Ray awarded the ASBMB Graduate Travel Award

by: Allison Wolf, MU Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate

BMS Ph.D. student Kristeena Ray was awarded The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Graduate Minority Travel Award, which is funded through a grant to the Federation of American Societies. Kristeena will travel to Boston, Massachusetts in April to present her research on the possible role of epigenetics in endometriosis at the 2013 Experimental Biology Conference. 

Kristeena Ray_web

Dr. Nalini Santanam, Kristeena’s mentor, stated, “Not much is known about the etiology of endometriosis. There are recent indications that epigenetics might be playing a role in its etiology. Kristeena’s project will, in the long-term, identify epigenetic markers that can be used as therapeutic targets for the treatment of endometriosis and/or its associated symptoms such as pain.”

Ray is the second BMS student to be notified of receiving a travel award to attend this international research conference. Dr. Santanam is pleased that Kristeena is one of the students selected for the ASBMB travel award and said that this opportunity will allow Kristeena to “meet peers from around the country, as well as listen and interact with expert scientists in basic and biomedical sciences.” 

Congratulations, Kristeena!

Marshall biomedical professor invited to present her research internationally

Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, has been invited to present her research, yet again.

2nd World Congress on Fertility and Antioxidants Therapy 2012Dr. Santanam will be presenting her research internationally at the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition and Health’s (ISANH) 2nd World Congress on Fertility and Antioxidants Therapy, December 6 – 7, 2012 in Paris, France.

Santanam’s talk is relevant to all with a condition called Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a clinical condition that afflicts 10-15% of women of reproductive age (mainly diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35), posing a major cause for infertility and chronic pain. Since the etiology of this disease is still unknown, very few treatment options are available. Surgery is currently the best treatment; however, due to a high recurrence rate, the disease commonly returns within three to six months post-surgery. The conference provides attendees the opportunity to present and discuss new research relating to the condition. Dr. Santanam’s talk scheduled for Friday, December 7th, is titled “Prostaglandin-Like Lipid Oxidation Products in the peritoneal Fluid of Women with Endometriosis Respond to Antioxidant Therapy.” In addition to her presentation, she also will be co-sharing the meeting on December 7th, 2012. Dr. Santanam would like to acknowledge the continued collaboration with Dr. Brenda Dawley from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

It is quite an honor to be selected at such a high level in her field, and though Dr. Santanam is not foreign to these invites, she remains humble. This is the second time she has been recognized and invited to present her research in just two months. Dr. Santanam recently presented her research at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles, California in November. Her talk was titled  “Sex differences in epicardial fat biomarkers,” which highlighted the research she has conducted over the past three years in collaboration with Marshall’s Department of Cardiology and Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. She studied the adipose tissue surrounding the heart and blood vessels in patients with coronary artery disease. 

This epicardial and perivascular fat has unique biomarkers that show differences between Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H. the sexes; she states that with this study, they are “trying to identify biomarkers unique to this particular fat so that we can use it in the future to diagnose or in the treatment of coronary artery disease.”  Additionally, the biomarkers found in the adipose tissue have been correlated to patients with hypertension. This study is part of the West Virginia Appalachian Heart Study; therefore most of the individuals included in this study are Appalachians. Dr. Santanam would like to acknowledge: Dr. Christopher Adams, Dr. Nepal Chowdhury, Dr. Todd Gress, and Dr. Paulette Wehner.

Dr. Santanam is the chair of the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes research cluster within Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, and is a member of its Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology. 

Congratulations on your continued achievements, Dr. Santanam!

Marshall WV-INBRE summer research program intern receives ABRCMS travel award

Mardochee Isme, MU WV-INBRE InternMardochee Isme, a senior student at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia, and a 2012 participant in West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence’s (WV-INBRE) Summer Research Program at Marshall University, is the winner of a Student Travel Award from the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Isme will attend the 2012 ABRCMS conference located in San Jose, CA, November 7 – 10, 2012 to present her research. The travel award is worth $1,500 and can go toward any travel-related expenses to the conference and/or conference registration fees.

