OU-COM Researchers in the ARC
   
   
Fabian Benencia, Ph.D.
Jack Blazyk, Ph.D.
Karen Coschigano, Ph.D.
Sharon Inman, Ph.D.
Ramiro Malgor, M.D.
Kelly McCall, Ph.D.
Frank L. Schwartz, M.D., F.A.C.E.
Jay H. Shubrook, Jr., D.O. (’96), F.A.C.O.F.P., F.A.A.F.P.
   
   
Fabian Benencia, PhD.
OU-COM Assistant Professor of Immunology
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Joint appointment with Russ College of Engineering and Technology

ARC contact information:
263 – Warren General Hospital Medical Research Laboratory
259 – Ohio Osteopathic Foundation Medical Research Laboratory
202C – Office
Home page: www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-benencia/

   
“In the past, a lot of [research] ideas have come from informal discussions after seminar presentations or combined lab meetings. The [ARC’s] open spaces will help sharing of equipment and the communication between labs.” - Dr. Benencia

Cancer

Tumor growth

Dr. Benencia is studying how tumors attract leukocytes, or white blood cells, from bone marrow precursors and use them for their own designs.

“Bone-marrow stem cells normally turn into leukocytes that help the body fight infection,” Benencia says. But once recruited by the tumor, “sometimes they (abandon) their immune function or even help the tumor to grow.”

So far, his NIH-funded research has demonstrated that bone marrow precursors grow in cultures only when “tumor-conditioned” materials are present. Benencia and his team have also confirmed that under the influence of tumors, these bone marrow precursors produce factors that can contribute to the development of new blood vessels, which help to nourish tumors.

Breast cancer

This project involves specific cellular proteins called chemokines and the role they play in the development of breast cancer. A grant has been submitted for funding to build on work that Amritha Kalyani Venkatesh, a biomedical engineering master’s candidate, performs in Benencia’s lab.

“This work would not have been possible without the help that we have received from the BME program under the direction of Professor Douglas Goetz, at the Russ College of Engineering,” Benencia says.

Ovarian cancer

Dr. Benencia has applied for funding for a study of VEGF receptor signaling on dendritic cell vaccines for ovarian cancer.

Immune function

Dr. Benencia and chemical engineer Monica Burdick, Ph.D., from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology are studying dendritic cells, leukocytes that make up part of the mammalian immune system.

They are looking at the effects of the extracellular matrix (i.e. non-cellular part of connective tissue that provides structural and other support to cells) on the biology of dendritic cells. Based on preliminary studies, Dr. Benencia has submitted a proposal for grant funding to the National Science Foundation to continue this research.

The researchers also have submitted two NIH proposals that deal with the engineering of dendritic cell-based vaccines.

   
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Jack Blazyk, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research and Grants
Professor of Biochemistry
Department of Biomedical Sciences

ARC contact information:
267 – Dayton District Academy of Osteopathic Medicine Medical Research Laboratory
202D – Office
Home page: www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-blazyk
   
“Modern science is complex. We now become experts in specialized techniques, but this limits the approaches that we can use to understand complicated systems. Collaboration is the key to making quantum leaps in addressing the really thorny questions in science and medicine.” - Dr. Blazyk

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections

Dr. Blazyk’s research focuses on how certain small proteins, called peptides, help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, specifically, “optimizing the design” of these peptides in order to safely maximize their antibacterial properties.

According to Blazyk, antibiotics revolutionized medicine with their ability to kill bacteria without damaging healthy human cells. However, as antibiotic use grows, with it grows the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

About twenty years ago, Blazyk’s lab began to study a family of antimicrobial peptides that form part of the natural defense systems of certain amphibians and other animals. Some of these peptides have the potential to fight tumors as well as bacteria and viruses, Blazyk says.

Blazyk notes two drawbacks in these peptides: very high peptide concentrations are necessary to effectively fight bacteria, and in killing bacteria, they may at times also harm healthy host cells. Blazyk has developed a novel peptide design that both improves their ability to single out bacteria without damaging host cells, and increases their antibacterial properties. This work lays the foundation for effective therapies at lower peptide concentration levels.

Blazyk’s peptide research has been supported by $510,458 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He plans to submit a new NIH proposal later this year.

As OU-COM’s associate dean for research and grants, Blazyk’s move to the ARC will greatly enhance both his administrative and his research capacities. Before this move, Blazyk’s lab was located off-campus in the Biochemistry Research Facility on West State Street, which necessitated daily commutes to the West Green, since the Office of Research and Grants is housed in Grosvenor Hall.
   
