Scientists develop a new approach for Parkinson’s disease therapy

Arrin Carter, a second year student in the MD/PhD program, worked with Elmer Price, PhD, during one of her research rotations. The results, which could eventually lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, were recently published.
Last year, Dr. Elmer Price, a professor of biological sciences at Marshall University, was awarded a three-year, $350,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation.

ElmerPriceandResearchersThe grant funds his research into understanding neurogenesis, the process adult brains use to generate new neurons from preexisting adult neural stem cells. Price and his student researchers have now discovered a way to recruit these adult neural stem cells into regions of the brain which typically lack the ability to replenish neurons. Their findings have tremendous therapeutic potential for cases of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Price and researchers Amanda Clark, Arrin Carter and Lydia Hager have published their research in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Stem Cells and Development.

Their discovery is based on the fact that the adult brain has its own supply of adult neural stem cells. These stem cells are only found in two specific regions of the adult brain. Price’s lab has developed a way to actually steer these neural stem cells away from their usual location and into a new region of the brain that typically is unable to regenerate new neurons.

They accomplished this by making small cylinders out of a mixture of biologically-compatible materials, and then surgically implanting these cylinders into the brain. Price’s study revealed that, over time, the adult neural stem cells used the cylindrical implant as a new pathway and subsequently migrated along this path into a new region of the brain.

The Marshall researchers also found that these cylinder implants reversed the Parkinson’s-like behavior in rats who had an experimentally-induced version of the disease, suggesting the neural cells that responded to the implant were able to replace neurons lost in Parkinson’s disease.

“We are pretty excited about this work for a number of reasons,” said Price. “It describes a totally new approach for treating neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and we predict that this approach will also be useful in cases of stroke or traumatic brain injury; however, those studies have yet to be completed. This paper is the product of many years of work and hopefully is the first of a number of important findings regarding this unique approach. This is just the beginning of a long process; we are very, very far from moving this into humans but this paper is a critical first step.”

One key feature of Price’s approach is that the implants make use of the brain’s preexisting stem cells; once reduced to practice, a patient’s own neural stem cells would be harnessed for targeted brain repair.

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Photo: Dr. Elmer Price is shown with researchers, from left, Lydia Hager, Arrin Carter and Amanda Clark. Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University.

Contact: Dave Wellman, Director of Communications, 304-696-7153

The fruits of summer research

Members of the Marshall Biomedical Sciences (BMS) family recently attended the 15th Annual West Virginia Idea Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE) Summer Research Symposium at West Virginia University (WVU).Francisco Fernandez - SRIMS Intern at Marshall

Undergraduate students from summer internship programs at Marshall and WVU had the opportunity to present the results of their nine weeks of biomedical research to others from around the state. “This is a great opportunity for summer interns to share the results of their hard work, meet peers and faculty in their field, and add valuable experience to their graduate applications,” noted Kelly Carothers, Summer Research Internship for Minority Students (SRIMS) Coordinator.

Collins, Elliot_WLU and Ole MissWV-INBRE summer interns come from West Virginia colleges and universities, and can choose to attend the program at either Marshall or WVU. WV-INBRE also extends research opportunities to high school and college teachers. A professor at the University of Charleston, who previously earned her PhD from Marshall’s BMS program, was able to return to elements of her prior research, and teachers from Charleston and Hurricane High Schools conducted work in Marshall’s graduate-level labs. The mission of the WV-INBRE, as part of the NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) is to establish a consortium among selected institutions of higher education in the State of West Virginia to enhance their capacity for education and training their faculty and students in biomedical research.

L to R: Jamika, Fattal, Danny, Francisco_SRIMS 2016The Summer Research Internship for Minority Students (SRIMS) participants are from a variety of schools and universities around the U.S. This year, the BMS program hosted four interns who are from California State University, University of Texas, Cheney University and Central State University. Their research focused on areas such as toxicity and cellular stress in the kidney, diet-induced obesity, the molecular management of congestive heart failure, and adipose tissue dysfunction-related diseases.

Researchers from the American Heart Association Undergraduate Summer Internship Research (AHA-USIR) and their mentors attended the conference to present the results of their investigations into cardiovascular issues. These interns are selected from Marshall University undergraduate science programs.

