Posts tagged with "Research"

Mina Tocalini illustration for mental health article inside 360 magazine

Non-Immigrant Kids Respond Differently When Immigrant Children Are Bullied

A recent study finds that, while youth think all bullying is bad, non-immigrant adolescents object less to bullying when the victim is an immigrant. However, the study found that the more contact immigrant and non-immigrant children had with each other, the more strongly they objected to bullying.

“We know that bystanders can play a key role in stopping bullying, and wanted to better understand bystander responses to bias-based bullying,” says Seçil Gönültaş, first author of the study and a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. “What role does a victim’s background play? What role does the bystander’s background play? Are children more or less likely to intervene if they come from different backgrounds?”

To explore these questions, the researchers conducted a study with 179 children, all of whom were in either sixth grade or ninth grade. Seventy-nine of the study participants were of immigrant origin, meaning that at least one of their parents was born outside of the United States. Researchers categorized the remaining 100 participants as non-immigrants for the purposes of this study, meaning both of their parents had been born in the U.S.

Study participants read three different scenarios and were then asked a range of questions to assess what they thought of the interactions in each scenario and how they would have responded in each situation.

In the first scenario, a non-immigrant child socially bullies an immigrant child because of his or her immigrant status. In the second scenario, a non-immigrant child socially bullies another non-immigrant child for being shy. And in the third scenario, a non-immigrant child socially bullies an immigrant child for being shy. Social bullying involves verbal or emotional abuse, rather than physical abuse. Immigrant youth in the fictional scenarios were born outside of the U.S.

“In general, the kids thought bullying was not acceptable,” says Kelly Lynn Mulvey, co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at NC State. “But non-immigrant youth thought bullying immigrant peers was more acceptable than bullying of other non-immigrant peers. Immigrant origin youth thought bullying any of the kids was equally wrong.”

“On a positive note, we found that there were two things that made a difference,” Gönültaş says. “First, we found that the more contact children in one group had with children in another group, the less accepting they were of bullying and the more likely they were to intervene to stop the bullying. That was true for immigrant origin and non-immigrant youth.”

“We also found that children who scored higher on ‘Theory of Mind’ were more likely to intervene,” Mulvey says. “Theory of Mind is an important part of understanding other people’s perspectives, so we suspect this is likely tied to a child’s ability to place themselves in the victim’s shoes.

“Ultimately, we think this study is valuable because it can help us develop more effective anti-bullying interventions,” Mulvey adds. “For example, these findings suggest that finding ways to encourage and facilitate more positive interactions between groups can help kids to understand that all bullying is harmful and to encourage kids to step in when they see it.”

The paper, “The Role of Immigration Background, Intergroup Processes, and Social-Cognitive Skills in Bystanders’ Responses to Bias-Based Bullying Toward Immigrants During Adolescence,” is published in the journal Child Development. The work was done with support from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues’ Grants-In-Aid Program.

Abstract

This study examined how intergroup processes and social-cognitive factors shape bystander responses to bias-based and general bullying. Participants included 6th and 9th graders (N=179, M=13.23) who evaluated how likely they would be to intervene if they observed bullying of immigrant-origin and nonimmigrant-origin peers. Adolescents’ grade, intergroup attitudes, and social-cognitive abilities were evaluated as predictors of bystander responses. Nonimmigrant-origin adolescents reported that they expect they would be less likely to intervene when the victim is an immigrant-origin peer. Further, participants with more intergroup contact and higher Theory of Mind were more likely to expect they would intervene in response to bias-based bullying. Findings have important implications for understanding factors that inform anti-bullying interventions that aim to tackle bias-based bullying against immigrants.

Nanodroplets & Ultrasound ‘Drills’ Prove Effective at Tackling Blood Clots

Engineering researchers have developed a new technique for eliminating particularly tough blood clots, using engineered nanodroplets and an ultrasound “drill” to break up the clots from the inside out. The technique has not yet gone through clinical testing. In vitro testing has shown promising results.

Specifically, the new approach is designed to treat retracted blood clots, which form over extended periods of time and are especially dense. These clots are particularly difficult to treat because they are less porous than other clots, making it hard for drugs that dissolve blood clots to penetrate into the clot.

The new technique has two key components: the nanodroplets and the ultrasound drill.

The nanodroplets consist of tiny lipid spheres that are filled with liquid perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Specifically, the nanodroplets are filled with low-boiling-point PFCs, which means that a small amount of ultrasound energy will cause the liquid to convert into gas. As they convert into a gas, the PFCs expand rapidly, vaporizing the nanodroplets and forming microscopic bubbles.

