Research in Progress Conference Series

Shrikant Anant, PhD, will be the next guest speaker for this conference series, presenting Stem, the root cause of Cancer: Tales from the Crypt. Anant,-Shrikant Dr. Anant, a pioneering biologist, joined The University of Kansas Cancer Center in July 2010. He is the associate director of Cancer Prevention and Control.

Prior to coming to The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Dr. Anant led the gastrointestinal cancers program at the University of Oklahoma Cancer Institute. A professor of cell biology, medicine/gastroenterology and nutrition, he was also director of gastroenterology research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Dr. Anant led a team of researchers who discovered a new gene, RBM3, which can cause normal cells to turn into cancer cells; also, stopping RBM3’s expression in cancer cells causes the cancer cells to die. Earlier, while on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, he discovered the first tumor-suppressing RNA-binding protein.

“Dr. Anant comes to us with an outstanding national reputation in gastrointestinal cancer research, particularly as it relates to cancer prevention,” says Roy A. Jensen, MD, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “His research spans a wide range of activities – from understanding molecular biology questions to determining the mechanisms of action for certain natural products and their role in cancer prevention.”

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” Dr. Anant says of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “The university is putting in the resources to develop high-powered teams of researchers to identify methods to stop cancer development and treat cancers. They are also interested in preventing cancers. My task is partly to lead a team of scientists in this effort.”

He will also serve as Associate Dean for Research at the University of Kansas Medical Center and as Kansas Mason Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, with a secondary appointment to the Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology. He is also a KBA Eminent Scholar.

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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



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.”

Welcome new med. sci. students!

Twelve Biomedical Sciences (BMS) MS, Medical Sciences emphasis (med. sci.) students recently attended orientation. Uma Sundaram, MD, Vice Dean Biomedical Sciences Research and Education, Todd Green, PhD, Co-Director Biomedical Sciences, and Richard Egleton, PhD, Co-Director Biomedical Sciences offered a welcome and program overview. After course introductions and a Q&A with Cynthia Warren, Assistant Dean of Admissions, MU School of Medicine, there was a picnic at Ritter Park sponsored by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) for all new and returning students.


These awesome students received their undergraduate degrees from as close as Marshall University and as far away as University of California–Riverside. Among the group, there is a classically trained pianist, a competitive swimmer and competitive baseball player, and fans of soccer, volleyball, and martial arts. Don’t forget the published poet, and the one who may be related to the original Colonel Sanders!

Be sure to welcome our new med. sci. and research students, and see if you can learn their “secret identities” as writers, athletes, and more.

Internationally recognized kidney specialist and sodium pump researcher visits Marshall University

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Dr. Anita Aperia, professor of pediatrics at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and former member of the Nobel Assembly, who is widely recognized for her groundbreaking research to medicine’s understanding of how the ‪‎kidneys function in health and disease, visited Marshall University and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine this week.

The visit was part of a series of public lectures hosted by the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research where work is focused on Na+/K+-ATPase—a protein often referred to as the “sodium potassium pump” because it directs many cellular processes in the heart, kidney and other tissues. By studying how this cellular signaling occurs, the institute’s researchers are working to develop new treatments for cancer, heart and kidney disease.

Aperia also served as a guest speaker at Marshall’s Department of Pediatrics grand rounds.

aperia photoA native of Sweden, Aperia graduated from the Karolinska Institutet medical school and received her Ph.D. training at Yale University. She has been at the Karolinska Institutet since 1976, and as chairman of the department of pediatrics from 1987 to 1999, was the founder and project leader for Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital, the largest children’s hospital in Northern Europe.

In 1987, she was appointed to the Nobel Assembly for Physiology or Medicine in Stockholm, where she served as a member until 2003. From 1991 to 1996, she was a member of the Nobel Committee and in 2001 she was the first woman to chair the Nobel Assembly.

Dr. Anita Aperia speaks Thursday at the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center during a visit to Marshall University.

Photo by Rick Haye/Marshall University