Research Wire

The very latest Washington University research news

Submit an item  |  Research Wire archive


1.21.20
Jonathan Brestoff, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year $1.96 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Regulation of innate immune cell responses through cell-to-cell transfer of mitochondria”; and a two-year $60,000 grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute for a project titled “The role of cell-to-cell transfer of mitochondria in regulation of metabolism and obesity.”


1.21.20
Chang Liu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine, received a two-year $300,000 grant from the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Foundation for a project titled “Depleting antigen-specific B cells for antibody-mediated graft rejection”; and a one-year, $59,989 grant from The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital for a project titled “Targeting antigen-specific B cells by HLA-Fc fusion protein for antibody-mediated rejection.”


1.17.20
Cole John Ferguson, MD, an instructor in pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year, $164,015 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Ubiquitin signaling in epigenetic regulation of neuronal development.”


1.15.20
Mayssa Mokalled, assistant professor of developmental biology, has received a five-year, $1.93 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her project titled “Mechanisms of glial bridging and neurogenesis during spinal cord regeneration in zebrafish.”


1.13.20
David M. Ornitz, MD, PhD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Developmental Biology, and Robert Gereau, the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology, both at the School of Medicine, received a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders for their project titled “Determining the pathogenic role of FGFR3 autoantibodies in small fiber neuropathy.”

Also, Ornitz — together with David T. Curiel, MD, PhD, the Distinguished Professor of Radiation Oncology, and Kel Vin Woo, MD, PhD, a fellow in pediatric cardiology — received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute for their project titled “Targeting the FGF signaling pathway as a novel therapy for Hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension.”


1.13.20
Victoria Church, a postdoctoral research scholar in the lab of Andrew S. Yoo,  associate professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine, received a three-year, $165,000 postdoctoral fellowship award from the William N. & Bernice E. Bumpus Foundation for her project titled “Modeling PD with patient-derived directly reprogrammed neurons.”


1.10.20
Quing Zhu, professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, will work with a team of physicians at the School of Medicine to add an imaging method to the current standard of care for women at high risk for ovarian cancer.

With a five-year $2.55 million  grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the team will use an innovative combined photoacoustic and ultrasound technology (PAT/US), which Zhu and her team developed, to conduct a clinical study. The goal is to determine whether the technology can better detect whether an ovarian mass is cancerous or benign, therefore improving current clinical practice. Read more on the engineering website.


1.7.20
Valeria Cavalli, professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, received a $300,000 Stein Innovation Award from Research to Prevent Blindness to explore ways to support the survival or regeneration of cells in the eye in order to prevent blindness caused by glaucoma.


1.3.20
Laura Ibanez, a postdoctoral research associate in neurogenetics and informatics in the laboratory of Carlos Cruchaga at the School of Medicine, has received a $281,370 grant from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation to study gene products associated with Alzheimer’s disease that can be found in the blood. The project will use next-generation sequencing to measure gene products known as cell-free ribonucleic acids (cfRNA) in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients, pre-symptomatic patients and cognitively normal individuals, to create novel prognostic and diagnostic models of Alzheimer’s disease risk and age at onset.

A coalition of philanthropists, including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Leonard A. Lauder, created the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation in 2018. They have committed to funding nearly $50 million in research to improve Alzheimer’s treatments.


1.2.20
Three scientists at the School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center will receive $600,000 in funding over two years for their innovative approach to detecting a type of advanced prostate cancer.

A test exists that detects resistant tumors in metastatic prostate cancer patients; however, the funding from the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Research Fund is meant to speed development of a more advanced test that aims to identify these cancers earlier and with better sensitivity. The recipients are: Aadel Chaudhuri, MD, PhD; Christopher Maher; and Russell Pachynski, MD. Read more on the Siteman website.


12.18.19
Four researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to support three separate projects that contribute to the Human Cell Atlas, a global effort to create a detailed map of all cells in the human body.

They are: Benjamin Humphreys, MD, PhD, the Joseph Friedman Professor of Renal Diseases in Medicine and director of the Division of Nephrology; Yiing Lin, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery; Samantha A. Morris,  assistant professor of developmental biology and of genetics; and Bo Zhang, assistant professor of developmental biology. Learn more about their projects on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative site.


12.11.19
The Russell Sage Foundation has awarded Calvin Lai, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, $127,015 for a randomized controlled trial aimed at addressing the gap between the aims and outcomes of implicit bias training in police departments.

