Researchers Witness Promising Cancer Treatment Results in the Lab as They Head toward Clinical Trials and Patent

Natural HPV/Cervical Cancer Treatment May Hold Key to a Cure

Research alliance between Staten Island University Hospital and CUNY College of Staten Island seeks patent for food-based therapies that target and kill tumor cells

The BLICaR Team: Jimmie Fata, PhD (CSI); Mario Castellanos, MD (SIUH);Pria Ranjan Debata, Ph (CSI); Anita Szerszen, DO (SIUH); Probal Banerjee PhD (CSI).

A revolutionary step toward curing cervical cancer is being forged by medical researchers on Staten Island.

A collaboration between Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), which is part of the North Shore–LIJ Health System, and a team of scientists at The City University of New York’s  College of Staten Island (CSI) has resulted in laboratory evidence of a breakthrough treatment that has the potential to open the door for a new wave of studies.

The partnership, known as Biomedical Laboratories for Integrative Cancer Research (BLICaR), is studying the capability of non-toxic food components to successfully target and kill tumor cells. Under study is curcumin, a spice component of the herb turmeric.

Food as Pharmacy

In the laboratory, strategic chemical linking of curcumin to cancer cell-targeted antibodies has been found to dramatically enhance the spice’s ability to kill melanomas, the most serious form of skin cancer, as well as glioblastoma cells, which form from supportive tissue of the brain and spinal cord.

The BLICaR research team is studying novel approaches to deliver curcumin to cancer cells in the cervix, breast, skin, and brain.

Unlike commonly used toxic chemotherapies, curcumin holds the promise of being relatively safe for normal cells, and therefore may yield a safe treatment strategy without side effects.

“When we began the process about two years ago, we already were aware that curcumin has potent anticancer and antiviral properties,” said Dr.Probal Banerjee, a CSI Professor in the Department of Chemistry and lead scientist in the BLICaR group. “In the past, however, it has been difficult to harness the benefits of curcumin as a treatment because of its tendency to quickly degrade when administered into the body.”

Collaborative Research, Common Cause

The solution to overcoming curcumin’s poor systemic bioavailability for cancer treatments was found during preclinical trials by Dr. Banerjee and the core team of BLICaR researchers: Anita Szerszen, DO, Director of Geriatric Research (SIUH); Mario Castellanos, MD, Clinical Director of Research in the SIUH Department of Medicine; Jimmie Fata, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology (CSI), an expert in breast cancer research; and Pria Ranjan Debata, PhD, post-doctoral fellow and lead executor of the experimental aspects of the project.

Killing on Contact in the Lab

The BLICaR project tested the possibility of developing a curcumin-based therapy for cervical cancer, which is caused by certain strains of Human Papillomvirus (HPV). This effort resulted in the development of Vacurin, a curcumin-based vaginal cream, which effectively eradicates HPV (+) cancer cells and does not affect non-cancerous tissue. The team published these results in the journal Gynecologic Oncology in 2012 and applied for a patent for their recent breakthroughs in 2012.

“Our preclinical data supports this novel approach for the treatment of cervical HPV infection,” Dr. Banerjee said. “The next step is to bring what we have accomplished in the lab to the patient.”

The BLICaR team hopes to accomplish this within a year, said Dr. Castellanos of SIUH. He presented their innovative treatment at the prestigious 28th International Papillomavirus Conference and Scientific Meeting in November 2012 in San Juan,Puerto Rico.

From Lab to Patient

Curcumin-based vaginal cream may not be successful in treating HPV-induced cervical cancers, which have already spread to the uterus and ovaries. However, the team’s preclinical research has also led to a natural formulation that can be injected and may offer greater efficacy for more advanced tumors. According to Banerjee, the team’s laboratory experiments have shown a dramatic response in advanced-stage cancers. Currently, the team is examining such innovative methods and novel formulations to effectively treat patients with HPV infections and all stages of cervical cancer.

