A special project supported by a special program

Prior to the holidays, the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) solicited donations of toys, games, and other kid-related items from the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) family.  This yearly event, “The Jared Box Project” is a nation-wide mission to improve the lives of hospitalized children by providing opportunities to play. Once the offerings were collected, the GSO wrapped and delivered the gifts to children, from newborn to 18 years old, at Cabell-Huntington Hospital.

Jared Box2015.murphyR, PanwarM, AhmedT, AmosD, WrightK    Jared-Box2015.WrightK,AmosD,MurphyR,AhmedT

This year’s delivery team included Rachel Murphy, PhD Candidate and GSO President; Rabia Ahmed (Taha’s sister); Taha Ahmed, PhD Candidate; Debbie Amos, PhD student and GSO Vice President; and Kristeena Wright, PhD Candidate.

Jared Box2015.AhmedT    Jared-Box2015.WrightK

It is hard to say who had a better time, those getting the gifts or those who were able to share them!

Ms. Murphy extended a “big THANK YOU” to everyone who donated toys or cash to this great project.”

Bluefield State College science students introduced to Biomedical Sciences program

Students from Bluefield State College (BSC) recently visited the Byrd Biotechnology Science Center (BBSC) to learn more about the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program.


Seven bright and engaged students in the BSC Biomedical Club received an overview of the graduate degrees including the newly added Master of Science in Clinical and Translational Science (CTS), the Transforming Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education (TIGRE) program goals, and the Summer Research Internship for Minority Students (SRIMS) from Co-Director of Graduate Studies, Richard Egleton, PhD, and Diana Maue, Graduate Recruitment and Communication Coordinator.

The Bluefield group was also able to meet with BMS graduate students to hear “the inside scoop,” and tour the BBSC core facilities with special stops at the Genomic facility with Donald Primerano, PhD, and the Molecular and Biological Imaging Center to hear from David Neff, MS.

Headshot - PrimeranoDavid Neff, Imaging Specialists

James Walters, PhD, Assistant Professor at BSC, has brought his best students for this introduction to Marshall University for the past couple of years.  Walters is mentored by Nalini Santanam, PhD, MPH, FAHA, through West Virginia Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE).

2015 Appalachian Regional Cell Conference held at Marshall University

Marshall University Biomedical Sciences (BMS) again hosted the Appalachian Regional Cell Conference (ARCC) attended by students and faculty from four area institutions: Marshall University, West VirginiaARCC2015_Stevens,-S-and-Dawley,-D University, University of Kentucky and Ohio University. This year, 60 participants presented 30 posters and four oral presentations on a variety of biomedical sciences research topics.















Alejandro SanchARCC2015_Alejandro-Sanchez-Alvarado,-PhDez Alvarado, PhD, from Stower’s Institute in Kansas City was the Keynote Speaker. His research and presentation focusing on the molecular mechanisms of tissue regeneration in invertebrates were fascinating for the attendees.







Learn more about his work at: http://www.stowers.org/faculty/s%C3%A1nchez-lab

The Marshall Representative for ARCC, Kristeena Wright, BMS PARCC2015_Wright,-K.bhD Candidate,
noted, “As always, the conference allowed for sharing of great scientific findings, interesting conversation, and networking by students and faculty alike. We look forward to another successful conference next year!”

Two Marshall students each won Second Place for their poster presentations. Alexandra Nichols has worked for a year in the lab of Komal Sodhi, MD, following the completion of her undergraduate degree in December 2013. Their presentation of Role of Serum Biomarkers in Early Detection of Diabetic Cardiomyopathy in West Virginia Population highlighted the laboratory’s focus on translational medicine. This research can give medical practitioners additional diagnostic tools to determine a diabetic patient’s risk in developing diabetic-related problems in the future. Since this information could be gleaned from the blood panel that doctors would have already ordered, it is cost effective, and it is not as intimidating to a patient as another test might be.  Nichol’s study looked for certain identifiers on the serum test that can predict a patient’s Alexandra Nichols     Sodhi, Komal_May2015b

proclivity for developing fibrosis, diastolic dysfunction and inflammation in the tissues (tissue disease). This investigation used samples from current patients at Cabell Huntington Hospital under the care of Dr. Ellen Thompson. Nichols was excited by this project since it was the first study design that she has been able to bring to completion. “It is very special to be able to do research that is clinical and represents an actual person in our community. This can have a real impact on more effective patient care.”

Sean Piwarski, BMS PhD Candidate, was also awarded Second Place for his poster, Exploring the Mechanism by which TCDD Regulates Jagged-1 via the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor. Piwarski is mentored by Travis Salisbury, PhD, whose lab researches environmental links to breast  cancer.

ARCC2015_Piwarski,-S.-b  Salisbury-2.3.12

“Agent Orange from the Vietnam War is known to induce multiple types of cancers, but if you expose cancer cells to Agent Orange the metastasis will stop. My research involves understanding the mechanism by which TCDD stops metastasis and to see if it can be used as a chemotherapy target for triple negative breast cancer,” explained Piwarski.

Conference Presentation Awards:

Endocrinology 1

1st- Sarah Metro, Ohio University

2nd- Alexandra Nichols, Marshall University

Endocrinology 2

1st- Reetobrata Basu, Ohio University

2nd- Amrita Basu, Ohio University

Cancer and Other Disease

1st- Aaron Snoberger, West Virginia University

2nd- Sean Piwarski, Marshall University

2nd- Aric Logsdon, West Virginia University

Regeneration, Development and Disease 1

1st- Danielle Shepherd, West Virginia University

2nd- Kimberly Alonge, West Virginia University

Regeneration, Development and Disease 2

1st- Mark Slayton, Ohio University

2nd- Skye Hickling, West Virginia University

Oral Presentation

1st- Maria Muccioli, Ohio State University

Congratulations and thanks go to the organizers, participants and winners in this important regional research conference.


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, http://www.wvspacegrant.org/ 

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.

See the full story here: http://www.statejournal.com/story/30186879/progenesis-technologies-of-huntington-awarded-grant

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 www.musom.marshall.edu.


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 http://www.marshall.edu/miir.