Cynthia Keely, Mission: Lifeline Director for the local affiliate of the American Heart Association (AHA), recently spoke to summer interns, graduate students, and laboratory personnel. She detailed the AHA’s current initiatives and why their work is important in the region. Heart disease is one of the largest causes of death, and related issues such as stroke and diabetes are endemic in West Virginia. A current goal of the Association is to increase heart healthiness by 20% by the year 2020.
Ms. Keely reviewed some of the ways that her organization is assisting in the treatment of the worst forms of heart attacks through creation and improvement of care systems including Emergency Services, Referral Centers, and Receiving Centers. She also shared information about their multicultural initiatives to transform community health environments, Hands-Only CPR courses, fundraising events, and other awareness activities.
As future biomedical researchers and/or physicians, it was beneficial for the summer interns to learn about some of the strategies that are currently utilized to combat heart health-related challenges and to imagine how their education and work will contribute to those efforts.
Marshall University School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program received a grant from the Great Rivers Affiliate of the AHA to sponsor five undergraduate summer research internships related to cardiovascular issues. Please contact AHA-USIR Director, Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., F.A.H.A., for further information on this program.
For additional material about AHA’s work, please see www.heart.org/missionlifeline.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Four biomedical science Ph.D. students from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine have received West Virginia Space Grant Consortium Graduate Research Fellowship grants to fund their continued dissertation research in a variety of disease-related areas.
Each student received a $12,000 grant from NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium for their projects, which vary from the study of protein functions to metabolic diseases to growth factors in cancer cells. The awards are supplemented by the School of Medicine and each student must work closely with a faculty member to conduct their research.
“These students are conducting valuable research to help move modern medicine forward,” said Richard Egleton, Ph.D., co-director of biomedical sciences at Marshall University. “Through these grants, both NASA and our institution help promote a dynamic environment for research among the next generation of researchers.”
The student recipients are:
Deborah L. Amos, of Dr. Nalini Santanam’s lab, will use the NASA grant to gain deeper insight into how exercise affects metabolic diseases, such as obesity, investigate the impact of exercise on lean/fat body mass and skeletal muscle function in a “stress less” mouse model and provide a means of improving skeletal muscle function and lean body mass.
Rachel A. Murphy, of Dr. Monica Valentovic’s lab, will utilize the grant to study why the drug Tenofovir (a drug used to treat HIV and Hepatitis B) causes kidney damage by altering mitochondrial function and inducing oxidative stress.
Justin K. Tomblin, with the lab of Travis Salisbury, Ph.D., will use the grant to study how growth factors regulate the expression and activity of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor in breast cancer cells.
Caroline A. Hunter, of Dr. Emine Koc’s lab, will use the grant to study the protein synthesis in mitochondria, metabolic syndrome, and potential treatments that could prevent the development of these and related diseases.
“I am honored to receive this grant. It is rewarding to know that NASA can see how my work can make a contribution in the prevention of diseases,” Hunter said. “This is a great opportunity for me to have my work funded so I can make further achievements doing what I love—research.”
Summer interns with the Marshall University School of Medicine Biomedical Program familiarized themselves with Huntington by participating in a walking tour on May 28.
Then it was on to Heritage Station.From there, the interns explored Pullman Square and saw the Cabell County Courthouse, Huntington City Hall, and Federal Buildings.
At that point, it was time for a rest stop and dinner at Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti.The banana crème pie was a big hit.
Another highlight of the tour was the decorated trains scattered around Downtown Huntington. A walk down the Avenue of Churches and on to Greek Row led the group back to campus.
Eighteen undergraduate students from nine institutions are spending the summer conducting biomedical research in Marshall University’s laboratories. The students are participating in nine-week programs offered through Marshall’s school of medicine Summer Research Internship for Minority Students (SRIMS), the West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE), and the American Heart Association Undergraduate Summer Internship Research (AHA-USIR) program.
Dr. Elsa I. Mangiarua is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at the university’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and directs the WV-INBRE summer program. She said the programs allow participants to gain valuable, hands-on experience doing graduate-level research in the labs of some of Marshall’s top scientists.
“We are providing in-depth, mentored research opportunities for very talented undergraduates,” she said. “The programs also promote awareness of Marshall’s graduate degree programs and available careers in biomedical research.”
Kelly Carothers, who coordinates the SRIMS program, agreed, adding, “This is a chance for these students to do meaningful laboratory research, network with others in their field and enhance their academic competitiveness for graduate school.”
Dr. Nalini Santanam, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology will direct the newly funded AHA-USIR program. This program provides an opportunity specifically for Marshall undergraduate students to participate in research related to cardiovascular diseases.
While at Marshall, the interns are working in the university’s state-of-the-art facilities on research projects related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, neuroscience, toxicology, immunological diseases and bioinformatics.
The students will present their research results at a symposium at the end of the summer.
In addition to the formal research training each student receives from his or her Marshall faculty mentors, the interns are taking part in workshops and seminars about a variety of topics in research and graduate education. Students in the programs attend the same seminars and interact socially through a bowling outing, hiking and other special events outside of the laboratory environment.