“We introduce nanodroplets to the site of the clot, and because the nanodroplets are so small, they are able to penetrate and convert to microbubbles within the clots when they are exposed to ultrasound,” says Leela Goel, first author of a paper on the work. Goel is a Ph.D. student in the joint biomedical engineering department at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After the microbubbles form within the clots, the continued exposure of the clots to ultrasound oscillates the microbubbles. The rapid vibration of the microbubbles causes them to behave like tiny jackhammers, disrupting the clot’s physical structure, and helping to dissolve the clots. This vibration also creates larger holes in the clot mass that allow blood borne anti-clotting drugs to penetrate deep into the clot and further break it down.

The technique is made possible by the ultrasound drill – which is an ultrasound transducer that is small enough to be introduced to the blood vessel via a catheter. The drill can aim ultrasound directly ahead, which makes it extremely precise. It is also able to direct enough ultrasound energy to the targeted location to activate the nanodroplets, without causing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The drill incorporates a tube that allows users to inject nanodroplets at the site of the clot.

In in vitro testing, the researchers compared various combinations of drug treatment, the use of microbubbles and ultrasound to eliminate clots, and the new technique, using nanodroplets and ultrasound.

“We found that the use of nanodroplets, ultrasound and drug treatment was the most effective, decreasing the size of the clot by 40%, plus or minus 9%,” says Xiaoning Jiang, Dean F. Duncan Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State and corresponding author of the paper. “Using the nanodroplets and ultrasound alone reduced the mass by 30%, plus or minus 8%. The next best treatment involved drug treatment, microbubbles, and ultrasound – and that reduced clot mass by only 17%, plus or minus 9%.  All these tests were conducted with the same 30-minute treatment period.

“These early test results are very promising.”

“The use of ultrasound to disrupt blood clots has been studied for years, including several substantial studies in patients in Europe, with limited success,” says co-author Paul Dayton, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UNC and NC State.  “However, the addition of the low-boiling point nanodroplets, combined with the ultrasound drill has demonstrated a substantial advance in this technology.”

“Next steps will involve pre-clinical testing in animal models that will help us assess how safe and effective this technique may be for treating deep vein thrombosis,” says Zhen Xu, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan and co-author of the paper.

SonoVascular, Inc.

A startup called SonoVascular, Inc., which was co-founded by Jiang, has licensed the ultrasound “drill” technology from NC State. SonoVascular and NC State are hoping to work with industry partners to advance the technology. The low-boiling point nanodroplets, co-invented by Dayton, have also been issued a U.S. patent. That technology has been licensed by spinout company Triangle Biotechnology, Inc., which was co-founded by Dayton. Study co-authors Dayton, Kim, Xu and Jiang have also filed a patent application related to nanodroplet-mediated sonothrombolysis.

For More Information

The paper, “Nanodroplet-Mediated Catheter-Directed Sonothrombolysis of Retracted Blood Clots,” is published open access in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering. The paper was co-authored by Huaiyu Wu and Bohua Zhang, who are Ph.D. students at NC State; and Jinwook Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC and NC State.

The work was done with support from the National Institutes of Health, under grant R01HL141967.

health

UVA Tests Different Approach to Managing Type 2 Diabetes

A researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is testing what he calls a “radically different” approach to managing type 2 diabetes for those who can’t or don’t want to lose weight.

Daniel Cox, PhD, professor of psychiatry and internal medicine, said his program “flies in the face of conventionality” in that it doesn’t insist on weight loss as a key component of controlling blood sugar. Instead, it combines continuous glucose monitoring with well-informed eating choices, to understand the effect of different foods on blood-sugar levels, and well-timed exercise, to reduce those levels as needed.

“The convention is ‘lose weight.’ And if you lose weight, you lose belly fat, and if you lose belly fat, you lose adipose tissue in the liver. And that, in turn, reduces insulin resistance,” Cox said. “That’s all fine and good. And if you can, in fact, lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off for a long time – a lifetime – you’re golden. You can even put diabetes in remission. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, and it’s a very effective approach. But some people don’t need to lose weight, and some people don’t want to lose weight, and other people want to lose weight but they can’t, or they can’t keep it off for a lifetime.”

A Different Take on Diabetes Management

Cox’s approach relies on continuous glucose monitoring to help people understand how their food choices affect their blood sugar. Different foods may affect people differently, he notes.medicine

Continuous glucose monitoring involves wearing a sensor on the back of the arm that continually sends a signal to a receiver that shows the person’s blood glucose level, without the need for fingersticks. Continuous glucose monitoring lets people see how a particular food affects their blood-glucose levels, whether it’s a sugary slice of cake or a seemingly healthy bowl of oatmeal, Cox said. Understanding that lets them make smart choices to keep their blood sugar under control.

