News & Updates
Eighteen undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students were honored for their scientific research presentations at the 15th annual Kansas IDeA (Institutional Development Awards) Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) symposium last month in Manhattan, Kansas.
The annual symposium is part of the K-INBRE initiative to identify and recruit promising university students into careers in biomedical research in Kansas. Led by the University of Kansas Medical Center, 10 campuses in Kansas and Oklahoma participate in the collaborative network.
“Developing and recruiting biomedical researchers in Kansas is a priority for the K-INBRE program,” said Doug Wright, principal investigator for K-INBRE and professor and director of graduate studies in anatomy and cell biology at KU Medical Center.
In few places are the effects of climate change more pronounced than on tropical peaks like Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, where centuries-old glaciers have all but melted completely away. Now, new research suggests that future warming on these peaks could be even greater than climate models currently predict.
Researchers have grown heart tissue by seeding a mix of human cells onto a 1-micron-resolution scaffold made with a 3-D printer. The cells organized themselves in the scaffold to create engineered heart tissue that beats synchronously in culture. When the human-derived heart muscle patch was surgically placed onto a mouse heart after a heart attack, it significantly improved heart function and decreased the amount of dead heart tissue.
“Our novel technique is the first to achieve resolution of 1 micrometer or less,” the researchers reported in the journal Circulation Research. This tissue engineering advance is an important step toward the goal of preventing heart failure after a heart attack. Such heart failures account for nearly half of the 7.3 million worldwide heart disease-related deaths each year.
The heart cannot regenerate muscle tissue after a heart attack has killed part of the muscle wall. That dead tissue can strain surrounding muscle, leading to a lethal heart enlargement. It has long been the dream of heart experts to create new tissue that could replace damaged muscle and protect the heart from dilatation after a heart attack.
The researchers, led by Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Brenda Ogle, Ph.D., the University of Minnesota, modeled the scaffold after a three-dimensional scan of the extracellular matrix of a piece of mouse myocardial tissue. Extracellular matrix is the collection of compounds secreted by cells that gives structural support and cushioning to hold the tissue together.
Using multiphoton three-dimensional printing, the team then created crosslinks among extracellular proteins dissolved in a photoreactive gelatin. When the uncrosslinked gelatin was washed away, the photopolymerized extracellular protein scaffold that remained replicated the shape of the extracellular matrix, with hollows where cells had been.
A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has discovered a new function for an enzyme that has long been known to have a central role in bacterial metabolism.
Maciek Antoniewicz, Centennial Junior Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, explains that metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that takes place inside cells to maintain life by breaking down substrate molecules such as sugars and generating energy and new cell components.
“Many of the core metabolic pathways are shared across widely diverse branches of life, and fundamental understanding of the enzymes involved is a central effort of cell biology and biochemistry,” he says. “This basic knowledge is also critical for efforts such as using models of metabolism to rationally re-engineer microbes for the production of biofuels or chemicals — that is, metabolic engineering.”
He and his team at UD recently investigated a system of four enzymes that work together to both bring sugar into the cell and carry out a downstream step in its breakdown in a process called glycolysis.
University of New Hampshire scientists in partnership with the FDA and public health and shellfish management agencies in five states have identified a new strain of a bacterial pathogen that has contaminated seafood, sickening shellfish consumers along the Atlantic Coast at increasing rates over the last decade.
N.H. Agricultural Experiment Station scientists have discovered that a Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain identified as ST631 is a predominant strain endemic to the Atlantic Coast of North America and has been traced to shellfish harvested in seven Atlantic coastal states and Canada. ST631 is the second most prevalent strain isolated from patients sickened by product sourced to the Northeast United States. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the leading seafood-transmitted bacterial pathogen worldwide with an estimated 45,000 infections in the United States every year. It causes gastroenteritis and, rarely, lethal septicemia. The findings were announced in a letter to the editor at the Journal of Clinical Microbiology "Sequence Type 631 Vibrio parahaemolyticus, an Emerging Foodborne Pathogen in North America."
University of Vermont among recipients of $30m in funding from the Department of Energy to integrate solar into nation's electric grid
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) SunShot Initiative announced up to $30 million in new projects to support the integration of solar energy into the nation’s electric grid, while diversifying the nation’s electricity sources and improving the reliability and security of the electric grid. SunShot will fund 13 projects with a total of up to $30 million to develop next-generation grid planning and operation tools that help to integrate more solar power with the grid.
SunShot selected 13 projects under the ENERGISE funding program to enable grid operators to access up-to-the-minute measurement and forecasting data from distributed energy sources and optimize system performance using sensor, communication and data analytics technologies. These projects will help to improve the reliability of the nation’s energy grid by providing utilities with dynamic, automated and cost-effective management of solar and other distributed energy sources. These software and hardware solutions will be highly scalable, data-driven, and capable of fully optimizing system operation and planning.
Five neuroscience-research consortiums addressing fundamental questions about the brain were recently awarded funding through the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research or EPSCoR process. Two of the five consortiums include University of Nevada, Reno neuroscience researchers in the Department of Psychology who are now at work on the projects described by the head of EPSCoR as holding the promise of transforming daily lives.
Associate Professor of Psychology Marian Berryhill and Assistant Professor of Psychology Jacqueline Snow are co-principal investigators on a project probing cognition and learning. Led by the University of Delaware and also involving researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the project explores the complex relationship between existing knowledge stored in the brain and new information obtained through sensory perception.
Kansas State among recipients of NSF award: $3 million for plant and animal microbiome and phenomics research
Millions of microbes living on and in the human body collectively make up our microbiomes. These microbial ecosystems help keep us healthy. The same processes are at work in other animals, as well as in plants.
To better understand the role microbiomes play in human health and in ecosystems around the world, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences has awarded $3 million in Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER). In addition to microbiomes, the research will focus on plant and animal phenomics -- the study of the physical and biochemical traits of organisms as they change in response to genetic mutations and environmental influences.
The findings will foster improved human health and agricultural productivity and more efficient use of natural resources, such as land and water.
"These studies will lead to a better understanding of how microbial communities interact with one another and with their plant and animal hosts," says James Olds, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences.
Can cloud seeding -- dispersing particles into the air with the aim of increasing precipitation -- increase snowfall? This week, a team of researchers began a cloud-seeding project in southwestern Idaho to answer that question.
Cloud seeding is a process by which artificial ice nuclei, such as silver iodide particles, are released into clouds, either from the air or via ground-based generators.
The Idaho project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and dubbed SNOWIE (Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds -- the Idaho Experiment), will run from January 7 to March 17 in and around the Payette Basin, 50 miles north of Boise.
"Scientists are still uncertain about cloud seeding for increasing precipitation, despite ongoing operations around the globe," says Nick Anderson, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. "SNOWIE is the most comprehensive study to date on cloud seeding in winter."
A team from the University of Kentucky has received a grant from Kentucky NSF EPSCoR (National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) for Education and Outreach Activities to fund a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) conference for middle school girls at UK this spring.
The primary goal of the conference, titled “Expanding Your Horizons (EYH),” is to encourage middle school girls to consider STEM studies by providing them with memorable interactive workshop experiences, visible female role models in STEM fields and exposure to different career paths in STEM. EYH seeks to provide middle school girls and their parents an inspiring environment in order to help both groups recognize and pursue opportunities in STEM. The conference will be held April 29 in the Jacobs Science Building.