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Dr. Helen Scharfman Receives Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award

Dr. Helen Scharfman is the recipient of a 2022 Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The Javits Award is a conditional, seven-year research grant given to scientists for their superior competence and outstanding productivity. Javits Awards provide long-term support to investigators with a history of exceptional talent, imagination, and preeminent scientific achievement.

Dr. Scharfman’s research focuses on neuronal excitability and plasticity, neuroendocrinology, and neurogenesis. She studies these basic mechanisms in the hippocampus with a special emphasis on their contribution to mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy. She was the first to show the excitatory nature of mossy cells using electrophysiological recordings. Her project aims to examine the role of mossy cells during acute status epilepticus, the latent phase, and chronic spontaneous recurrent seizures, and in cognitive/emotional comorbidities in two animal models of temporal lobe epilepsy. This research could establish dual roles for mossy cells in acute and chronic phases of temporal lobe epilepsy and potentially give rise to new approaches for therapy development.

NAMI-NYS Awards Recognize Two NKI Investigators

At the NAMI New York State Education Conference held on November 11-12 in Albany, two NKI researchers were presented with awards.

Matthew Hoptman, PhD, received the 2022 Excellence in Research Award, recognizing his decades of work studying impulsivity and aggression and his recent work on suicidality in schizophrenia employing a variety of neuroimaging modalities. Dr. Hoptman is a Research Scientist at NKI and a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Jean-Pierre Lindenmayer, MD, was presented with the Dr. Lewis Opler Memorial Award for his lifetime of work for those affected by psychiatric conditions. Dr. Lindenmayer is Director of the Psychopharmacology Research Program located at Manhattan Psychiatric Center, where he just recently retired as the Clinical Director. Dr Lindenmayer's research work has centered on introducing the PANSS assessment to research and on developing both pharmacological and non-pharmacological novel treatment strategies for patients with treatment resistant schizophrenia. He is also a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

NKI's Most Highly Cited Researchers: Xavier Castellanos, MD, and Michael Milham, MD, PhD

Two NKI investigators have once again been recognized for their high-impact research. Drs. F. Xavier Castellanos and Michael P. Milham both appear on the 2022 list of Highly Cited Researchers compiled by Clarivate. Both have made the list every year since 2014, demonstrating their consistent output and influence.

The Highly Cited Researchers list recognizes the world's most influential researchers of the past decade, demonstrated by the production of multiple highly-cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year. This select group includes only 1 in 1,000 of the world’s researchers.

Dr. Castellanos is a Senior Research Psychiatrist at NKI and an endowed Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Professor of Radiology and Neuroscience at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Dr. Milham directs the Center for Biomedical Imaging and Neuromodulation (C-BIN) at NKI and is Vice President of Research at the Child Mind Institute.

Dr. Ayana Jordan Receives the First ASAM DEI Award

Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD, has been selected by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to be the first recipient of ASAM’s Award for the Promotion of Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Justice in Addiction Medicine. This award recognizes and honors an individual whose work in the area of injustice related to addiction care has improved the lives of people with addiction disorders who have been the object of discrimination, injustice, exclusion, or persecution. The presentation of the award will occur at the ASAM Annual Conference in Washington, DC, in April, 2023.

Dr. Jordan is a Research Psychiatrist in NKI’s Social Solutions and Services Division. She is also the Barbara Wilson Endowed Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry, with a secondary appointment in Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Pillar Co-Lead for Community Engagement at NYU Langone’s Institute for Excellence in Health Equity.

The Levy Laboratory Describes a Method to Isolate a Novel Type of Extracellular Vesicle from the Brain

A new paper published in Nature Protocols by Pasquale D'Acunzo, Yohan Kim, Jonathan M. Ungania, Rocío Pérez-González, Chris N. Goulbourne, and Efrat Levy, all current or former members of the Center for Dementia Research (CDR), describes in great detail a method to isolate, fractionate, and analyze subpopulations of extracellular vesicles from the extracellular space of the brain. Extracellular vesicles are very small membrane-bound, heterogeneous, spherical structures containing proteins, RNA, and DNA that shuttle from cells into the extracellular milieu and from one cell to the other in order to eliminate waste from cells and to exchange information and material between cells.

Typical hallmarks of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease include the spreading of pathology from a single focal site to the rest of the brain and impairment in the processing of material, which eventually accumulates both inside and outside the cells, becoming toxic to neurons. Extracellular vesicles have roles in both the maintenance of homeostasis in the normal brain and in pathological processes in neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, they have attracted scientific interest, growing exponentially in the last decade.

Pathogenic hotspots in the brain during aging, in neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental, and psychiatric disorders include mitochondrial failure and endosomal-lysosomal system dysfunction, which likely play causative roles in neuron degeneration. Separation and identification of different subtypes of extracellular vesicles enable the discovery of roles that the different types of vesicles play in these conditions and initiate the development of novel therapeutic and diagnostic tools, capitalizing on the biology of brain extracellular vesicles.

The Levy laboratory is an international leader in the study of extracellular vesicles in the brain and was the first in 2012 to report a method to isolate these vesicles from the brain, paving the way for a new line of research in the field. Through the intervening decade, the laboratory has continuously worked to improve this method in order to identify the heterogeneity of extracellular vesicles in the brain. The culmination of these efforts led to the development of a high-resolution fractionation technique that separates eight extracellular vesicle subpopulations, including a previously unidentified subtype of extracellular vesicles of mitochondrial origin that the authors named mitovesicles. The final, improved method is described in the recently published paper in Nature Protocols in great detail.


Reference: D'Acunzo P, Kim Y, Ungania JM, Pérez-González R, Goulbourne CN, Levy E. Isolation of mitochondria-derived mitovesicles and subpopulations of microvesicles and exosomes from brain tissues. Nat Protoc. 2022 Aug 12. doi: 10.1038/s41596-022-00719-1. PMID: 35962195.