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Highlighting 7 WVU Research Achievements of 2018

Posted by Shelly Quance on 12/6/18 6:38 AM

  December 06, 2018    

WVU Research Achievements in 2018

West Virginia University is proud to be one of the 115 R1 institutions in the nation. Only the best research universities in the country achieve this status, which means that WVU is recognized for its research-based graduate programs and its research achievements.

Let's dig a little deeper and examine several of WVU's 2018 research achievements. 

Explore our digital resource page - A Guide to Research-Based Graduate Programs  at West Virginia University!

1. WVU researcher seeks vaccine to prevent lethal pneumonia:  

Assistant professor in the WVU School of Medicine, Mariette Barbier, is pursuing a vaccine against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of pneumonia that is especially dangerous for cystic fibrosis patients. Cystic fibrosis is the most common genetic disorder in the United States. Mariette chose to research this type of pneumonia because “it is on the CDC’s list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria of concern.” She and her research team are investigating ways to keep cystic fibrosis patients and other at-risk populations — including patients hospitalized for severe burns or recovering from major surgery — from catching this deadly illness. 

Given that this form of pneumonia is so hard to cure, Barbier has focused her research on preventing infections, not just treating them. In a recent study, she and her colleagues examined what molecular-level resources the bacteria relied on to infect a preclinical model. Pinpointing this resource would hint at a new target for a P. aeruginosa vaccine. She and her team synthesized a molecule that incorporated pieces of the surface of the bacteria’s iron-acquisition proteins and it worked! With the help of the molecular wanted poster, the host’s immune system killed off 99.9 percent of the bacteria.

2. WVU launches clinical trial utilizing non-opioid micropellet implant for chronic pain:

As part of an ongoing commitment to battle opioid addiction, the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University today marked a major milestone, enrolling the first patient in a randomized clinical trial that will test the effectiveness of an injectable non-opioid, non-steroid micropellet to treat sciatica. The phase III clinical trial utilizes a clonidine micropellet, which is half the size of a grain of rice and is placed in a patient’s lower back to combat sciatica pain for up to one year. The procedure was successfully completed this afternoon

“Innovative technologies that act directly at a target location like this micropellet are crucial to reducing the need for systemic medications and opioids for chronic pain,” Ali Rezai, MD, executive chair of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, said. “Our hope is that we can look back on this day and say we made a significant advance in the ongoing efforts to treat chronic pain and combat the opioid crisis.” 

3. WVU chemists find new frontier for pharmaceutical development:

Chemists at West Virginia University have developed an experiment to improve the efficiency of creating new medicine. Using a predictive model, Associate Professor of Chemistry Jessica Hoover and doctoral student Robert Crovak explored a complex, multi-variable analysis of a promising but vexing class of reactions called decarboxylative cross-couplings. Their research was published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a top chemistry-focused journal. 

Aside from having her research published, Hoover also received a three-year, $450,000 National Institutes of Health grant this fall. She will investigate heteroarenes, an important class of substructures found in many biologically active molecules used in FDA-approved drugs. 

4. WVU grad students pursues drug to treat aggressive form of blood cancer.

Osama Elzamzamy, a doctoral student in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is researching a new drug for use when multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, just won’t leave a patient alone. He is part of WVU’s doctoral program in clinical and translational scienceThe drug, called MTI-101, targets recurrent multiple myelomas that have grown resistant to other cancer drugs.

“Multiple myeloma is a pretty vicious disease, and there’s no cure yet,” Elzamzamy said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with MTI-101.”

5. WVU researches fight against pasture parasites in sheep:

West Virginia University scientists are on the front lines of the battle against pasture parasites – especially those detrimental to sheep populations. Of the many parasites that effect sheep populations, the most deadly and difficult to control is Haemonchus contortus or barber pole worm.

In the Parasite Immunology Laboratory at WVU, Javier Garza, veterinary parasitologist and postdoctoral research fellow, isolated cells from both breeds and exposed them to the parasite at different stages in the life cycle. He found neutrophils from both breeds respond to the third larval stage, also known as the infective stage of the parasite; however, St. Croix produce a more potent and aggressive response than Suffolk. He also discovered that St. Croix neutrophils are able to kill larvae much more effectively than their Suffolk counterparts. 

“This is the first study to show that sheep neutrophils are able to form extracellular traps in response to helminth parasites. It also highlights the differences in the innate immune responses between each breed,” Garza said. “The ability of St. Croix neutrophils to trap and kill the larval stages of the barber pole worm may be the key to their resistance.”

6. WVU researchers help West Virginia become first state to collect real-time data on neonatal abstinence syndrome:

West Virginia is the only state that collects real-time data on diagnoses of neonatal abstinence syndrome. A group of WVU researchers has assessed the accuracy of the data and found it reliable. Their work, which is part of Project WATCH, helps pinpoint where resources should be directed to reach the mothers and babies who need them.

Their research is part of Project WATCH, a statewide surveillance initiative to identify at-risk infants and link them to case management and home visitation programs in West Virginia. Researchers from Marshall University are also involved, as are the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership.

7. WVU pioneers promising new Alzheimer's therapy:

Investigators at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute performed the first procedure in the world of a phase II trial using focused ultrasound to treat a patient with early stage Alzheimer’s. The procedure took place yesterday, and the blood brain barrier was opened successfully; the patient was sent home earlier today.

Led by neurosurgeon Ali Rezai, M.D., the WVU team tested this innovative treatment in collaboration with INSIGHTEC, an Israeli medical technology company. Earlier this year, INSIGHTEC was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin a phase II clinical trial of the procedure, and selected the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute as the first site in the United States for the trial.

“I am hopeful that focused ultrasound opening of the blood-brain barrier will prove to be a valuable treatment option for Judi and other patients with early Alzheimer’s who are confronting the enormous challenges associated with the disease on a daily basis,” said Dr. Rezai.

WVU is dedicated to innovative research.

We hope you'll request more information today! Also, if you have questions about the below topics, we have resources to help you there too!

There are a myriad of opportunities for students, both undergraduate and graduate, to engage in research at WVU. Come see for yourself!

Are you interested in learning what a research-based program can offer you? We’ve compiled a resource A Guide to Research-Based Graduate Programs at WVU  — to help you in your search.

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Topics: WVU Graduate Programs, Graduate Degrees in STEM


Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.

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Deciding what graduate school to attend can be daunting at times, and navigating the admissions process can be that much more difficult. We hope to make the journey from considering graduate school to enrolling in a graduate program easier by publishing content that will be helpful to you as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue your next degree.

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