News & Updates

International scientific teams work with biologists at University of Kansas, find potential approach against parasites

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Research teams from the National Institutes of Health and abroad have identified the first inhibitor of an enzyme long thought to be a potential drug target for fighting disease-causing parasites and bacteria. 

The teams, led by NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and University of Tokyo scientists, sorted through more than 1 trillion small protein fragments called cyclic peptides to uncover two that could shut down the enzyme. The finding, reported April 3, 2017 in Nature Communications, could set the stage for the potential development of new types of antimicrobial drugs.

NCATS’ expertise in early stage, pre-clinical molecule discovery helped the teams find potential drug candidates that could have implications for millions of people worldwide. 

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Brown University Galápagos study identifies keystone predator in a complex food web

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Despite popular metaphors and cartoons depicting straightforward “food chains,” ecologists such as Brown University Professor Jon Witman typically doubt that they’ll see predators in diverse tropical ecosystems have meaningful impacts on species even just two links down the line. But after six years of meticulous experimentation and observation off the coast of the famed Galápagos Islands, Witman and two colleagues have amassed direct evidence that just such an important “trophic cascade” is happening there.

The researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE that two species of triggerfish are overcoming consistent pestering by sharks, sea lions and especially hogfish to gobble up enough pencil urchins to reduce the urchins’ consumption of algae. Determining such interactions matters, Witman and his co-authors wrote, because while it is clear that humans disrupt the normal functioning of tropical ecosystems across the world, it is often unclear exactly how. Understanding when and how trophic cascades occur, and who is involved, is the only way to prevent or fix such problems.

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EVENT: National SBIR/STTR Conference in Washington, D.C. | May 15-17, 2017

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SBIR/STTR programs are the nation's largest source of early stage / high risk R&D funding for small business. At this conference you’ll learn how to participate and compete for funding in these two programs that encourage small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) and to commercialize your technological innovations.

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Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology

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The international Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology is awarded annually to one young scientist for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology conducted by him/her during the past three years.

Deadline: Thursday, June 15, 2017
Award: $25,000

About the Prize
Eppendorf and Science/AAAS established this international prize in 2002. The Prize is intended to encourage and support the work of promising young neurobiologists who are not older than 35 years. It is awarded annually to one young scientist for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology conducted by him/her during the past three years, as described in a 1,000-word entrance essay.

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University of Delaware students, Nemours create chair for babies with fragile bones

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Babies with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, more commonly known as Brittle Bone Disease, have to be handled more carefully than other infants because they’re prone to spontaneous bone fractures.  

Several UD biomedical engineering students who enrolled in a clinical immersion course partnered with Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington to build a chair that protects a baby’s skeleton while allowing them to do things other babies do, like playing with toys and eating.

Sarah Rooney, a biomedical engineering professor, said the way parents try to safely carry their babies around now doesn’t always work. 

Parents will kind of scoop them up in their arms and prop them on pillows so that they’re situated properly,” Rooney said. “However, that’s not necessarily giving them the support that they need, nor are they able to interact with the world around them.”

Parents buckle their baby into the chair, which has a soft memory foam cushion to absorb any pressure that could damage their skeletons. Doctors work with the parents to find comfortable positions for their child, and they use the chair to shift the infant’s position from sitting upright to laying back. The chair is designed for patients with the most severe forms of Brittle Bone Disease.

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Tomatoes on Mars? University of Arkansas-Little Rock doctoral student is trying to make it happen

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When Diamond McGehee was growing up in Magnet Cove, she dreamed of being a medical doctor.  Now she hopes to keep astronauts from needing to see a doctor in the cold depths of space by possibly putting something red on the Red Planet.

McGehee told Talk Business & Politics she has genetically modified anti-oxidant rich tomatoes that might help prevent cancer during a long space flight to the planet Mars.

