Marshall School of Medicine hosts US Rep. Evan Jenkins for research roundtables

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — More than a dozen Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine medical and biomedical students, as well as faculty and staff, had the opportunity to talk with U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) today about biomedical research and the federal funding mechanisms used to pay for it.

Welcome Congressman Jenkins visit with students_11.20.15cr

L to R: PhD students Lexie Keding, Rachel Murphy, Dakota Ward, Jamie Friedman, Kristeena Wright, Justin Tomblin, Caroline Hunter Center: Congressman Evan Jenkins Far Right: MD/PhD student Diane Dawley

Jenkins, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, encouraged the students to continue  investigations into health issues that plague the Appalachian region and West Virginians including obesity, diabetes and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the school of medicine, said the series of meetings was important on several levels.

“In order for the research enterprise at the school of medicine to grow, our basic scientists and physician researchers must work collaboratively to advance novel concepts,” Shapiro said.  “Part of that process is understanding how research is funded and what they must do to make it happen. Congressman Jenkins was very helpful in expanding the dialogue for our researchers as well as explaining the federal funding landscape to our students.”

Prior to his term in Congress, Jenkins served as the executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association and as a state legislator.

NASA Fellowships awarded to promising undergraduates

Two undergraduate studeDial, Mason_undergradNASA2015nts in Marshall University College of Science are working in Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program laboratories with funding from one-year NASA Fellowships. Mason Dial, who is majoring in chemistry, is working on examining
interventions to reduce the adverse effects of cisplatin in the lab of Monica Valentovic, PhD. The freshman scientist has worked in the lab since this past summer, and as part of his Fellowship requirements, will present a poster at the Sigma Xi ReseaNolan Nick_undergradNASA2015 (2)rch Day at the end of the spring semester.

Nicholas Nolan, a sophomore biological sciences student, is working with Piyali Dasgupta, PhD.

Dr. Dasgupta explains: “Cancer cells have the ability to penetrate the extracellular matrix, launch themselves into circulation and travel to distant organs ( a process termed as metastasis). The invasion of cancer cells is a key step of their metastasis. The long-term goal of my laboratory is to identify nutrition-based therapies to combat the invasion of human lung cancers. Our studies show that capsaicin (the spicy component of chili peppers) suppresses the invasion of human lung cancer. However, one of the drawbacks of capsaicin is that it has a pungent flavor and induces stomach cramps, pain and irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Nick’s project involves investigating the anti-invasive activity of two non-pungent capsaicin-like compounds namely capsiate and capsiaconiate in human lung cancer. Capsiate and capsiconiate are capsaicin-like compounds found in certain varieties of chili peppers. The identification of capsaicin-like compounds that suppress the invasion of human cells could lead to improved treatments for this lethal disease.

Our laboratory has an excellent track record of undergraduate student research. We hope that by providing meaningful research experiences to undergraduates we are training the next generation of cancer-biologists and physician-scientists who will perform outstanding research in the field of cancer.”Piyali Dagupta, Ph.D., and Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.

Nick is very excited about recieving the NASA Fellowship and states, “My future plans are to become a physician and perform research in the field of cancer biology. My research experience in Dr. Dasgupta’s lab has provided me with several research skills to realize my career goals. Receiving the NASA fellowship has given me the opportunity to continue my work with Lung Cancer; as well as present the results of that work at the Experimental Biology (EB) Conference 2016. The EB conference is a world-renowned science conference, with about 20,000 scientists attending from all over the world. I am excited to interact with my peers, and I look forward to receiving their valuable feedback about my research project.”

Several other MU undergraduate students were awarded the NASA Fellowship to work in other labs on campus:

Amber Kuhn, a senior in biotechnology, is working with Elizabeth Murray, PhD, on the quantification of the mitochondrial DNA contained in human hair shafts.

Amanda White, a senior in biology, is working with Derrick Kolling, PhD, on using directed evolution to increase lipid formation in Chlorella vulgaris for use in biofuels.

