Investigating Pneumonia

0 comment(s)

Duncan-Krause-pneumonia.jpgA collaborative group of researchers at the University of Georgia has received a grant to study the leading cause of pneumonia in older children and young adults.  Researchers will study Bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae with a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

A fundamental goal of the new research project is to better understand how the bacterium eludes the immune system and common antibiotic treatment, which can often lead to persistent infection or life-altering conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"These bacteria have evolved to live in the human respiratory tract and have developed ways to avoid the natural defenses that keep us safe," said Duncan Krause, principal investigator for the project and professor of microbiology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "We want to understand the chemical features of Mycoplasma pneumoniae and the conditions inside the human body that cause these persistent infections so we can one day develop more effective treatments."

Alongside Krause is a team of co-investigators from various departments and colleges on the UGA campus including Thomas Krunkosky, associate professor of veterinary biosciences and diagnostic imaging in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Jason Locklin, associate professor in the Franklin College and the College of Engineering; Michael Tiemeyer, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College; and Bingqian Xu, associate professor in the College of Engineering.

Working together, these researchers will employ a series of experiments to determine how M. pneumoniae moves within the human airways.

M. pneumoniae travels like a rock climber, attaching and releasing chemical bonds as it traverses human tissues one foothold at a time. Eventually, the bacteria reach areas of the respiratory tract where new chemical bonds allow it to stick and multiply, leading to infection and illness.

The research team will examine the molecular features of both M. pneumoniae and the surface of the human airway to determine why they glide over certain areas and are static on others.

"The human airway is lined with complex sugar molecules called glycans that contribute to the chemistry of mucus membranes in those tissues," said Krause, who is also director of UGA's Faculty of Infectious Diseases. "The differences in these glycans may be the key to understanding how and where M. pneumoniae moves and why it causes these chronic infections that are so difficult to treat."

GMOA Museum Mix features Pylon, Athens cultural scene exhibits

0 comment(s)

Museum_Mix_DJ_Michael_Lachowski_in_1983.jpg

A late-night art party at the Georgia Museum of Art this Thursday night from 8- midnight will harken back to the 1970s and 1980s music and art scene here in Athens and is surely not to be missed.  Known as Museum Mix, this free event will feature snacks and refreshments, access to all of the museum’s galleries until midnight and a DJ set by Michael Lachowski, co-founder of and bass player for the seminal athens band Pylon.

The summer Museum Mix is inspired by the exhibition "Shapes That Talk to Me: The Athens Scene, 1975-85." The DJ will be Michael Lachowski, co-founder of and bass player for the seminal Athens band Pylon. Lachowski will play records that Pylon members and others listened to during the early years of the Athens music scene, including music by Pere Ubu, The Ramones, Public Image Ltd, Talking Heads, Cabaret Voltaire, Elvis Costello, Suicide, Kraftwerk and many more.

Lachowski, who also handles public relations for the museum and helped organize "Shapes That Talk to Me," said, "The social scene that the early Athens music scene came out of was based around art students, art faculty and visual art itself-but our parties were also fueled by new music from outside Athens. Because access to new music was always a challenge, the communal sharing of new acquisitions in social contexts was taken seriously. While we were dancing and cavorting, we were absorbing an education in music-the influences that shaped Pylon and other bands-and that's the music I want to revisit at this hot summer Museum Mix."

The “Shapes That Talk to Me” exhibit and the Museum Mix event are being held in conjunction with Art Rocks Athens, a festival exploring the works of art and music that established Athens as a cultural center.  Art Rocks Athens and the accompanying exhibits and events is continuing the tradition of UGA and the Athens cultural scene influencing each other. Through December, venues across Athens are taking part in the collaborative celebration with exhibitions, films, lectures and more.  View more about Art Rocks Athens here.

New research tracks Amazon River microbial activity, effects on global carbon budget

0 comment(s)

Amazon-River-Plume.jpg

New research from the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences  departments of microbiology and marine sciences could have a major impact on the study of microbial activity in the Amazon River, as well as the effects on the global carbon budget.. The Amazon River, the largest in the world in terms of discharge water, transfers a plume of nutrients and organisms into the ocean that creates a hotspot of microbial activity.  This affects many global processes, including the storage of atmospheric carbon.

The new study further reveals detail about the microbial activity of the Amazon River Plume as part of a broad project to understand the global carbon budget and its possible impacts on a changing ocean. The study, "Microspatial gene expression patterns in the Amazon River Plume," was published July 14 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"By collecting data from genes and gene transcripts in the water samples, taking billions of sequences of DNA and RNA from organisms at various places in the plume, we were able to construct the most detailed look that's ever been put together of the microbial processes in a drop of seawater," said Mary Ann Moran, Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Sciences at UGA.

UGA researchers from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences departments of marine sciences and microbiology took samples from the plume 300 miles offshore from the Amazon River mouth, then isolated the genes of organisms using the nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon being carried into the ocean by the river plume.

Discharge from the plume, more than 200,000 cubic meters of fresh water per second, delivers nitrogen and phosphorus to microscopic phytoplankton that live in the upper sunlit layers of the ocean. Via photosynthesis, phytoplankton capture carbon dioxide that dissolves into the ocean from the atmosphere, a mechanism that captures a larger proportion of CO2 than is consumed by the world's rainforests.

Until now, quantitative data about the microbial activity underlying this mechanism has been elusive.

Data in the paper will used be as part of a larger model of the Amazon and will be available to researchers around the world.

