Brief History of Research at SUNY Downstate

SUNY Downstate has been a pioneer in medicine and science since its founding in 1860. Its role as a biomedical research leader was confirmed in 1998 when Dr. Robert F. Furchgott, distinguished professor emeritus, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of endothelial-derived relaxing factor and his subsequent discovery that EDRF was the molecule nitric oxide (NO). Dr. Furchgott's surprising discovery that such a simple molecule could play such an important role in the body has changed how high blood pressure and heart disease are treated. It has led to the creation of Viagra, the impotence drug. And it is being studied by researchers concerned with preventing shock, cancer, and neurological dysfunction.

Researchers at SUNY Downstate have been contributing to the growth of scientific knowledge and applying their findings to improving clinical care since the inception of the school. Breakthroughs of the second half of the twentieth century ranged from Dr. Clarence Dennis's development of the first heart-lung machine in 1957, to Dr. Evelyn Witkin's elucidation of basic DNA repair mechanisms in 1960, to Dr. Raymond Damadian's producing the first human images using magnetic resonance imaging in 1977.

The "Brooklyn Hippocampal Group" was set up by Dr. James Ranck in the Dept of Physiology in 1975. The group pioneered technical advances in recording and quantitating activity from brain which paved the way for dramatic increases in understanding of the hippocampus in learning and memory. Perhaps most significant was Dr. Ranck's discovery of "head-direction cells" in the post-subiculum. Dr. Ranck's contributions to understanding brain function were honored at a symposium, "Sense of Direction and the Cognitive Map", held Sept, 9, 2016 at the SUNY Global Center.

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Much important scientific work is being conducted at SUNY Downstate right now. Please see the web pages of the individual programs -- Molecular and Cellular Biology, Neural and Behavioral Science, and Biomedical Engineering — and the links to the individual web pages of the faculty for more information.