a voluntary, peer-driven, educational model to ensure that HRPPs meet rigorous standards for quality and protection. To earn accreditation, organizations must provide tangible evidence—through policies, procedures and practices—of their commitment to scientifically and ethically sound research and to continuous improvement.

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Register Now for South Florida Conference on Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury on June 20

The South Florida Conference on Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury, to be held Saturday, June 20 at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Diagnostic Treatment Center, is open for registration.

A partnership of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital, the conference will focus on the latest information for the care and treatment of patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. It will bring together researchers, clinicians, and patients with spinal or brain injuries to present a variety of research findings and advances in clinical care.

Conference directors are Diana D. Cardenas, M.D., M.H.A., professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and chief of service at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital; and Doug Johnson-Green, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor and associate vice chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and director of Rehabilitation Psychology and Neuropsychology.

Presentations intended for health care professionals, and others for patients and their families, will be held simultaneously. Additional information and registration are available on the conference home page.



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Propelled by Gratitude, Twice-Paralyzed Hockey Player Rides for The Miami Project

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Propelled by Gratitude, Twice-Paralyzed Hockey Player Rides for The Miami Project

Special to UM News


Surrounding Marc Buoniconti, seated, are, from left, Teague Egan, Tom Smith, Chris Smith, John McCarthy and Barth A. Green, M.D.

MIAMI, Fla. (May 28, 2015)— Tom Smith, a twice-paralyzed former hockey player, rode 2,100 miles from Massachusetts to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine last month, concluding his 38-day Reality Ride Challenge to raise funds and awareness for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs, which he credit for his recovery.

“The Reality Ride Challenge is a testament to what great doctors and therapists can do for someone with paralysis,” said Smith. “My goal is to build this ride into a fundraising platform to help The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis expedite the process of finding a cure so that everyone in a wheelchair can have the same opportunity to recover that I had.”

Smith, a former patient of Barth A. Green, M.D., the chair of neurological surgery and co-founder of The Miami Project, was first paralyzed in August of 2008 during an intense hockey play but was able to walk again after receiving treatment and therapy at The Miami Project. A similar injury occurred at another hockey game in 2009. Upon recovering, Smith decided he wanted to give back. With the Reality Ride Challenge his team raised $100,000 for The Miami Project’s paralysis research programs.

“What Tom and his team have been able to accomplish through the Reality Ride on behalf of The Miami Project is nothing short of remarkable,”said Miami Project President Marc Buoniconti. “Their determination to make this a reality in order to help others devastated by paralysis is admirable and we are proud to call them our friends.”

The ride left from Boston on March 25, with each day consisting of  65 miles on a bicycle, two miles in a sitting wheelchair bike, and one mile walking. The ride, which traced Smith’s path from his accident in Massachusetts to his recovery at The Miami Project, was also a brutal test of physical endurance and mental fortitude.

At The Miami Project’s research facility, Buoniconti and Green led a welcoming party with dozens of well-wishers that included family, friends, and researchers.

The Reality Ride Challenge is symbolic for riding and walking for those who cannot, said Smith, who completed the distance with advisor Teague Egan and others who joined for segments along the way.

Smith said that he is a “living, breathing, walking example of how the world-class doctors, scientists, physical therapists and nurses at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis improve the daily lives of those living with paralysis.”

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Zebrafish Research Provides Clues on Autism

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Zebrafish Research Provides Clues on Autism

By Marie Guma-Diaz
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 27, 2015) – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition that affects approximately 2 percent of people around the world. Although several genes have been linked to multiple concurring conditions of ASD, the process that explains how specific genetic variants lead to behaviors characteristic of the disorder remains elusive.

Now, researchers are utilizing animal models to understand how dysfunction of either of two genes associated with ASD, SYNGAP1 and SHANK 3, contributes to risk in ASD. The new findings pinpoint the actual place and time where these genes exert influence in brain development and function. The findings are published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

“The overall goal of our study was to generate and directly compare two zebrafish models of ASD and to gain an in vivo perspective on how ASD genetic variants impact neural circuit development in embryos,” said Julia E. Dallman, assistant professor of biology at the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences and lead investigator of the study. “Our work begins to address a major gap in our current understanding of ASD.”

The findings show that disrupting the expression or “knocking down” either SYNGAP1 or SHANK 3 genes affects early brain development in the mid- and hind-brain regions and results in hyper-excitable behaviors.

“It is well known that genetics plays a significant role in ASD risk and that many genes are involved, but the exact nature of their involvement is not well understood,” said Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genetics, at the UM Miller School of Medicine, and co-author of the study. “The implications of the present study are important as it helps us understand how two ASD-related genes, SHANK3 and SYNGAP1, contribute to the development of the disorder.”