Dr. Castellanos is in the forefront of this promising therapy in the clinical setting at SIUH. “So that we can begin a phase-one clinical trial, we need approval from the FDA,” Dr. Castellanos said. “The largest hurdle we are facing right now is the funding that is needed to get there.”

“The College of Staten Island is committed to community-based collaborative research projects that bring leading experts in their fields together to solve some of today’s most challenging issues with innovative approaches to finding solutions,” commented Dr. William J. Fritz, Interim President of CSI. “Together with SIUH, we are proud to be at the forefront of this promising curative and preventative approach.”

“Staten Island University Hospital has a long and proud history of innovation in healthcare, and now, as part of the North Shore–LIJ Health System with its pre-eminent Feinstein Cancer Institute and our partnership with CSI researchers, we have the potential to achieve even more,” said Anthony C. Ferreri,  SIUH President and CEO.

Local Research, Global Impact

Despite advances and preventative measures, such as PAP tests and vaccines, many women are continuing to develop cervical cancer worldwide.

—About 12, 000 women in the United States develop cervical cancer each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

—In the U.S., most women are routinely examined for signs of HPV and, if needed, are treated prior to the development of cancer.

—In other countries, PAP smears are not common. This leads to a higher incidence of cervical cancer.

—Every year, more than 270,000 women die from cervical cancer, with more than 85 percent of these deaths in low and middle income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

“In the U.S., most women are routinely examined for signs of HPV and, if needed, are treated prior to the development of a cancer,” Dr. Fata said. “In some countries, PAP tests are not as common, leading to a higher incidence of cervical cancers.”

As research continues on Staten Island, the BLICaR group focuses on the capability of natural food components to target and kill tumor cells without the damage to surrounding tissue associated with today’s treatments. It is hoped that women in the U.S. and globally will soon see the day when HPV and cervical cancers are much less a threat.


Students Present at International Conference in Morocco

Students dressed in traditional Moroccan kaftans for a special dinner event during their visit. Photo by Melinda Gooch.

Many college students spend spring break relaxing on one of Florida’s famous beaches, soaking up the sun while preparing themselves for the late semester push that can make or break so many college undergrads.

However, some spend the break presenting at scientific conferences, as was the case with 38 CSI students who attended the 18th International Taurine Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

The group of 38 students, consisting mostly of CSI undergraduates, included students in the C-STEP program and The Verrazano School. There were also graduate and PhD students who participated. Students joined faculty from all over the world, many of them experts on the amino acid and its effects on different organ systems, as well as its effects on a wide variety of diseases.

Several of the undergraduates, including Evelyn Okeke, who was highlighted in a recent CSI Today student profile, presented their research on Taurine along with several hundred faculty presenters at the conference. CSI Graduate students were also among those who presented their work. All of the students were science majors, earning one or two independent study credits for the trip. Drs. William L’Amoreaux and Abdeslem El Idrissi organized the conference, developed the study abroad courses, and mentored the students. Many of the students had worked and studied in the professors’ research labs since they were freshmen.

“We had a huge number of students take part in this study abroad program,” said Dr. Deborah Vess, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs, who assisted the professors in implementing and organizing the study abroad arrangements. The Morocco program is an example of CSI’s faculty-led course abroad initiative, which is now in its second year. The program was so popular that Dr. Vess even went so far as to say that it was CSI’s “most successful faculty-led study abroad program thus far.”

While the point of the trip was to attend the conference, “these students learned so much by just traveling to Morocco and taking part in the culture,” said Debra Evans-Greene, C-STEP Project Director. She also called the program a chance for underrepresented and disadvantaged students “to experience something wonderful and become a major part of the College community.”

Evans-Greene also proudly pointed out that within a week of returning from Morocco, Angelica Grant, one of CSI’s C-STEP students, won first place in the social sciences at the annual statewide C-STEP conference at the Sagamore in New York, presenting in the field of psychology.

The trip to Morocco was not all business, however. This was spring break, after all. The students spent time on excursions such as visiting the Djemmaa el-Fna market place in Marrakech’s medina quarter.