If they do choose to indulge in a sugar-spiking food, the program encourages them to use light exercise, such as walking, to help bring their blood sugar back into check.

“This is the innovation: One, you dampen how much [blood sugar] goes up by minimizing the amount of carbohydrate you eat, and, two, you hasten its recovery by becoming more physically active,” Cox said. “Physical activity does two things: One, the skeletal muscle burns blood glucose as fuel, and, two, physical activity reduces your insulin resistance for a short period of time, about 24 hours.”

“Instead of fixing supper and having a great dinner and then plopping in front of the TV for the rest of the night, the alternative is becoming more physically active,” Cox said. “Do your shopping after you eat, walk the dog after you eat, clean your house after you eat.”

About the Diabetes Clinical Trial

Cox, of UVA’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, is testing his approach in small clinical trials at UVA, West Virginia University and the University of Colorado. Each site is recruiting four people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who have not yet begun taking medication. The participants will be provided with a treatment manual, continuous glucose monitors and activity/sleep trackers. Trial organizers will then check in with them virtually over several weeks to see how well the approach keeps their blood sugar under control.

The study is the latest in a series evaluating the approach. Cox said he has been encouraged by previous results but notes that “there’s no one approach that works for everybody.”

“In our 12-month follow-up study, slightly over half of participants – 52 percent of people – we would still classify as responders, meaning they’re having a significant benefit,” he said.

For the right people, he said, the approach may offer a way to control blood sugar without medication or with less medication, while still allowing flexibility in dietary choices. “We’re not asking for radical changes in lifestyle,” he said. “We’re asking for modest changes in lifestyle that directly impact blood sugar.”

For More Information

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

Gym Illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

UVA on Battling Diseases by Exercise

A top exercise researcher and colleagues at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have launched an ambitious effort to understand the whole-body benefits of exercise so that doctors can use that information to prevent and treat disease.

Zhen Yan, PhD, and his collaborators aim to identify the sources, functions and targets of the molecules that provide exercise’s well-documented health benefits. By understanding this, doctors will better understand how exercise helps fend off disease, and they may be able to design drugs to mimic those benefits for people who cannot exercise, such as those with limited mobility. The cutting-edge research could open new doors both for preventing and treating many common illnesses, the researchers hope.

“No one would dispute that physical activity or regular exercise is the best measures for health promotion and disease prevention,” said Yan, director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “In fact, the health benefits of exercise are way beyond our imagination. The underlying reasons for the superb health benefits of exercise are being uncovered by many talented and passionate scientists around the world.”

Understanding How Exercise Improves Health

The UVA researchers have recently joined a national consortium seeking to create a “molecular map” of exercise benefits. Known as the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, or MoTrPAC, the group includes researchers at top institutions across the country, including Harvard, Duke, Stanford and Mayo Clinic.

The consortium came about after the National Institutes of Health invited Yan and a dozen other prominent scientists to a roundtable discussion in 2010 about the future of exercise research and the obstacles that stood in its way. The NIH then set aside almost $170 million for MoTrPAC’s research – believed to be the agency’s largest-ever investment into the mechanisms of how physical activity improves health and prevents disease.

“The program’s goal,” Yan explained, “is to study the molecular changes that occur during and after exercise and ultimately to advance the understanding of how physical activity improves and preserves health.”

The consortium is looking at exercise benefits in both humans and animal models. Initial animal research was conducted at Harvard, the University of Iowa and the University of Florida. In the latest round, UVA is joined by the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The vast amount of information collected as part of the project so far has poised the UVA team to make “unprecedented” advances, Yan reports. He and his multi-disciplinary team will employ advanced computer algorithms to sift through the heaps of data to identify specific molecules to study. They will then conduct state-of-the-art research in lab mice using gene editing, combined with a wide range of functional assessment, including muscle, cardiac, metabolic and cognitive/mental functions. This will let them determine the effects the molecules have and lay a foundation for doctors to harness the molecules to benefit human health in the future.

Yan’s team will work closely with colleagues at Stanford, who will conduct advanced “multiomics” analyses, meaning they will bring together data on genes, cellular proteins and much more to obtain a more holistic understanding of exercise’s benefits to the body.

UVA’s research team includes Yan, of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center and the Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology and Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics; Wenhao Xu, PhD, of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology; Chongzhi Zang, PhD, of UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics, the Department of Public Health Sciences and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Matthew Wolf, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center; Thurl Harris, PhD, of the Department of Pharmacology; and Alban Gaultier, PhD, and John Lukens, PhD, both part of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG).

