Category Archives: Biomedical Research

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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Visiting Fulbright biochemical engineer to speak: Bio-inspired look at energy and environment issues

What: “A bio-inspired journey through some research challenges of energy and environment,” a lecture by Dr. Ramkrishna Sen, Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Columbia University.

When, where, etc: Tuesday April 15, 2014, 11 a.m. to noon, Fort IRC, Room 410. There is no charge for the workshop.  Fulbright campus representatives and interested faculty are encouraged to attend.  To reserve a seat please email Brendan McKennedy.

Background: Dr. Ramkrishna Sen is an associate professor in the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. He is currently working as Fulbright Visiting Faculty in the Department of Earth & Environmental Engineering, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Sciences at Columbia University.

Dr. Sen is a biochemical engineer by training and profession. He has been engaged in R&D in energy and the environment and healthcare. His team has been working on the process development and optimization for antitumor, broad-spectrum antimicrobial and biofilm-disrupting biosurfactants of marine bacterial origin; biosurfactant-enhanced remediation of heavy metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons; biosurfactant-mediated MEOR and nano-particle synthesis; bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass; biodiesel from microalgal lipid and non-conventional vegetable oils and algae based CO2 capture & sequestration (CCS) from flue gas coupled with waste water treatment.

The Outreach Lecturing Fund allows Fulbright Visiting Scholars who are currently in the United States to travel to other higher education institutions across the country.  Each year some 800 faculty and professionals from around the world receive Fulbright Scholar grants for advanced research and university lecturing.  The fund allows these scholars to share their specific research interests; speak on the history and culture of their home country; exchange ideas with U.S. students, faculty and community organizations; become better acquainted with U.S. higher education; and create linkages between their home and host institutions and the Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

Clean-energy developer Adewuyi, other faculty honored with 2014 Research Excellence Awards

A nationally recognized pioneer in clean-energy development has been named Senior Researcher of the Year at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Over a career of more than 25 years, Dr. Yusuf “Debo” Adewuyi has skillfully fused chemical engineering and environmental science to explore new dimensions of energy production, including the use of nanoscale materials and sound-wave technology for pollution control.

Dr. Adewuyi is one of five individual researchers and one research team selected this year for N.C. A&T’s highest research honor, the Research Excellence Awards. In addition to Dr. Adewuyi, the honorees are:

  • Dr. Justin Zhan, Department of Computer Science, Outstanding Junior Researcher;
  • Dr. Stephanie Kelly, Department of Business Education, and Dr. Lifeng Zhang, Department of Nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, co-winners of the Rookie of the Year award;
  • Dr. Salil Desai, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Intellectual Property Award; and
  • The NSF CREST Bioenergy Center, Interdisciplinary Team Award.

They were chosen from a field consisting of faculty members selected as researchers of the year by their colleges and schools. The winners and nominees will be honored Friday April 11 at the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence.

Details on the winners follow the jump.

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Biology weekly seminar: SPIRE fellows, UNC-CH

Flyer for Biology seminar 2/12/14The Seeding Postdoctoral Innovators in Research and Education (SPIRE) Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at UNC-CH is funded by the National Institute for General Medical Sciences.

SPIRE’s goal is to provide tomorrow’s science scholars and educators with a holistic approach to postgraduate professional development. SPIRE blends an outstanding research environment with broad professional development activities and hands-on classroom experiences for scientists who want to combine research with undergraduate and graduate education.

Weekly Biology seminar: Kinase regulation

This week’s Department of Biology weekly seminar,  Wednesday February 5, noon, Barnes Hall, Room 221:

Topic: New and Emerging Modes of Kinase Regulation

Speaker: Dr. Robert Newman, Assistant Professor of Biology

Abstract: Protein phosphorylation, mediated by protein kinases, is one of the most widespread regulatory mechanisms in eukaryotes. Inside the cell, kinases and their respective substrates are organized into complex phosphorylation networks that govern nearly all cellular processes.