As Victoria Papazian, one of the students who traveled to Marrakech, wrote in her “Dolphins Across the Seven Seas” blog, “It was amazing to see so many people selling different goods and the children running around together and playing games.” The students also visited a huge carpet store and were introduced to the Hassan II Mosque, near Casablanca. The highlight for many of the students seemed to be the Cheez-Ali dinner night, which reminded blogger Papazian of “Medieval Times and Aladdin,” with camel rides and belly dancers.

The program, and the conference, was part of a larger course experience with funding provided for several of the CSI students. Although the cost of the trip (flight, room and board, and conference fees) totaled approximately $2,000 per student, many students received funding from the approximately $25,000 total in scholarships awarded to students this year to conduct research and study abroad.

“This is a model we want to continue,” said Vess, adding that the student’s success at the conference was “a real tribute to our faculty and staff.”

The opportunities presented to the students who joined the program were only half of the equation. It is a tribute to the quality of CSI students that so many of them applied for the study abroad program and spent their spring break leaving their comfort zones in order to take advantage of this once-in-a lifetime experience.

Evelyn Okeke Receives UNCF/Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award

The United Negro College Fund and the Merck Company Foundation recently named CSI student Evelyn Okeke a 2012 UNCF/Merck Undergraduate Science Research Fellow.

Evelyn Okeke’s journey to becoming a research fellow began innocently enough, “I was basically grad school shopping,” she said during a recent interview.  “I stumbled onto the UNCF Website, saw an opportunity for a scholarship, and applied.”  Upon completion of the application, which took about a month, she said she had “a good feeling,” and was relieved when she was notified of the fellowship this past February. “I saw an opportunity to earn experience for research done in an industry (as opposed to academia),” she said. 

Okeke is a senior Biology major with a 4.0 GPA who moved to the United States from Germany about three years ago.  The Dresden native originally moved here in order to be closer to her boyfriend in the States but quickly decided that this was the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream she had been cultivating all her life. “I always wanted to change the world for the best,” said Okeke.  Having discovered a love for research that she says began at CSI under the tutelage of Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi, Professor of Biology, Okeke saw a way she could impact the world.

Okeke’s academic interests are so diverse it is nearly impossible to list them all, but they include physiology, computational biology, neuroscience, and even biophysics. She is excited about beginning the internship, which begins June 4 and will last for approximately 12 weeks, as well as the opportunity to see the industry aspect of research science as opposed to solely academic research. “I hope I can greatly contribute.”

Evelyn wants to credit her CSI professors, namely, Dr. El Idrissi; Dr. Leonard Ciaccio, Professor of Biology; and Dr. Ralf Peetz, Associate Professor of Chemistry, with challenging her and “giving great support,” during her undergraduate career. “Also, I appreciate the great support of the Louis Stroke Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program and C-STEP, as well has the continued support from Jonathan Blaize (a graduate student in Neuroscience).”

The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI) offers 37 annual awards to outstanding African American undergraduate or graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The scholarship covers funds for tuition and room and board, as well as support for grants, hands-on training, and mentoring relationships.  In order to apply for an undergraduate research scholarship, the applicant must be African American, enrolled as junior who will be a degree candidate in the 2012-2013 academic year with a minimum GPA of 3.3.  More information about scholarship opportunities with UNCF/MERCK is available online.   

[video] NSF Awards CAREER Grant for Study of How Multiple Brains Work Together

CSI's Dr. Dan McCloskey recently received an $800,000 NSF CAREER grant for his proposed work on animal social behavior.

Dr. Dan McCloskey of the College of Staten Island’s Department of Psychology was recently awarded an $800,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant for his proposed work on animal social behavior.

The NSF CAREER grant is the foundation’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Dr. McCloskey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island, a senior college of The City University of New York.