Isme, among other students, performed research at Marshall University with Dr. Nalini Santanam, a professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at Marshall University’s School of Medicine and Coordinator of the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes Research Cluster. The abstract for her research is titled, “Epigenetics of endometriosis-associated pain.” Dr. Santanam’s laboratory is interested in the etiology of endometriosis and Mardochee’s research looked at the epigenetics of the disease, which as Dr. Santanam stated, “is a new area of research.”  

Kristeena Ray, a Marshall University Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Santanam’s laboratory, helped Mardochee with her research and will continue this work as the focus of her own Ph.D. research. Dr. Santanam’s laboratory also has submitted a request for an NIH grant for further research in this field. Dr. Santanam would like to thank Dr. Brenda Dawley from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine for providing samples for this research project.

MU, WVU, business officials gather for Bioscience Summit

The following article was taken from the website of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. It highlights the work of many of the professors researching in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Marshall University.


Dr. Nalini SantanamCHARLESTON – There is no shortage of exciting research going on in the laboratories at Marshall University. Scientists and technicians from this region and from around the world have converged at Marshall to do research on topics such as heart disease, cancer and many others. Their research might one day save a life, or at least make someone’s life better.Their work might not be easy for the layperson to understand, but university and business officials are working diligently to help ensure the work West Virginia’s scientists are doing also results in three simple words: dollars and cents.

The economic potential for bioscience research in West Virginia is still hard to grasp, but there is a lot happening already and much optimism for the future.

“We are looking at a pipeline of commercial opportunities coming out of research being done in West Virginia,” said John Maher, vice president for research at Marshall University.

Officials from Marshall, West Virginia University and several business related to the bioscience industry gathered last week for the Second Annual West Virginia Bioscience Summit, held Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston.

“This conference is a unique opportunity for people interested in the biosciences to get together and get an update on the status of the industry over the last year,” said Derek Gregg, CEO of Vandalia Research here in Huntington and chairman of BioWV.

The summit featured presentations from West Virginia University, Marshall, Mountwest Community & Technical College, Vandalia Research, Protea, TRAX Biodiscovery, and others to talk about what their organizations have accomplished over the past year.

“This also allows new collaborations and partnerships to be developed,” Gregg said. “Additionally, we had substantial representation from out-of-state organizations looking for new partners and opportunities.”

The biosciences in West Virginia are growing rapidly and the state’s credibility is increasing in the United States and around the world, Gregg said.

“We are spinning out new enterprises, and some of those enterprises are raising capital and hiring people,” he said. “Protea was recently recognized world-wide as having one of the top 10 innovations of 2011. They now employee over 50 people.”

Four companies are now being housed and supported at Vandalia Research’s facility in Huntington, including Progenesis, Maven Analytical and Parabon Nanolabs. These companies sell to pharmaceutical, chemical and diagnostic companies around the world, Gregg said.

Marshall has a lot of exciting research under way right now, said Dr. Richard Niles, senior associate dean for Research and Graduate Education at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

Here are some examples:

Dr. Piyali Dasgupta is looking at lung cancer and at how capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells in animals.

Dr. Nalini Santanam is looking at the effects of age and gender on the fat around the heart, and at oxidative stress in endometriosis.

Dr. Eric Blough of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems has 16 different projects going on.

Dr. Jingwei Xie is working with glass tubes for bone tissue engineering.

Dr. Hongwei Yu is working on genetic regulation of biofilm formation by pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals.

Dr. Pier Paolo Claudio is doing cancer research that involves gene therapy using microbubbles for delivery of a virus.

Niles is co-founder with Yu on the biotech business Progenesis, which provides natural, biodegradable polymers for industrial and medical applications through genetic engineering of bacteria. He talked about his experience of starting a biotech business at Wednesday’s Summit.

The universities are working to help others make discoveries and translate them into businesses as well. And the state is helping.

Both Marshall and WVU have received state funding for research through the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, providing $35 million to WVU and $15 million to Marshall for research, provided they come up with a match. WVU has reached its goal and Marshall has $9.4 million secured in gifts and pledges and the potential to reach, or go beyond, its goal very shortly, Maher said.

