Our COBRE in the News

Center of Biomedical Research Excellence

Highlights of our COBRE in the year 2021

R01 NIH Grant Award to COBRE Faculty

Highlights in 2021 include the award of a new NIH R01 grant in April 2021 to junior faculty Thomas Kidd, Co-Director Grant Mastick, and former COBRE mentor Cynthia Mastick to study axon guidance. Congratulations!

Our COBRE Continues to Have the Highest-Impact Among all of Nevada's COBREs

Our COBRE continues to be the most cited COBRE grant program in Nevada, based on citations of our publications, according to the iCite analysis that NIH uses to track the impact of grant programs. The graph below compares the citations for all COBRE grants that have been funded in the state of Nevada (according to iCite)


Three Out of Four of our University's Most Cited COVID Research Papers in 2021 were Supported by our COBRE

According to the "Web of Science" (the world's most trusted publisher-independent global citation database) three of the four most cited COVID papers at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2021 were supported by our COBRE. These three COVID papers identified the cell types expressing SARS-CoV-2 virus entry receptors in the olfactory epithelium, explained the underlying mechanisms of loss of smell in COVID, and compiled the prevalence of loss of smell in COVID in a systematic review and meta-analysis. As of 12/31/2021, these three papers were highlighted in 50 news stories and 10 blogs:

doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00210. PMCID: PMC7241737
doi: 10.1177/1073858420956905. PMCID: PMC7488171
doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00460. PMCID: PMC7571048

Our COBRE continues to have the highest impact among all of Nevada's COBREs

According to the iCite analysis that NIH uses to track the impact of grant programs, our COBRE continues to be the most cited COBRE grant program in Nevada, based on citations of our publications. The graph below compares the citations for all COBRE grants that have been funded for 5 years or more in the state of Nevada according to iCite found here.

A chart describing the Impact according to citations in the cobre grant program

COBRE-supported research paper identified as Nevada's "hottest" paper in 2020

The "Web of Science" (the world's most trusted publisher-independent global citation database) has identified the COBRE-supported research by Dr. von Bartheld and Dr. Butowt as Nevada's "hottest" paper published in the year 2020. Papers generally reach their citation peak two-to-four years after publication. A small group of papers, however, are recognized very soon after publication, reflected by rapid and significant numbers of citations. These papers are often key papers in their fields and are referred to as hot papers. A paper is selected as a hot paper if it meets a citation frequency threshold. The fraction is set to retrieve about 0.1% of papers.

Our COBRE supports research into the loss of smell in COVID-19

COBRE director Dr. von Bartheld and his former postdoc, Dr. Rafal Butowt, published a study that may explain how the new coronavirus causes the loss of smell in COVID-19 patients. The researchers identified the cell types in the nose that express the virus entry proteins and documented changes of such expression with age in a mouse model. The paper can be found here.
The new findings prompted a press release that was featured in nineteen news outlets, including the New York Times. 
For further details, see here.

Junior COBRE faculty Robert Renden receives two large grant awards

June and October 2020 - our faculty member, Dr. Robert Renden, has received two large grants in 2020, one from the NSF, and one from the NIH.

In June, he was awarded a 1.1 million dollar Career Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the energy requirements of synapses in the brain.

In October, he received a 1.5 million dollar R01 NIH grant from the National Institutes of Health to design pharmacological therapies to restore energy to synapses in neurodegenerative diseases and in aging. For details, see the story in UNR Med News and Events.

Congratulations, Bob!

Junior faculty Tom Kidd and COBRE Co-Director Grant Mastick receive NIH grant

In May 2020, junior faculty Dr. Thomas Kidd and our COBRE Co-Director Dr. Grant Mastick have been awarded a joint R56 grant from the NIH to study signals in axon guidance. Congratulations, Tom and Grant!

The passing of Dr. Berninsone, one of our COBRE faculty

Sadly, we are reporting the passing of one of our junior faculty project leaders. Dr. Patricia Berninsone was a highly creative faculty member in the Biology Department. She moved to the United States from her native Argentina and was one of very few Latina role models at UNR. She trained some of UNR's brightest and most successful graduate and undergraduate students, served diligently from 2013 until 2018 as the director of UNR's Cellular and Molecular Graduate Program, and was one of the first of our COBREs junior investigators to receive her own major NIH grant funding. She will be dearly missed by students, faculty, and staff. To read more about Dr. Berninsone's life and legacy, follow this link: https://patriciaberninsone.wixsite.com/scholarship

Our COBRE's relative impact exceeds that of all other major biomedical grant programs in Nevada

According to NIH's impact tracking website (iCite: https://Icite.od.nih.gov/analysis) and as of November 30, 2018, our COBRE's publications have had an impact that is 265% higher than that of the average NIH-funded paper in the PubMed database. This is considerably higher than any of the other COBREs in Nevada that have completed phase 1 (their impact ranges between 1% and 14% above average).