Students in this year’s SRIMS program are:
- Jonique George, University of the Virgin Islands (Dr. Nalini Santanam, mentor)
- Sofia Romero, University of California-Santa Cruz (Dr. Jung Han Kim, mentor)
- Leslie Fogwe, Delaware State University (Dr. Jiang Liu, mentor)
Support for the SRIMS program comes from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research.
Students participating in the WV-INBRE summer program include:
- Ana Maria Peña, University of Charleston (Dr. Philippe Georgel, mentor)
- Megan Boone, West Virginia Wesleyan College (Dr. Monica Valentovic, mentor)
- Ankita Khunt, University of Charleston (Dr. Richard Egleton, mentor)
- Seth Deskins, University of Charleston (Dr. Vincent Sollars, mentor)
- Madison Crank, Concord University (Dr. Travis Salisbury, mentor)
- Alexandria Carter, University of Charleston (Dr. Hongwei Yu, mentor)
- Natalia Skilioutovskaya-Lopez, University of Charleston (Dr. Monica Valentovic, mentor)
- Christiana Hess, Shepherd University (Dr. Lawrence Grover, mentor)
- Jordan Tate, West Virginia Wesleyan College (Dr. Gary Rankin, mentor)
- Sarah Marshall, Davis and Elkins College (Dr. Nalini Santanam, mentor)
The WV-INBRE program also sponsors summer fellowships for instructors. This year’s fellowship recipient is Dr. Gary Morris, associate professor of Biology at Glenville State College, who is working with Dr. Travis Salisbury.
WV-INBRE is funded through a $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Marshall—in partnership with researchers at West Virginia University—received the award to help build expertise in biomedical research.
Students selected from Marshall University for the AHA-USIR program include:
- Janae Jackson (Dr. Nalini Santanam, mentor)
- Ibrahim Mohammed (Dr. Subha Arthur, mentor)
- Reagan Stafford (Dr. Monica Valentovic, mentor)
- Akhil Gudivada (Dr. Jung Han Kim, mentor)
- Amber Bryant (Dr. Sandrine Pierre, mentor)
The AHA-USIR program is funded by the American Heart Association’s Great Rivers Affiliate Undergraduate Student Research Program and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Each intern receives a stipend. Depending on the program in which they are participating, they may also receive room and board, and reimbursement for travel to and from Marshall.
For more information about the SRIMS program, visit www.marshall.edu/bms/srims or contact Carothers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-696-7279. For more information about the WV-INBRE program, visit www.wv-inbre.org or contact Mangiarua at email@example.com or 304-696-6211. See http://www.marshall.edu/bms/research-clusters/cardiovascular-disease-obesity-and-diabetes/american-heart-association-undergraduate-summer-internship-research-program/ for additional information about the AHA-USIR program or contact Santanam at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-696-7321.
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Sarah Daron-Mathis has successfully defended her dissertation entitled: Cancer Stem Cells in the Screening of Anticancer Drugs for Central Nervous System Tumors. This research focused on the development of a test to predict the outcome of specific therapeutic treatments to give an individual patient the best results. After a surgery, it is often difficult to know which anti-cancer drug(s) will be most effective in continuing to treat a tumor. Daron-Mathis stated, “The test is novel in that it not only looks at the whole tumor, but also at the subpopulation that is resistant and causes relapse in a patient. Determining the chemotherapeutic drug that will work on the whole of the tumor and also this resistant population, we can better predict which drug will give the patient the most optimal outcome.”
Pier Paulo Claudio. M.D./Ph.D., Sarah’s mentor, noted that Sarah has “conducted progressive, out-of-the-box, cancer research in the Translational Laboratories at the McKown Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGRI), Edwards Cancer Center,” as well as spending six months doing research at the National Center for Research in Rome, Italy. For that experience, “several experiments involving the effects of microgravity on stem cell growth were repeated by an independent laboratory,” Dr. Claudio stated. Claudio also pointed out several successful presentations at STaR Symposium, the American Society for Gravitational Space Biology, the American Institute for Cancer Research conference in Washington DC, the Cell Differentiation and Development Center symposium, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science Spring Conference, the Annual Marshall University Research Day at the School of Medicine, the Appalachian Regional Cell Conference, and Life in Space for Life on Earth that was held in France. Notably, Sarah won three First Place Posters during these conferences.
As Daron-Mathis reflected upon her time in the Biomedical Program, she found that it had not been easy but she had the strength to persevere. “I worked with people from all over the world and not only gained scientific experience but also culture and friendship. I am very thankful to my committee for their understanding as I worked through medical problems. If it wasn’t for that support, I would not have finished. In the last six years I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, married, began to raise a family, learned Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, had a baby girl, and now have received my Ph.D. Getting the Ph.D. was the second hardest thing I have ever done (having my daughter is by far #1.)”
Congratulations, Sarah Daron-Mathis, Ph.D. on everything that you have accomplished!