Dr. McCloskey’s Career Development Plan proposal focuses on creating a research environment that utilizes computational tools for the collection and analysis of data in two complex systems: animal social behavior and hippocampal neuron activity. Both approaches involve studying a fascinating animal called the naked mole rat, and the grant will help fund the participation of two graduate students and up to four undergraduates on the projects.

Queen of the Naked Mole Rats

Naked mole rats are unique among mammals for a number of reasons including an extremely long life span, an apparent resistance to cancer, and, most importantly, their cooperative breeding system. They are one of only two species of mammals who have a queen who is solely responsible for breeding the entire colony.

The reason that the last point is so important is because since worker naked mole rats do not reproduce, everything they do is for the betterment of the group.  They seem to have no selfish motives.

“The naked mole rat hierarchy is very unique,” said McCloskey. “They act more like ants or bees than other mammals, although many human social networks may operate in a similar way.” Studying the mole rats may help researchers to one day understand why humans act the way they do; if there is such a thing as altruism or if every action has a motive behind it.

Social Behaviors Tracked by Super Computer

The researchers insert tiny trackers into the mole rats and, with the help of the equipment and staff at the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (IHPCC) at CSI, track their movements and interactions and compare siblings with different levels of social behavior.

The IHPCC allows McCloskey to track the behavior of each of more than 100 animals in his colony with high resolution as they navigate their way through a complex system of tubes and cages. Each time an animal passes through a tube with a sensor, the identity, location, and time of that event are stored in a database that receives hundreds of thousands events each day.

Algorithmic software written by CSI Vice President for Technology Systems Dr. Michael Kress and Dr. Susan Imberman of the Computer Science Department creates a history for each animal. The history includes where the animal was, what other animals it was with, and whether it was carrying food, nest material, or a newborn to help other animals in the colony.

Networked Science

The next step of the proposal, which will also make great use of the IHPCC, is to then study the naked mole rats at the level of the neuron.

“We will be working with what is called big data,” said Dr. McCloskey when discussing the IHPCC’s ability to process millions of pieces of data. “One file at the neuronal level can fill up gigs of storage within a minute.”

McCloskey’s “network science” approach will involve graphing each animal/neuron and literally drawing lines between interacting animals/neurons using advanced algorithms to shape the graph. In order to weed out coincidences, the researchers will take samples from millions of events. McCloskey’s team eventually hopes to better understand how interactions between neurons coordinate the animal’s interactions with each other.

Discovery Institute Students Benefit

The NSF CAREER grant will provide funding to recruit two graduate students and up to four undergraduate students for the projects that he will help coordinate with the Discovery Institute. McCloskey, who has been involved with the Discovery Institute for more than two years, believes that taking part of this research will help younger students “understand the bigger picture.” To demonstrate his dedication to the Institute and its students, McCloskey has proposed to set up a Twitter account for each naked mole rat so the students can track their progress in real time, using a computer or a cell phone.

When asked why he was so interested in studying animal social behavior, McCloskey responded that understanding how social networks are formed and modified by experience can help to improve situations where those behaviors are impaired, such as in autism and schizophrenia.

McCloskey acknowledges the importance of his social network, which includes colleagues such as Bruce Goldman of the University of Connecticut and Xiowen Zhang of the Computer Science Department.  He also gives VP Kress and the IHPCC much of the credit. “Without his involvement and that of the IHPCC, this type of study would not have been possible,” he said, commenting on the sheer amount of data that is being tracked in real time. “We know what a single brain can do, the next frontier is understanding how multiple brains work together,” McCloskey said. “Besides,” he concluded,  “It’s really cool to watch them in action.”


Dan McCloskey is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island, a seniorcollege of The City University of New York (CUNY) where he is a member of the Master’s program in Developmental Neuroscience. He holds Doctoral appointments at the CUNY Graduate Center in Neuroscience and Neuropsychology. Dr. McCloskey received his PhD in Biological Psychology from The State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2003. He uses a combination of computationally intensive approaches to study animal behavior, quantitative neuroanatomy, and single-cell and network-level electrophysiology. He has co-authored dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles using these techniques to address issues in epilepsy and autism.

