Marshall to host 900 scientists next week at Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting

Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304-746-1964,

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University will host the 74th Annual Meeting of the Association of Southeastern Biologists next week in Charleston.

The meeting will bring 900 researchers, university faculty members and students from 20 states and Washington, D.C., to the Charleston Civic Center April 10-13.

Dr. Chuck Somerville, dean of Marshall’s College of Science, is a member of Marshall’s planning group and will welcome participants at the opening session. He said hosting the conference is a good opportunity to showcase Marshall and West Virginia.

“It’s very exciting that Marshall is the host institution for this year’s meeting,” he said. “This is a high-quality scientific conference with close to 1,000 attendees. We are excited about welcoming our colleagues to West Virginia and are looking forward to both the scientific sessions and showing our visitors some of the beautiful natural attractions in our region.”

Somerville said presentations will focus on the latest research conducted by association members and will cover a wide range of topics.

“Biology is a diverse field. We’ll have presentations about everything from a study of efforts to restore the American chestnut tree in central Appalachia to elk habitat use in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to crayfish and centipedes in West Virginia,” he added. “We’ve also got people who will present cutting-edge genetics and cancer research.”

In addition to learning about current research, Somerville said meeting attendees will participate in field trips to Kanawha State Forest, New River Gorge, the Huntington Museum of Art plant conservatory, West Virginia State University’s microbiology fermentation facility and Carter Caves.

Conference planners estimate the regional economic impact of the conference at $900,000.

The Association of Southeastern Biologists membership includes 1,400 members from 42 states and 13 countries.

For more information about next week’s meeting, visit or contact Somerville at 304-696-2424 or

Dr. Dasgupta’s research highlighted on WV Public Broadcasting radio

Study at Marshall focuses on new therapies for lung cancer

By Clark Davis
March 27, 2013 · Researchers from Marshall University are studying treatment options for lung cancer.

A study conducted by Marshall University associate professor Dr. Piyali Dasgupta may be the beginning of something big. In fact, the study was recently published in a highly respected medical journal called Cancer Research. The professor of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology worked on a study that could lead to new treatments for lung cancer.

Dasgupta said cells in the body are used by nicotine to promote the growth and survival of bronchioalveolar carcinomas or BACs. Dasgupta says they were able to find that using certain drugs to interrupt neurotransmitters, suppresses nicotine induced growth. Dasgupta said they hope to produce compounds based on the original agent vesamicol that are more potent in the fight of the cancer cells. 

“What we are hoping is that in the future using some kind of studies that are chemistry based, we can come up with novel compounds that are more potent and more specific which will have the same anti-cancer effects, it’s novel because it provides a new molecular target which can be used for the treatments of these cancers,” Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta said it’s exciting to find a unique angle to fighting lung cancer. 

“Yes I do think in tobacco dependent lung cancers that this is a novel strategy for therapy so we’ll see how things go, but as of now we are excited about it,” Dasgupta said.

Dasqupta said nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, but studies have shown it can induce the growth of lung cancers and even protect lung cancer cells against chemotherapy. Dasgupta said the study is important in West Virginia. 

“The angle of tobacco and lung cancer is a very relevant problem that we face in West Virginia and people are exposed to nicotine by second hand smoke and people that quit are exposed to patches and gums and then you have the electronic cigarette, but researchers within West Virginia we understand the urgency in this,” Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta used the help of a research team made up of undergraduate and graduate students and said these findings wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Dr. Yi Charlie Chen, a professor of biology at Alderson-Broaddus in Philippi.

“With the collaboration she’s able to accomplish more you know on her research and it’s the same for me, it’s very nice and important to have a collaborator so we can raise more questions,” Chen said.

Dr. Dasgupta said that ability to lean on a respected fellow researcher like Chen is important. 

“He did these experiments at his end and quantitated the results and we were thrilled to find out that he was getting exactly the same results that we were which means validation of your work in different sources, so yes he’s been a big part of our research program,” Dasgupta said.

That validation led to the work being published in Cancer Research, the most cited cancer research journal in the world.

Racine attends the Society of Toxicology General Meeting in San Antonio, Texas

by M. Allison Wolf

Chris Racine, Ph.D. student, on far leftBiomedical Sciences Ph.D. student Chris Racine recently presented his research at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) General Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The study Chris presented at this meeting was entitled “Role of renal cytochrome p450 isozymes in the bioactivation of 3,5-dichloroaniline in vitro.” The long term goal of this project is “to determine the biotransformation of 3,5-dichloroaniline (3,5-DCA), mechanisms for bioactivation of 3,5-DCA to nephrotoxic species by the kidney, and if gender differences exist in the susceptibility of the kidney to the toxic effects of 3,5-DCA.”   

