Wayne State University

Wayne State University researchers awarded $18 million in federal stimulus grants

Detroit - Wayne State University faculty have received nearly $18 million in research grants under the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program.

The 32 grants include 27 totaling more than $11.2 million from the National Institutes of Health – the second largest number of NIH grants in the state for this program. The university also has received four grants totaling $1.7 million from the National Science Foundation and a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy for an electric vehicle engineering education and workforce training program.

“These federal stimulus awards will allow our faculty to expand their research in many ways,” said Hilary Ratner, vice president for research at WSU. “It will provide them with the opportunity to grow their research labs by hiring additional research assistants, purchase new equipment to expand the technology currently available, as well as give more undergraduate and graduate students a chance to be a part of the world-class research programs that WSU is engaged in.”

Awards from the National Institutes of Health include:

Robert Akins, Department of Biochemistry
“High Throughput Identification and Quantification of Fungi Using High Resolution Melt Analysis QPCR”

Fungal infections are often life-threatening and their early detection, identification of species and resistance to mutations is crucial to successful intervention. The absence of a commercially available diagnostic modality has been a major deficiency in diagnostic capabilities. This project aims to test and optimize the use of a new tool, high resolution melt analysis, to address these needs. By improving the speed and accuracy of diagnosis of fungi through new methods, morbidity and mortality rates will be improved.

Terrance Albrecht, Karmanos Cancer Institute
“Improving Clinical System Communication to Increase Trial Offers to Cancer Patients”

Cancer clinical trials provide access to the latest cancer treatment available, however, only three percent of all cancer patients participate in clinical trials. This study aims to develop a systems-based intervention to increase the numbers of offers made to patients in order to increase the number of patients enrolling on clinical trial protocols.

Michael Cher, Department of Urology
“The Role of MT1-MMP/RANKL/RANK Axis in Prostate Cancer Bone Metastasis”

Bone metastasis is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in prostate cancer patients. This proposal will use a variety of biochemical and cellular approaches as well as animal models of bone metastasis to understand the progression of this process.

Dennis Drescher, Department of Otolaryngology
“Identification of Acoustico-Lateralis Transmitters”

This project aims to predict molecular function from the molecular structure of channels and receptors by utilizing microbiochemical methods. The anticipated result is detailed elucidation of structure and molecular function of peripheral neurotransmitter systems of hearing and balance, pointing the way to development of therapies for transmitter-related hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus.

Alexander Gow, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics
“Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration”

This project aims to define and characterize molecular mechanisms by which mutations in proteins cause neurodegenerative disease, such as ALS, Parkinson, Huntington and Alzheimer diseases, and to identify pharmacological agents that improve disease symptoms.

James Granneman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences
“Analysis of Lipolytic Trafficking in Adipocytes”

The storage and mobilization of lipids are fundamental cellular processes, and their dysregulation contributes to numerous diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis and cardiomyopathy. The long-term goal of this project is to identify lead compounds for treatment of obesity-related lipotoxicity.

Mark Greenwald, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences
“Human laboratory model of cocaine treatment: Behavioral Economic Analysis
In this project, ways to control demand for cocaine is studied to help people who are trying to stop using the drug. The effect of environmental conditions and individual differences on the effectiveness of medication to control demand for cocaine is investigated. No anti-cocaine medication will be universally effective because other factors, such as alternatives to drug use (environmental conditions) or individual differences, such as level of cocaine use and severity of withdrawal symptoms, will influence how effective medication is. The results of this study will help develop better treatments for cocaine users.

Mary Lieh-Lai, Department of Pediatrics
“Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit”

This project will ensure continuation of the Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Wayne State University. Multiple projects initiated by this group will advance rational, safe, effective and cost beneficial drug therapies in the fetus, newborns and children for a number of diseases and disorders.

Peter Littrup, Department of Radiology and Karmanos Cancer Institute
“Functional Ultrasound Tomography: Testing a Low-Cost Breast Imaging Concept”

This project will pave the way for functional tomographic imaging, and ultrasound modality that currently does not exist. The clinical implications are immense because functional ultrasound tomography has the potential to provide MRI-like capability at a small fraction of the cost. Such a development would facilitative alternative screening of high risk women, as is now being proposed for MRI. Improved sensitivity to tumors would also pave the way for screening of the general population by overcoming MRI’s cost barrier to universal screening.

Jeffrey Loeb, Department of Neurology
“Activity-Dependent Gene Expression in Human Epilepsy”

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting up to 1% of the world’s population. It is one of the least understood disorders that can develop after a wide range of brain insults. At present, there are no treatments to prevent epilepsy, and while existing medications reduce seizure frequency, they do not cure the disorder, and often do not work or become ineffective. This project aims to complete preclinical testing that will lead to FDA approval of new drugs to treat patients with epilepsy.