“It is well known that exercise is one of the best treatments for mood disorders,” Gaultier said. “We are excited to test the group discoveries using animal models of anxiety and depression.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for team science,” Zang said. “I am happy to work with colleagues at UVA and across the country and use data-science approaches to unravel the complex molecular effects of exercise.”

UVA’s effort has received almost a half-million dollars in backing from the NIH’s fund for MoTrPAC’s research.

“Our research team encompasses exceptional talents. The collective wisdom and expertise of the team at UVA and MoTrPAC will allow us to reach a level that we would not be able to reach by an individual,” Yan said. “It is an unprecedented opportunity in our lifetime to tackle this incredibly important question to mankind.”

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

MORE: Exercise may help prevent deadly COVID-19 complication.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Antidepressant x COVID-19

Based on a trial from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, the antidepressant fluvoxamine appears to prevent COVID-19 infections from worsening, even keeping patients out of the hospital.

The clinical trial was conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Fluvoxamine was compared with a placebo in 152 adult patients who were infected with the coronavirus.

80 participants received the fluvoxamine, and not one of the 80 became seriously ill after 15 days. Six patients receiving the placebo became seriously ill with four being hospitalized for between four and 21 days. One of the four in the hospital was on a ventilator for 10 days.

Though the sample size was relatively small, the data is believed to be statistically significant. The plan is to launch a larger trial in coming weeks.

Eric J. Lenze, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine, said patients who took fluvoxamine did not require hospitalization because of issues in lung function.

“Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it’s also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital,” Lenze said. “Our study suggests fluvoxamine may help fill that niche.”

UVA’s Alban Gaultier, PhD, and former graduate student Dorian A. Rosen, PhD, found in 2019 that fluvoxamine may stop sepsis, a deadly inflammation causing the immune system to spiral out of control. The findings of Gaultier and Rosen inspired the tests at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Gaultier and Rosen determined that fluvoxamine reduces the production of cytokines, which have been linked to deadly cytokine storms, which are thought to occur in severe cases of COVID-19

“Because elevated cytokines levels have been associated with COVID-19 severity, testing fluvoxamine in a clinical trial made a lot of sense to us,” said Gaultier. “We are still unclear about the mode of action of fluvoxamine against SARS-CoV-2, but research is under way to find the answer.”

Washington University’s Angela M. Reiersen, MD, said the drug works by interacting with the sigma-1 receptor to reduce the production of inflammatory molecules.

“Past research has demonstrated that fluvoxamine can reduce inflammation in animal models of sepsis, and it may be doing something similar in our patients,” Reiersen said.

The limitations of the research were emphasized. The small sample size was noted along with the fact that 20% of participants stopped answering surveys during the trial. Though the researchers could rule out hospital visits for those who stopped answering, they did believe it possible that the participants sought treatment elsewhere.

Because of the limitations, the findings should be considered encouraging and worthy of further research rather than iron clad truth.

Gaultier said, “If a larger clinical trial (phase III) confirms the results, fluvoxamine would be a perfect treatment for COVID patients newly diagnosed. Fluvoxamine is not an experimental drug, it is cheap and safe and could be available as a first line of defense to unburden the hospitals that are overwhelmed by the COVID health crisis.”

For more medical research news from UVA, you can click right here.

Walter Cancer Foundation Invests $11 million in IU and Purdue

The Walther Cancer Foundation will invest $11 million to advance collaborative cancer research at Indiana University and Purdue University by supporting scientists through bioinformatics — an increasingly critical aspect of their work.

Bioinformatics involves managing and analyzing the massive amounts of data generated by scientific research — turning data into knowledge that could lead to new cancer treatments.

“We hope this gift enables scientists at IU and Purdue to dig more deeply and refine their studies so they can point out new pathways to good patient outcomes in cancer,” said Tom Grein, president and CEO of the Walther Cancer Foundation. “Sometimes you have so much data, it’s hard to comprehend where it’s leading you. I hope the data-driven analysis will uncover nuggets of opportunity that would otherwise never be seen.”  

Income from the new Walther Cancer Foundation Bioinformatics Fund will continuously support bioinformatics personnel, technology, and other tools shared by the cancer research programs at both universities. In addition, IU and Purdue will make their own investments into the fund. 

“The Walther Cancer Foundation leadership understands the central importance of data and analytics in developing better treatments and, ultimately, cures for cancer,” said  IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MPH. “We are tremendously grateful for their support and the confidence they have in our work.” 