CSI Profs Chair Organizing Committee for 18th International Taurine Meeting to be held in Marrakech, Morocco

Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi (College of Staten Island, Doctoral Program in Biology – Neuroscience) is chair and Dr. William L’Amoreaux (College of Staten Island, Doctoral Programs in Biochemistry and Biology – Neuroscience) is co-chair of the Organizing Committee for the 18th International Taurine Meeting, to be held April 7 – 13 in Marrakech, Morocco.  Both will chair sessions and present plenary talks during the conference.

Brooklyn Home Reps Learn of Benefits of Their Generosity, Attend Nursing Pinning Ceremony

(Left to right:) Mary O'Donnell, Annette and George Schaefer, and Arlene Farren

Two representatives from the Brooklyn Home For Aged Men, George C. Schaefer, Vice President and Treasurer, and Annette E. Schaefer, Director, recently visited the College of Staten Island (CSI) to enjoy lunch and hear reports from some of the faculty members who have benefited from their generous contributions to the College over the years, a total of $534,750 to date. The academic areas represented were geriatric nursing, Alzheimer’s disease research, and breast cancer research.

Prior to the event, George Schaefer, explained his organization’s philanthropic track record at CSI. “We were approached to offer a scholarship for geriatric nursing. I wasn’t sure how everybody would feel about it, but then it ended up before the board. Low and behold, one of our board members was a graduate of the Nursing program here and had nothing but good things to say. We started with a small scholarship stipend and we did that a couple of times. We were then made aware of a matching funds grant from the federal government and decided that that would be appropriate. We honored our president with an endowment that was matched by the federal government. The following year I decided that other members of the board should be honored and we established eight separate scholarships for students that were matched by the federal government. Last year, we received applications for grants for Alzheimer’s research, breast cancer awareness research, and a laboratory for nurses studying gerontology. We thought that each one was appropriate and we funded them…”

Attacking Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Alejandra del Carmen Alonso, Associate Professor of Biology at CSI, who is conducting Alzheimer’s disease research with an undergraduate and a graduate student, thanks to a grant from the Brooklyn Home, made a short presentation on her research, which involves, among other living models, a biologically engineered mouse that is the only one of its kind.

“What we are doing,” Alonso explained, “is trying to identify the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. We are generating different models systems, such as cell culture, transgenic Drosophila (fruit flies) and mice with the students to mimic the process of neuronal degeneration so we can understand the mechanism of neuronal degeneration. We are trying to reproduce what happens in the affected neurons of a brain with Alzheimer’s disease. What happens from the very beginning is that the neurons lose connections with other neurons, and they start deteriorating with time, so we’re trying to reproduce that in a model.”

Alonso added, “This research is very important for CSI and the whole society because Alzheimer’s disease is becoming an epidemic that is going to cause the health system to become bankrupt in the future if we don’t do anything to stop this disease. We are working to discover the mechanism by which the neurons of Alzheimer disease patients lose their function. If we can understand the mechanism, we can identify the targets to stop this disease. The Brooklyn Home is supporting us and that is very important because we can finance undergrad and graduate students working in the lab. Giving undergrads the opportunity of doing research, we are stimulating a new generation of researchers to dedicate their efforts to this devastating disease. The more we invest in research in neurodegenerative diseases, the more we can have hope that we will get to solve the disease.  In turn, it helps the elderly population, as prevalence of the disease increases.”

Raising Breast Cancer Awareness

The next presenter at the breakfast was Donna Gerstle, Director of the Staten Island Breast Cancer Initiative. She emphasized that the incidence of breast cancer on Staten Island is larger, on average, that that of the other four NYC boroughs, higher than the rate within New York State, and the highest in the nation. Gerstle explained how funds from the Brooklyn Home have given the Initiative the opportunity to battle the disease on a number of fronts. “It is a three-fold project,” she noted. “The first was to look at women over the age of 65 and their compliance with mammography as well as their incidence and death from breast cancer throughout the five boroughs. The second was to look at various environmental sites throughout New York City and to map those sites. Finally the last, and probably the most important, was to go into nursing homes on Staten Island and to teach women about breast health, compliance at age 65 and older, and to teach them how to do self-exams.”