The universities also have attracted a lot of federal grant funding, all of which rolls over in the local economies as it provides high-paying jobs that attract scientists to the community.

Also in Huntington, Mountwest Community and Technical College is hard at work training students to become biological technicians, environmental science and environmental protection technicians, biomedical laboratory technicians and health technicians, said Jean Chappel, dean of Allied Health at MCTC.

It has a state-of-the-art lab where they can learn molecular diagnostics, tissue culturing, electrophoresis and use a digital fluorescent microscope.

MCTC also works on community outreach, not only targeting science teachers but high school and middle school students. It has a camp where “they’re isolating DNA just like they do on CSI,” Chappel said.

Over the course of one week, students’ aspirations might change from working a minimum wage job to becoming a PhD scientist, she said.

The college wants to help the state have “a well-rounded, educated workforce that wants to stay right here,” Chappel said.

It’s great to see several different parties working toward the same goal, said Laura Gibson, deputy director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and a professor at WVU.

“The greatest measure of our success is really how we partner,” she said.

Capital formation, attraction and retention of talent, and community development are focus areas for Bio West Virginia in the coming years, Gregg said.

“Incentivizing investment in this area is critical,” he said, “Nearly all of our neighboring states have a program or programs for stimulating investment in high-technology, high-growth, high-RISK businesses to stimulate economic development. West Virginia has had programs in the past that were successful in helping companies raise capital, such as the High Growth Business Investment Tax Credit.

“BioWV is strongly encouraging the renewal of this and other programs that can help companies transition from the campus to the market.”

Dr. Nalini Santanam selected to present at World Congress on Endometriosis

Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H.

An abstract by Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program has been selected for oral presentation at the 11th World Congress on Endometriosis. The World Congress on Endometriosis is held once every three years to focus on new developments in the field of Endometriosis. This year, the Congress will take place from September 4 – 7 in Montpelier, France.

Endometriosis is a clinical condition that afflicts 10-15% of women of reproductive age (mainly diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35), posing a major cause for infertility and chronic pain. Since the etiology of this disease is still unknown, very few treatment options are available. Surgery is currently the best treatment; however, due to a high recurrence rate, the disease commonly returns within three to six months post-surgery. The conference provides attendees the opportunity to present and discuss new research relating to the condition. The meeting promotes exchange between biologists, scientists, endocrinologists, and gynecologists in order to disseminate information and promote research in the treatment and pathogenesis of the condition. Most attendees at the Congress are scientists and clinicians, and new findings are presented from both perspectives.

Each abstract that is submitted to the Congress undergoes a rigorous selection process, and only the top five abstracts in each category are accepted for oral presentation. In the “pain mechanisms” category, Dr. Santanam’s abstract, entitled “Pain sensitive microRNAs in women with Endometriosis,” was one of the five abstracts selected for oral presentation. The abstract presents recent research from Dr. Santanam’s lab identifying biomarkers called “microRNAs” that are not only altered during endometriosis, but also correlated with patients’ pain symptoms. Dr. Santanam also submitted a second abstract, “Oxidized lipids and pain in endometriosis,” that was selected for a poster presentation. This study investigates the role of oxidative stress in the etiology of pain associated with endometriosis.

Dr. Santanam has been involved in endometriosis research for the past 15 years and has been a biomedical researcher at Marshall since 2007. Her laboratory research focuses on identifying unique biomarkers that could assist in either the diagnosis or treatment of endometriosis. There are many collaborators who Dr. Santanam would like to thank for the success of her research. She expresses gratitude for her collaboration with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Marshall University and Cabell Huntington Hospital. In particular, she would like to single out her collaboration with Dr. Brenda Dawley, Dr. Robert Nerhood, Dr. David Jude, and Ms. Sandra White. She is excited to be attending the Congress in order to present some of the fascinating data that she has recently generated in her laboratory with the help of Marshall undergraduate and graduate students. Students and lab personell who participated in the data collection include: Johannes Fahrmann, Holly King, Courtney Crain, and Carla Cook.

Congratulations, Dr. Santanam, on the success of your research!

You can learn more about the World Congress on Endometriosis from their website: http://www.wce2011.com/.