To achieve signaling specificity in response to a given environmental stimulus, these networks must be precisely coordinated in cellular space and time. This involves regulation both at the level of kinase activity and at the level of substrate selection. Consequently, much effort has been devoted to understanding how these parameters are controlled inside cells.

In this seminar, we will explore two modes of kinase regulation, namely proteolytic processing and reversible oxidation, that have been relatively understudied but are emerging as important modulators of kinase activity in health and disease.

Weekly Biology seminar: Nanobioelectronics

This week’s Department of Biology weekly seminar,  Wednesday January 29, noon, Barnes Hall, Room 221:

Topic: Nanobioelectronics: Convergence of Microsystems, Nanotechnology and Bioengineering

Speaker: Dr. Shyam Aravamudhan, Assistant  Professor, Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering

Abstract: Nanobioelectronics is an emerging field at the intersection of semiconductor nano/microfabrication, biology, and electronics, with the goal of novel devices for disease diagnostics, regenerative medicine, and even for advanced computing. In this talk, Dr. Aravamudhan will present the current work being done in the lab in this emerging field with a particular emphasis on (a) multi-modal diagnostic device-on-chip, (b) microsystem-based regenerative tissue engineering and (c) methods to understand toxicity of engineering nanomaterials.

A&T, NCCU team up to study disease-fighting ginger

Screengrab of Dr. Sang interviewed by UNC-TV

Dr. Shengmin Sang of the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, N.C. A&T’s research center at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis

The bioactive compounds in ginger pack a punch, two of them, actually. Fresh ginger contains anemia-fighting gingerols. Dry ginger contains shogaols, biocompounds that could be helpful in preventing cancer. Scientists from N.C., A&T and N.C. Central University are working together to determine how the human body can get the most benefit from those compounds.

UNC-TV will air a report on the research tonight (December 18), on “North Carolina Now” at 7:30 p.m. But if you want to watch it now or any time, just click here.

 

N.C. A&T researchers generating headlines

This week’s two major announcements are producing positive news coverage for research at N.C. A&T.

News 14 Carolina covered  the announcement of the Engineering Research Center collaborating with InCube Labs to commercialize its metallic biomaterials technology.

Screen capture of TV news report

Click on the photo to go to the News 14 Carolina report

The Business Journal was all over that story as well.

“Scientists at N.C. A&T and ERC partners such as the University of Pittsburgh and University of Cincinnati are developing new materials, primarily magnesium alloys, designed to adapt to the human body and grow after implantation without having to be refitted, and then later safely absorbed into the bloodstream without ill effects. That could change the way that children born with birth defects, injured soldiers and others with major bone damage are treated.

“There are myriad possible uses for such materials, and the job of InCube Labs will be to identify which have the best potential to be translated into practical products quickly. InCube was founded by Mir Imran, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur who has founded more than 20 life-science companies and holds more than 200 patents.”

And the editorial page of The News & Observer in Raleigh published an editorial, “Huge grant spotlights how universities benefit state’s economy,” about the $54.6 million clinical and translational science project to be conducted by UNC-CH, A&T, and RTI International, and a similar award to Duke. They hope the awards send a message to North Carolina’s governor:

“Let’s hope those Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory, who have made an issue of how universities should focus on training people for jobs instead of educating them in, say, arts and literature, take note of what’s going on here. Universities do train people for the workforce, but they’re also about ideas, about opening minds, about exploring new horizons.”

New N.C. A&T biosafety guide now available

Cover of N.C. A&T biosafety guide

Newly revised N.C. A&T biosafety guide

The N.C. A&T Office of Research Compliance and Ethics has released a new edition of “Biological and Biohazardous Materials Safety Guide For Researchers,” the university’s comprehensive guide to biosafety.

The guide is available on the university website. It covers roles and responsibilities; biosafety requirements; biosafety levels; accidents, exposures,and spill response; and biohazardous waste pick-up.

Biosafety on campus is a joint responsibility of the university’s Biosafety Officer, Dr. Tonya Hargett, and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, headed by Ms. Louisa Thomas.