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August 2008
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October 2008

Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant to Develop Computer Models to Analyze Differences in Healthy and Diseased Hearts

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $1,525,648 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to develop computer modeling tools to analyze differences between healthy and diseased hearts.  The study may lead to better understanding of how the heart works and fails on a molecular, cellular and tissue level.

Daniel A. Beard, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and a member of the Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, is principal investigator for the grant.

The study will use computer-generated models to focus specifically on how mechanisms that control metabolic processes in the heart fail under a variety of circumstances.  A better understanding of these processes could lead to more advanced diagnostic technologies that could be capable of detecting these changes earlier than current diagnostic technology permits.

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Scientists solve some safety issues in reprogrammed cells

New method uses a virus that doesn't stay in cells, cutting cancer risk

By MARK JOHNSON
markjohnson@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 25, 2008

Researchers in Boston have taken a major step toward resolving the safety issues surrounding a novel technique in which mature cells are reprogrammed back to the embryonic state.

The latest advance by scientists at Harvard continues a yearlong surge of discovery and draws the stem cell field closer to one of its great goals: a cell that is safe for human use and offers the power of an embryonic stem cell without destruction of the embryo. Such a technology could someday allow doctors to heal patients using their own reprogrammed cells.

A team led by Konrad Hochedlinger of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute reprogrammed mouse cells using a virus that accomplished its mission without integrating into the cells. The adenovirus infected cells for a brief period, long enough to deliver genes that switch on reprogramming.

Then, after a few cell divisions, the virus and outside genes were diluted out of the cells.

Full story.

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Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant to Improve Success of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $1,841,868 grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to study ways to improve the success rate of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is used to measure brain activity.  The study has the potential to expand the role of fMRI as a routine clinical tool.

James S. Hyde, Ph.D., professor of biophysics and director of the National Biomedical Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Center, is principal investigator for the grant.

Clinical fMRI is often used to detect brain tumors and identify cognitive impairments that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, amongst other purposes.  Its results are often unclear as a result of excessive patient motion.  Furthermore, fMRI scans have a tendency to take longer than patients are comfortable with, and some become fatigued or fall asleep.  Since patients are asked to perform a task while the scan is in progress, the length of the procedure and the fatigue associated with it have been identified as issues confounding results of the scan.

Dr. Hyde and his team of researchers are looking for ways to improve the functionality of fMRI, specifically focusing on making real-time corrections to data corrupted by motion, and shortening the length of scan sessions.  Moreover, images are analyzed with computers for excessive motion while the patient is still in the scanner.  In some cases, it may be possible to repeat portions of a study that are corrupted by motion to preserve the integrity of the examination. 

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Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant to Assess Robot-Assisted Therapy in Stroke Patients

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $702,755 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health to assess how well robot-assisted practices work in activities of daily living in stroke patients and to discover the reasons for the recovery.  Study results may lead to expanded use of robot-assisted therapy for patients who have suffered from stroke and other neurological disabilities.

Michelle Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, is principal investigator for the grant.

Strokes are the most commonly acquired neurological disability in adults.  Robot-assisted therapy is seen as the cutting-edge of treatment in stroke rehabilitation, and preliminary studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this new therapy. 

Dr. Johnson will assess the effect robot-assisted therapy has on short-term and long-term functional improvements in stroke patients.  Using functional MRI brain imaging, she will also assess how robot-assisted therapy contributes to changes in the central nervous system.

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MSOE completes first patent license

Illinois company given license to TetraLattice technology

By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 22, 2008

Some universities knock on many doors to find companies to license their patents.

Milwaukee School of Engineering didn’t knock on even one. An Elgin, Ill., company found the Milwaukee university instead.

MSOE said Monday it has completed its first license for a patent.

The school’s rapid prototyping lab agreed to give an exclusive license for certain applications of its TetraLattice technology to DSM Somos, a subsidiary of DSM Desotech Inc.

“I’m not out marketing; they came to us. They know us because our reputation in rapid prototyping is quite wide,” said Tom Bray, MSOE’s dean of applied research.

The school’s TetraLattice technology can take computer drawings and create complex, three-dimensional structures with interiors made of sturdy lattices rather than solid material.

Watching the technology work is like watching an object appear to rise out of liquid, Bray said.

Full story.

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Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant to Study Pediatric Genetic Disorder

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year, $454,626 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop a screening test for DiGeorge Syndrome type 1, a pediatric disorder that is caused by the deletion of genetic information.  The study has ramifications in early diagnosis and medical intervention for prevention and treatment of this common genetic disorder, which occurs in one per every 4,000 live births.

    William J. Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics in the divisions of hematology and oncology and allergy and clinical immunology, is principal investigator for the grant.

    DiGeorge Syndrome encompasses a wide range of clinical disorders, including congenital heart defects, learning difficulties, endocrine and kidney abnormalities, and immune system defects.  Because of the wide range of clinical disorders that DiGeorge Syndrome contributes to, its diagnosis is often delayed.   

    Dr. Grossman will work to identify the boundaries of the genetic deletion and to develop a more sensitive and cost-efficient screening test for DiGeorge Syndrome.

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Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant to Develop Stem Cells for Treatment of Heart Complications

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year, $416,625 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to develop stem cell-based therapies to treat portions of the heart that have died from a heart attack.  The research may lead to development of new ways to treat tissue damaged by heart attack that are less invasive and better tolerated by patients.  The stem cells are derived from federally-approved stem cell lines.

