Biomedical Research

Kurt Amsler, Ph.D. Kurt Amsler, Ph.D.
Professor and Associate Dean for Research
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Renal ischemia/reperfusion injury; regulation of paracellular barrier permeability; renal development; polycystic kidney disease

Current research focus: Renal ischemia/reperfusion injury causes a loss of the paracellular permeability barrier that maintains renal functional capability. This permeability barrier has recently been shown to be a highly dynamic and regulated structure. Our goal is to understand the cellular mechanisms regulating this permeability barrier under normal conditions and how these regulatory mechanisms are disrupted during renal ischemia/reperfusion injury and other renal pathological conditions. Knowledge of these processes will allow us to target specifically critical steps for development of therapeutic approaches to maintain renal function.

Current or recent support: NIH


Maria Alicia Carrillo-Sepulveda Maria Alicia Carrillo-Sepulveda, B.S.N., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: The overall goal of the laboratory is to understand the mechanism (s) by which diabetes leads to microvascular and macrovascular complications. The primary goal of our group is to better understand how diabetic conditions alter key molecular mediators that are essential for maintaining vascular integrity. These studies focus on identifying potential targets that will alleviate diabetes-induced vascular complications such as atherosclerosis, coronary disease, hypertension.

Current research focus: Our current project investigates whether type II Diabetes and epigenetics modifications play a role in the development of vascular dysfunction. In collaboration with Dr. Gerdes’ Group, we are also utilizing an integrative approach to examine how thyroid hormone may benefits diabetic vascular dysfunction.


Eduard I. Dedkov Eduard I. Dedkov, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Coronary vessel growth and adaptation during development and under pathological conditions; Sex/gender-related and age-related differences in cardiovascular system; Neuropeptide and growth factor interaction during coronary angiogenesis and arteriogenesis.

Current research focus: The main goal of my current research is to understand the mechanisms involved in growth and adaptation of cardiac coronary vessels during development and under pathological conditions. One area of my investigation concerns the role of neurogenic peptide and growth factor interactions during development of the coronary vascular system. The results of this study will provide a better understanding of the congenital anomalies of human coronary vascular system. A second area of my investigation is directed towards elucidation of gender/sex-related and age-related differences in coronary vessel adaptation during post-myocardial infarction remodeling. The results of this study will provide novel information for development of more effective gender-based therapeutic interventions to reduce the rate of infarction-induced heart failure.


Martin Gerdes Martin Gerdes, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Ventricular remodeling in cardiac hypertrophy and failure; pre-clinical and translational research, thyroid hormones and heart failure, angiogenesis.

Current research focus: Recent research suggests that cardiac diseases lead to low cardiac tissue T3 levels. We have shown that hypothyroidism alone can cause heart failure characterized by systolic and diastolic dysfunction, maladaptive cardiac myocyte remodeling, and impaired coronary blood flow due to adverse vascular remodeling. Remarkable benefits have been identified in various rodent models of heart disease after treatment with thyroid hormones. Translating these benefits safely to humans is now a major objective.

Current or recent support: NIH


Isaac Kurtzer Isaac Kurtzer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Reflex stabilization of the arm; coordination of posture and movement, motor learning, proprioception.

Current research focus: Accurate motor behavior requires corrective action to handle imperfect planning and environmental changes. My research has demonstrated that within 50ms we generate corrective actions appropriate for the arm’s mechanics and the voluntary goal. We are currently uncovering the organization of these capabilities and how they are altered by Parkinson’s disease.

Current or recent support: NIH


Joerg R. Leheste Joerg R. Leheste, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research Interests: Neurodegenerative disease and bacterial infection of the central nervous system (CNS); molecular determinants of brain aging; pre-clinical and translational research

Current Research Focus: Recent research in my laboratory suggests a connection between bacterial infection of the CNS and Parkinson’s disease (PD). We are currently analyzing post mortem human brain tissue with various molecular as well as microscopical techniques in search of specific bacterial pathogens. Proof-of-concept experiments involve infected human cell lines and primary cells together with electron microscopy. Our major objective at the moment is to translate these findings into an appropriate pre-clinical animal model which will test our hypothesis in vivo and provide information about possible routes of infection.