Timothy Ratliff, the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research, said the latest gift from the Walther Foundation is a continuation of a longstanding collaboration, commitment and investment that will build on the center’s success in cancer drug discovery and development — and will help sustain the center’s computational genomics and bioinformatics core for years to come. “Once again, we are grateful to the Walther Cancer Foundation’s vision and generosity, which is so important to our research and success. This continuing partnership, plus our own investments and fundraising, will secure what we’ve already established and enable us to grow into the future.”

Kelvin Lee, M.D., named this week as the new director of the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and the H.H. Gregg Professor of Oncology, said having strong capabilities in bioinformatics is essential to cancer research.  

“The genetic, biochemical, cellular and immune pathways that can lead to cancer are extraordinarily complex and intertwined. Recent cutting-edge advances in technology means that researchers now have unprecedented amounts of data on these pathways, but this seriously challenges our ability to analyze these huge mounds of information to make sense of what is actually going on,” Lee said. “We are fortunate that the Walther Cancer Foundation understands that breakthroughs require the expertise and the tools, like artificial intelligence, to help us analyze all this data so we can understand what’s really important.”

This level of collaboration and sharing of a key resource like a bioinformatics core is unusual among a pair of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. But it also reflects the complementary nature of the two institutions.

Purdue’s Center for Cancer Research is a basic science cancer research center with more than 110 researchers that is a leader in biomedical engineering and cancer drug development.

The IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is a comprehensive cancer center with nearly 250 cancer researchers who conduct basic lab work and drug development but who are also engaged in clinical care and population health research.

“Each of them has different capabilities, different levels of expertise, different interests,” Grein said. “But when you get scientists to collaborate, the outcomes are better.” 

Since its founding in 1985, the Walther Cancer Foundation has invested more than $165 million in cancer-focused medical research and in research and education aimed at supporting cancer patients and their families.

Walther has previously supported cancer bioinformatics at IU and Purdue on a year-to-year basis. This new gift establishes a fund that will ensure the bioinformatics work continues in perpetuity.

The Walther Foundation endowment provides the opportunity to develop the expertise and the tools that are needed to face current and future challenges in biology and the cancer field, said Majid Kazemian, an assistant professor in Purdue’s departments of Biochemistry and Computer Science. His research focuses on integrating computational and experimental approaches to study pathogen interaction with host cells and immune system in infectious diseases and cancers caused by pathogens. 

“The Purdue University Center for Cancer Research has nearly 100 investigators who are actively engaged in understanding molecular mechanisms of various diseases including lung, liver and prostate cancers, many of which have begun to utilize genomics data in their studies,” Kazemian said. “Large genomic public data on many diseases generated over the last decade are a treasure trove of unexplored information. Walther Foundation’s funds endowment will enable analysis of big data generated by our center’s members and collaborators as well as an exploration of growing public genomics data to contextualize and translate our findings.”  

Less-costly access to bioinformatics expertise and resources enabled by Walther Foundation will open up new avenues for many of the Purdue center’s scientists to broaden the impact and clinical translation of their discoveries, Kazemian said. “It will also encourage our scientists to perform large-scale genomics assays and will foster new collaborations.”

Harikrishna Nakshatri, Ph.D., the Marian J. Morrison Professor of Breast Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine, said he relies on bioinformaticians to design experiments, analyze data and assist him in publishing research results more quickly. The Walther Foundation gift supports that very expensive process, and the collaboration means researchers have more bioinformaticians available when they are needed. All of it combines, Nakshatri said, to enable scientists to reach conclusions that have real benefits for patients.

“If you really believe in your hypothesis,” Nakshatri said, “now you have a chance to test it because you are not burdened by the financial aspects.” 

According to Hess, the new resources will allow IU’s partnership with Purdue to continue to improve the health of Hoosiers. “We have worked closely for decades,” Hess said. “This new collaboration in data sciences will accelerate our ability to benefit cancer patients across the state and far beyond.”

About the Walther Cancer Foundation

The Indianapolis-based Walther Cancer Foundation is a private grant-making foundation that supports and promotes interdisciplinary and inter-institutional cancer research, both bench and clinical. The clinical research it supports encompasses clinical trials as well as behavioral studies, the latter as part of the foundation’s commitment to Supportive Oncology. The Walther Foundation has two primary goals: to support cancer research with the aim of discovering better treatments, if not cures, and to develop a comprehensive approach for supporting patients with cancer and their families. Since its founding, the foundation has invested over $165 million cancer-focused research.

About the Purdue Center for Cancer Research

Since 1978, the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research has been a National Cancer Institute-designated basic-research cancer center. Only seven institutions in the United States have earned this title. Being a basic-research center means it does not treat cancer patients directly. Its work focuses on investigating cancers where they begin — at the cellular level — to investigate the cause of, and cure for, one of the most devastating killers of our time. Doctors and scientists throughout the world use the center’s discoveries to develop methods, medicines and medical devices to save and enhance patient lives. 