The SOT conference, which was held from March 10-14, is the largest toxicology meeting in the world and it brings together scientist in academia, government, and industry from various countries. Dr. Gary Rankin, Chris Racine’s Ph.D. advisor said that, “It is important for students to experience the scientific exchange that happens at a national research conference. There is no substitute for attending such a meeting in person. The meeting also gives the advisor the opportunity to introduce the students to other top scientists and students in their field, and the feedback received at a national presentation can be very helpful for the student’s research projects.”

Congratulations, Chris!

First Outreach Science Café recently hosted by Marshall students, ASBMB, and Cabell Midland High School

Marshall’s Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Student Organization (GSO), in collaboration with the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and Cabell Midland High School, recently hosted the first Outreach Science Café at Marshall’s Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center. The intent of this event was to advocate scientific literacy, increase awareness for funding, and promote scientific interest among our youth. A total of 23 students from Cabell Midland High School attended this event, which highlighted two key graduate programs: the BMS and Forensic Science programs. Each program provided a unique perspective as well as a “hands-on” interactive session.

Synopsis: Biomedical Sciences, Ph.D. and M.S.

To facilitate a sense of excitement and opportunity, the BMS program focused on providing four unique perspectives of the BMS Program. First, Mrs. Diana Maue, Program Recruitment and Communication Coordinator, presented the overall goal of the BMS program, as well as the vast research and career opportunities available to students. Dr. Maria Serrat, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology, followed by giving an account of how she became fascinated with her field of interest (the effects of the environment and temperature on bone growth),  and what the BMS program can provide to future research scientists. Finally, second year Ph.D. student Kristeena Ray, and Ph.D. candidate M. Allison Wolf, spoke about what led them to act on their passion for science, and what it is like to pursue a doctorate in biomedical sciences at Marshall University.


Next, the students were divided into two groups for “hands-on” interactive sessions, which were graciously led by Richard Egleton, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Wei-ping Zeng, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. The purpose of these sessions was to provide participants with a unique opportunity to participate in various research-related angles of the BMS Program.

“I think the science café was an excellent opportunity for me to interact with high school students. This kind of event is a very good way to spark an interest in science and hopefully after this, these students will want to pursue science as undergraduates.” said Dr. Egleton when asked about the importance of the ASBMB Outreach Café. Similarly, Dr. Zeng agreed on the importance stating that “it exposes the younger generation to scientific research and ideas.”

Synopsis: Forensic Science, M.S.

Following the Biomedical Sciences graduate program section, participants heard from Dr. Graham Rankin, Professor of Forensic Science, on behalf of the Forensic Science master’s program at Marshall University. Students subsequently ventured to the Crime Scene House, located near campus, and were given a tour. High school students learning about crime scene evidence in Marshall's Forensic Science Crime Scene HouseThere, they used crime scene investigation equipment, and were shown how different evidence (e.g. latent fingerprints, footwear impressions, forensic photography, etc.) can be analyzed to help solve crimes.

When asked about the overall response from the students, Ms. Myriaha Selbee, a collaborator and teacher at Cabell Midland High School, stated “I heard nothing but positive remarks from my students” and that she was “very impressed with the amount of professional support that was allotted to my students.” She hopes that future ASBMB Outreach Cafés will keep Cabell Midland High School in mind.

Additionally, one participant went on to say that “this is a wonderful program and I would love to continue coming. I have taken away information about the program and other career options.”

Overall, the ASBMB Outreach Café was a wonderful success. Future events will be aimed at further diversifying our target population, and breaking out the café into more specific areas of interest.

Study focuses on potential lung cancer therapies

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Scientists from Marshall University, Piyali Dasgupta, Ph.D.along with colleagues at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, have completed a study that may eventually help lead to the development of new treatments for lung cancer.

Their results were published in the Feb. 15 issue of Cancer Research, the most frequently cited cancer journal in the world.

At Marshall, Dr. Piyali Dasgupta, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, worked on the study with her research team of Jamie Lau, Kathleen Brown and Brent Thornhill, and undergraduate students Cody Stover and Christopher McNees.

Researchers in Dasgupta’s lab explore how the various components of tobacco, especially nicotine, advance the progression of lung cancer.                                       

Dasgupta said this study focused on a specific type of lung cancer called bronchioalveolar carcinomas, or BACs, which are known to be associated with smoking. She and the other scientists working on the project looked at the cellular pathways through which nicotine—the addictive component in cigarettes—promotes the growth and survival of BACs. 

