Touro event sheds light on ticks, sugars, biology

Vallejo Times Herald

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted:   05/01/2014 12:57:18 AM PDT

Trying to get into the mind of a tick and to figure out, well, what makes it tick is the aim of one researcher who outlined his work Wednesday on Mare Island. 

The ultimate goal is to halt the spread of Lyme disease, a bacterial illness spread to humans by tick bites. The ailment has come into the limelight in the last few decades, said Touro Research Director Alejandro Gugliucci. 

Professor Ira Schwartz's keynote address on emerging tick-borne infectious diseases, particularly Lyme Disease, was one highlight of Touro University's annual Research Day held on the Mare Island campus. 

The day included several short speeches by Touro professors, plus a festive reception at Farragut Inn in which students, faculty members and others presented research work on a wide variety of topics. 

"Touro is growing very fast," Gugliucci said, adding that with additional campuses, faculty and students research activities are also multiplying. 

In this year's event, the number of research abstracts presented for the day increased 25 percent over last year, he said.

Schwartz's appearance as keynote speaker reflected Touro's recent expansion in upper state New York, Gugliucci said. He has been professor and chairman of microbiology and immunology at New York College since 2002. 

Mostly mice and deer and other mammals in nature get bitten by ticks in nature , but humans can get bitten, too, particularly if they are out hiking where ticks are prevalent. Symptoms include fever, headache, and fatigue which can, if untreated, cause more serious problems, officials said. 

Author of more than 130 publications, Schwartz has conducted extensive research in the laboratory attempting to get a clear look at how the Lyme disease bacterium Borrealia Burgdorferi lives and various ways it can be stopped dead in its tracks. 

His work, on the molecular level, even includes the effects of carbohydrates and sugar on the bacterium. 

Gugliucci said the work is painstaking but may eventually lead to an effective way to kill off the ticks which carry the bacteria. 

Ticks weren't the only things explored throughout the day. 

Touro students and faculty members displayed a wide array of research being done on the campus, including development of drugs which would help halt transmission of the HIV-virus into cells. 

Touro professor Jean-Marc Schwarz also outlined his work in determining the effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup on the body, and if they are culprits behind the steep rise in childhood obesity. 

Touro faculty are also doing a great deal of research on age-related diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. 

Some students even introduced art into their work by studying whether abstract artist Sam Francis' painted forms are statistically similar to cells in biological issues. Prior to delving into art, Francis was a premedical student at UC Berkeley in the late 1940s. 

The study concluded that the painted forms are statistically similar to biological cells which could help explain their innate appeal for some viewers, the students wrote in their abstract. 

Another study looked at the correlation between prolonged methamphetamine use and congestive heart failure, while another examined the effects of various antihistamines in field sobriety tests. 

Gugliucci said more research is on the horizon for Touro University. He predicted that next year the school may be prepared to release results of a five-year extensive study on childhood obesity. 

While many have assumed sugars are not good for children, the research should be able to make that case for good, he said. 

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH. 

Touro Research Day

Touro University faculty, students and observers crowd the floor of the Farragut Inn banquet room, examining research projects displays Wednesday, conducted by members of the Touro community on a variety of subjects.. (Mike Jory / Times-Herald)