Rodriguez, Danny with goggles_SRIMS_MUOther presenters included Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) interns and students who have conducted research in West Virginia colleges or universities over the summer months.

Elsa Mangiarua, PhD, WV-INBRE summer program director, stated, “I am always amazed at the amount that these students learn and the results that they obtain after just a few weeks. Their posters and oral presentations are fantastic.”

For further information about the BMS summer interns, please see: http://www.marshall.edu/bms/2016/05/26/summer-interns/.

MU science, medical programs restructured

By LACIE PIERSON, Jul 25, 2016 – HERALD DISPATCH

HUNTINGTON – The recent restructuring of two colleges at Marshall University was designed to strengthen both colleges and create a more rounded experience for students, according to university officials.

In the past month, university officials announced the reorganization of Marshall’s College of Science as well as the restructuring of some departments in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Both announcements came a few months after administrators moved Marshall’s nationally renowned forensic science graduate program from the medical school, where it was first established in the mid-1990s, to the College of Science, where it’s being integrated with the university’s undergraduate digital forensic science and criminal justice programs.

Leaders of both schools described the reorganization as creating better opportunities for collaboration between departments and cultivating comprehensive interdisciplinary research efforts as well as curricular partnerships.

“We saw the synergy there that the combination of these programs could create something new and powerful, not only for Marshall, but for students interested in those fields,” said Chuck Somerville, dean of the College of Science. “It’s a really interesting overlap of things we can do to strengthen all of those programs at the same time.”

The changes to the College of Science were effective July 1 and included the restructuring of nine academic departments in the college into four schools: The School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, the School of Physical Sciences, the School of Mathematics and Applied Informatics, and the School of Forensic and Criminal Justice Sciences, according to a news release from the university.

During the spring 2016 semester, which ended in May, there were 1,420 students enrolled in the majors affected by the restructuring, but that number doesn’t include the students who took courses within the College of Science as a part of electives for other non-science majors, Somerville said. Overall, he said there were approximately 10,000 enrollments each year in service courses, which are courses that provide support for other majors in the university outside of the college in question.

In each of the new schools, college faculty and staff bring applied, real world experience together with advanced theoreticians, Somerville said.

He gave the example of the new Mathematics and Applied Informatics school.

“We have people who are studying the underlying mathematics of informatics as well as people who are writing commercial software,” he said. “Students can get the benefit of both perspectives and learn both the most advanced science of the field as well as some of the things that it takes to succeed in the market … By having both basic and applied researchers working together, we broaden the scope of students that we can attract to Marshall, and we also broaden the opportunities for students who come here and may not yet know if they want to pursue a higher degree or go directly into the workforce.”

At the medical school, the exit of the forensic science program led to the restructuring of the school’s departments of biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and animal resources, which resulted in the formation of one biomedical sciences department.

That department is being led by Dr. Gary O. Rankin, who was promoted to vice dean for basic sciences and chairman of the department of biomedical sciences.

The College of Science has 126 faculty and staff in the College of Science, and no employees have been laid off as a result of the restructuring, Somerville said. Somerville did note the responsibilities of four positions that became vacant this year were absorbed by existing faculty and staff in the reorganization process.

The restructuring of the programs changes would be cost neutral to the university and students, said Gayle Ormiston, Marshall’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.

Talks of moving the forensic program into the College of Science had taken place for years, but it was the completion of an academic portfolio review of all academic programs at Marshall that helped administrators develop the road map to make it happen, Ormiston said.

The move is also part of an effort to create a more robust undergraduate offering in forensic science as well as offer more slots in the graduate forensic science program, which is one of the most sought after programs of its kind in the United States, Somerville said.

Marshall’s graduate forensic science program was the seventh such program of its kind when it was established in 1994, and its graduates routinely rank No. 1 in the country for its students receiving the highest overall test scores compared to other graduate programs participating in the Forensic Science Assessment Test, a national assessment test offered each year by the American Board of Criminalistics.

In 2015, Marshall Forensic Science graduates ranked No. 1 in the country on the assessment test for the sixth time in the last nine years.