Qiangrong Liang Qiangrong Liang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Mechanisms that mediate myocardial protection against heart failure induced by various stressful conditions.

Current research focus: Work in the laboratory is addressing three questions: (1) why diabetic patients are more susceptible to heart failure, (2) how a widely-used anti-cancer drug may contribute to heart failure, and (3) how caloric restriction can protect the heart. Central to each question is the role of mitochondria. Using both cell culture and animal models, we are investigating the molecular underpinnings of mitochondrial quality control processes including mitochondrial biogenesis and energetics, mitochondrial fission and fusion, and mitochondrial degradation known as mitophagy.

Current or recent support: ADA, NIH


Luis R. Martinez, Luis R. Martinez, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Our group is interested in understanding three basic questions in the field of infectious diseases.

Current research focus: 1) Which mechanisms are used by microbes to invade, survive, and cause disease to the host?; 2) How does the host defend itself against microbial assault?; and 3) How do microbes adapt to environmental changes and its relationship with their virulence evolution?


Ely Rabin Ely Rabin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: How sensory integration affects movement control in people with Parkinson's disease and healthy people.

Current research focus: How eye movement control influences handwriting in people with Parkinson’s disease; How haptic cues from moving surfaces can improve gait in people with Parkinson’s disease.


Raddy Ramos Raddy Ramos, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Neuronal migration and the development of synaptic connections; Neocortical and cerebellar lamination; Neurodevelopmental malformations and developmental disorders.

Current research focus: Developing and utilizing rodent models of brain development and neurological disorders. Identifying the molecular and cellular mechanisms for normal brain development and the establishment of neuronal connections in order to understand neurodevelopmental disorders and to aid in designing novel therapies.


German Torres German Torres, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Active maintenance of genome stability in the nervous system; understanding how defective DNA double-strand breaks can result in syndrome with varied neuropathology; exploring how psychotropic drugs affect the role of bacteria in gut chemistry

Current research focus: Research suggests that neurons of the mammalian brain are susceptible to DNA damage during genome replication or in brain pathology contexts. We have preliminary data showing that the Parkinsonian brain and the brains of animal models of Parkinson’s disease are particularly prone to DNA double-strand breaks. Thus, understanding in more detail the mechanisms of DNA breaks and DNA repair has far-reaching implications for developing meaningful therapies for neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. We are also investigating the link between gut flora and human mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.


Aleksandr Vasilyev Aleksandr Vasilyev, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Kidney development and regeneration, evolution of kidney function.

Current research focus: Our current research program aims to investigate the basic mechanisms underlying kidney morphogenesis and regeneration. In particular, several of our studies focus on the role of cell migration in kidney development and repair. We use transgenic zebrafish to visualize and to explore cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying developmental and regeneration processes.

Current or recent support: NIH


Dong Zhang Dong Zhang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Elucidate the molecular mechanism of how humans maintain a stable genome and avoid developing genetic diseases such as cancers. Explore novel therapeutic strategies to treat breast cancers and ovarian cancers.

Current research focus: Women with mutations in the Breast Cancer Gene 1 (BRCA1) are highly susceptible to breast cancers as well as ovarian cancers. The research in my lab is currently focusing on the roles of BRCA1 in DNA damage response and DNA repair. In addition, we are also exploring novel synthetic lethal strategies to target breast cancers and ovarian cancers bearing the BRCA1 mutations.


Youhua Zhang Youhua Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences

Research interests: Cardiac electrophysiology, arrhythmias and heart failure; pre-clinical and translational research, autonomic nervous system in atrial fibrillation and heart failure; atrioventricular (AV) node dual pathway electrophysiology.

Current research focus: We are currently studying the potential role of the cardiac autonomic nervous system in atrial remodeling and increased atrial fibrillation arrhythmogenesis in a rat myocardial infarction/heart failure model, and determining potential treatment options to improve outcome. We are also investigating the potential functional and histological basis responsible for AV nodal dual pathway electrophysiology guided by a novel index discovered in our lab.

 
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