COBRE junior investigator Thomas Gould's research highlighted in "The Scientist" 

Dr. Gould's recent work on muscle innervation was published in the prestigious Journal "eLife" (eLife 7:e30839, 2018). This paper was selected by the editors of the journal "The Scientist Magazine" as the Editor's choice in cell and molecular biology in their May 2018 issue. For details on how perisynaptic Schwann cells regulate muscle fatigue, please follow the link: https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/52373/title/Certain-Glial-Cells-Appear-to-Help-Prevent-Muscle-Fatigue/

COBRE junior faculty is member of team that traced the evolutionary history of a sugar gene

Dr. Patricia Berninsone, junior faculty in our COBRE, is a member of a team of UNR scientists who mapped the evolutionary history of an important sugar gene. This work was published in the January issue (2018) of Genome Biology and Evolution.

For a summary and commentary, see the story in NEVADA Today

COBRE-supported research discussed in the New York Times Magazine

The December 14, 2017 issue of the New York Times Magazine discusses the work of Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel from Vanderbilt with her collaborator, Dr. Christopher von Bartheld, Professor and COBRE Director at UNR Med, in an article that is provocatively entitled "To Unlock the Brain's Mysteries, Puree it—a Vanderbilt neuroscientist has discovered an unusual but shockingly fruitful way to study our most enigmatic organ." To read the story, follow the link below. The story prompted over 100 comments within 24 hours, such as "The research described is obviously not intended to discover how the brain works but rather what it consists of. Researchers who had previously attempted to do this might not have been quite as smart as they could have been."


To read the historical review (the result of the "detective work" by Drs. Herculano-Houzel, von Bartheld and UNR graduate student Jami Bahney) that is described in the article, follow this link:   


COBRE researcher, Dr. Ruben Dagda, secures an NIH R25 grant

Dr. Dagda is the project director of a multi-collaborative education/STEM grant in the amount of $1,500,000, together with the College of Education (COE) and the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) at UNR. This 5-year grant is funded by one of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS), from September 2017 until July, 2022. The title of the grant is: "Community of Bilingual English-Spanish Speakers Exploring Issues in Science and Health (CBESS)” (R25 OD023795-01). The purpose of the project is to increase the pipeline of high school students to medical school and the health sciences field by exposing them to STEM content, activities and research via bilingual instruction. Congratulations, Ruben!

For more information, see the story in Nevada Today - https://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2017/science-education-partnership-award, the local news channels: Kolo 8 - http://www.kolotv.com/content/news/University-grant-could-benefit-bilingual-high-school-students-471008943.html, News 4 - http://mynews4.com/news/local/grant-to-benefit-bilingual-washoe-county-students-interested-in-healthcare, and the Washoe County School District Web Page - https://www.washoeschools.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=2000&ViewID=7b97f7ed-8e5e-4120-848f-a8b4987d588f&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=24036&PageID=1

Our publication number is the highest in our state for Phase I COBREs

With 78 publications in PubMed, our COBRE's Phase I has been the most successful in the state of Nevada. The graph compares all of the COBREs in our state that have completed Phase I. For specifics of our COBRE's publications in PubMed, see here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=GM103554+OR+RR024210%5BGrant+Number%5D

COBRE researcher Thomas Kidd publishes new insights how the two hemispheres of the brain connect

His team published in the most recent issue of PLOS Genetics (The WAGR syndrome gene) a new genetic mechanism that is responsible for connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain - which, when disrupted, can lead to developmental brain diseases such as autism. For details, see the story in Nevada Today.

Thomas Kidd looking at split brain fruit fly research
COBRE researcher Thomas Kidd publishes new insights how the two hemispheres of the brain connect

COBRE Core facilities now operate as iLab recharge centers

Thanks to our COBRE supplement ("Consolidation of Cores”) and a similar INBRE supplement, four of our core facilities now operate as recharge centers using the iLab system. These four cores are the confocal microscope core in Biology (manager: Dr. Alexander van der Linden), the confocal microscope core at UNR Med (manager: Dr. Robert Renden), the cell metabolism core (manager: Dr. Ruben Dagda), and the transmission electron microscopy core (manager: Mrs. Andrea Agarwal). To find out more about these core facilities and their services, check out Microscopy and Cell Metabolism Analysis Core or the University iLab portal.