The 27-year-old is a University of Arkansas at Little Rock student seeking her doctorate in applied bioscience. Her recent genetic research project, “Metabolomic Analysis with Focus on anti-cancerous Metabolites in InsP 5-ptase Expressing Tomato Fruits via Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS),” was selected by NASA as one of 10 projects nationwide exhibited March 2 at the prestigious Julius Dasch student poster presentation at the 2017 National Space Grant Directors meeting in Washington, D.C.

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University of Wyoming researcher helps quantify grasslands’ carbon storage value

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When grasslands feature a wide array of plant species, they provide a variety of benefits for humans and animals, including enhanced carbon storage capacity that can be quantified economically, according to a new scientific paper co-written by a University of Wyoming researcher.

And the ability to measure the economic value of biodiversity for enhancing carbon storage could help in making decisions about land management, the paper published in the journal Science Advances concludes.

Ed Barbier, the John S. Bugas Professor of Economics and Finance in the UW College of Business, was a co-author of “The economic value of grassland species for carbon storage,” along with researchers from Northern Arizona University, the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, Australia’s Western Sydney University, the University of Nebraska, Western Washington University and the University of Michigan.

Biodiversity conservation may help increase carbon storage, but the value of this influence has been difficult to assess,” the researchers wrote. “Our work … helps move beyond mere speculation about the economic importance of biodiversity and lends an economic argument to biodiversity preservation for climate protection.”

Grasslands that feature diverse plant species have more carbon storage capacity than less-diverse grasslands, largely because the former produce more biomass, the researchers say. Plant species provide a wide variety of benefits, including products such as wood, food and biofuels, as well as services such as recreation, water purification, buffers against floods and support for animal biodiversity.

In land-use decision making, carbon storage capacity is a benefit that should be considered as well, the paper says.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers looked at a grassland experiment in Minnesota as well as lands converted from crops to grasslands through the U.S. government’s Conservation Reserve Program. They found that increasing the number of plant species from one to 10 had twice the value of increasing from one to two species, from the standpoint of carbon storage capacity.

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Student research in the sciences flourishes at Vermont's Johnson State College

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As the college intensifies its emphasis on high-impact learning, the Department of Environmental and Health Sciences offers plenty of opportunities for hands on research and fieldwork. Currently, the disciplines of physiology, microbiology, toxicology, climatology, and geology are active areas of research.

Dr. Hans Haverkamp is an associate professor of health sciences and is also the director of the exercise physiology lab. Haverkamp currently has three undergraduate students who are working with him. Kasie Craig, a junior and a biology pre-med major, is one of those students. According to Craig, she was mostly unfamiliar with research when she entered college. “I did not know a lot about research…[However,] when I told my advisor that one of my goals was to get involved in research, he introduced me to professor Haverkamp, and I became very interested in the work that he was doing,” said Craig.

Haverkamp’s students work to research factors that cause airway narrowing in people with asthma. “There are several different causes of this airway narrowing, and one of the causes is exercise, and it’s called exercise-induced asthma,” said Haverkamp. In his exercise physiology lab, Haverkamp and his students test asthmatic patients using a breathing protocol that causes bronchial constriction, similar to the way exercise causes it in people with asthma. “What we’re trying to determine is [whether] lung volume might moderate the extent of bronchial constriction…if we follow [the] six-minute breathing challenge with elevated breathing rates and elevated breath size, the hypothesis is that it will minimize the airway narrowing,” said Haverkamp.

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UK students, faculty encourage middle school girls to 'Expand Their Horizons'

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Research in science and math education tells us that as early as elementary school, girls begin to feel alienated and insecure about the subjects. As a result, a statistically low number of women choose to study or enter career fields in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (also known as the STEM fields).

To address these insecurities, a team of faculty, staff and students at the University of Kentucky will host "Expanding Your Horizons" this Saturday, April 29 — a conference that encourages middle school girls to consider STEM studies. Between 100-150 girls from around Kentucky are expected to attend, along with their parents, and will participate in interactive workshop experiences, meet female role models in STEM fields and learn about different career opportunities.   

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