Category Archives: Best of the blog 2014

Hypoallergenic peanuts developed by N.C. A&T licensed for use in food products, immunotherapy

Hypoallergenic peanuts, peanut butter, and other peanut products are a step closer to grocery stores with the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement for the patented process that reduces allergens in peanuts by 98 percent.

Head shot of Dr. Yu

Dr. Jianmei Yu

N.C. A&T signed the agreement with Xemerge, a Toronto-based firm that commercializes emerging technologies in food, agriculture, and a variety of other fields. Xemerge has opened an office at the Gateway University Research Park south campus in Greensboro.

“This is one of the best technologies in the food and nutrition space we have seen,” said Johnny Rodrigues, Chief Commercialization Officer of Xemerge.

“It checks all the boxes: non-GMO, patented, human clinical data, does not change physical characteristics of the peanut along with maintaining the nutrition and functionality needed, ready for industry integration from processing and manufacturing to consumer products.”

The process was developed by Dr. Jianmei Yu, a food and nutrition researcher in A&T’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and two former A&T faculty members, Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna and Dr. Ipek Goktepe, both of whom are now at Qatar University.

“Treated peanuts can be used as whole peanuts, in pieces or as flour to make foods containing peanuts safer for many people who are allergic,” Dr. Yu said.

“Treated peanuts also can be used in immunotherapy,” she said. “Under a doctor’s supervision, the hypoallergenic peanuts can build up a patient’s resistance to the allergens.”

Research funding was provided by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Sen. Hagan tours Engineering Research Center, promotes her bill to support innovation at HBCUs

Sen. Hagan speaking to reporters

Sen. Kay Hagan speaks to reporters at the Fort IRC.

Sen. Hagan and news media photographers in research lab

Sen. Hagan listens to Wayne Szafranski of A&T in the Engineering Research Center’s  Material Processing and Characterization Lab.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is promoting innovation at historically black universities, and on Monday she brought the news media to N.C. A&T for a close-up look at what she’s talking about.

Accompanied by a group of national and local reporters and, photographers, and videographers, Sen. Hagan toured the NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials and then held a news conference to talk about her bill to create a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Innovation Fund.

The Engineering Research Center is developing an advanced magnesium alloy to make screws, plates, and other implantable devices that could hold broken or surgically repaired bones in place for healing and then dissolve and pass out of the body when they’re no longer needed.

The technology could eliminate the need in many cases for either surgical removal or for patients to carry metal parts in their bones for a lifetime.

Sen. Hagan was joined in her news conference by Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. and two A&T bioengineering grad students, Adrienne Daley and Roman Blount.

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A&T researcher’s work on COPD among ag workers wins support from NC TraCS program for scholars

Dr. Jenora Waterman has made one key discovery toward improving the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among agricultural workers, and now she’s been accepted into a prestigious career development program to advance her research.

Headshot of Dr. Waterman

Dr. Jenora Waterman

Dr. Waterman is an assistant professor of functional genomics in the Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. COPD is a major cause of death in the United States, most typically found among smokers. A less studied aspect of the disease is the 7% of its U.S. victims who are agricultural workers. They can develop COPD as a result of long-term exposure to animal production facilities containing dust that contributes to respiratory diseases.

High-density swine production houses are one example of such facilities.

Dr. Waterman’s first key finding came from comparing pigs raised indoors with those raised outdoors. Pigs aren’t as severely affected by the dust as humans are, but her work demonstrated that their respiratory systems are uniquely adapted to their housing type.

“My lab recently showed for the first time that pigs reared indoors and those raised outdoors exhibit structural and cellular differences in their respiratory systems,” Dr. Waterman says.

“The next step will be studying those differences to identify potential biomarkers that could serve as diagnostic or prognostic markers of agriculture-related COPD in humans.”

Dr. Waterman will take that step as an NC TraCS K-Scholar, a professional development honor for junior faculty members funded through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program of the National Institutes of Health.