The study is titled: “Two knockdown models of the autism genes SYNGAP1 and SHANK3 produce similar behavioral phonotypes associated with embryonic disruptions of brain morphogenesis.

In contrast to previous studies of ASD-linked genes in humans and mice, the current study is conducted in developing zebrafish because zebrafish embryos are transparent organisms that develop outside the mother, thus allowing the researchers to observe early brain development in the fish.

The researchers chose to analyze SYNGAP1 and SHANK3 orthologs—genes in different species that have a common ancestor and maintain the same function—since embryonic functions of these ASD-linked genes are unknown.

The study utilized three groups of fish. In two of the groups, the expression of either SYNGAP 1 or SHANK 3 genes was knocked down by injecting a molecule that specifically targets each gene. The third was also injected with a similar molecule, but with no match in the zebrafish genome, so it functioned as a control group. The behavior of larvae in all groups was analyzed by studying their escape responses in the presence of a stimulus.

The experiments showed that while control larvae swam away from the stimulus, the knock-down larvae had unproductive escape responses, as well as significantly reduced swimming velocities.

Moreover, a subset of the knock-down larvae exhibited spontaneous seizure-like behaviors, and there were significant changes in the brain structure of these larvae, indicative of delayed development.

Together these findings support the emerging opinion that mutations of specific ASD-related genes disrupt early embryogenesis and that these early disruptions play a key role in the development of the disorder.

The team is now working to determine exactly how early developmental deficits impact later behaviors. In the long-term, they hope to use SYNGAP1 and SHANK3 zebrafish models for drug screening, to identify environmental risk factors, and test potential therapies for ASD.

This work was supported by an NIH grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health to Julia Dallman and by funding from both the Seaver Foundation to Joseph Buxbaum and the John P. Hussman Foundation to Margaret Pericak-Vance.

Robert A. Kozol, graduate research assistant in the UM Department of Biology is first author of the study. Other coauthors from the UM Department of Biology are: James D. Baker, research assistant professor, and Bing Zou, graduate student. From the UM John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics: Eden R. Martin, professor of human genetics and public health sciences; Michael L. Cuccaro, professor of human genetics and psychology; John R. Gilbert, professor of human genetics; Holly N. Cukier, assistant scientist; Vera Mayo, research associate; Anthony J. Griswold, associate scientist, and Patrice L. Whitehead, research laboratory director.

From The Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment Department of Psychiatry, Friedman Brain Institute and Mindich Child Health and Development Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: Silvia De Rubeis, postdoctoral fellow; Guiqing Cai, clinical molecular genetics fellow; and Joseph D. Buxbaum, professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, genetic and genomic sciences; and from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute for Computational Biology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine: Jonathan L. Haines, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology.

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Graduate School Honors Students, Faculty, and Staff

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Graduate School Honors Students, Faculty, and Staff

Graduate students from the College of Engineering join M. Brian Blake, (second from right) vice provost of academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School, as he presents the College of Engineering's Nurcin Celick with the 2014-2015 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Graduate students from the College of Engineering join M. Brian Blake, (second from right) vice provost of academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School, as he presents the College of Engineering’s Nurcin Celik with the 2014-2015 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 14, 2015)— The Graduate School recognized its top graduate students, faculty, and staff at the 2014-2015 Graduate Awards Ceremony, including the Miller School’s Sandra Lemmon as the Outstanding Graduate Program Director and the College of Engineering’s Nurcin Celik as Faculty Mentor of the Year.

Noting that the ceremony, held April 10 on the Moss Terrace at the Student Activities Center, allows the UM community to celebrate the work of all of its graduate students, faculty, and staff, M. Brian Blake, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School, congratulated all of the 60-plus nominees “for their accomplishments that continually enhance graduate education at the University.”

In addition to Lemmon, professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology and director of the M.D./Ph.D. Program, and Celik, assistant professor of industrial engineering, seven other individuals from multiple disciplines and all three campuses were honored in the categories of Graduate Student Exemplar, Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant, and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant. They are:

Qinghua Yang, School of Communication
Outstanding Research Assistant

Aristotelis E. Thanos, College of Engineering
Outstanding Research Assistant

Youaraj Uprety, College of Arts and Sciences
Outstanding Teaching Assistant

Patrice E. Fenton, School of Education and Human Development
Outstanding Teaching Assistant

Alisa Be, College of Arts and Sciences
Outstanding Teaching Assistant

Xiaoran Shi, College of Engineering
Graduate Student Exemplar

Raul Velarde, College of Engineering
Graduate Student Exemplar

View more pictures from the ceremony on Facebook.


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