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Research Highlights

Below are selected recent research highlights by UC Irvine School of Medicine researchers:  


Three School of Medicine faculty members receive top international honors:

  • Dr. William E. Bunney, distinguished professor of psychiatry & human behavior, is awarded the prestigious Institute of Medicine’s 2011 Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health for his work on mood disorders.
  • UC Irvine neurologist and neuroscientist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram is recipient of the American Neurological Society's prestigious Soriano Lectureship Award.
  • Ivan Soltesz, PhD, professor of neurobiology, receives the Epilepsy Research Award for Basic Science Research from the American Epilepsy Society.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recognizes UC Irvine Healthcare’s multiple sclerosis program for superior and innovative patient care by certifying it as an official Center for MS Comprehensive Care.

The first patient is enrolled in the world’s first clinical trial of a stem cell therapy created by Aileen Anderson and Brian Cummings of the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine.  Anderson and Cummings collaborated with StemCells Inc. to develop the treatment, in which purified human neural stem cells introduced into the spinal column grow into neural tissue cells that migrate to spinal cord injury sites.

A UC Irvine team led by physiology & biophysics professor Todd C. Holmes discovers a second form of phototransduction light sensing in cells, this one derived from vitamin B2. For more than a century, it was believed that the process was solely based on a chemical, retinal, derived from vitamin A. Holmes' team finds that phototransduction can also be mediated by a protein called cryptochrome.

A study led by UC Irvine oncologist Rita Mehta, MD finds that a new treatment option for post-menopausal women with a certain type of metastatic breast cancer may lengthen their lives.  The findings were presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The combination of the two anti-estrogen drugs anastrozole and fulvestrant extended the median survival time of women with hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer by more than six months compared to those who underwent standard treatment with anastrozole alone.


Csaba Varga, a postdoctoral researcher, is the 2010 winner of the prestigious Cortical Explorer prize, awarded by the international Cajal Club. The prize recognizes Varga's discovery of a new principle of cortical microcircuit organization, published in the July 2010 issue of Nature Neuroscience.

UC Irvine's gynecologic oncology group forges a treatment breakthrough that supplements chemotherapy with the drug Avastin. After three clinical trials, the treatment is being hailed as the biggest advance in gynecological oncology in nearly 14 years.

A new therapeutic effectively kills leukemia cells but not normal immune cells, reports the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Institute for Immunology at UC Irvine, following a study using a TORC 1/2 kinase inhibitor.

UC Irvine dedicates its $80-million, 100,000-square-foot stem cell research building, Sue & Bill Gross Hall, reflecting the campus’s deep commitment to shaping the future of healthcare.

UC Irvine scientists will receive grants totaling $9.35 million to help create stem cell treatments for retinitis pigmentosa, Huntington’s disease and traumatic brain injury.


A therapy developed at UC Irvine that made paralyzed rats walk again becomes the world’s first embryonic stem cell treatment tested in humans. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approves the therapy, based on the work of a research team led by Hans Keirstead of UC Irvine’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, for a clinical trial in patients with thoracic spinal cord injuries. In November, application of the treatment expanded dramatically when it was shown to be effective in cervical spinal cord injuries.

A study authored by Ilona Yim, UC Irvine psychology & social behavior assistant professor, finds that women with higher levels of a corticotrophin-releasing hormone produced by the placenta midway through pregnancy are more likely to develop postpartum depression. The discovery by Yim and colleagues could help identify and treat at-risk women before the onset of symptoms.

UC Irvine’s Frank LaFerla, Mathew Blurton-Jones and colleagues show for the first time that neural stem cells can rescue memory in mice with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, raising hopes of a potential treatment for the disease.

Paolo Sassone-Corsi finds that circadian rhythms – our own body clocks – regulate energy levels in cells. 

Joyce Keyak finds that astronauts spending months in space lose significant bone strength, making them increasingly at risk for fractures later in life.

The Cochlear Implant Center team at UC Irvine, with several patents in the design and invention of cochlear implants and expertise in pioneering implant surgery, restores children’s hearing.