Wayne State is a nationally recognized urban center of excellence in research and one of only two public urban universities holding the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s designation as an institution with “very high research activity,” as well as the foundation’s most comprehensive classification for community engagement. WSU is among the nation’s top public universities for total research expenditures ($259.9 million total) according to the National Science Foundation. Much of Wayne State’s research originates in its acclaimed School of Medicine.
Since 2006, total research funding has increased nearly 30 percent.
- A Wayne State University research project is playing a role in early efforts to find and extract new energy sources. The project is one of 14 from 11 states involved in work on methane hydrates — structures that look like ice but have natural gas locked inside. WSU received $178,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to work on the two-year project, which is expected to build on what the government calls a “successful, unprecedented” test on Alaska’s North Slope that produced a steady flow of gas from methane hydrates. Hydrates are found onshore, including in the Arctic permafrost, and offshore in ocean sediments along most continental shelves worldwide. Researchers see the structures as an untapped resource, holding great potential for economic and energy security.
- Dr. Sandra Narayanan, assistant professor of neurology, performed the first Pipeline Embolization Device (PED) placement surgery for treatment of an intracranial aneurysm in November at Harper University Hospital. Narayanan was assisted by Dr. Samuel Tsappidi, assistant professor of neurology, and Dr. Neelesh Nundkumar, chief neurosurgery resident. PED placement is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration- approved, flow-diversion treatment for large, wide-necked, fusiform and recurrent intracranial aneurysms. The device is designed for parent vessel reconstruction rather than endosaccular obliteration and is a newer alternative to endovascular coil embolization or surgical clip ligation. A flexible, braided cylindrical mesh of 48 cobalt chromium and platinum tungsten strands, the PED provides more than 30-percent metal surface area, three to five times as much as conventional intracranial stents. The result is more rapid and sustained intra-aneurysmal thrombosis and greater than 95-percent aneurysm occlusion rates at six months after the procedure.
- A joint study by Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center revealed dramatic reductions in cerebral palsy symptoms at birth. Researchers developed a model of cerebral palsy in rabbits that replicated the disorder’s neuroinflammation found in the human brain and subsequent motor deficits. Animals that were treated with an anti-inflammatory drug were able to walk and hop within five days. The research indicates that there is a window in time immediately after birth where cerebral palsy can be identified and its features reversed, giving hope to those afflicted by the disorder. The use of a rabbit model is unique, since this model mimics the phenotype of cerebral palsy as seen in humans. The study also illustrates the potential of research collaborations across disciplines in advancing and translating novel technologies for the treatment of debilitating childhood disorders.
- Wayne State University Department of Anthropology Assistant Professor Krysta Ryzewski, along with researchers from Brown University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed an imaging device that uses a neutron beam to make three-dimensional images of archaeological artifacts. The beam penetrates metal objects and can make images of soft organic materials — two advantages over X-ray-based imaging technologies such as MRIs and synchrotron light sources. The team has made three-dimensional images of several bronze objects, including an oil lamp, a Roman coin and a figurine of a dog. One object, found at the site of Petra in Jordan, initially appeared to be nothing but a lump of corroded metal, but the neutron beam revealed that ithad been an earring. The team hopes to use this technology to reverse-engineer how these and other artifacts were made.
- A promising approach for treating advanced ovarian cancer offers new hope for extending survival rates and preventing tumors from recurring, according to a study from Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Researchers treated ovarian cancer patients with cryoablation, a method for freeze-destroying tumors that resulted in survival of about 60 months, comparable to survival rates for women whose tumors do not return after the first surgical procedure.
- College of Engineering researchers have developed a new material consisting of bainitic steels and austempered ductile iron that features high yield strength, fracture toughness and ductility. The material resists fatigue that can cause fractures in materials, often with catastrophic consequences. This third-generation, advanced high-strength steel has twice the yield strength over the steels being used by industry today, a very high tensile strength and almost three times more fracture toughness than advanced steels currently on
the market. The team, led by Susil Putatunda, professor of chemical engineering and materials science in the College of Engineering, focuses on developing novel materials using a unique processing technique.
- An international team of astronomers, including a Wayne State University researcher, used data from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite to identify a long-sought X-ray “echo” promising a new way to probe supersized black holes in distant galaxies. Edward Cackett, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was closely involved in analyzing data, interpreting results and writing the paper released on this discovery. The research has been hailed as a breakthrough in the study
of black holes in the center of galaxies. Similar to the way one can estimate the size of a cavern by listening to sound echoes, researchers can measure the size of the region around the black hole through observing light echoes, which will allow them to map what is happening extremely close to a black hole.
- Wayne State University Professors Dr. Cathy Lysack and Mark Luborsky are co-principal investigators on a three-year grant from the Department of Defense that explores how soldiers with serious spinal cord injuries re-engage with their communities and rebuild meaningful lives. The grant, shared between WSU’s Institute of Gerontology and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will support the development of innovative strategies and systems that will move science and research toward interventions to help people with spinal cord injuries maintain their independence and ability to function in community life, and improve the long-term outlook for service members with traumatic injuries and their families.
- College of Engineering Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Timothy Gates is the lead WSU investigator on a National Cooperative Highway Research Program project that will better illustrate the connection between roadway safety and available sight distance at intersections controlled by stop signs on minor streets. The study, led by Massachusetts-based traffic services firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin and including Portland State University, will examine 750 intersections in North Carolina, Washington and Ohio, states that were selected to provide diversity among drivers, topographic features and roadway design standards. The results will provide the basis for developing uniform guidelines for defining and measuring intersection sight distances. Ultimately, project researchers hope their information can be used by groups
like the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which provides road engineering guidelines for state transportation agenciest.
- Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers, working with colleagues in Canada, have found that one or more substances produced by a type of immune cell in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may play a role in the disease’s progression, a finding that could lead to new targeted therapies for MS treatment. The study, led by Dr. Robert Lisak, Wayne State University professor of neurology, showed that B cells — which secrete one or more substances that damage cells producing a protective substance called myelin in the meninges and the central nervous system — appear to be more active in patients with MS, which may explain why they produce these toxic substances and, in part, why they are attracted to the meninges and the nervous system. This is a significant finding, particularly for the damage to the cerebral cortex seen in patients with MS, because those areas seem to be damaged by material spreading into the brain from the meninges, which are rich in B cells adjacent to the areas of brain damage. The team hopes to conduct further studies to identify the toxic factors produced by B cells responsible for killing oligodendrocytes, identification of which could lead to new therapeutic methods to protect myelin from attacks. The research was supported by a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Collaborative MS Research Center Award, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
- Correctional facility employees who trust supervisors and management are less likely to experience job burnout, a Wayne State University researcher has found. Eric Lambert, Wayne State University professor and chair of criminal justice in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, developed a study of 200 staff members at a private Midwestern juvenile detention facility to determine if trust in supervisors and higher management had any effect on job burnout. Researchers found that, almost across the board, higher trust levels resulted in lower reported burnout characteristics, while employees who trusted their supervisors saw themselves as more effective. The study may open the door for trust research at other correctional facilities and could affirm the role of trust levels as a key factor in burnout.
- School of Medicine Professor of Physiology Jeffrey Ram is developing a device ships can carry to avoid bringing new invasive species into the Great Lakes. The Automated Ballast Water Treatment Verification Project will develop an automated, shipboard, rapid-testing system that provides a real-time report of the presence of live organisms in ballast water following treatment. If successful, this effort will eliminate one of the greatest challenges facing invasive species control: the ability to get feedback that ballast treatment systems are preventing discharge of live organisms from other ecosystems. The grant builds upon two of Ram’s previous projects funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Larraine Buis, assistant professor of nursing, received a combined $36,000 in grants to help determine the success of a type 2 diabetes intervention program. The study focused on txt4Health, a 14-week, text message-based behavioral intervention program. Txt4Health features several different approaches to promoting lifestyle and behavioral changes, including physical activity self-monitoring, physical activity and weight goal-setting and tailored messaging. The evaluation involved a retrospective analysis of system data to understand participant usage and a participant survey to understand user perceptions and program satisfaction.Txt4health is a joint venture of the American Diabetes Association; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; Voxiva, an interactive mobile health services company; and the Beacon City Communities in Southeast Michigan, Cincinnati and New Orleans.
- Mark Baskaran, professor of geology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, received a three-year, $190,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the pathways and cycling of trace elements and isotopes (TEIs) in the Pacific Ocean. During a two-month cruise beginning in October 2013, Baskaran and WSU student John Niedermiller will collect thousands of samples to conduct polonium and lead analysis in various types of waters, including those with high biological activity, low oxygen and hydrothermal plumes. Baskaran’s work is part of the GEOTRACES project, which brings together scientists from more than 30 countries to study how recent environmental changes have affected distribution of key TEIs and chemical processes in the ocean. The team’s data will be added to that of researchers studying other TEIs in the same samples to provide the best possible assessment.
- WSU neuroscientists are taking a deeper look into how brain mechanisms for memory retrieval differ between adults and children. According to Noa Ofen, assistant professor in WSU’s Institute of Gerontology and Department of Pediatrics, cognitive ability dramatically changes between childhood and adulthood, paralleling similarly dramatic developments in the brain’s structure and function. Ofen and her team, including researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tested the development of neural underpinnings of memory from childhood to young adulthood to see how the brain remembers. Results suggest that cortical regions related to attentional or strategic control show the greatest developmental changes for memory retrieval, and that older participants used the cortical regions more than younger participants when correctly retrieving past experiences. This study marks the first time that the development of connectivity within memory systems in the brain has been tested, and the results suggest that the brain continues to rearrange connections to achieve adult-like performance during development. The team’s findings were published in July 2012 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
- Smiti Gupta, assistant professor of nutrition and food science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has found that an extract from algae could hold a key to regulating cardiovascular disease. Gupta’s study discovered that dietary intake of ProAlgaZyme increased the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in an animal model. While medications for the control of high plasma cholesterol levels, such as statins and numerous dietary supplements, primarily function by lowering levels of “bad cholesterol,” Gupta’s research explores the effects of raising levels of HDL, which carry cholesterol out of the arterial wall. In addition to increasing HDL levels, the group found that ProAlgaZyme also changed the expression of genes involved in the reverse cholesterol transport mechanism. While they don’t know exactly how it will function in humans, Gupta said other research suggests a similar outcome. Study results were published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietary Supplements.
- Annmarie Cano, associate professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is studying the nature that working with animals has on people. Cano received a $152,000 grant to study whether instructing incarcerated teens to train animal shelter dogs in basic obedience skills will improve their social skills and quality of life. A control group received the classroom training and walked the dogs two hours per week; the rest also attended the classes and were assigned to train a dog two hours per week to get them ready for adoption. All participants also talked to researchers about their own experiences with dogs. The study seeks to uncover whether such interactions work and why. Future studies could test other groups and individuals, including adults with attachment problems, such as veterans who have suffered combat trauma, or drug addicts.