About the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is home to the cure of testicular cancer, the world’s only healthy breast tissue bank and is just one of 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation. The prestigious comprehensive designation recognizes the center’s excellence in basic, clinical, and population research, outstanding educational activities, and effective community outreach program across the state. Its physician-scientists have made protocol-defining discoveries that have changed the way doctors treat numerous forms of cancer.

Image courtesy of Purdue University

Breast Cancer Illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are many ways to support the cause this month. This annual campaign is held to both spread awareness and raise money for the cause. 

The website for the National Breast Cancer Foundation provides many resources to help with this cause. Although things are challenging for everyone this year, this important organization has been fighting for women since 1993 and continues to thrive thanks to its supporters. 

New this year on the foundation’s website anyone is able to designate a donation to one of four specific causes. Donations are being accepted to screening, education, support and the general fund. 

The screening fund allows the National Mammography and Patient Navigation programs to provide free cancer screenings and mammograms to those in need; this helps remove barriers in the cancer care system. By donating to education, more women will be given resources and education to detect breast cancer early and lower their risk. To help women that have been diagnosed, donating to the support services will help them gain resources and support they need to heal. This money goes to funding HOPE Kits, Metastatic Retreats and Support Groups.

If you are unsure which program you would like to donate to, giving to the general fund allows the National Breast Cancer Foundation to designate your donation to the area they believe needs it most. You can even donate in honor or memory of someone in your life that has been impacted by breast cancer. 

The National Breast Cancer Foundation is sharing stories of hope through October. They are sharing stories of hope of survivors and those impacted by breast cancer. Stories and photos can be submitted here. This is a great way to spread hope and positive messages to those struggling with breast cancer and their loved ones. 

Available for download from the foundation is the Breast Problems That Aren’t Breast Cancer ebook. This free resource will help women recognize common problems versus breast problems that need to be looked at by a professional. 

Breast cancer screenings are important for women to get regularly so they can detect problems from the start. The United States Preventive Services recommends women ages 50 to 74 get screened every two years, while women 40 to 49 should talk to their doctor about getting screened sooner if they are at higher risk. Self-examinations are recommended for all women to check that there is no concern. 

The American Cancer Society has been hosting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for over twenty years. This walk helps fundraise for research and support for breast cancer patients. Even though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has canceled many events, the walk will still be taking place virtually. Donations are still being accepted and people everywhere will be coming together virtually to support the cause. 

Ways to volunteer with the National Breast Cancer Foundation are being moved virtually as well. This is a great way to give back in October instead of donating. People everywhere are helping to pack HOPE Kits for women in treatment and write encouragement cards to put in the kits. There are many ways to help in the month of October to spread awareness about breast cancer and give hope to those in need.

The non-profit organization, Susan G. Komen for the cure, also supports women with breast cancer and their families. On their website, women can find information, resources and assistance to help them with their journey. Founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker, is the largest breast cancer organization in America.

DARPA selects Continuity Pharma to fund manufacturing technology

The COVID-19 pandemic has created supply chain gaps in critical drug products, especially those needed for the most critical patients in intensive care units across the country.

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has selected Continuity Pharma, a Purdue University-affiliated company, to develop continuous manufacturing technology. The company was selected for a $1.5 million grant.

DARPA has established a competitive review process, awarding grant funding to companies presenting advanced manufacturing technologies.

Continuity Pharma’s mission is to apply novel continuous manufacturing capabilities to reshore generic drug products to the U.S., with specific focus on drugs in short supply.

“We are thrilled to be selected by DARPA to further our development efforts,” said David Thompson, a Purdue professor of organic chemistry and co-founder and chief scientific officer at Continuity. “We are one step closer to ensuring the availability of essential medicines to patients in need. It is an exciting time for Continuity Pharma.”

Grant specifics include development funding over the next 24 months, with additional funding for commercialization in the subsequent 12 months. Focus areas include capabilities for multiple API manufacturing in the Integrated Continuous Manufacturing System, with demonstrated efficiencies for rapid changeover and manufacturing efficiencies.

Continuity Pharma leaders are working with Purdue Research Foundationofficials to secure additional lab space in Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette.