The project, titled “Improving Police-Community Relations with a Social-Psychological Intervention for Reducing Racial Bias in Policing initiative,” will allow Lai to test a social-psychological program for training police officers to interact with citizens in a more racially equitable manner. Lai will recruit about 1,600 patrol officers from about 200 police beats as well as 1,500 community members.


12.6.19
David T. Curiel, MD, PhD, the Distinguished Professor of Radiation Oncology at the School of Medicine, has received a $2.2 million grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support his lab’s research into ways to use viruses as vehicles to deliver the CRISPR gene-editing machinery to the correct location inside the body, such as the liver or lungs. Such a delivery tool could lead to new therapeutics for genetic diseases. Read more on the School of Medicine site.


11.26.19
Researchers associated with the Center for Science & Engineering of Living Systems (CSELS) at the McKelvey School of Engineering have developed an open source computational model that allows scientists to generate predictive insights connecting molecular architectures to phase diagrams for multivalent proteins.

LAttice Simulation engine for Sticker and Spacer Interactions (LASSI) was designed in the lab of Rohit Pappu, CSELS director and Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering, by Furqan Dar, a graduate student in physics in Arts & Sciences, and former postdoctoral researcher Jeong-Mo Choi.

Details of the algorithm underlying LASSI were published recently in PLoS Computational Biology. Find the source code for LASSI at GitHub.


11.18.19
Michal Grinstein-Weiss, the Shanti K. Khinduka Distinguished Professor at the Brown School, is co-author of the paper “Medicaid and Household Savings Behavior: New Evidence From Tax Refunds,” published in the Journal of Financial Economics.

The researchers show that financially burdened families’ savings get a shot in the arm with access to Medicaid.

Reseachers found that a family with little income, too many bills and no health insurance has little incentive or ability to save money. But put that family on Medicaid, the government’s health-care program for low-income people, and researchers found their calculation changes — they start to save. Read more about the findings online.


11.12.19
In a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology, a team led by Dan Giammar, the Walter E. Browne Professor of Environmental Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, looked at if — and if so, how — pH and other factors affected the ability of engineered nanoparticles to clear water of hexavalent chromium, a pollutant which poses a public safety risk when found in drinking water.

Using computer modeling as well as experimental evidence from waters with environmentally relevant compositions, the team found that the nanoparticles collected more hexavalent chromium as the pH decreased and that the presence of certain other chemicals also affected the efficacy of the nanoparticles. Read the full paper online.


11.8.19
Clara Wilkins, assistant professor in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, will serve as principal investigator for “Harnessing Religious Values to Increase Public Virtue.” Lerone A. Martin, associate professor in the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and director of the American Culture Studies program in Arts & Sciences, will serve as co-principal investigator.

The two-year study — which received an award of $187,176 from The Self, Virtue & Public Life research initiative — will combine in-person interviews with quantitative psychological analyses to assess the extents to which faith communities perceive bias against their own groups; the motivations and policy implications of those beliefs; and potential strategies for addressing tensions between Christian and LGBT groups. Read more here.


11.5.19
Patricia Weisensee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a two-year $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund to study the effect of heat transfer on the development of flow fields in 2D microporous media. Non-isothermal, multiphase flow in porous media is abundant in the petroleum sector, including natural flow in geological formations, enhanced oil recovery and oil-water separation in membranes. Weisensee’s research may lead to a paradigm shift in understanding two-phase flow through porous media.


11.4.19
Caitlin Rankin, a graduate student in archaeology and geoarchaeology in Arts & Sciences, has been named a co-recipient of the Geological Society of America’s prestigious Richard Hay Award. Rankin was selected for this competitive award based on the scientific merit of her recent research on the effects of climate change at the Cahokia site in Illinois.


10.24.19
Ten researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have received funding from the Longer Life Foundation, a cooperative effort between the School of Medicine and the Reinsurance Group of America (RGA). The grants help junior investigators launch research projects and assist more established researchers as they extend their investigations into new areas.

The foundation supports research aimed at improving methods for promoting healthier lives, enhancing longevity and predicting long-term mortality. Read more about the researchers and their work.


10.21.19
Weixiong Zhang, professor of computer science and engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and of genetics at the School of Medicine, along with his doctoral student Xiaoxin Liu, discovered and studied a new class of circular RNAs by analyzing enormous amounts of genetic data from humans, mice and rice.

