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OU researchers bring in more than $2 million in health-related grants

Monday, August 30, 2010
OU researchers bring in more than $2 million in health-related grants
By Dan Bodene, staff writer

Four grants totaling more than $2 million will help Oakland University researchers pursue health-related projects ranging from studying cataracts to transforming nursing education.

Oakland’s Board of Trustees acknowledged the grants at a recent board meeting, noting that they play a critical role in the advancement of new research findings.

Michael Sevilla, Ph.D., distinguished professor of physical chemistry, received $263,479 as part of a multi-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue his lab’s study of the chemistry of free radicals produced by radiation in the treatment of cancer.

“What is usually done by radiation oncology is to direct damage to the cancerous tissue, and try not to damage the surrounding tissue,” Dr. Sevilla said. “Ion beams are the latest thing because they can stop at a certain point within cancerous tissue, and deposit their energy at the end of their track. We are investigating free radical damage to DNA caused by ionization.”

Frank Giblin, Ph.D., professor of biomedical science and director of the Eye Research Institute, received a $393,563 grant – the fourth part of a five-year award – from the NIH to continue his lab’s ongoing studies of factors that contribute to the formation of cataracts.

“We’re looking at the mechanism of cataracts, with a focus on the roles of ultraviolet light and oxygen,” Dr. Giblin said. “We’re studying two types of UV light: UVA, which may cause cataracts in the center of the lens; and UVB, which causes cataracts in the periphery of the lens. Another major part of the grant is to look at oxygen. Our hypothesis is that as we get older, oxygen may work its way in from the retina to the center of the lens, causing all sorts of bad oxidative things to happen.”

Physics Professor Yang Xia’s $446,742 grant is part of a multi-year award from the NIH, supporting his ongoing research into detecting degradation of articular cartilage that leads to osteoarthritis. Dr. Xia’s work involves the use of microscopic imagings, which may provide a way to provide an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis, a disease that affects nearly a third of the U.S. population.

“Cartilage is a load-bearing tissue,” said Dr. Xia. “What we found is if you compress cartilage, like you do numerous times every day in your daily activities, you will see different image features by using various imaging techniques. We made the assumption that if the tissue is degrading, molecular and property changes can also influence these image features. Before anyone can develop a reliable medicine or therapeutic procedures for osteoarthritis, you have to have a handle on exactly how the tissue degrades.”

OU’s School of Nursing received the first $1,060,410 installment of a five-year grant from St. John Health System to develop the Riverview Project, a collaboration to transform nursing education.

The Riverview Institute is located in Detroit, where it offers certified instruction and training for high-demand health care careers including certified nurse assistant, patient care attendant, certified medical administrative assistant and licensed practical nurse.

This project is designed to reduce nursing turnover and attrition by providing nursing students with more real-life training that includes intensive, lengthier rotations, virtual simulations and support systems using mentors and preceptors.

“This grant has provided an excellent opportunity to serve a population of students who would not otherwise have this opportunity,” explained Barbara Penprase, Ph.D., RN, executive director of the Riverview Institute and an associate professor at Oakland’s School of Nursing.

She added that students who successfully complete the program benefit from valuable on-the-job clinical training in area hospitals and long-term care facilities and would be eligible for further degrees in nursing at Oakland, or other degrees.