Okla. Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology Approves 23 Health Research Projects

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The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology has approved nearly $3 million of health research projects.

The 23 projects are expected to attract about $18.5 million of additional outside funding into the state, said Sheri Stickley, interim director of OCAST. The projects were approved by the OCAST governing board.

The money will fund 23 health research projects over three years. The amount of first-year funding for the projects totaled $920,243.

The high return on the state investment is directly related to the high quality of the reviews, said Steve Biggers, OCAST research and development director. There were 133 applications, the most in the last decade; this reflects the growing number of Oklahoma health researchers and the strength of the Oklahoma research sector. This strength is reflected in the increased amount of federal support the researchers have obtained.

Stickley, whose appointment was made last week by OCAST's board, said the strength of the OCAST programs lies in the fact the health research proposals are ranked by out-of-state peer reviewers who are recruited by OCAST to determine which projects to fund.

The purpose of the funding is to strengthen the competitiveness of Oklahoma health researchers for national research funds; recruit and retain outstanding health research scientists for the state; improve health care for Oklahomans; and strengthen the state's health care industry.

Nine of the awards went to researchers who have been in Oklahoma less than four years and are developing their Oklahoma research programs and 13 of the awardees are established Oklahoma researchers.

Five of the projects will gather and evaluate human and animal data to solve problems related to Parkinson's disease, the reproductive aging process, hearing restoration, sleep disorders and peripheral blood disease.

* Frank R. Boutsen at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Allied Health will assess motor and cognitive aspects of movement in eye, speech and upper extremity control. This research will provide insight into Parkinson's disease, motor control and deep brain stimulation.

* Karl Hansen at the OUHSC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will study the reproductive aging process in women to help assess reproductive age.

* Charles Seeney at NanoBioMagnetics Inc. in Edmond will study implanted magnetically responsive nanoparticles that cause the middle ear and tympanic membrane to vibrate at acoustic levels when in an oscillating magnetic field. The study may lead to new treatment options for the remediation or restoration of hearing loss.

* Han Wang of the University of Oklahoma Department of Zoology will investigate human sleep disorders. The long-term benefit of this study will be to provide insight into the mechanisms of human circadian clocks and to understand the pathogenesis of human sleep disorders.

* Andrew Gardner at the OU Department of Health and Sport Sciences will evaluate a home-based exercise rehabilitation program for patients with peripheral arterial disease.

Two projects will provide insights into heart and blood problems.

* David Kem at the OUHSC Cardiovascular Arrhythmia Research Institute is studying a new approach for prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac death, one of the leading causes of death.

* Randy S. Lewis at the Oklahoma State University School of Chemical Engineering will investigate a polymeric material for medical devices that inhibit platelet deposition. Biomedical devices that contact blood often lose their effectiveness due to surface deposition of platelets or the formation of blood emboli.

Two projects will explore the diagnosis and treatment of cancers.

* Wei-Qun Ding at the OUHSC Department of Pathology will study cellular mechanisms of a fatty acid and its effects on tumor cell viability. …