Regarding the grant, Gerstle commented, “Having private  support and being able to support undergraduate and graduate students–to give them the Staten Island community and all New York City females as their laboratory–provides [students with] opportunities they would not have with normal grants.”

The Future of Geriatric Nursing

The next speaker was Mary O’Donnell, Chair of the Nursing Department, who stated that “the geriatric population has grown tremendously and is expected to grow, I believe, four-fold by 2040. Most older people need to be cared for as they age. They are health consumers.” O’Donnell mentioned that, thanks to the Brooklyn Home, the Department was able to provide scholarships to 11 nursing students over the past year. There is another initiative, however, that the Brooklyn Home is funding, the Center for the Education of Nurses in the Care of Older Adults (CENCOA). When it is completed this fall, CENCOA will provide a realistic, but nonthreatening, environment for nursing students along the academic spectrum from the associate’s to the master’s level, to participate in scenarios in a model of an assisted living apartment with mannequins that have vital signs. As students encounter these scenarios, they are videotaped so that they can critique their own performances in tandem with an evaluation from a faculty member.

“This Center was developed,” O’Donnell said, “because students usually don’t get enough exposure to the care of older adults in the home, and most seniors prefer to be cared for in the home, and it’s more cost-effective.” In addition, O’Donnell noted that CENCOA will prepare nursing students for jobs caring for patients in their homes.

Arlene Farren, Associate Professor of Nursing at the College, concluded the presentation by providing the Schaefers with some more detailed information about the inner workings of CENCOA.

Following the lunch, the Schaefers attended the Spring Pinning ceremony for AAS degree recipients.

[video] Zaghloul Ahmed awarded 2011 NYC BioAccelerate Prize For Neural Stimulation System

Zaghoul Ahmed, PhD, Department of Physical Therapy at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and Department of Neuroscience at The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, has been named one of five winners of the $1.5 million 2011 BioAccelerate NYC Prize for his novel research of the PathMaker Neuromuscular Treatment System, a CUNY-trademarked method of treating spinal cord injuries by using electrical stimulation to strengthen neuromotor connections.

System Restores Mobility after Traumatic Injury, Disease or Defect

Dr. Ahmed was awarded the 2011 BioAccelerate prize for his research at CSI, which involves a Proprietary Electrical Stimulation Method and System that combines trans-spinal steady DC stimulation with cortical and peripheral repetitive pulsed stimulation.

“We are extremely proud that Dr. Ahmed has been awarded the 2011 BioAccelerate NYC Prize,” said CSI President Dr. Tomas D. Morales. “Dr. Ahmed’s groundbreaking invention exemplifies the innovative research being performed at the College of Staten Island and places him at the vanguard of this transformative field.”

Bringing Science from the Lab to Lifestyle

[youtube][/youtube]“Millions of US patients are suffering from paraplegic or quadriplegic paralysis,” commented Dr. Ahmed. “We have developed a system – method and apparatus – for treating neuromuscular damage, such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and stroke, and related anomalies.”

These conditions are united by the fact that a failed communication pathway between the brain/spinal cord and the associated muscle group is the fundamental cause of the disability.

Dr. Ahmed’s invention includes method and apparatus for treatment of dysfunctional communication between neuronally coupled sites in the nervous system.  A unique combination of electrical signals stimulates the neuronal pathway that couples these sites.  The applied signals include a charging component to increase communication intensity along that pathway and a handshake component that enables the sites to regain communication with each other.  The stimulation energizes and engages the natural recuperative mechanisms of the nervous system.