The program originally was established in the medical school as Dr. Terry Fenger, founding director of the program, was a faculty member in the school at the time.

Somerville said he hoped the restructuring also would provide the faculty and facilities support needed to allow the university to accept more students into the graduate program, which currently accepts 20 students each year. He said he hoped to bring that number up to 25 students in the next two or three years without creating an undue burden on faculty or students.

More Biomedical Boot Camp fun

Top Row: Adam Belcher, Sarah, Binion, Roy Al Ahmar Bottom Row: Garrett Muckleroy, Morghan Getty, Shreya Mukherji

Top Row: Adam Belcher, Sarah Binion, Roy Al Ahmar Bottom Row: Garrett Muckleroy, Morghan Getty, Shreya Mukherji

The new PhD students, Adam, Sarah, Garrett, Shreya, and Minqi, continued through Preparation for Graduate Academics (PGA) Boot Camp. They worked with student mentors, current students, faculty, and staff to better prepare for and familiarize themselves with the program.

MuckleroyG-and-GhettyM_bootcamp16

Garrett and Morghan intensely working to beat the clock in their team-building challenge

Minqi Huang, PhD Student

Minqi Huang joining in the team-building fun!

Students built skills vital to success in the PhD program through engaging in team-building and critical-thinking activities, touring core facilities, taking personal development assessments, and interacting with faculty to learn more about the research offerings.

Organelle team-building challenge

The winning product of “creating a new organelle” challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many in the graduate program know the importance of “free food” and nearby restaurants, so the PhD students were treated to lunch at Fat Patty’s. They also attended the Summer Research Program Annual Luncheon giving them the opportunity to meet faculty, staff and interns.

While waiting for classes to start in August, the new students will have a chance to complete their first lab rotation.

Cancer research seminar

Vincent Sollars, PhD, Director of the Flow Cytometry Core, recently presented a research seminar: HSP90 and Phenotypic Plasticity in a Mammalian Model of Hematopoiesis.Sollars-Presentation_7.14.16

He discussed his idea that phenotypic plasticity—the ability for cells to adapt to pressure from the environment resulting in a wide range of characteristics—is typically kept within a normal range by a process called canalization. This process causes cells to develop on a path that leads to a specific type of cell in the body, and restricts those cells from developing a very large range of diversity. If canalization is lost, some cells may be more likely to mutate toward cancer. A better understanding of this may lead to better types of cancer therapies.

The seminar was enjoyed by graduate students, laboratory techs, faculty, and summer interns.

For further information on Dr. Sollar’s research, please see his BMS Faculty Page.

Boot Camp begins!

The new students around the halls of the Byrd Biotechnology Science Center (BBSC) are the latest group matriculating into the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) PhD program. They are starting an intensive week of orientation, academic preparation, problem solving and team building called Preparation for Graduate Academics (PGA) Boot Camp.

This week is a key part of the overall Transforming Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education (TIGRE) Program introduced four years ago to further prepare Marshall’s BMS students to thrive in their education and meet the changing needs of the biomedical workforce. In addition to Boot Camp, TIGRE offers career exploration through speakers and workshops in a variety of non-academic research career fields. An opportunity for relevant internship experience is expected to become a part of the TIGRE program in the future.

BootcampPhD__July-2016c

This year’s cohort of PhD students includes:

Previous BMS MS Research student, Minqi Huang. In addition to the BMS courses, he has spent the last two years in the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) labs conducting research. While studying and working in Huntington, he has enjoyed exploring the surrounding area with others in his lab.

Sarah Binion recently completed her MS in Forensic Science program at Marshall University, and is interested in a career conducting research and potentially teaching.

Another Marshall alumnus, Adam Belcher, started out in the computer world, building his first PC at about age 11. He hopes to bring those problem solving skills to the biomedical sciences.

Shreya Mukherji comes to Marshall from studying pharmacology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. On a trip to visit her sister in New Zealand, she jumped from the country’s highest bungee platform.

Garrett Muckleroy is excited to begin the work of a PhD. He earned his undergraduate biology degree at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. In addition to hiking and camping, Garrett was a competitive downhill skier for nine years; he has had many broken bones.

Please be sure to welcome the new members of the BMS family!