Cellular and Molecular Biology Center

The Cellular and Molecular Biology Center is an interdisciplinary group of researchers from all of the basic sciences departments at our Institution who share common and interrelated research interests in cell and molecular biology. The Center coordinates two core facilities, the Optical Imaging Facility and the Protein and DNA Core Facility, which offer services to Center members and the general scientific community. The Center also coordinates seminars, workshops and an Annual Retreat for UCC researchers, where conceptual and technical advances in cell and molecular biology are presented and demonstrated by distinguished visiting scientists and commercial instrumentation representatives.  Center researchers mainly work in the areas of signal transduction and functional genomics.

Research Projects:

•Oxidative DNA Damage and Oxysterol-induced Apoptosis
•Membrane cholesterol and lipid-protein interaction alters the AChR function
•Glial polyamine regulation of the neuronal-glial network
•Functional role of   potassium channels in astrocytes
•Regulation of Kir channels in retinal cells
•Mechanisms of  immunosuppression in modeled microgravity
•Norepinephrine and cocaine sensitization.
•Repair of AP sites and aging in S. cerevisia
•NPY and Nucleotides Signaling in Vascular Endothelial Cells
•Structure-Function Relationship of Muscarinic Toxin MT7
•Non genomic action of thyroid hormones in the amphibian neuromuscular junction

Contact Information
Priscila Sanabria, Ph.D.



Center for Addiction Studies

The Center for Addiction Studies (know as CEA for its initial in Spanish) was establish with the purpose of expanding scientific knowledge on substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and related topics.  The objectives of the center are 1) To estimate the prevalence of drug use, abuse and dependence in the Puerto Rican population.  2) Describe the patterns of drug use and associated factors, 3) Examine the relationship between substance abuse and other physical and mental health conditions.  The center aims to provide empirical knowledge as the base for the preparation of health professionals that provide substance abuse and drug treatment services. The center also maintains scientific databases that serve as reference for public policy making.

Research Projects:

•HIV Risks and Transitions to Injection Among Non-IDUs
•HIV Risk Behaviors in Preparation of Injectable Drugs
•Puerto Rico Drug Abuse Research Development Program
•Risky Families Embedded in Risky Environments

Contact Information
Ibis Carrion, Psy.D.



Integrative Center for Glial Research

The Center unifies a multi-institutional group of researchers focused on glial cell investigation and oriented to disorders originated by or related to glial cell function and pathology.  The center represents scientific research groups from UCC, UPR and Interamerican University (Bayamon).  At UCC there is a large group of researchers from the basic sciences departments who share interrelated research interests in neuroglial cell physiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and biophysics.  The Center has developed a core facility named The Innovative Glial Technology Core: which provides new techniques to investigate glial cell functions.  This is necessary because glial cells  (the “silent brain”) do not generate spikes.  Instead, glial signaling in brain is through molecular and ionic mechanisms inside of the glial syncitium and between glia and neurons. These signaling avenues use a wide variety of molecules which can be detected with the help of new techniques developed and installed by the core.  In addition, the Center uses common core facilities, such as the Common Instrumentation Area, the Optical Imaging Facility and the Protein and Nucleic Acid Core Facility, Behavioral  Testing Facility and the Neuronal Glial Culture Facility which provide services to Center members.  The Center is led by the Director (Dr. Skatchkov, Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry) who is assisted by an Associate Scientific Director (Dr. Eaton, Professor of Biochemistry) and an Associate Administrative Director (Dr. Cubano, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies). The Center has established wide-spread national and international partnerships.  The Center coordinates lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, workshops and an Annual Symposium “CaribeGLIA” which is attend by distinguished national and international glial researchers, physicians, students and associates.

Research Projects:
•Glial polyamines: regulation of the neuronal-glial network
•Functional role of 2P-domain potassium channels in astrocytes in norm and pathophysiology
•Function of glial Kir channels in epilepsy and ischemia
•Structure-Function Relationship of Connexin hemichannels and gap-junctions in neuroglia
•Organic Cation Transporters (OCT-1 and OCT-3) in glia: role in mono-and poly-amine uptake/release
•Role of glial cells in drug addiction
•Glioblastoma: the interaction of astrocytes, microglia and glioma cells
•Living light guides in retina: role and mechanisms of Müller cells in light propagation
•Novel glial markers during astrocyte differentiation
Contact Information
Luis Cubano, Ph.D. (luis.cubano@uccaribe.net)


Neuroscience Research Center

The primary mission of the Neuroscience Research Center is to foster and conduct science of the highest caliber that advances the understanding of brain function and diseases that affect the nervous system. The Center maintains a quality research environment highly conducive to productive and clinically-oriented basic research focused on Neuroscience. The Center’s scientists share common interests in understanding the biology of neurological disorders and work toward the shared goal of ultimately developing novel methods of diagnosis and treatment of the disorders.

The Center originally named Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN) was established in 1990 for the purpose of promoting neuroscience research in Puerto Rico and organized as an inter-institutional association of neuroscientists with headquarters at the UCC.  Currently, composed of 17 scientists from four Puerto Rican universities, in addiction to associate and student members.  Close to 20 research projects address issues ranging from the basic mechanism(s) of cocaine addiction, excitotoxicity and neuroprotection, to ion channel function and signal transduction pathways.  This center also organizes the Puerto Rico Neurosciences Conference, held annually since 1992.

Research Projects:

•Noradrenergic modulation of glutamate transmission in the prefrontal cortex in cocaine sensitization.
•Characterization of the cembranoid binding site on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.
•Behavioral sensitization to nicotine-relevance to neuroprotection.
•Cembranoids and RNA’s: New Tools to Study Receptors.
•The Structure of the ionotropic acetylcholine receptor from Torpedo californica.

Contact Information
Misty Eaton, Ph.D.



Retrovirus Research Center

The Retrovirus Research Center is a multidisciplinary research center for the study of HIV/AIDS and other Retroviruses.  The center promotes the study of HIV infection as a multidisciplinary research arena in which the clinical features, immunological, and virological elements and the psychological and behavioral parameters need to be integrated into a coherent research strategy.  The center brings together a coalition of multidisciplinary researchers whose interest is to describe and understand key elements that play a role in the progression and/or expression of HIV infection according to an ecological view of the problem.

Research Projects:

•HIV/AIDS Data Core: Studies the natural history of AIDS disease among the Puerto Rican population.
•HCV Risk Reduction Intervention as Secondary Co-Morbidity Prevention
•ASUMA: A Supportive Model for HIV Risk Reduction in Early Adolescents
Contact Information
Robert Hunter, MD