About Continuity Pharma

Continuity Pharma was formed with the mission to ensure a consistent supply of high-quality essential medicines for patients in need. The company accomplishes this by applying analytical and process design expertise to create modular and portable continuous manufacturing systems for synthesizing essential generic medicines. Using high throughput methodologies, they identify the ideal reaction conditions for preparing the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) to be manufactured efficiently in continuous flow. The result is a high yield of medical-grade API with the least toxic waste and the best opportunity for production on scale. For additional information or questions, contact the company at contact@continuitypharma.com or call 812-805-0038.

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue’s intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park, Purdue Technology Centers and University Development Office. In 2020, the IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The foundation received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Purdue × Abu Dhabi work on cybersecurity of drones

By Jim Bush

Abu Dhabi has intentions of making the city a leading hub for technology and innovation in the Middle East.

Part of that evolution is utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to assist with as many tasks as possible, from delivering packages to aiding in police operations to helping investigate crashes on highways to delivering high-value transports, like organs for transplant.

With autonomy, though, comes risks of hackers and complications between interacting agents.

A group of Purdue University researchers have been tasked to make sure drones and their systems could operate securely, safely and efficiently in the United Arab Emirates capital. Inseok Hwang, a professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is principal investigator on a three-year, $2.3-million grant from the Technology Innovation Institute in Abu Dhabi to study the application of secure drone swarms in urban environments.

The project requires expertise in autonomous vehicles, control, sensing, virtual reality and security. James Goppert, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and managing director of the UAS Research and Test Facility, and Dongyan Xu, the Samuel D. Conte Professor of Computer Science and director of CERIAS (Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security), Purdue’s cybersecurity research and education center, are co-principal investigators on the project.

“We will address this problem in a highly integrated, interdisciplinary way,” Hwang said. “We will consider it from the program level to the high-level network of systems, so we accomplish the hierarchic way from the very detailed lower level, the software and hardware level, to the large network of vehicles and from the single vehicle to multivehicle. So it’s multidimensional. That’s one of the unique pieces of this project.”

The project will utilize one of Purdue’s unrivaled assets, the UAS Research and Test Facility. The 20,000-square-foot, 35-feet high facility, located at Hangar 4 of the Purdue University Airport, features the largest indoor motion capture system in the world and offers unique capabilities for novel research.

Goppert will build a mixed reality environment, combining a virtual reality urban environment with a scaled physical model of the city. The drones will fly and navigate the city, and the environment can be programmed to simulate a wide range of settings, including weather, traffic and urban development, to test the drones’ applicability and agility. The testing will be done with single vehicles as well as swarms, which could include 10 drones.

Hwang said he hasn’t seen any research done using mixed reality to this scale. Neither has Goppert.

“Our unique capability is that we have such a large environment to do it,” Goppert said. “Just running so many vehicles at once is going to be a challenge. In the past, several vehicles have been used. But if we’re going to be running swarms where each vehicle needs a rendered virtual mixed reality image, that’s going to be really computationally challenging. That’s what we’re pushing forward.

“We thought we could try to bring it as close to real-life as possible to get as many of the bugs worked out before they actually deploy such a system. We can do it all in software, but there’s an added advantage in bringing it closer to reality by making some of it actual robots.”

Hwang and Xu will have a multitiered approach from the cybersecurity and robustness standpoint. Xu will investigate from the cyber perspective of security, encryption, authentication and peer-to-peer communications. Hwang will develop a mathematical model and use the control theoretical solution approach, assessing potential cyberattacks on the systems and working to design a controller in such a way that the system becomes more resilient to attacks.

“This project reflects exciting synergies between two areas of technical excellence at Purdue: aeronautics and astronautics, and cybersecurity,” Xu said.

Ultimately, all of the research will be integrated and pieced together around the state-of-the-art test bed, which could happen toward the end of the second year of the three-year grant.

With a variety of drones tasked with different assignments, “how do we make sure they play well together?” Goppert said. “We’re trying to simulate that within our facility.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

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Are We Living Too Clean?

By Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D., scientific director of the International Probiotics Association

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that proper hygiene is vital to keeping ourselves and the members of our communities safe and healthy. We are constantly reminded of the need to disinfect our hands, avoid touching our faces, keep our distance and take COVID-19 safety measures seriously.
But could all the hand washing, antibacterial cleansing and social distancing cause another health problem?

It may seem counterintuitive, but the extreme clean living our society has adopted could in fact make our body’s innate immune system weaker. Many people have entered into a sort of “microbe-phobia” to avoid the coronavirus, but it is important to remember that not all microbes are bad. In fact, many are essential for good health.
Sterilizing everything can have the unintended negative consequence of eradicating the good germs that we would normally be exposed to in our daily lives. In doing so, we are weakening our body’s own natural defenses to everyday threats.