“When there is a spinal cord injury, the connections from the brain to the spinal cord and the spinal cord are weakened.  The basis for the technology I have developed is that applying stimulation to activate brain cells, spinal cord cells and muscle—at the same time—should strengthen the connections and improve function,” said Dr. Ahmed.

Ahmed’s device and method have shown early promise as an effective technique for strengthening the neuromotor pathways that remain after a spinal injury, promoting significant and perhaps permanent improvement.

He, along with his colleagues, has published two papers reporting “remarkable recovery” with mice.   This research, conducted during the past four years in the animal research facility at the College of Staten Island, was funded by the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center.

From Wheelchair to Walking

In his private practice as a physical therapist, Dr. Ahmed has treated severely disabled patients, and has substantially remediated disabilities with lasting effect due to his proprietary stimulation equipment and therapy.

“The system and methods can be employed to strengthen or awaken any weak or dormant pathway in the nervous system – as long as there is at least some minimal connection,” according to Dr. Ahmed.

One of the most remarkable outcomes involved a sixteen-year-old female with severe cerebral palsy affecting both her arms and legs.

“She has always been in a wheel chair.  After three weeks of treatment, three times a week for 15 minutes, she was walking with crutches without assistance,” said Dr. Ahmed.

“Dr. Ahmed’s research will help to establish a new paradigm in the treatment to restore mobility and function in individuals with paralyzed extremities that include spinal cord injuries and related neurological disorders,” commented Dr. Jeffrey Rothman, Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at CSI. “His research has far-reaching implications that will lead to breakthroughs in the field. We applaud the efforts of the New York City Investment Fund that will make this possible.”

The Business of Human Science

Funds from the BioAcelerate grant will be used by Dr. Ahmed to purchase equipment and create a facility on the College of Staten Island campus where a clinical trial involving 96 patients will be conducted in partnership with Staten Island University Hospital.

If the PathMaker system continues to prove effective, CUNY could license the technology through an offshoot company.

The Partnership for New York City and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has designed the BioAccelerate program to further research in the life sciences to attract venture capital funding.

The New York City-based winning researchers will each receive $250,000 to conduct late-stage, “proof-of-concept” research on products that improve human health, with a goal of making New York City a center of bioscience and bringing proven technology to the marketplace.

Of 55 applicants, five winners were selected after a competitive process in which all of the applicants were scrutinized by leading venture investors and senior executives from the life science industry.  Along with funding, Dr. Ahmed was also paired with a mentor who has senior level management experience at a life science company.

The competition marks the first phase of the Partnership for NYC’s long-term commitment to ensuring that promising laboratory discoveries made in New York translate into jobs and business development for New York City.


Goldwater Scholarship Awarded to CSI Undergrad for Research and Development of 3D Robotic Printer that Simulates Surface of a Butterfly’s Wing

Mark Barahman is the College's first Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship winner.

Mark Barahman, a junior with the Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and a Goldsmith Scholar, was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship winner, a first in the history of CSI.

The Goldwater Scholarship was established by the United States Congress in 1986 and is the premiere federally funded undergraduate award of its type.  It is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers and PhDs in the sciences, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and related fields. Only 300 students nationwide earn this prestigious distinction.

Dan Feldman, also a junior in Macaulay Honors College at CSI, is majoring in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy. He has received an Honorable Mention for the Goldwater Scholarship. Only 150 students receive an honorable mention award.

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A Biochemistry major at CSI, Mark has worked in two prestigious laboratories—the neuroscience lab of Professor Abdeslem El Idrissi and the chemistry lab of Professor Alan Lyons.  He currently works with Dr. Lyons on research related to super-hydrophobic surfaces.

Mark’s most notable accomplishment during the summer of 2009 was the construction and programming of a robotic printer that prints in three dimensions (3D) on a microscopic scale.

“Commercial 3D printers are available, but they are often extremely expensive, fragile, and very limited with respect to the building material,” notes Barahman. “We needed to build something that would allow us broad applicability and flexibility, while also being inexpensive and scalable to industrial-size processes.”