COBRE junior faculty receives major NSF grant award

Our junior faculty researcher, Dr. Thomas Kidd, Co-PI, together with Dr. Pedro Miura, PI, received the award notice on February 28, 2017, for their NSF grant entitled "Role of extended 3'UTR isoforms in axon guidance." The award is in the amount of $610,000 over 4 years, with a start date of 4/1/2017. Dr. Jung Hwan Kim, co-director of our COBRE's proposed optogenetics core, is also grant-named in this project. Congratulations to all involved!

COBRE junior faculty publish a series of collaborative research articles

Our COBRE's current and proposed junior faculty have published several collaborative recent peer-reviewed articles: Dr. Patricia Berninsone published with Dr. Ruben Dagda in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (January 18, 2017); Dr. Caroline Cobine published with Dr. Sean Ward in the Journal of Physiology (January 4, 2017); Dr. Thomas Gould published with Dr. Grant Hennig in Frontiers of Cellular Neuroscience (December 1, 2016), and Dr. Robert Renden published with Dr. Ruben Dagda in the Journal of Neurophysiology (December 1, 2016). Dr. Berninsone also authored a recent paper in the prestigious Molecular Biology and Evolution (impact factor of 13.65) (December 21, 2016). Congratulations!

COBRE researcher Thomas Kidd selected as Research and Innovation Fellow

Former junior faculty in our COBRE, Dr. Thomas Kidd from the Department of Biology, was selected to become a fellow in the "Research and Innovation Leadership Fellows Program" at the University of Nevada, Reno, a new leadership development opportunity for faculty (December 7, 2016). For details, see https://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2016/kidd-named-leadership-fellow

COBRE researcher receives seed money to study chronic fatigue syndrome

Dr. Ruben Dagda, junior faculty in our COBRE, will receive funds from the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI), a leading organization focused on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. The 2016 Ramsay Award Program recipients, selected by a rigorous peer-review process, have now been announced. Ruben is part of "Team 3", one of five teams worldwide that have been selected for seed funding. The title of his and his two collaborator's proposal is "The Bioenergetic Health Index of NK Cells as a Diagnostic Tool for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome." For details, see: http://solvecfs.org/2016-ramsay-award-program-results/. Our COBRE helped to facilitate the collection of preliminary data via its COBRE-funded Metabolic Core facility. Congratulations, Ruben!

Our COBRE has its third publication recommended by Faculty1000

Dr. von Bartheld's review of cell counting in human brains (published in the December issue of The Journal of Comparative Neurology 524:3865-3895, 2016) received "exceptional" and "very good" ratings by the Faculty1000Prime peer review. F1000Prime is an organization that recommends the most interesting articles published in the biomedical sciences, based on the recommendations of a faculty of more than 8,000 leading experts in Biology and Medicine. This is our COBRE's third publication to receive an F1000Prime recommendation. Previously, Dr. Thomas Kidd's paper on axon finding and apoptosis (Cell Reports 3:595-606, 2013) and Dr. Ruben Dagda's paper on mitochondria and autophagy (Nature Cell Biology 15:1197-1205, 2013) received this distinction of quality.

Review Paper in 2016:

Project Leader Tom Kidd publishes in PLoS BiologyPLOS biology

Dr. Kidd and his team discovered a new molecular mechanism of axon guidance and growth. His work was selected for the electronic cover of the Journal (9/21/2016). For details see http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002560

Our COBRE was awarded supplement to enhance our core facilities

We received on 9/8/2016 an award of $244,063 to enhance our research core facilities. Funds will be used to purchase a new XFp Seahorse Analyzer for our metabolism facility, a new silicone immersion objective for our confocal microscope, and a high-speed EMCCD camera for calcium imaging, among other improvements.

Incoming Senior Project Leader, Ebenezer Yamoah, has two new NIH grants fundedYamoah

His 5-year program project grant investigates mechanisms of the aging auditory neuron, funded by the National Institute of Aging (NIA), 9/1/2016 - 5/31/2021.

His 5-year R01 grant investigates calcium dependent functions in hair cells and spiral ganglion neurons. This project is funded by the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 8/1/2016 - 7/31/2021. Congratulations, Ebenezer!

