Volume II, Issue 3: November 2009


Web site connects community to campus

Young boy doing schoolwork
Paul R. Kennedy
UCI's new Web site helps the public find out about campus outreach programs, like those that enhance teaching and learning in local schools.

Want to catch a UCI baseball game, attend a concert or take part in a local outreach program? Check out UCI in the Community, a new Web site that helps the public connect with campus resources. Visitors can search for campus departments, groups, programs and events in categories such as global citizenship and society, energy and the environment, lifelong and continued learning, and health and medicine.

'Engaging the community' »

Stem cells restore mobility in neck-injured rats

Hans Keirstead
Kerrin Piche Serna / University Communications
UCI's Hans Keirstead (shown), Jason Sharp and colleagues found that human embryonic stem cells restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries.

The first human embryonic stem cell treatment approved by the FDA for human testing has been shown to restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries — a finding that could expand the clinical trial to include people with cervical damage. In January, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., permission to test the UCI treatment in individuals with thoracic spinal cord injuries, which occur below the neck. However, trying it in those with cervical damage wasn't approved because preclinical testing with rats hadn't been completed. UCI scientist Hans Keirstead hopes the data will prompt the FDA to authorize clinical testing of the treatment in people with both types of spinal cord damage.

Restoring mobility »

Genetically predisposed to tailgating?

Dr. Steven Cramer at the wheel
Steve Zylius / University Communications
Senior study author Dr. Steven Cramer found that drivers with a certain gene variant "make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away."

Irritated by bad drivers? Consider this before giving the thumbs-down — or worse — when someone cuts you off or weaves between lanes: Bad driving may be in the genes. UCI neuroscientists discovered that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it. Unfortunately for commuters, about 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

Bad drivers »

UCI History Project brings past to life

Courtney Amaya
Steve Zylius / University Communications
Teacher Courtney Amaya applies lessons learned in the UCI History Project to her U.S. and world history classes at Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills.

Courtney Amaya's classroom at Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills is a laboratory for new methods of teaching history — her students are learning about the French Revolution from diary entries and political cartoons instead of traditional textbooks. "Students find it more interesting to examine material that's actually from the era," Amaya says. She joined the UCI History Project five years ago to boost her knowledge of world history. The project fosters collaboration between the UCI history department and K-12 history/social science teachers in Orange County.

History Project »

Alzheimer's lesions visible in retinas

UCI neuroscientist Zhiqun Tan
Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications
UCI neuroscientist Zhiqun Tan led research that found evidence of Alzheimer's disease in the retinas of mice.

The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but new research indicates they also may mirror a brain ravaged by Alzheimer's disease. UCI neuroscientists found that retinas in mice genetically altered to have Alzheimer's undergo changes similar to those that occur in the brain — most notably the accumulation of amyloid plaque lesions.

Alzheimer's lesions »

Stem cells alleviate brain tumor treatment side effects

Charles Limoli
Steve Zylius / University Communications
Charles Limoli, UCI radiation oncology associate professor, and colleagues found that human embryonic stem cells can alleviate the side effects of brain tumor radiation in rats.

Human embryonic stem cells could help people with learning and memory deficits after radiation treatment for brain tumors, suggests a new UCI study. Research with rats found that transplanted stem cells restored learning and memory to normal levels four months after radiotherapy. In contrast, irradiated rats that didn't receive stem cells experienced a more than 50 percent drop in cognitive function.

Stem cell study »

Trigger of deadly food toxin discovered

Lead study author Sheryl Tsai
Steve Zylius / University Communications
"It's shocking how profoundly these molds can affect public health," says lead study author Sheryl Tsai, referring to fungi found on nuts and grains that produce a cancer-causing toxin.

UCI researchers have discovered what triggers a cancer-causing toxin to form on nuts and grains. When consumed in large quantities, the toxin — called aflatoxin — can compromise immunity, interfere with metabolism, and cause severe malnutrition and cancer. Researchers, led by scientist Sheryl Tsai, found that a protein called PT is critical to the toxin's growth, which could lead to methods of limiting its production.

Toxin trigger »