Marshall School of Medicine researcher receives grant to continue musculoskeletal research

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Maria A. Serrat, Ph.D, assistant professor in the department of anatomy and pathology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and a team of multidisciplinary researchers from several institutions have received federal grant funds totaling $383,000 to continue research into the effects of temperature on bone elongation.

Serrat says the three-year award from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is an extension of work initially funded from a bridge grant from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

“We hope our results will facilitate the design of heat-based, drug-targeting approaches to enhance bone length using noninvasive techniques such as warm temperature serrat pixapplications,” Serrat said. “This work is significant because it has the potential to produce transformative findings that link heat, bone lengthening and vascular access to the growing skeleton which could lead to better clinical therapies for children in particular.”

Serrat’s team of collaborators include Marshall graduate and medical students as well as faculty researchers from Cornell University, Mayo Clinic, the University of Kentucky and Ohio University.

“We are in the basic science stage of research and over the course of the three-year funding period hope to collect enough data to support a larger scale translational medicine project leading to a potential clinical trial with help from our collaborators at Mayo Clinic,” Serrat said.

“Dr. Serrat is accomplishing great work in her laboratory which has the potential to have a tremendous clinical impact in the future,” said Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the Marshall School of Medicine. “Marshall is continuing to build its research footprint and investigators like Maria Serrat are an integral part of our success.”

Serrat graduated from Miami University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She then earned her master’s degree in anthropology from Kent State University and followed with a doctorate in biological anthropology from Kent State University in 2007. She joined the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine in 2009.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Maria A. Serrat, Ph.D., middle, and her team – Holly Tamski, a Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. student, and Dr. Gabriela Ion, Research Instructor – have received federal grant funds totaling $383,000 to continue musculoskeletal research.

Photo by Rick Lee

Contact: Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713

Marshall research institute adds expert in bone growth, development

A third senior scientist is being added at the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR), effective Jan. 3.

Dr. Jingwei Xie will join the team at MIIR, which was created in 2008 through the state’s Bucks for Brains West Virginia Research Trust Fund. Scientists at MIIR are conducting vital biotechnology research designed to improve the lives of people everywhere who suffer from Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anemia, juvenile macular degeneration and other diseases.

The institute has experienced steady growth since its inception, and recently signed its second co-development agreement with a major biotechnology company.

Xie has more than 10 years experience in biomaterials, tissue engineering, micro-/nanofabrication, biosurfaces, formulations, drug delivery, biotechnology and nanotechnology. In his most recent appointment as a post-doctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, he developed a number of projects related to biomedical applications, including neural tissue engineering, tendon-to-bone insertion site repair and drug delivery.

The goal of MIIR is to develop a focused program of pioneering research dedicated to producing patentable scientific breakthroughs and creating new high-tech businesses based on those discoveries. The institute is building on existing areas of research strength at Marshall and providing opportunities for collaborations with scientists already working at the university.

Xie’s group at the institute will focus on bionanotechnology and will collaborate with researchers at Marshall’s new Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems, where scientists are working to apply advances in nanosensor technology to improve the accessibility and capabilities of rural health care resources.

“He is an extraordinarily creative scientist with a strong background in one of today’s fastest-growing scientific disciplines. With his addition to the team at MIIR along with a growing portfolio of contracts with biotechnology companies we are rapidly approaching critical mass,” said Marshall President Stephen Kopp, in a news release. “Our strategic commitment to hiring the brightest, most talented researchers we can find is paying off. I am confident in our vision for the institute as an economic development engine and remain energized about the possibilities ahead of us.”

Dr. Eric Kmiec, director of MIIR and the institute’s lead research scientist, said Xie comes from one of the most respected nanotechnology labs in the country, and his work to develop devices to aid in bone growth and development will complement the genetics work currently under way at the institute and allow us to move into exciting new areas of discovery.

Kmiec said that in addition to working with colleagues at the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems, Xie also will collaborate with researchers in the university’s College of Science and College of Information Technology and Engineering.

Prior to joining Washington University in 2007, Xie was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Washington in Seattle and a research fellow at the National University of Singapore. He is the co-inventor on two patents, was co-investigator of a National Institutes of Health-funded pilot project and has co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Xie has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nanjing University of Technology in China. He earned his doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the National University of Singapore.

For more information about MIIR, visit www.marshall.edu/miir.