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



Celebrate Marshall with these events

With all of the hard work and study, it’s important that students, faculty and staff make time to stay healthy. The Exercise is Medicine on Campus (EIC-OC) Program will offer a week of great activities. ACSM-Exercize

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Another way to enjoy all that Marshall has to offer is to celebrate with the Unity Walk.Unity-Walk-2015

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Biomedical Sciences PhD Candidate, Kristeena Wright, offered words of encouragement at Convocation

Kristeena Wright, PhD Candidate, was selected to be a presenter at this year’s President’s Freshman Convocation. She began with a description of her own Convocation as an undergraduate at Duke University with presenter Maya Angelou just ten years ago.


Wright spoke of three areas that she felt would assist the Class of 2019 to be successful at Marshall University:

  1. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
  2. Don’t doubt your potential.
  3. Step out of your comfort zone.

These points were illustrated with examples of the challenges and successes that Mrs. Wright has experienced during her years at Marshall University.


Another focus of the presentation was the wonderful support system and mentors that Kristeena has found in the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program, as well as Marshall University as a whole. Mrs. Diana Maue, Graduate Recruiter and Communication Coordinator, has been a particularly valuable supporter.

As Kristeena has been motivated by many here at Marshall, she has surely inspired a great many others. She is a “phenomenal woman.”

See the full Convocation Ceremony.

Grant to fund MU’s new cancer research

HUNTINGTON — A new concept in cancer treatment will be future explored at Marshall University thanks to a grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Cancer Institute awarded a $432,369 three-year Academic Research Enhancement Award to the Marshall Vincent-Sollars-2012University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine to launch a cancer biology research project in “epigenetics,” a relatively new concept in cancer therapies, according to a press release from Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

The concept deals with a new chemotheraputic target in cancer treatment, said Dr. Vincent E. Sollars, an associate professor of biochemistry and biology at Marshall.

“It’s a great way for me and the students to get involved in some research I’ve wanted to do for some time,” Sollars said. “We’re targeting leukemia specifically with this grant, but the this could have ramifications on all types of cancers.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Marshall University anticipates involving eight students from undergraduate, master’s and doctoral academic programs, as well as students enrolled in the med school.

Sollars said the medical school also will hire a full time technician through the grant.

Biomedical Sciences professor invited to present at Asilomar Chromatin and Chromosomes Conference

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., a professor in Marshall’s Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Cancer Biology Research Cluster, was invited to speak at the recent Asilomar Chromatin and Chromosomes Conference, which was held on December 16th in Pacific Grove, CA. He presented entirely new research, for which he designed most of the experimental procedure, and was performed by Dr. Ata Abbas, a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory.

Ata Abbas, Ph.D.

Ata Abbas, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Philippe Georgel’s laboratory.

The study reports the positive effect of omega-3 fatty acid treatment on various breast cancer cell lines. The omega-3 treatment modified the profile of expression of Human Leukocyte Antigen G (HLA-G), a molecule important in the immune evasion properties displayed by numerous types of cancerous cells. The treated cells display an HLA-G expression profile that resembles that of normal epithelial breast cells as well as a reduced ability to migrate (a property that can be indicative of lower metastatic abilities).

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., Professor within the College of Science and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Philippe Georgel, Ph.D., Professor within the College of Science and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program



When asked what this research means to “non-scientists,” Georgel good-naturedly responded, “Our research is one additional piece of evidence to support the role of diet in preventing and/or helping find a cure for breast cancer (as well as other cancer types). An increase in omega-3 fatty acid (FA) in our regular diet can be easily achieved by substituting corn oil (rich in omega-6 FA and poor in omega-3 FA) with canola oil (rich in omega-3 FA and low in  omega-6 FA), and also by eating more fish (omega-3-FA-rich).”

This project will be expanded to include the analysis of HLA-G expression profile in tissues from breast cancer patients’ biopsies and a small scale clinical trial involving daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (in collaboration with Dr. Rajesh Sehgal, Medical Oncologist at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center). The results will be used as preliminary material for a submission to the National Institutes of Health and/or the Department of Defense. 