Microbes—including bacteria, fungi, and viruses—are invisible to the naked eye, and our bodies host trillions of these microorganisms inside and out. Scientifically, this population is known as the microbiome. The gut microbiome, for example, is a concept that has been around for centuries but has only been commonly used in conversation since the early 2000s.

Some microbes are harmful and can make us sick, but many keep us healthy and should not be feared but appreciated. Understanding the role of the human microbiome has been complicated further by the confusion surrounding terminology – a big one being the differences between bacteria, fungi and viruses. It’s important to know more about them and how they differ when considering good versus bad microbes.

Bacteria are single-cell organisms, and most are not dangerous to humans. In fact, less than 1% of all bacteria are responsible for disease. Many bacteria live in our bodies and help us stay healthy. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, which kill the bacteria or at least stop the bad bacteria from multiplying.

Fungi are single-celled or multi-celled organisms that are similar to bacteria in that they live in different environments and cause disease. Fungal infections can become life-threatening if the immune system is weak, but certain fungi also have many beneficial qualities. The discovery of penicillin, a type of fungus, was due to a variety of mold which is now used to produce this antibiotic.

Viruses, including the coronavirus, are more challenging. They have no cells of their own and instead rely on host cells to multiply and replicate. Many viruses peacefully co-exist with humans, but some can cause diseases, including the relatively harmless common cold, while others can be deadly and bring about serious diseases like AIDS, measles and COVID-19. It is difficult to fight a virus with medication, which is why vaccinations are often used to support the immune system to better prepare the body to fight the virus.

As we begin practicing good hygiene and social distancing recommendations, life is feeling far from normal. But similar to the emotional effects of our isolation, by not living life, we are failing to be exposed to the good natural microbes needed to support our immune system’s defenses, metabolism, digestion and the brain’s ability to modulate mood and focus.

The question is, how can we continue hygiene measures to prevent COVID-19 without weakening our immune systems?

This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics can be the hero in our current germophobic environment to help counter the lack of microbe exposure and stimulate our body’s own bacterial population in the gut microbiome and cells. Probiotics can literally wake up sleepy bacteria and cells and assist in protecting our health.
If you are unfamiliar, probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host. Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and WHO created this definition of probiotics, and to date, probiotics have more than 8,000 different scientific research studies indexed by PubMed.

Something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help compensate for our ultra-clean lifestyles and add beneficial microorganisms to our daily health arsenal. Probiotics add to the functional diversity of healthy microbes within our microbiome that bolster our immune system and overall health resilience. Probiotics have quickly risen in popularity and took center stage in the past decade, primarily because of how probiotics make people feel and how they work.

According to research, people report feeling better when they are taking a probiotic, which makes perfect sense because when the gut is happy, the rest of the body seems to be in synchronicity. But let’s not forget that probiotics can also work beyond the gut. There is a lot of probiotic science that continues to evolve, and everything seems to point to positive health outcomes.

Many of the microorganisms in probiotic supplements, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are similar to those naturally found in the body. Different types of probiotics have many different effects on the body like helping to maintain balance of good bacteria; producing certain vitamins and other substances; impacting our mood; and regulating weight.

Interestingly, studies of probiotics have shown beneficial immune impacts. While no probiotic has been found to treat COVID-19, research studies are currently assessing their impact. To date, more than 1,600 human clinical trials have been published about probiotics on ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform of WHO databases. The International Probiotics Association is another great resource for updates on studies and new findings with probiotics.

As we wait for life to return to normal, taking something as simple as a probiotic supplement can help our immune systems compensate for an ultra-clean lifestyle and put our minds at ease as we take steps forward to boost our health during these uncertain and challenging times. In learning more about microbes, we can embrace the power of these organisms, take the fear out of equation and develop a plan to keep our immunities strong in the face of any health crisis.

About Jessica ter Haar, Ph.D.,

Jessica ter Haar is director of scientific affairs for the International Probiotics Association (IPA) and is a microbiology expert and probiotic educator focused on digestive and women’s health. She holds a doctorate from the University of Groningen in medical microbiology and probiotics for vaginal infections, and a master’s degree in nutrition and nutraceutical sciences from the University of Guelph. Ter Haar is also the founder and chairwoman of “Women and their Microbes,” a scientific conference directed at scientists, clinicians and industry professionals focused on helping women achieve their best possible microbial health during every stage of life. In her professional work with probiotics, she uses her thorough knowledge base to underscore the importance of probiotics, make scientific knowledge accessible, and address unmet medical and research needs. Additionally, ter Haar consults with a variety of companies in the probiotic, pharmaceutical and food industries on strategies to clearly communicate, valorize and leverage scientific benefits and best practices.