According to Dasgupta, nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, but studies have shown it can induce the growth and metastasis of lung cancers. It can also protect lung cancer cells against the beneficial effects of chemotherapy.

She said, “In this study, we found that nicotine raised the levels of specific neurotransmitters, or ‘chemical messengers,’ in human BACs. When we used a drug, vesamicol, to interrupt the neurotransmitters’ pathways, the nicotine-induced growth of these carcinomas was significantly suppressed. Our findings are important because they indicate that agents like vesamicol may be useful in the treatment of human lung cancers.” 

More information about the research is available online at

The study was funded in part by a Young Clinical Scientist Award from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

For more information, contact Dasgupta at or 304-696-3612.


Teen Science Café to be held at Marshall on March 6, 2013

The BMS Graduate Student Organization (GSO), in collaboration with the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and Cabell Midland High School, are hosting an outreach program, Teen Science Café, on March 6, 2013 at the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Center.

The purpose of this event is to stimulate scientific interest in younger students and to emphasize the exciting careers available in research and science. This Teen Science Café will highlight Marshall’s Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program and Forensic Science Master’s Program. Diana Maue, will begin the Teen Science Café by giving an overview of the BMS Program and career opportunities available. A hands-on and interactive discussion will be hosted by Drs. Richard Egleton, Maria Serrat, and Wei-Ping Zeng from the BMS program and Dr. Graham Rankin and Ms. Nadine Borovicka from the Forensic Science program. GSO President and BMS Ph.D. candidate Allison Wolf and BMS Ph.D. student Kristeena Ray will give the attendees a student’s perspective on the BMS Program. And, the event will conclude with a tour of the Forensic Science program’s crime scene house.

Allison Wolf and Ph.D. candidate Johannes Fahrmann, BMS GSO Vice President, are co-organizers of this event. Fahrmann stated, “he hopes by organizing the Teen Science Café he will spark an early interest in science and research among the attendees, and events like this will continue in the future.” 

Funding for collaborative medical research announced at Marshall University

Translational research aims to transfer discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside quickly

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine officials today announced $150,000 in funding for six research grants associated with the school’s translational medicine research program.

The Marshall Health Translational Pilot Grant program, created in 2012, encourages collaborative research between basic scientists and clinical physicians in an effort to speed up the process of laboratory discovery to clinical application for patients.  The grants are funded by Marshall Health.

“We are very pleased that Marshall Health has created this grant program to stimulate research efforts,” said Richard M. Niles, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at the School of Medicine. “Moving Marshall to the next level of medical research takes vision, commitment and of course, funding.  This grant allows 12 researchers, as well as medical residents and students, the opportunity to explore very diverse areas.”

Marshall Health is the faculty practice plan for the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and supports the clinical, educational, research and services missions of the school.  Beth Hammers, executive director of the organization, says the pilot grant program provides one year of support at $25,000 for each grantee, with additional funding based on progress of the research.

“Medical research is essential to the development of new medical treatments and cures for patients,” Hammers said.  “We are thrilled to help stimulate a robust, viable grant program which pairs basic scientists from Marshall University with School of Medicine physicians to work on projects which will lead to the betterment of our community.”

The investigators and their projects are listed below:

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Anthony Alberico, Department of Neuroscience – “Chemotherapy resistance and sensitivity testing in tumors of the central nervous system”

Dr. Elaine Hardman, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. James Jensen, Department of Surgery – “Feasibility and Safety of Nutritional Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Reduce Prostate Specific Antigen Rise in Men with Biochemical Failure after Prostatectomy or External-Beam Radiotherapy”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Paulette Wehner, Department of Cardiology – “Perivascular Fat Relation to Hypertension—Appalachian Heart Study”

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Abid Yaqub, Department of Medicine, Endocrinology Section – “Impact of Technology-based Behavioral Intervention on Molecular and Clinical Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes”

Dr. Monica Valentovic, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, and Dr. Brenda Dawley, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology – “Prenatal Exposure to Heavy Metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) Alter Umbilical Cord Blood Levels of Thyroid Hormone and Vitamin D”

Dr. Hongwei Yu, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and Dr. Yoram Elitser, Department of Pediatrics – “Investigate the distribution of segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) in American children and the presence of SFB with childhood diseases”

Other current translational research under way at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine includes a partnership with the University of Kentucky (UK) as part of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards program, which also is aimed at speeding the time for laboratory discoveries to benefit patients.

In 2011, UK and its partners received $20 million for the program to support research at UK’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, making Marshall part of a select national biomedical research network.

Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964, or Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713