Patricia LoRusso, Karmanos Cancer Institute
“Early Clinical Trials of New Anti-Cancer Agents”

Roughly 500 anti-cancer agents will be available for development within the next decade. The clinical trial community will face significant challenges for making swift and accurate drug development decisions, due to limited resources for continued clinical development as well as potentially unique profiles that the clinical drug candidates may unfold. Together with the University of Maryland’s Greenebaum Cancer Center, the Karmanos Cancer Institute will combine expertise to overcome many of these challenges, allowing for continued development of novel agents for cancer treatment.

Lawrence Lum, Karmanos Cancer Institute
“Breast Cancer Treatment with Antibody Targeted T Cells”

Despite improvements in the treatment of women with breast cancer that has metastasized or spread beyond the initial site, there are no cures. For the 20-25% of women with a particular kind of metastatic breast cancer, a drug called Herceptin in combination with chemotherapy has become a standard treatment. New approaches, however, are needed that will prolong survival for the 75 to 80% of patients who are not eligible for Herceptin. In this project a new treatment that is expected to lead to better outcomes for these women is tested.

Tiffany Mathews, Department of Chemistry
“BDNF, Dopamine and Ethanol”

This project aims to determine if an imbalance between brain derived neurotropic factors (BDNF) and dopamine may lead to abuse of alcohol or protect the brain from expressing biochemical adaptions associated with the addiction process. The impact of this research is to improve our knowledge of the molecular mechanism of alcohol abuse in an effort to develop better treatments and/or therapeutics.

Sylvie Naar-King, Department of Pediatrics
“Multisystemic therapy to reduce health disparities in adolescents with asthma”

This project aims to create an intervention for inner city African American teens with asthma using Multisystemic Therapy, an intensive, home- and community-based psychotherapy. If successful, this intervention will improve asthma management and overall health, as well as reduce healthcare costs for this vulnerable population that is disproportionately affected by asthma.

Melody Neely, Department of Immunology & Microbiology
“Analysis of the Virulence Mechanism of a Lantibiotic Locus”

Streptococcal pathogens are remarkably efficient at causing disease, providing a major challenge to the medical community and an enormous financial burden to our health care system. This project aims to identify how these pathogens have developed ways in which to avoid the immune system during infection. Confirmation of these mechanisms will have direct relevance to human disease and clinical treatment.

Donal O’Leary, Department of Physiology
“Blood Pressure Control During Exercise in Heart Failure”

A feature of ventricular dysfunction is decreased exercise tolerance. Two powerful reflexes exist which are capable of inducing altered cardiovascular responses in subjects with heart failure: the muscle metaboreflex and the arterial baroreflex. This project will study test the functional importance of these two reflexes in heart failure. The project also aims to explore the relationship between coronary blood flow and ventricular function during exercise in heart failure and whether recovery of normal cardiovascular control mechanisms can occur with the recovery from heart failure.

Donal O’Leary, Department of Physiology
“NTS Adenosine Receptors in Cardiovascular Control”

The nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) is the major integrative center within the brainstem for cardiovascular homeostasis. This project aims to determine the mechanisms mediating the responses to stimulation of NTS adenosine receptor subtypes and the role of these in modulating cardiovascular responses.

Donal O’Leary, Department of Physiology
“Integrative Cardiovascular Control During Exercise in Hypertension”

Hypertension affects nearly one in three adults in the U.S., and is well recognized as a major risk factor for a broad range of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, renal disease, and congestive heart failure. Although regular exercise is well known to have a multitude of beneficial effects, in patients with hypertension, abnormally large increases in arterial pressure and heart rate in response to exercise often occur, often at dangerous levels that can cause myocardial infarction and stroke. Little is known about these cardiovascular responses, and this study aims to increase understanding of the role of sensory nerves that respond to changes in metabolite concentration in the active muscles and those that sense changes in blood pressure in mediating the abnormal responses to exercise in hypertension.

Aleksandar Popadic, Department of Biological Sciences
“Genetics of leg size variation in insects”

Understanding the developmental processes by which organisms acquire their final body size is a fundamental biological question. Whereas studies of model organisms such as Drosophila have established general paradigms regarding the control of body growth, virtually nothing is known about the mechanisms that regulate the variation in organ and tissue size that is so prevalent in nature. By examining cellular aspects of differential leg growth, this research will contribute to the understanding of the actual molecular processes underlying variation in organ and tissue growth.

