Columbia University Medical Center

Spitzer Stem Cell Scholars Announced

Highlights in biomedical and clinical research from Columbia University Medical Center
Vol. V, No. 49—December 22, 2003
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER UPDATE is a weekly e-mail to the media prepared by the Office of External Relations providing brief notices about current research, experts, and events at Columbia University Medical Center.

There will be no Columbia University Medical Center Update next week. You will receive your next issue on Jan. 5, 2004. The Communications Office staff at Columbia University Medical Center wishes you a healthy, happy, and peaceful holiday season.

RESEARCH NEWS: Macrophages unexpectedly linked to obesity

Fat cells have taken the blame for such obesity-related conditions as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, but new research at Columbia University Medical Center suggests a cell more commonly associated with inflammation may be an equally important contributor.

The new study found that macrophages, cells known to promote and regulate inflammation by releasing inflammatory molecules, infiltrate fat in proportion to obesity in both mice and humans. In the most obese mice, macrophages make up an astounding 50 percent of cells in fat tissue. The macrophages were also found to release the majority of diabetes-related molecules produced by fat tissue. The research appears in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“The exciting thing is this moves the target of potential therapies away from the fat cell to the macrophage,” says the study’s leader, Dr. Tony Ferrante, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. “We have lots of experience developing anti-inflammatory drugs directed at these types of cells. Pharmaceutical companies may be able to develop ones that affect the fat’s macrophages specifically.”

For more information, contact Leslie Boen at 212-305-4966 or

RESEARCH NEWS: Spitzer stem cell scholars announced

Dr. James M. Angelastro, assistant professor of clinical pathology; Dr. Thomas F. Franke, assistant professor of pharmacology; and Dr. Stephen H. Tsang, assistant professor of ophthalmology, have been named Spitzer Neural Stem Cell grant recipients for 2004. All three, affiliated with Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, will receive funds from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Fund for Cell and Genetic Therapy, established with an $8 million gift to Columbia University Medical Center two years ago to support research projects and programs that work toward new stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.

Dr. Angelastro’s research will focus on increasing the number of neural precursors required for differentiation to neurons that could replace damaged nerve cells found in stroke. Dr. Franke will use a novel mouse model to investigate the role of a specific enzyme (Akt kinase) in neural stem cell proliferation and survival. Dr. Tsang will develop another model system to study the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells.

Columbia University has emerged as a leader in stem cell research. In April 2002, Columbia established the Charles and Jean Brunie Fund for Cell Therapy in Brain Disease with a $3 million gift from investment banker Charles Brunie. A year later, Columbia secured a $12 million gift from the Russell Berrie Foundation to fund research into cellular therapy of diabetes, as well as a $1 million gift from the Jerry and Emily Spiegel Family Foundation to renovate and equip a neural stem cell research lab.

For more information or to arrange an interview with one or more of the Spitzer grant recipients, contact Leslie Boen at 212-305-3900 or

RESEARCH NEWS: Rosenthal Center NIH grant for traditional Chinese medicine

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health has awarded the Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Columbia University a two-year, $270,000 planning grant to help establish a center for traditional Chinese medicine and women’s health at Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Led by primary investigator Fredi Kronenberg, director of the Rosenthal Center and professor of clinical physiology in rehabilitation medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, the center’s researchers will investigate the use of time-honored Chinese medical practices—working in the environments where these approaches originated—to treat a number of women’s health issues, including menopause, infertility, endometriosis, and painful menstruation.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Kronenberg, contact Leslie Boen at 212-305-4966 or

EXPERT RESOURCE: “How to Survive Your Doctor’s Care” – Pamela Gallin

In this increasingly contentious, complex health care environment, getting quality care can be a real challenge. Dr. Pamela Gallin, associate professor of pediatrics and ophthalmology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, can discuss the pitfalls of today’s health care system and how to navigate them. An acclaimed self-help author, Dr. Gallin recently penned “How To Survive Your Doctor’s Care” (Lifeline Press 2003), an insider’s guide to the managed care system. In this book, Dr. Gallin teaches readers how to advocate for themselves and get the care they need and deserve–showing them how to gain access to the best medical facilities and specialists, communicate effectively with health care professionals, and ensure that their doctors are doing what’s best for them.
A member of Hillary Clinton’s 1993 White House health care task force, Dr. Gallin in recent years was named one of the “Best Doctors in New York” and “Best Doctors in America” by New York Magazine and U.S. News and World Report, respectively. She is also the author of “The Savvy Mom’s Guide to Medical Care,” which instructs parents on how to obtain top-notch medical care for their children.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Leslie Boen at 212-305-4966 or

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Prepared by the Office of External Relations at Columbia University Medical Center
Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
Marilyn Castaldi, Chief Information Officer
Glenn A. Peterson, Associate Vice President for Communications
Annie Bayne, Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Leslie Boen, Communications Specialist

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