OCAST Board OKs More Than $3M for Health Research

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Oklahoma's Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology has approved more than $3 million of health research projects.

The projects are expected to bring another $15 million into the state in private and federal funding for health research. The money will fund 24 health research projects over three years. The amount of first-year funding for the projects totals $1.1 million, said William A. Sibley, executive director of OCAST. The latest round of funding attracted 106 Oklahoma research applications.

"Under our peer review process, every proposal is reviewed and applicants receive valuable suggestions from out-of-state scientists for improving their applications for the next competition," Sibley said. "This practice serves to improve the national standing of Oklahomans in the highly competitive arena of research funding."

Out-of-state peer reviewers who typically review at national funding agencies are recruited by OCAST to determine which projects to fund.

Several of the awardees will work on problems relating to women's health issues.

* Wen Xuan Wu of the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center will conduct a study of the roles of progesterone and estrogen in ovine parturition. This study will help define the precise pathway for triggering premature labor.

* Satish Kumar of the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center will investigate Tamm-Horsfall Protein as a natural defense mechanism for urinary tract infection, a common disease of human females. The Tamm-Horsfall protein may play a role in defending against this infection.

* Edralin Lucas of Oklahoma State University will investigate the daily intake of flaxseed to help reduce total and LDL cholesterol. In Oklahoma, the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher than the national average for Native American women.

* Brian Ceresa of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center will gain a better understanding of the molecular pathology of cervical cancer, which is one of the leading causes of female mortality.

The of the recipients will be working in genomics research.

* Marvin Whiteley of the University of Oklahoma will study biofilm gene expression at the single cell level and investigate in vivo biofilm gene expression. Bacteria in nature often attach to surfaces as biofilm communities, making the bacteria highly resistant to host defenses and antibiotics.

* Nathan Shankar of the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center will study genome plasticity and mobility in virulent enterococci. The results of this work may lead to new antiinfectives and serve to control entercoccal infections.

* Ute Hochgeschwender of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation proposes to generate embryonic stem cell lines from mice as a model for Down syndrome. Conclusions about the role of individual genes in the pathogenesis of specifics of Down syndrome should be possible.

Public health issues from binge drinking to the use of antibiotics in cattle feed are research issues for other recipients.

* Paul Cook of the University of Oklahoma will work on a project designed to find a safe pathway for the elimination of roundworms which infect 40 percent of the world's population.

* Guoliang Fan of Oklahoma State University will study advanced retinal imaging. This research could lead to a rapid screening technique that can be performed by non-physicians to screen at-risk patients for this disease.

* Thad Leffingwell of Oklahoma State University will study high- risk alcohol use prevention for college students. The purpose of the study is to develop an effective multimedia intervention.

* Wai Tak Yip of the University of Oklahoma will study the development of protein/sol-gel composite biosensors. This study will explore protein-silica interaction in biosensors that will have broad implications relevant to the monitoring of drugs, metabolites, and pathogenic bacteria in medical, agricultural and food industries. …