Avraham Raz, Karmanos Cancer Institute
“Characterization of Motility Factor Receptor”

This project aims to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing the first step in tumor cell dissemination, namely motility. This project will define the structure-functional relationship and mechanism of action of an autocrine motility factor and its receptor. It is expected that these studies will lead to a better diagnosis, treatment and development of rational therapy for tumor cells.

Melissa Runge-Morris, Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
“PCBS: Environmental Modulators of Human Breast Cancer Progression”

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are environmental contaminants that have the potential to disrupt important hormonally- responsive pathways in human breast epithelial cells. This project will use a model for human breast cancer progression to understand the role of environmental PCBs in breast cancer development.

Duska Separovic, Department of Occupational & Environmental Health Sciences
“Sphingolipids in Cell Death after Photodamage”

The long-term goal of this project is to augment the efficacy of the cancer treatment photodynamic oxidative stress in a cellular target that can lead to apoptotic cell death.

Michael Shaw, Department of Immunology and Microbiology
“A Novel Splice Variant of Interleukin-13 and its Role in Promoting EAE Responses”

Multiple sclerosis is a human autoimmune disease that afflicts more than 400,000 Americans. EAE is commonly accepted as a suitable animal model for studying the immunopathology of multiple sclerosis. These two diseases share many common characteristics such as clinical manifestations and histopathology of CNS lesions. Knowledge obtained from this study may provide new insight into the development of new therapeutics for MS.

Timothy Stemler, Department of Biochemistry
“Structural Insights into the Function of Frataxin”

Frataxin is a mitochondrial protein known to play a role in regulating cellular iron levels. Reduced levels of frataxin is the principal cause of Friedreich’s ataxia, a neurodegenerative disorder, which affects 1 in 50,000 people. The goal of this project is to distinguish fratazins role in regulating cellular iron homeostasis which will lead to more successful treatment strategies for this disorder.

Paul Stemmer, Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
“A Proposal to Expand Analytical Capabilities at Wayne State University with a 4000 QTrap”

This award will allow for the purchase of an Applied Biosystems 4000 Qtrap hybrid tandem mass spectrometer with nano-LC to efficiently search for protein modifications.

Andrei Tkatchenko, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
“Feasibility of a Mouse Model of Myopia”

Myopia continues to be an important health problem with increasing prevalence and high morbidity. This project aims to contribute to the understanding of the pathogenesis of myopia by enabling advanced genetic studies of refractive eye development which are not currently possible.

Jinsheng Zhang, Department of Otolaryngology
“Cortical Electrical Suppression of Noise-Induced Tinnitus”

Tinnitus is a prevalent public health problem that affects millions of people and imposes a significant economic burden to society. This project aims to develop a model of tinnitus suppression through auditory cortex electrical stimulation therapy.

Awards from the National Science Foundation include:

David Coleman, Department of Chemistry
“Acquisition of a Cyber-Enabled 600 MHz NMR Spectrometer for Research and Teaching”

This award will allow for the acquisition of a cyber-enabled 600 MHz nuclear resonance (NMR) spectrometer. It will be used to support research projects of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Zhifeng Huang, Department of Physics & Astronomy
“CAREER: Modeling Nanostructured Systems Outside of Equilibrium”

This CAREER award supports theoretical and computational research integrated with education to study nonequilibrium nanostructured systems with educational activities for undergraduate students as well as for current and future K-12 science teachers. The goal is to improve the understanding of nonequilibrium and nonlinear dynamic processes that occur in nanoscale phases in complex material systems.

Alexey Petrov, Department of Physics & Astronomy
“REU Site: Research Experience for Undergraduates in Astrophysics, Nuclear and Particle Physics”

This project will give WSU students and introduction to the physical, mathematical and computational concepts in leading edge physics topics, as well as a travel component for students to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Chengzhong Xu, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
“CSR: Small: A Unified Reinforcement Learning Approach for Autoconfiguration of Virtualized Resources and Appliances”

Cloud computing is an emerging service-oriented computing paradigm. This project will develop a unified learning approach to automate the configuration processes of virtualized machines and applications running on the virtual machines and adapt the systems configuration to the dynamics of cloud. This project will advance discovery and understanding of autonomic management of large-scale complex systems with profound technical, economic and societal impact. It will prepare students to enter the industry with adequate understanding of the challenges and opportunities in cloud computing.

Award from the Department of Energy include:

Simon Ng, Department of Chemical Engineering
“Development and Implementation of a Degree Program in Electric Drive Vehicle Technology”

This project will provide an electric vehicle engineering education and workforce training program.
A critical component of the project is to create a pipeline of next-generation technicians and engineers who are needed by an industry transforming to electric-drive vehicles.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting, ranking in the top 50 in R & D expenditures of all public universities by the National Science Foundation. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.