"The scientific community as a whole can draw new conclusions or study different aspects from the data sets," said Brandon Satinsky, a doctoral student in microbiology at UGA and lead author on the study. "It's such a large amount of water and material, and the location of the plume moves over the course of the year, from the Caribbean virtually over to Africa."

"It's first time we've had this kind of data, at this level of detail, and so now we can share with teams of modelers to help them make better predictions about the future of the system," Moran said.

The project is part of two major UGA research initiatives: ROCA, the River Continuum of the Amazon; and ANACONDAS, Amazon iNfluence on the Atlantic: CarbOn export from Nitrogen fixation by DiAtom Symbioses, both of which are led by associate professor of marine sciences Patricia Yager. The initiatives are supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through grant GBMF2293 and the National Science Foundation.

For more on UGA research in the Amazon, see http://amazoncontinuum.org/.

The collection of quantitative data from the Amazon River Plume creates further opportunities for study for the scientific community at large. Working together, researchers from two Franklin College departments have advanced scientific knowledge and opened the door for further study on an important topic. Congratulations to the research teams on the new study.

'Mafia on Prozac' production begins July 23

0 comment(s)

An unusual summer theatre production begins its international run at the university next week:

"Mafia on Prozac," the hit off-Broadway comedy by Edward Allan Baker, July 23-25 at 8 p.m. in the Cellar Theatre of the Fine Arts Building.

The company will move to Atlanta's Hangar Theatre for a performance July 26 from 8:50-9:35 p.m. and then on to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland Aug. 1-2 and 4-9.

The production is a collaboration between two long-time colleagues at separate universities: Ray Paolino, UGA's director of theatre, and Barry Pearson, provost of the State University of New York Purchase College. The two pooled resources to bring a professional-level production to the Edinburgh Festival with Pearson serving as the play's director and Paolino as a lead actor in the role of Tee.

Also on board from UGA is department of theatre and film studies faculty member T. Anthony Marotta in the lead role of Jay; master of fine arts in theatre graduate student Zack Byrd as the stage manager; and alumnus Michael Stille in the role of Matt. The production and tour are funded by the Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, the President's Venture Fund, a Provost's Summer Research Grant and the Purchase College Foundation.

A late July treat that is not to be missed. Get your tickets the evening of each performance at the Fine Arts Theatre box office.

New nanoparticle treatment for stroke victims

0 comment(s)

nano-biocleanroom zhaoGreat new work from Franklin College researchers that should garner significant attention:

Researchers at the University of Georgia and their collaborators have developed a new technique to enhance stroke treatment that uses magnetically controlled nanomotors to rapidly transport a clot-busting drug to potentially life-threatening blockages in blood vessels.

The only drug currently approved for the treatment of acute stroke—recombinant tissue plasminogen activator, or t-PA—is administered intravenously to patients after the first symptoms of ischemic stroke appear. The protein in the drug dissolves blood clots that cause strokes and other cardiovascular problems, like pulmonary embolisms and heart attacks.

"Our technology uses magnetic nanorods that, when injected into the bloodstream and activated with rotating magnets, act like stirring bars to drive t-PA to the site of the clot," said Yiping Zhao, co-author of a paper describing the results in ACS Nano and professor of physics in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Our preliminary results show that the breakdown of clots can be enhanced up to twofold compared to treatment with t-PA alone."

...

Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one American dies from stroke every four minutes.

"We're dealing with a huge population of patients who desperately need new treatments," said Leidong Mao, paper co-author and associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering.

Medical advances can sometime appear quite far removed from the source of their greatest need - either only focused on a small aspect of a condition or only remotely connected to a future treatment regime. Zhao, Mao and their colleagues have a special intuition about getting to the essence of a problem, drug delivery in this instance, and forging solutions with the use of technology developed in their labs. Congratulations to this team of perceptive researchers as they seek to utilize technology to improve the efficiency of the t-PA drug to help stroke and heart attack victims.

Image: Professor Yiping Zhao

Shepherd to host Weather Geeks

0 comment(s)

shepherd-marshallReflecting the need to understand the complexity of weather and climate issues today The Weather Channel is launching a new talk show, "Weather Geeks," featuring our own Marshall Shepherd as host:

“One of the greatest aspects of my involvement with AMS and our community as a whole is the opportunity to hear the best minds in our field discuss the most pressing issues in weather,” said Shepherd. “Our vision is for Weather Geeks to be a weekly forum for those types of discussions, and I am looking forward to inviting scientists from across the weather community to be a part of the show.”

Guests on Weather Geeks will come from all areas of meteorology -- from NOAA and NWS officials to academics and members of the media or private sector. The first episode of Weather Geeks will focus on the merits of storm chasing and ask the tough questions - is it worth it? what is the value? are chasers putting themselves and others at risk? The episode will feature expert host Dr. Marshall Shepherd and his guest, world-renowned storm chaser Dr. Charles Doswell.

“The opportunity to have Dr. Shepherd as a regular contributor and host made this an ideal opportunity to create a national platform for a discussion of weather issues,” said David Clark, president of The Weather Channel TV network. “We recognize that we play a role in a much larger community and we felt an obligation to set aside air time for that community to come together and share ideas and expertise.” 

This a fantastic idea by the TWC as well as a terrific honor and opportunity for Shepherd, not to mention a brilliant use of his expertise. Both as an expert on atmospheric sciences and as an interlocutor on weather-related issues, Shepherd has proven to be an adept, cleared-eyed observer. This is a smart expansion of that promising role and one sorely needed in our national dialogue.