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Karen Coschigano, Ph.D.
OU-COM Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Department of Biomedical Sciences

ARC contact information:
354 – Cleveland Clinic Medical Research Laboratory
302D – Office
Home page: www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-coschiganok 
   
“I’ve discovered that I have a common research interest with almost every other ARC researcher. We were making plans to form collaborative research projects and grant proposals before we even moved into the ARC!” - Dr. Coschigano

Diabetic kidney damage/Growth hormone

Dr. Coschigano studies growth hormone (GH) receptors in kidneys and their possible link to kidney inflammation associated with diabetes. Ultimately, this work could lead to the development of gene manipulation techniques that limit or even halt diabetes-related kidney damage. This research is funded by NIH grants totaling $271,538.

Her team for this study, which includes Ramiro Malgor, Ph.D., and Robert Hikida, Ph.D., both of biomedical sciences, looks at the presence of macrophages, tiny cells that invade the kidney, and whether these macrophages are involved in “cross-talk,” or interaction with inflammatory molecules that may be regulated by GH receptors.

Diabetic nephropathy/Genes and Pathways

Dr. Coschigano and Ramiro Malgor, Ph.D. are also working together to identify key genes and pathways involved in diabetic nephropathy. This work is funded by the Diabetes Research Institute at Ohio University.
   
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Sharon Inman, Ph.D.
OU-COM Associate Professor of Physiology
Department of Biomedical Sciences

ARC contact information:
351 – Thomas & Barbara Anderson Medical Research Laboratory
302C – Office
Home page: www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-inman/
   
“The nice, opened-up lab space will allow for better communication and more collaboration among diabetes researchers. I think this will attract more faculty to our department and more student researchers to work with the scientists there.” - Dr. Inman

Diabetic kidney disease/Antioxidants

Dr. Inman’s research focuses on the effects of antioxidants on diabetic kidney disease. She and Felicia Nowak, Ph.D., have studied this topic, with NIH support of $129,103. They recently applied for a follow-up grant from the NIH.

According to Inman, type 1 diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease. Currently, kidney transplantation is the final means of treatment. Antioxidant agents can slow the progression of diabetic kidney disease.

Inman has demonstrated that the cholesterol-lowering agent, lovastatin, could also slow the progression of kidney failure following ischemia-reperfusion injury after kidney transplantation. Ischemia is the restriction of blood flow caused when arteries are clamped during a transplantation, and reperfusion is when blood flows back into the arteries. She and Nowak’s studies on renal function hopefully will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of diabetic kidney disease and lay the groundwork for the development of better therapies.
   
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Ramiro Malgor, M.D.
OU-COM Assistant Professor of Pathology
Department of Biomedical Sciences

ARC contact information:
254 – Sybert Family Medical Research Laboratory
259 – Ohio Osteopathic Foundation Medical Research Laboratory
246 – Laboratory
202B – Office
Home page: www.oucom.ohiou.edu/dbms-malgor
   
“Medicine and engineering are very close—very complementary—disciplines for developing new diagnostic strategies and therapies for the treatment of cancer and diabetes.” - Dr. Malgor


Atherosclerosis

Dr. Malgor, with collaboration from chemical/biomolecular engineer Doug Goetz, Ph.D., and Kelly McCall, Ph.D., is working on a project that focuses on the protein Wnt-5a and its role in atherosclerosis. The research team was the first to notice the presence of Wnt-5a in atherosclerotic lesions. The Wnt-5a protein may play a part in triggering inflammation within the blood vessels, worsening atherosclerosis and increasing the related risks of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Dr. Malgor has received NIH funding for this investigation.

Cancer

Bladder Cancer

Dr. Malgor also is researching the presence of Wnt5a in urothelial bladder carcinoma cells lines. The research, currently funded by an internal OU-COM grant, focuses on the role that Wnt-5a plays in the development of urothelial carcinoma, the most common cancer in the urinary bladder.