Ming Zhao, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics, is principal investigator for the grant.

Dr. Zhao will develop stem cells to specifically recognize and bind to tissues damaged by heart attack.  The stem cells are expected to replace and regenerate the damaged tissue.  Cardiac repair by stem cell implantation has shown promise as a post-heart attack therapy, but the use of stem cells to treat tissue damaged by heart attack is currently uncommon because of a low retention rate of stem cells to damaged sites.  The goal of this study is to make stem cells capable of recognizing and binding to damaged tissues. 

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Largest particle collider conducts successful test

Sep 10, 5:59 AM (ET)

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS

GENEVA (AP) - The world's largest particle collider successfully completed its first major test by firing a beam of protons all the way around a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel Wednesday in what scientists hope is the next great step to understanding the makeup of the universe.

After a series of trial runs, two white dots flashed on a computer screen at 10:36 a.m. (0836 GMT) indicating that the protons had traveled the full length of the US$3.8 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"There it is," project leader Lyn Evans said when the beam completed its lap.

Champagne corks popped in labs as far away as Chicago, where contributing scientists watched the proceedings by satellite. Physicists around the world now have much greater power than ever before to smash the components of atoms together in attempts to see how they are made.

Full story.

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Excitement and Fear Abound Over Super Collider

By Richard Koman

As scientists ready the Large Hadron Collider at CERN for its giant science experiment, some members of the public fear the LHC could create black holes. The LHC at CERN will attempt to replicate the universe's conditions after the Big Bang. The scientific community says the anti-LHC hysteria is nothing more than a "doomsday scenario."

Scientists are getting ready to flip the switch on the largest science experiment ever conducted on Earth -- the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN.

Full story.

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Tracking the reasons many girls avoid science and math

<p>Tracking the reasons many girls avoid science and math</p>

UWM researcher's work aimed at halting the exodus of women in STEM careers

<p>Tracking the reasons many girls avoid science and math</p>

Most parents and many teachers believe that if middle-school and high-school girls show no interest in science or math, there's little anyone can do about it.

New research by a team that includes vocational psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) indicates that the self-confidence instilled by parents and teachers is more important for young girls learning math and science than their initial interest.

While interest is certainly a factor in getting older girls to study and pursue a career in these disciplines, more attention should be given to building confidence in their abilities early in their education, says UWM Distinguished Professor Nadya Fouad. She is one of the authors of a three-year study aimed at identifying supports and barriers that steer girls toward or away from science and math during their education.

"The relationship between confidence and interest is close," says Fouad. "If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest."

It's a high-priority question for members of organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Research Council as they ponder how to reverse the rapidly declining numbers of women in STEM careers – science, technology, engineering and math.

Many young students, particularly girls, see math and science as difficult, and don't take any more classes than they have to, not realizing they are cutting themselves off from lucrative opportunities in college and careers.

The NSF-funded study – the most highly detailed study on this topic – dug deeply to identify the specific factors that would stoke interest.

"For the last 20 years, there has been all this work done on boosting interest of girls early on. But I don't think that's it," says Fouad, whose research has found evidence that confidence levels in math- and science-related tasks are lower for girls than for boys.

 

Complexity

The study tracked girls and boys in middle school, high school and their sophomore year in college in both Milwaukee and Phoenix, with the main goal of pinpointing when the barriers for girls appear and how influential they are. Co-authors include Phil Smith, UWM emeritus professor of educational psychology, and Gail Hackett, Provost at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

Self-efficacy is not the only important factor for girls, the study uncovered. Results point to a complicated issue, says Fouad. For one thing, math and science cannot be lumped together when designing interventions because the barriers and supports for each discipline are not the same.

"There were also differences at each developmental level and differences between the genders," she says. That means interventions would need to be tailored for each specific subgroup.

Overall, however, parent support and expectations emerged as the top support in both subjects and genders for middle- and high-school students. Also powerful for younger girls were engaging teachers and positive experiences with them.

The study confirmed that old stereotypes die slowly. Both boys and girls perceived that teachers thought boys were stronger at math and science. For boys this represented a support, while for girls it acted as a barrier.

Top barriers for all age groups and disciplines were test anxiety and subject difficulty. But these differed between boys and girls. In addition, the genders formed their perceptions of math or science based on the barriers and supports, but they often arrived at different views.

Ultimately, it's perception, more than reality, that affects the person's academic and career choices, says Fouad.

 

Scholarly clout

That's the take-away message from her more than two decades of work. A fourth-generation college professor, Fouad studies cross-cultural vocational assessment, career development of women and minorities, and factors motivating people to choose certain careers.

She and Smith were among the first teams of researchers to empirically support a model that identified the prominent role that self-confidence and outcome expectations play in predicting career interests.

The next step in the NSF study on girls, and math and science is to examine the relationship between barriers and supports, and then to widen the view to include women who are not working in those fields despite having an educational background in math or science. Fouad received funding from UWM on this project and has just received a half-million-dollar grant to focus on women in engineering.

Nationally, 20 percent of graduates with degrees in engineering are women, she says, but only 11 percent of engineers are women. Her inquiry will explore the reason for the gap.

Continue reading "Tracking the reasons many girls avoid science and math" »

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