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A&T and UNC-CH researchers launch investigation into triple-negative breast cancer’s link to viral RNA

Researchers at N.C. A&T and UNC-Chapel Hill have been awarded a grant to investigate a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. The team will work to determine the role of viral factors in the virulent nature of triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer represents 15% to 20% of breast carcinomas. It is prevalent in younger women, African American women, and in women with BRCA1 gene mutations. This type of cancer is very aggressive, has a poor prognosis, fails to respond to conventional therapy, and appears in many forms. The causes and molecular basis of this cancer are currently unknown, though multiple factors, including viruses, may be involved.

Specifically, this pilot study will investigate the prevalence of three particular types of viral genetic material in triple negative breast tumors and determine what role these passenger virus genetic materials play in the cancer’s malignant properties and survival.

The study will be led by Dr. Perpetua Muganda, professor of biology at N.C. A&T. The team will include Dr. Scott Harrison, assistant professor of biology at A&T; Dr. Dukka KC, assistant professor of computational science and engineering at A&T; and Dr. Jan Prins, professor of computer science at UNC-CH.

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Work on space ‘ice,’ inter-satellite communication wins Space Grant honors for two A&T researchers

Two new North Carolina A&T engineering professors have been honored by the North Carolina Space Grant program. Dr. Trisha Sain has been awarded the 2014-15 North Carolina Space Grant Award, and Dr. Fatemeh Afghah has received the N.C. Space Grant New Investigator Award.

headshot of Dr. Sain

Dr. Trisha Sain

Dr. Sain is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Her award will fund a research project titled, “Numerical modeling of constitutive behavior of ice at high strain rates.”  The study will focus on the development of a constitutive model for capturing high-rate response of “ice,” potential harmful debris that can damage aircraft and space structures.

Her research focuses on integrated computational materials engineering, including characterization of novel nanocomposite hydrogels, constitutive modeling of polymer nano-composite, computational modeling of curing kinetics and curing induced damage in thermosets under large deformation, mesoscale simulations of TiN thin film growth and 3D TiN nanostructures, and biomimetic material design.

She joined A&T last September. She had been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Department of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering.

head shot of Dr. Afghah

Dr. Fatemeh Afghah

Dr. Afghah is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering,  She won the new investigator award for her research in inter-satellite communications in autonomous small satellite networks.

She is the director of Wireless Networking (WiNet) Laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research focuses on wireless communications, dynamic spectrum sharing, game theory optimization, and biomedical data analysis.

Dr. Afghah also came to A&T last fall. she received her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Maine in 2013.

The New Investigators Program is designed to strengthen North Carolina’s aerospace-related research infrastructure by providing start-up funding to early-career faculty conducting research aligned with NASA’s strategic research.

Aggie students are minding their own businesses

Montage of Aggie entrepreneurs' website screenshots

Aggie entrepreneurs on the Internet

Meet Allan, Adey J, Jayrello and Justin — four undergraduates with the talent, drive and ambition to be entrepreneurs. So why wait until graduation? All four have created their own businesses as undergraduates. Anyone who says they don’t have time to live their dreams, talk to these four. You can find them on the Aggie Entrepreneurs page on the A&T website. And if you’re an enrolled A&T student operating your own business, you’re awesome, too. Tell us about it, and we’ll add you to the list.

The metallic biomaterials revolution will be televised and it’s going to be on tonight, actually, on UNC-TV

Screenshot of UNC-TV webpage with video

Watch it tonight on UNC-TV or why not watch it now by clicking the picture to go to the network’s website.

UNC-TV is offering viewers of “North Carolina Now” an inside look at the revolutionary developments being fomented in the Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials.  Next-generation implantable medical devices … bioresorbable magnesium alloys … A&T faculty and student researchers … great stuff.

The report will air tonight on the program, which is on at 7:30 on UNC-TV stations across the state.

But those of us who live in the 21st century and are no longer accustomed to waiting around for TV shows to come on can watch it now at the UNC-TV website.  Note: The video works just fine on most browsers (including Android, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari), but your results may vary on Firefox or the Lotus Notes Browser.