Pancreatic cancer/C-10

Diabetes

Diabetes/C10

Diabetic kidney damage/Growth hormone

Diabetic nephropathy/Genes and Pathways

   
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Kelly McCall, Ph.D.
OU-COM Assistant Professor of Endocrinology
Department of Specialty Medicine

ARC contact information:
341 – Leonard D. Kohn, M.D., Medical Research Suite
302B – Office
   
“Moving into this new state-of-the art research facility enhances our interdisciplinary research on diabetes and atherosclerosis, which both plague the Southeastern Ohio region. It also fosters new collaborations that will aid in making OU-COM a leader in the research community.” - Dr. McCall

Pancreatic cancer/C-10

Dr. McCall and Douglas Goetz, Ph.D., of the Russ College of Engineering, are leading a team of researchers to further develop C10, a natural compound that blocks toll-like receptors. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are proteins that help activate cell immune responses. Pathologic TLR expression in non-immune cells can trigger abnormal immune responses that play a role in a number of disease processes, including malignant tumor growth. The goal of this research is to bring C10 to readiness for phase one and two clinical trials as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

In addition to the McCall and Goetz, this team includes Frank Schwartz, M.D.; Ramiro Malgor M.D.; and biochemists Mark McMills, Ph.D., and Stephen Bergmeier, Ph.D.—both of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The work is being funded by Interthyr Corporation. Leonard D. Kohn, M.D., CEO of Interthyr and retired OU-COM distinguished senior research scientist, discovered C10 while working at the NIH, and brought the compound to Ohio University for development prior to his retirement.

The interdisciplinary group in the ARC at Ohio University will receive $886,695 of a $2.6 million NIH grant awarded to Interthyr, to conduct these studies.

Diabetes

Diabetes/C10

Investigators are examining the role of phenylmethimazole, or C10, as a new therapeutic for the treatment of diabetes. C10 blocks proteins called toll-like receptors (TLR) that activate immune cell responses. Incorrectly functioning toll-like receptors cause inappropriate immune responses that can, in turn, cause autoimmune diseases. C10, if developed as a therapeutic, could be a promising new treatment for diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. Dr. McCall, who is co-PI on the project, is working with Doug Goetz, Ph.D., co-PI, of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology; biochemists Mark McMills, Ph.D., and Stephen Bergmeier, Ph.D.—both of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Ramiro Malgor, Ph.D., and Calvin James, Ph.D., of the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Atherosclerosis

   
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Frank L. Schwartz, M.D., F.A.C.E.
James O. Watson Endowed Diabetes Research Chair
Professor of Endocrinology
Department of Specialty Medicine

ARC contact information:
345 Leonard D. Kohn, M.D., Medical Research Suite
302A – Office
   
“On our team we have molecular biologists, bioengineers, pathologists, chemists and endocrinologists. This cross-disciplinary approach allows us to look at a problem from many vantage points, which is crucial in translating basic research into clinical reality.” - Dr. Schwartz

RESEARCH

Diabetes

Artificial intelligence insulin pump

Dr. Schwartz and Jay Shubrook, D.O., in collaboration with primary investigator Cynthia Marling, Ph.D., a computer engineer in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, are working to improve medical technology for diabetic patients by co-developing an artificial intelligence software program for insulin pumps for type 1 diabetes patients. The software interprets how life events impact individual patients’ glucose levels and offers evidence-based solutions to problems. The researchers hope the software eventually can make treatment suggestions and serve all forms of diabetes. The project is funded by the Medtronic MiniMed Corporation and GlucoTec, Inc., and internal awards from OU-COM.

Depression and diabetes

People with diabetes are two times more likely to be depressed compared to the general population. Dr. Schwartz and Jay Shubrook, D.O., are collaborating with primary investigator Mary DeGroot, Ph.D., a University of Indiana psychologist formerly from the College of Arts and Sciences to help. Their “Project ACTIVE” is an intervention program study, which so far has demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy)combined with a supervised aerobic exercise program is effective in the treatment of depression and diabetes in Appalachian Southeastern Ohio.

This project was funded by a NIH grant totaling $437,863. They are hoping to gain additional funds to expand the intervention study to include sites in West Virginia, and Indiana.

Diabetes/C10

Pancreatic cancer/C-10
   
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Jay H. Shubrook, D.O. (’96), F.A.C.O.F.P., F.A.A.F.P.
Associate Professor of Family Medicine
Director of the Diabetes Fellowship
Director of Clinical Research

ARC contact information:
302H – Office
   
“Being able to mix bench and clinical research will accelerate our research process. The breadth of expertise among researchers in the ARC will expand possibilities.” - Dr. Shubrook

RESEARCH

Diabetes

Novel treatment algorithms

This project, which will be launched shortly, examines the efficacy of treating newly diagnosed diabetes patients with intensive insulin treatment. Previous studies have shown that patients treated initially with intensive insulin therapy were able to stop insulin and live medication-free for two years or more.

Artificial intelligence insulin pump

Depression and diabetes
   
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  Ohio University
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Grosvenor Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
740-593-4232
Last updated: 03/03/2010