JCE School of Medicine Faculty Present Research at the National IDeA Meeting

Every two years the National IDeA Symposium of Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) meeting is held in Washington D.C. to bring together faculty, fellows and students that participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) programs. This year the NISBRE meeting was held June 25-27, 2012 at the Benja Lamyaithong Marshall INBRE studentOmni Shoreham Hotel and was attended by six faculty members from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University in the West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (WV-INBRE) program, three from West Virginia University and one each from Bluefield State College, Concord College, West Virginia State University, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the University of Charleston. Several of the Marshall University faculty presented research during the meeting including Drs. Monica Valentovic, Nalini Santanam Nalini Santanam, Ph.D./M.P.H.and Travis Salisbury from the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology and Dr. Donald Primerano from the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. Also presenting research was Andre Benja Lamyaithong, an undergraduate student at Wheeling Jesuit University, who has been conducting research on antidotes for acetaminophen overdose with Dr. Valentovic for two summers as part of the West Virginia INBRE summer research program. Other JCE School of Medicine faculty members attending the meeting were: Dr. Jim Denvir, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, who co-authored the work with Dr. Primerano; and Dr. Gary Rankin, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology, who is a member of the Executive Planning Committee for the NISBRE meeting.


Monica Valentovic, Ph.D.Dr.Valentovic’s research on how a component of grapes and red wine (resveratrol) can reduce damage to the kidney caused by a commonly used drug (cisplatin) to treat cancer was presented in a regular research session and highlighted in a special session on clinical and translational research. In addition, Dr. Primerano’s research into the genetics of families with high blood cholesterol was highlighted in a special session on cardiovascular disease.

The IDeA program was started in 1993 to help increase the biomedical research competitiveness in states that receive only small amounts of research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The IDeA program is composed of two award programs, one (Centers Of Biomedical Research Excellence; COBRE) that is designed to create centers with a biomedical research focus at larger research schools and a second program (INBRE) designed to build the biomedical research infrastructure at smaller colleges and universities and provide biomedical research training primarily to undergraduate students. Currently, 23 states and Puerto Rico Travis Salisbury, Ph.D.are eligible to compete for COBRE or INBRE grants. Marshall University was awarded an INBRE grant as the lead institution in 2004 with West Virginia University serving as a partner lead institution.  Dr. Gary Rankin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology at Marshall University is the Principal Investigator for the WV-INBRE program.

Progenesis to be featured at international biosciences conference

The following story from the Marshall University Research Corporation (MURC) features Progenesis Technologies, co-founded by Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program professors Dr. Hongwei Yu and Dr. Richard Niles. Progenesis is a research and development company focused on demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing its genetically-engineered bacterial alginates on an industrial scale. It is one of the “high-tech spinout companies” from Marshall University mentioned in the article.


Bio International Convention
The largest annual global event for the biotechnology industry, the BIO International Convention attracts an audience of more than 15,000 biotech business leaders, scientists, executives and investors from around the world.

Dr. John Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, says the Bioscience Association of West Virginia (BioWV)—along with the West Virginia Development Office and the Biotech Alliance of the Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO)—is hosting a West Virginia Pavilion at the convention.

Maher, who is also vice-chairman of BioWV, said the Marshall-related companies to be featured at the pavilion include Vandalia Research, Progenesis Technologies and Cordgenics. All three businesses were founded based on technologies developed at Marshall and are headquartered in the state.

“The West Virginia Pavilion will highlight key participants in our state’s life sciences community,” he said. “There is a great deal of very exciting biotechnology work happening here at Marshall and we are pleased to have this opportunity to share it with conference attendees from the rest of the country and around the world.”

Bryan Brown, executive director of BioWV, added, “Not only will the West Virginia Pavilion highlight the outstanding bioscience companies in West Virginia and the excellent biomedical research at our major universities, we will also showcase all the state has to offer in terms of quality of life and increased business competitiveness to our colleagues from the rest of the country and around the world. We hope that participation in this event will help to attract new entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, investors and businesses to West Virginia.”

BIO International Convention attendees include a mix of biotechnology, pharmaceutical, plant and life science, medical diagnostic, instrumentation and technology companies of all sizes, including the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world. Also represented are economic development organizations and businesses that support the industry, including law firms, service providers, investors, and suppliers of laboratory equipment and products. Representatives from more than 200 universities and academic communities also attend for networking, educational sessions and collaboration opportunities. There is a strong international attendance, with participants from approximately 60 countries.

Marshall University is a founding member of the Bioscience Association of West Virginia. The purpose of the association is to promote and strengthen the bioscience industry in the state by developing a cohesive community that unites biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and research organizations. To advance this mission, BioWV provides educational, networking and commercial opportunities for its members, and serves as an educational and information resource to advance public understanding about the bioscience industry. For more information, visit