Ph.D. candidate Siva Nalabotu presents at seminar series in Charleston

On October 6th, Ph.D. candidate Siva Nalabotu was the guest lecturer at the Research Brown Bag Lecture at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy (UC SOP). The Research Brown Bag Lecture Series at UC SOP helps pharmacy students to stay abreast of the latest developments in diverse fields of research. Siva learned of the opportunity to speak at the lunch lecture series through Dr. Michelle Herdman, an assistant professor at UC SOP who is an alumnus of the Marshall University Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.

Before this invitation, Siva had only spoken outside of Marshall once, giving a poster presentation at the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting last March. He says that Dr. Herdman and Dr. Gagan Khuashal were very helpful throughout the experience, and that the faculty and students were very welcoming. Siva highly recommends this speaking opportunity to others. He says the experience encouraged him to give further presentations outside Marshall when given the chance. He would like to express his thanks to Dr. Herdman for arranging this experience and to his audience for being so accommodating. Everyone seemed to appreciate the opportunity to learn about the potential problems of the application of nanotechnology within organisms.

Siva’s presentation, “Nanomaterials and Nanotoxicity: Should we be scared?” discusses both the beneficial and potentially dangerous qualities of nanomaterials. According to Siva, his topic seemed to be of special interest to the pharmacy students, as nanotechonology has tremendous potential to treat various medical conditions. Although pharmacy students may be aware of the applications of nanotechnology, they may not often come across information on toxicity of nanomaterials and the reasons for these toxicities. His presentation draws a clear connection between the good and bad effects of nanomaterials.

Specifically, Siva’s research targets the toxicological effects of cerium oxide nanoparticles. These nanoparticles have been shown to be excellent antioxidants that show promise in treating a variety of medical conditions. In addition, they have industrial applications as an additive in polishes, abrasives, and fuels. Siva’s research evaluates the fates of cerium oxide nanoparticles in rats and the ways in which they interact with various organ systems. Nanomaterials are being used ever more progressively, making it crucial to understand their potential effects on living organisms.

Siva says that he has seen a “tremendous change” in his oral presentation skills since joining the BMS Ph.D. program. He now feels confident when speaking in front of an audience. He also credits the program with preparing him to give effective presentations for both lay and scientific audiences. According to Siva, Dr. Delidow’s Communication Skills class and her interest in teaching effective presentation skills were especially helpful in allowing him to become comfortable speaking in front of an audience. He also singles out his advisor, Dr. Eric Blough, for teaching him how to prepare effective presentation slides and to keep the audience engaged in a presentation. He says that Dr. Blough has been a tremendous help every step of the way in his professional career at Marshall, including being his advisor for his Master’s in Biology before he began pursuing a Ph.D.

Great job representing the Marshall BMS Program, Siva! 

Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems: bridging the translational research gap

Dr. Eric Blough, Director of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems

When Dr. Eric Blough established the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology in late 2003, his goal was to one day develop it into a thriving, interdisciplinary laboratory that would help bridge the gap between basic and clinical sciences. Over the ensuing years, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems was born.

Research in nanotechnology can involve substances as small as one nanometer, or one billionth of a meter, in size. In the words of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, “Although focused on the very small, nanotechnologies offer tremendous potential benefits. From new cancer therapies to pollution-eating compounds… nanotechnologies are changing the way people think about the future.” This is due to the fact that, as objects diminish in size, they begin to exhibit very different properties. For example, nanoparticles have a high surface area and can be very reactive. Consequently, drugs deployed using nanotechnology can potentially be five to six times as effective as those delivered traditionally. Nanoparticles can also be developed to target specific types of cells, avoiding exposing the rest of the body to a toxic medication, such as in chemotherapy.

A result of an initiative merging participants within the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and the Marshall College of Science, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems aims to find better ways to diagnose, monitor, and treat chronic illness. As Dr. Blough envisioned, this center is one of a very few that is designed to bring together researchers from distinctly different areas of expertise together to work on common problems. Within the center, there are over a dozen different projects underway. Each project is centered on a research area that is of national importance and all have a high degree of relevance to Appalachia.

Currently, projects include work done in humans, animals, C. elegans, and cell culture. Areas of inquiry include the elucidation of new “biomarkers” for disease (cardiovascular, cancer and pulmonary conditions), the development of new types of sensors for point of care testing, and the effects that nanomaterials may have on cellular function and the environment. In addition, they are also in the process of developing new ways to “package” and deliver drugs using nanotechnological approaches.

Dr. Blough says that he is always looking for new students, new scientists, and new collaborations. He hopes to continue to grow and improve the program through new initiatives. If you would like more information about the groundbreaking research being performed at the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems at Marshall University, please refer to its website: http://www.marshall.edu/cdn/.

U.S. Senate bill could give MU $3 million for medical research

The Herald-Dispatch

WASHINGTON Marshall University could receive $3 million for medical research facilities in a bill approved by the U.S. Senate, according to a release from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The funds would be used for development of a new Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems and was included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. The center will be responsible for the development of new non-invasive nanotechnologies designed to detect and diagnose disease and illnesses at very early stages. Diseases that disproportionately impact rural populations, such as ovarian cancer, heart disease and diabetes will be the focus of this initial research. The new program will be housed in the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center.

“This new center will be a vital weapon in the fight against some of the most devastating diseases we face not only in West Virginia but across the country and around the world,” said Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp. “We are exceedingly grateful for this funding and look forward to continuing to work with the Senator to better the lives of all West Virginians.”