After having biologists at Jianghan University in China validate their computational results, they reported their findings in RNA Biology, published online Sept. 27. Read more at the McKelvey School of Engineering website.


10.18.19
Ofer Zimmerman, MD, a clinical fellow in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine, received a $100,000 Physician Scientist Fellowship award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. He will be working in the laboratory of Michael Diamond, MD, PhD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine, to study the role of variations in the gene MXRA8 in infection with chikungunya virus, which can cause chronic arthritis.


10.14.19
Savannah Martin, a graduate student of biological anthropology in Arts & Sciences, received $25,200 from the National Science Foundation for her doctoral dissertation research project, titled “Cultural identity as a moderator of stress physiology.” Martin is under the direction of EA Quinn, associate professor of physical anthropology.


10.11.19
ShiNung Ching, associate professor of electrical and systems engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Lawrence Snyder, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, will study short-term working memory in the brain — part of a broader effort to understand the link between the dynamics and function of neural circuits — with a three-year $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)‘s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and National Institute of Mental Health.

The grant is part of the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, aimed at revolutionizing the understanding of the human brain. Read more on the engineering website.


10.10.19
Sara Sanders, a postdoctoral research associate working with Petra Levin, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $50,004 fellowship from the university’s W. M. Keck Postdoctoral Program in Molecular Medicine. In addition, Elizabeth Mueller, a Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences graduate fellow working with Levin, received a $20,000 fellowship from the university’s Center for Science and Engineering of Living Systems.


10.8.19
Brent Williams, the Raymond R. Tucker Distinguished InCEES Career Development Associate Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a four-year $422,432 grant from the National Science Foundation for an investigation into air quality and pollution in the Arctic during winter.

The research will look at the intersection of outdoor and indoor pollution as people spend much more time inside during the long, dark Arctic winters. Particularly, Williams is looking to investigate outdoor and indoor air transport; indoor pollution sources (such as leaky heaters); and the chemical transformation of pollutants in the harsh conditions of Arctic winters.

The project, Sustainably Navigating Arctic Pollution-Through Engaging Communities (SNAP-TEC), will involve community members’ input when it comes to identifying local areas of concern and in designing sustainable development frameworks for the future.


10.7.19
Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, received a $309,909 grant from National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore the application of focused ultrasound-mediated drug delivery technique for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


10.3.19
Jim Janetka, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a one-year SBIR grant award totaling $299,972 from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “Inhibitors of pro-HGF activation overcome resistance to anti-EGFR therapy.”


10.2.19
Jeffrey Catalano, professor of earth and planetary sciences, and Kaushik Mitra, graduate student in earth and planetary sciences, both in Arts & Sciences, received $123,950 from NASA-FINESST for a project titled “Chlorate as an Fe and Mn oxidant on the Martian surface.”


10.1.19
Last year, Peng Bai, assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, published research in which he discovered that one of the main roadblocks to building smaller lithium ion batteries was actually three separate roadblocks.

Now, Bai has received a $397,214 grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand these roadblocks, which can cause short circuits and loss in energy capacity. The combined experimental and theoretical research will be used to guide the holistic design of stable alkali metal anodes.

The project also will benefit students from K-12 through graduate level. A summer program will be established, working with underrepresented high school students and high school teachers using engineering concepts of metal-based batteries.


9.30.19
While politicians continue to argue whether outsiders affected the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a computer scientist at the McKelvey School of Engineering plans to develop a computational model that would determine how a malicious party could impact election outcomes by influencing which issues are most often in the public discussion.

“Malicious parties can use various kinds of tricks to make people think about certain issues and not others,” said Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, associate professor of computer science and engineering. He recently received a three-year, $368,178 grant from the National Science Foundation for the work. Read more on the engineering website.


9.30.19
Using massive amounts of data and a novel computing approach, Jr-Shin Li and Shen Zeng at the McKelvey School of Engineering are applying new control methodologies to biological systems. They recently received a $488,811 grant from the National Science Foundation for their work. Read more about their research.


9.27.19
Ray Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, received $273,894 from Johns Hopkins University/NASA to support the fifth extended mission of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). Separately, Arvidson received $135,00 from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA to support his role as interdisciplinary scientist for the Mars Odyssey eighth extended mission.


9.26.19
Chao Zhou, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, plans to use optical coherence tomography, a type of imaging technology that has been used for two decades to take images of the retina. With a three-year, $855,305 grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he is working to develop an improved version of the method to penetrate 3D tumor models and determine drugs’ effect on tumors’ growth.