COBRE Evaluation Study quoted in U.S. Senate NIH appropriations hearing

The NIGMS Director, Dr. Jon Lorsch, explained our COBRE's program evaluation paper to the Senators at the NIH Senate Appropriations Hearing NIH ("Investing in a healthier future") on October 7, 2015. The full webcast is available at the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations website (Dr. Lorsch from the NIGMS speaks at 1:26:45 - 1:29:00).

The paper ("Prediction of junior faculty success in biomedical research: Comparison of metrics and effects of mentoring programs") was published in PeerJ on September 24, 2015, and is available for viewing or downloading.

Cell Publication by Thomas KiddThomas Kidd, Ph.D., co-authors publication in Cell

Thomas Kidd contributed to a publication in the prestigious journal "Cell" (Cell 162:1140-1154 on August 27, 2015). The article entitled "Slit and Receptor Tyrosine Phosphatase 69D Confer Spatial Specificity to Axon Branching via Dscam1" shows how axonal branching is regulated. Thomas Kidd co-supervised the work along with the corresponding senior author, Dr. Dietmar Schmucker from Leuven, Belgium. This is Dr. Kidd's sixth publication in Cell, with three previous articles as first or last author, and two previous articles as co-author. Read more information in Noteworthy News.

Patricia Berninsone, Ph.D., and Ruben Dagda, Ph.D., are awarded R21 NIH grant

The National Institute on Aging at the NIH funded our project leader's joint R21 grant entitled "Role of mitochondrial glycosylation on mitochondrial function." The award is for the first year in the amount of $215,250, beginning September 30, 2015. Congratulations, Patricia and Ruben!

Our Program Evaluation Paper published in PeerJ is among the top 100 science articles on Social Media

COBRE personnel published on September 24, 2015 a paper in the new open-access journal, PeerJ. Christopher von Bartheld, Ramona Houmanfar and Amber Candido are the authors of the article entitled "Prediction of junior faculty success in biomedical research: Comparison of metrics and effects of mentoring programs." This is the first study that utilizes a valid control group to measure the effectiveness of the COBRE program and shows which bibliographic metrics predict faculty success. This paper made the "top 100 list of scientific articles" on social media, on four days in 2015: September 25, October 4, October 6, and October 30, according to SciFeeds. SciFeeds is a Smart Science News and Blog Aggregator that uses data from citation analysis, social media, news media, user interactions, and natural language processing to identify important new scientific advances.


New mechanism of neuronal plasticityRuben Dagda, Ph.D., discovers new mechanism of neuronal plasticity

Project leader Ruben Dagda published a study revealing a new mechanism of neuronal dendrite remodeling that has attracted considerable attention. His work was highlighted in a commentary in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry. Here are the links to his paper and the related commentary.


Congratulations to Ruben Dagda, Ph.D., on the acceptance of his co-authored paper in Nature Cell Biology

For details, see the below featured articles:

  1. Science Daily: Featured Research "When cells 'eat' their own power plants: Scientists solve mystery of basic cellular process"
  2. Science World Report: Health & Medicine "Cells 'eat' their power plants: Major implications for therapeutic treatments with Mitochondria"
  3. Medical News Today: Neurology/Neuroscience "Scientists discover how brain 'power plants' send damage signals"

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Thomas Südhof Presented a Seminar to Students and FacultyRuben Dagda's Nobel Prize

Dr. Thomas Südhofs presentation "Synaptic membrane traffic — from molecules to memory" to students and faculty in March 2013. Dr. Südhof was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Thomas Südhofs visit was jointly sponsored by two organizations: The University of Nevada, Reno COBRE in Cell Biology, and the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.

Dr. Amy Altick Receives an International Award for Neuroscience Outreach and Education

The Society for Neuroscience, with 140 chapters worldwide, recognized our COBRE administrator, Dr. Amy Altick for her efforts in neuroscience education and public outreach by awarding her the prestigious Next Generation Award. The award honors outstanding individuals or teams with a $300 honorarium and a $750 travel award to attend the Society's annual meeting. Additionally, the recipients' chapter receives $2,000 to continue outreach efforts in the coming year." Learn more about Dr. Altick's Next Generation Award.

Grant for a New Interdisciplinary Center Builds Infrastructure and Supports Five Junior Faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno

A multi-disciplinary 5-year proposal from the School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno received $10 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The project seeks to better understand and eventually manipulate the communication between cells that cause human neurological and other diseases.

The School of Medicine and the College of Science will establish a new NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) that focuses on the cell biology of signaling across membranes, as well as mentoring biomedical researchers.

Read the full Nevada Today Article about school's NIH award.