Brandon Murdock, junior in biochemistry, is working with John Rakus, PhD, on the investigation of the enzymatic mechanism of the C-Mannosyltransferase DPY-19 L1.

Benjamin Williams, senior in biochemistry, is working with Leslie Frost, PhD, on the differential expression of serum peptides and proteins in septic rats.

Clarissa Schauseil, senior in  biomedical sciences, is working with Marty Laubach, PhD, on Appalachian culture and STEM.

Maya Menking-Hoggatt, junior in biological sciences and Spanish language, is working with Nadja Spitzer, PhD on the effects of silver nanoparticles on the wnt pathway in adult neural stem cell differentiation.

Seth Baker, a junior in computer science, is working with William Ford, PhD, on low-cost wireless sensor network monitoring of freshwater bodies.

Zach Jones, a junior in computer science, is also working wiht William Ford, PhD, on the Rapid Response Chemical Concentration Prediction Tool.

For more information on these fellowships, please see: NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, 

Grant for Progenesis Technologies

Progenesis-Niles-Withers-YuRichard Niles, PhD, retired Vice Dean of Biomedical Sciences along with Hongwei Yu, PhD, formed Progenesis Technologies in connection with Marshall University in 2009. T. Ryan Withers, PhD, was mentored by Yu and earned his PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Marshall University’s School of Medicine in 2013. Their work was recognized recently with a Small Business Innovation Research Grant for approximately $144,000.

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Marshall University research team publishes study in prestigious Science Advances

Researchers with the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and the Marshall University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) have identified a mechanism for blocking the signal by which the cellular sodium-potassium pump amplifies oxidants (reactive oxygen species).  These oxidants lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Their research, “pNaKtide Inhibits Na/K-ATPase Reactive Oxygen Species Amplification and Attenuates Adipogenesis,” was published Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.JosephShapiro

Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, dean of the school of medicine and the study’s senior author, says the study is a true collaborative effort.

“I am extremely proud of this work, as the studies were conceived of, performed and analyzed entirely at Marshall University,” Shapiro said. “This work was based on two important components. We employed a peptide, pNaKtide, which was derived from the novel hypothesis developed by Marshall’s MIIR director, Dr. Zijian Xie.

Zijian Xie, Ph.D.Specifically, Dr. Xie has shown that in addition to its well-described role as an ion transporter, the sodium pump also regulates signal transduction and oxidant amplification. We also exploited work from Marshall’s SOM vice-dean for research, Dr. Nader Abraham, who has demonstrated a key role for oxidant stress in adipocytes in the development of obesity. The studies, which address a critical problem in the Appalachian population we serve, were performed entirely by our research staff at Marshall University.”

First author Dr. Komal Sodhi, assistant professor of surgery and pharmacology  at Marshall, says the research examined a peptide (pNaKtide) designed to block the sodium potassium Na/K-ATPase signaling  cascade, which altered the phenotype oKSohdif adipocytes (fat cells) in a cell culture system.“We found this decreased the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome in mice subjected to a high-fat diet, “Sodhi said. “The studies performed strongly supported this idea and suggest that if this is confirmed in humans, the Na/K-ATPase might ultimately be a therapeutic target for clinical conditions like obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are particularly relevant to West Virginia where more than a third of the population is currently obese.”Shapiro said while there are years of work ahead for researchers to determine the impact on humans, they believe they have hit on a feasible strategy for treating obesity and metabolic syndrome.“The bottom line is that we’ve identified a novel mechanism by which to address oxidant stress and, through this mechanism, treat obesity,” Shapiro said. “Our work opens up a new target for intervention in this disease as well as possibly other diseases characterized by oxidant stress.”
In addition to Shapiro and Sodhi, Marshall’s team of researchers includes Kyle Maxwell; Yanling Yan, Ph.D.; Jiang Liu, M.D., Ph.D.; Muhammad A. Chaudhry, M.A.; Morghan Getty; Zijian Xie, Ph.D.; and Nader G. Abraham, Ph.D.Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, BrickStreet Foundation, and the Huntington Foundation Inc.


Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

The Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine is a community-based, Veterans Affairs-affiliated medical school dedicated to providing high-quality medical education and postgraduate training programs to foster a skilled physician workforce to meet the unique health care needs of West Virginia and Central Appalachia. The school seeks to develop centers of excellence in clinical care, including primary care in rural underserved areas, focused and responsive programs of biomedical science graduate study, biomedical and clinical science research, academic scholarship and public service outreach. For more information, visit


Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

MIIR is Marshall University’s key vehicle for advancing regional economic development. The institute’s scientists are developing a focused program of biotechnology research dedicated to exploring new treatments for cancer and heart and kidney disease, producing patentable scientific breakthroughs and creating new businesses based on those discoveries. Learn more at



Speaker Series: Non-Academic Career Exploration

Todd Davies, PhD, was this semester’s Presenter for the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Transforming Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education (TIGRE) program. This Speaker Series features career exploration in non-academic settings.


Davies’ lunchtime seminar entitled, “How to be completely unprepared for a non-academic career,” focused on his experiences working in government, industry start-ups, and now clinical trial development. He also detailed how each part of his career path has provided him with needed skills to be successful in subsequent endeavors.


“Use your scientific training skills in critical thinking and problem solving and apply them to any job,” Davies said. These will help in financial budgeting, people management, time management, regulatory system navigation, and other important work tasks.

Taha Ahmed, PhD Candidate, felt that Davies presented very useful information.  “He provided an honest look at finding your way along the career path and acknowledged both the good and bad parts of each type of work.

This helpeAhmad_Tahad me to understand that the post-graduation fears of PhD students are real but not something that should hold you back.”

Todd Davies, PhD, is the Director of Research Development & Translation at the Appalachian Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine where he manages the Marshall Clinical Research Center, a newly developed hub for clinical trial activity at Marshall. The Marshall Clinical Research Center is dedicated to bringing cutting edge clinical research and advanced care to Marshall and rural West Virginia.

Dr. Davies has a diverse background. He received his PhD in Medical Science from the University of Toledo Medical Center, his BS in Biology from Wesley College and his AAS in Aerospace Ground Equipment from the Community College of the Air Force. Dr. Davies also serves at the Commissioner of Economic Development for the City of Toledo and led the Bioscience activity of Rocket Ventures Pre-Seed Fund where he assisted in the creation and development of 22 medical technology start-up companies before joining another start-up, ADS Biotechnology as its CEO.

Dr. Rankin elected president

Gary O. Rankin, PhD, has been elected the President of the Division of Toxicology of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) for 2015-2016. The Division of Toxicology serves national and international members involved with neurotoxicology, teratology, molecular and cellular mechanisms of drug and chemical toxicity, immunotoxicology, organ toxicities, risk assessment, environmental toxicology, models of toxic injury, toxic intermediates, and mechanisms of chemical interactions.

Gary O. Rankin, Ph.D.

This leadership position is a great opportunity to showcase Marshall University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and the excellent toxicology research conducted in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.

Racine Rankin

Dr. Rankin noted, “I will have the opportunity to influence programming in toxicology for the national American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics meeting within the Experimental Biology Meeting for 2017, oversee awards to deserving graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and toxicology researchers at various stages of their career, and promote toxicology as a discipline within the pharmacology community.”

Cookies and Milk!

Students from the Biomedical Sciences Program and School of Medicine came together for an afternoon cookie break.Mixer_john,-travis,-monty

It was a welcome diversion from studying on a rainy afternoon for most who attended.




Mixer_mdphd,-som,-taha  Mixer_Caroline,-Kristeena

Mixer coordinator, Kelly Carothers, said, “It’s great to provide a relaxed event so that participants from both the research and clinical sides of medicine can network and become more comfortable. Many of these students will share some classes or collaborate in the future.”