Read more on the engineering website.


9.25.19
Meredith Jackrel, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $300,000 grant from the ALS Association to support a project titled “Countering the aggregation of TDP-43, FUS, DPRS, and Matrin 3 with engineered protein disaggregases.”


9.24.19
Michael Slade, MD, a resident in internal medicine at the School of Medicine, received a 2019 Hematology Opportunities for the Next Generation of Research Scientists (HONORS) Award from the American Society of Hematology. The award supports talented medical students and residents who are interested in hematology but have not yet entered a hematology-related training program. His research has investigated genetic methods to identify leukemia patients who are likely to relapse after initial treatment. Slade will receive $5,000 to support a hematology research project plus a stipend to attend the society’s annual meeting.


9.23.19
Ryan Bogdan, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a two-year, $264,938 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of alcohol on the maturing brain.

The study will look at genome-wide association studies to longitudinal neuroimaging studies of adolescents and young adults in order to disentangle the contributions of predisposing factors to certain patterns of brain maturation from the consequences of alcohol. Read more about the project on the NIH website.


9.20.19
Shantanu Chakrabartty, the Clifford Murphy Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, recently received a $380,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to address a persistent problem when it comes to recreating the brain’s neuronal networks in silicon: energy efficiency. This is known as the “neuron-to-network energy gap.” His research also will address the fact that biological brains are general purpose while computers are specialty machines, doing one thing at a time.


9.18.19
Deanna Barch, chair of the psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, received a $554,195 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for computational psychiatry research.

Computational psychiatry allows researchers to isolate specific mechanisms that determine behavior, bridging the gap between pathophysiology and psychopathology. However, there are several hurdles in transitioning the tools from the lab to the clinic.

Barch’s research will test the idea that computational metrics have enhanced validity and sensitivity relative to standard performance metrics in key psychiatric and nonpsychiatric populations. It also will establish and optimize the psychometrics of the computational metrics so they can be used to develop treatments and in longitudinal and genetic studies.


9.17.19
Patricia Weisensee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a $330,221 grant from the National Science Foundation to study dropwise condensation and its effects on heat transfer.

Lubricant-infused surfaces (LIS), which consist of a microporous surface infused with a thin oil layer, promote dropwise condensation, which leads to smaller and more efficient energy and water harvesting than film condensation. However, the widespread implementation of LIS in commercial applications is limited due to an incomplete understanding of droplet-lubricant interactions, droplet nucleation and growth, and lubricant drainage.

Weisensee’s project aims to elucidate these dynamics and study their influence on condensation heat transfer rates. Furthermore, the project will foster interest in science and help overcome barriers for women and underrepresented minorities interested in engineering via outreach programs at a local all-girls middle school and summer research internships for talented high school students.


9.16.19
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Jian Wang, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, more than $685,000 to study aerosols (also known as particulates) in the marine boundary layer over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean.

Results from the research will be used to evaluate and improve the capability of the Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), an Earth modeling, simulation and prediction project.

The grant from the Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research program also will help develop a predictive understanding of key aerosol processes and the influences of those processes on the cloud condensation nuclei (also called cloud seeds) in the marine boundary layer, the part of the atmosphere that is in direct contact with the ocean.


9.12.19
Researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering want to know if they can use nanotechnology to control neurons and parse the relationship between neural activity and behavior and disease. Srikanth Singamaneni and Barani Raman will combine their expertise in the research, for which they have received a four-year, $678,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Read more from the engineering site.


9.10.19
Thorold Theunissen, assistant professor of developmental biology, Kristen Kroll, associate professor of developmental biology, and Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor and head of developmental biology, all at the School of Medicine, have received a three-year, $1.04 million grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute for their project titled “Establishing novel stem cell platforms to model developmental disorders in children.”


9.5.19
Simon Yue-Cheong Tang, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine and of biomedical and mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “The role of physiologic and pathologic AGEs on RAGE signaling in IVD degeneration.” The findings could help advance the mechanistic link between diabetes and low back pain. Read more on the NIH website.


9.3.19
Brendan Juba, a researcher at the McKelvey School of Engineering, is working to improve the way autonomous vehicles make decisions and the way they relay that information. The work is funded by a three-year, $419,877 National Science Foundation grant. Juba is collaborating with Roni Stern at Ben-Gurion University. Read more here.


See more in the Research Wire Archive