“He programmed the robot early that summer and quickly developed two printing methods to produce ‘super-hydrophobic surfaces’,” commented Dr. Lyons.  “One method used highly viscous materials that deposited drops similar to a chocolate kiss, and the other method used a lower viscosity material that printed thinner, pancake-shaped layers.”

Both of these methods created super-hydrophobic surfaces, three-dimensional surfaces that hold droplets of water on multiple microscopic “spikes.” This surface prevents the water droplet from strongly adhering to the surface, allowing it to roll rather effortlessly, while maintaining the integrity of its spherical shape.

When these surfaces are used, the fluids are able to effortlessly move along the surface with minimal force. These surfaces can be applied to facilitate transportation of fluids in the medical profession.

The next challenge was controlling direction of the water droplet flow on these super-hydrophobic surfaces.

Looking to nature, Mark became inspired by the water-shedding properties of the butterfly’s wing.  When a butterfly lowers its wings, the water rolls off onto the ground. When the wing is raised, the water is pinned and does not roll down the wing onto the body of the butterfly.  This adaptation keeps the butterfly’s body dryer and lighter.

Mark experimented with multiple concepts, and learned that by programming the robotic printer to deposit the 3D “kisses” and “pancakes” at an angle, the water droplet would flow easily in one direction, and with great difficulty in the other direction.

On the microscale, Mark had developed a synthetic material that emulated the water shedding effects of the butterfly wing.  This new biomemetic surface containing angled “spikes” acted as a “one-way” sign or “liquid ratchet” controlling the directional flow of water using only the interactive properties of the fluid with the solid.

Whereas super-hydrophobic devices allow for the easy transportation of fluids within many applications in the medical field, these new directional-devices may transport cooling fluid in micro-electronic devices without back flow.  This could minimize the size and heat-producing pressure often needed for the transportation of fluid, and allow for a 360-degree application environment without the chance of backflow.

“I am exceedingly proud of Mark’s important research at CSI,” said Dr. Lyons. “He is a serious scientist who works very hard and thinks deeply about problems.  I expect that when he enters graduate school he will rank amongst the top echelon of all graduate students.”

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Mark Barahman for his well-deserved distinction,” said CSI President Dr. Tomás D. Morales. “He has forged a place for himself in the history of the College by being the first Goldwater Scholar at CSI, and has earned himself great honor and national recognition.  I offer my thanks to his faculty mentors for supporting Mr. Barahman’s academic goals, and challenging him to succeed. Together we are bolstering CSI’s national and world-class reputation.”

“Winning the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship would not have been more than a dream without the guidance and teaching of my mentors and professors at CSI,” Barahman states.  “The scientific training and opportunities at CUNY are first class. I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to work with experienced and distinguished scientists like Dr. Alan Lyons, and to be taught and guided by Dr. Fred Naider, Dr. Charles Kramer, and Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi. I am excited about winning this award as it reveals the terrific opportunities CSI offers and the world-class science taking place at the labs.”

Mark’s professional aspirations include obtaining an MD/PhD in the field of Biomedical Engineering.

Mark grew up in Israel, working as a teenager as a first responder for MDA (Magen David Adom, or Red Star of David), an emergency medical organization, which is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  He immigrated to Brooklyn in August of 2006. During the summer of 2010, Mark participated in NYU/Bellevue Hospital’s prestigious Project HealthCare summer program, in which he was able to work in the emergency room and operating room, where he interacted closely with patients and the hospital staff, as well as assisted with clinical research projects and work on the annual Bellevue health fair.

Mark was the only undergraduate invited to give an oral presentation at the Young Chemists Committee ACS Symposium at The Cooper Union in March 2011.  The presentation was entitled “Printed Super-hydrophobic Surfaces Exhibiting Slip-Angle Anisotropy.”

His research has also been presented by Dr. Lyons in a variety of prestigious forums, including the 2010 SPIE Optics and Photonics Conference in San Diego.

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