A therapy developed at UCI that made paralyzed rats walk again will become the world's first embryonic stem cell treatment tested in humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the therapy, based on work by a research team led by Hans Keirstead, co-director of the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., will conduct a clinical trial for patients with acute spinal cord injury. "This trial was approved only after rigorous safety testing and consultation of countless experts in the field," Keirstead said. "Any benefit to the patient, even an incremental one, would be a resounding victory."
Neurobiologist Frank LaFerla is taking the reins of the Institute for Brain Aging & Dementia, hoping to boost clinical offerings and move forward with a new building dedicated to Alzheimer's disease research. He succeeds founding director Carl Cotman, who built the institute into a thriving multidisciplinary center combining basic science and clinical research in neurology, neurobiology, molecular biology and biochemistry. LaFerla, Chancellor's Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior, officially assumed the top post Jan. 1. A recipient of many national awards for his Alzheimer's research, he has served as center co-director since 2003.
The 350 postdoctoral scholars who toil in labs from one end of the campus to the other are asking, "Where's the love?" And the answer is coming from UCI's newly established Center for Graduate and Professional Students and Postdoctoral Scholars, which has designated February as "Postdoc Appreciation Month" – 28 days devoted to highlighting the important role staff scholars play in supporting the university's research mission. "This center and its programs are a great step forward at UCI," says Susan V. Bryant, research vice chancellor. "It gives us a mechanism to draw postdocs together and focus on their concerns and connect them to the campus."
Dr. Julianne Toohey was one of 45 physicians nationwide to be nominated for the Association of American Medical Colleges' 2008 Humanism in Medicine Award. Toohey was honored for providing compassionate care to women with high-risk pregnancies and for her achievements in medical education and community involvement. An obstetrics and gynecology associate clinical professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, she oversees the third-year medical student ob/gyn clinical training program and works with service organizations like Human Options, Maternal Outreach Management Systems and the Orange County Family Violence Council to provide humanistic, community-based assistance for mothers-to-be in need. "I appreciate this award because I believe as doctors we must treat the entire person and not just a symptom," said Toohey, who earned her bachelor's and medical degrees from UCI.
English Professor Richard Kroll died Feb. 5 after a prolonged bout with pneumonia. Kroll was a major figure in Restoration and 18th century literary studies. His books, The Material Word and The Circle of Commerce, reshaped the field, opening literary works to rhetorical, economic and political analysis. He edited four other books, including the groundbreaking Philosophy, Science, and Religion in England, 1640-1700. He was awarded numerous fellowships, including ones from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, and students named him the 1999 Outstanding Professor in the Humanities. He directed the department's successful summer master's in English program. Born in 1953 in Kenya, Kroll received his bachelor's from Cambridge University and his doctorate from UCLA. He joined the UCI faculty in 1992 after previously teaching at Princeton University.