Dec 8, 2003 — Yeshiva University sophomore Alex Kushnir participated in a major conference of leading scientists and doctors in October in Eilat, Israel, of the International Academic Friends of Israel (IAFI). Co-sponsoring the conference, “Frontiers of Cardiovascular Science,” were Columbia University, The Cardiovascular Foundation, and the Israel Atherosclerosis Society.
Mr. Kushnir, 18, was chosen to attend the conference by Dr. Andrew R. Marks, professor and chair of the department of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Mr. Kushnir, a pre-med major, presented and discussed a poster that focused on the FKBP12.6 protein. The protein binds to the ryanodine receptor, which speeds up the heartbeat when the body and heart become active. For example, when a person exercises, FKBP12.6 releases from the ryanodine receptor, giving a person more energy. When the body works too hard or is under intense stress, FKBP12.6 remains unbound from the receptor, increasing the risk of heart attack. Mr. Kushnir’s research in Dr. Marks’ lab focused on understanding how FKBP12.6 binds to the ryanodine receptor, which could substantially reduce the risk of heart attack.
“It was a great experience because I learned how scientific research is formally presented and how researchers present their work,” Mr. Kushnir said.
Yeshiva College funded Mr. Kushnir’s trip to Israel for the conference.
“We try to support student research in a variety of ways,” said Dr. Norman Adler, dean of Yeshiva College. “We encourage our young men to think about careers in research.”
Mr. Kushnir began research in Dr. Marks’ molecular cardiology lab at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center last year, when he approached Dr. A.K.M. Mollah, YC assistant professor of biology, about the prospect of conducting independent research. The two teamed up with Dr. Marks, and Mr. Kushnir continues to work in the lab four to five hours per week under Dr. Xander Wehrens.
“Alex has done a great job learning a new system in my laboratory and developing important new information about a system that controls the fundamental beating of the human heart,” Dr. Marks said. “I was proud to have him present this work at the meeting on heart disease in Eilat.”