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New WSU technology to improve delivery of anti-inflammatory drugs

Portrait image of Zhenjia Wang, associate professor in the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Pharmaceutical scientist Zhenjia Wang was awarded a $1.3M NIH grant to advance his research

A researcher at Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane has developed a new technology that harnesses the immune system to deliver drugs directly to infection sites within the body.

“Most diseases develop in local tissues within the body,” said Zhenjia Wang, an associate professor in the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “That makes drug delivery challenging, because many drugs don’t have targeting properties—they simply go wherever they go. By delivering drugs to the disease site specifically, we can improve treatment while dramatically decreasing side effects.”

Wang’s technology uses neutrophils—a type of white blood cells that play a key role in the body’s natural immune response—to deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue. Neutrophils make up as much as 70 percent of the white blood cells that travel through the bloodstream to help fight off bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens that invade the body and cause inflammation in affected tissue. » More …

WSU scientist studies link between poor sleep and PTSD

Willie Vanderheyden uses fluorescent microscopy to identify sleep promoting cells in the dorsal part of a rat brain.
Neuroscientist Willie Vanderheyden uses fluorescent microscopy to identify sleep promoting cells in the dorsal part of a rat brain.

 
At any given time, an estimated 7.7 million American adults suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric condition that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Though PTSD can affect anyone who lives through trauma, it is especially common among military veterans returning from combat zones.

The effects of PTSD can be debilitating. It’s one reason why neuroscientist Willie Vanderheyden—an assistant research professor in the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine—has set out to better understand the condition and its ties to one of his other research interests: sleep.

“Up to 90 percent of people who have experienced trauma suffer from some type of sleep disturbance, whether it’s fragmented sleep, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or nightmares,” Vanderheyden said.

These sleep disturbances may be the result of PTSD, but Vanderheyden says it’s also possible that they are part of what is causing PTSD. » More …

Competition breaks research down into bite-sized chunks

Science is usually a serious matter, but there were plenty of laughs last week at the fourth annual Science Bites event held at WSU Spokane. The science communications competition featured ten graduate and professional students from the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, who rose to the challenge of providing a compelling description of their research in no more than three minutes.

Participants could use one static PowerPoint slide and were expected to use language that could be understood by non-specialists. Facing a panel of judges, they pulled out all the stops, using a variety of laugh-inducing metaphors and anecdotes in their quest for top honors.

Prizes—including $200 toward travel expenses to attend the Science Talk ’19 conference in Portland—went to the top three competitors, all of whom are PhD in pharmaceutical sciences candidates working in different research labs.

Group photo of the 2018 ScienceBites competitors and judges

Science Bites competitors and judges at the 2018 event. From left to right, in the back: Dyston Madsen, Panshak Dakup, Trevor Kirby, Philip Wibisono, Soumyadeep Sarkar, Siavosh Naji-Talakar, and Chancellor Daryll DeWald. Center: Shannon Kozlovich, Priyanka Bushana. Front: Xinyue Dong, Laken Kruger, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Shamema Nasrin, and Shirley Moore.

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Research: New study reveals how shift work disrupts metabolism

Study author Elena Skornyakov loads a blood sample into the cold centrifuge at the sleep laboratory at WSU Health Sciences Spokane

Working night shifts or other nonstandard work schedules increases your risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders, which ultimately also raises your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Exactly why this happens has been unclear, but a new study conducted at Washington State University has brought scientists closer to finding the answer. » More …

Meet a Scientist: Dr. Pablo Monsivais Explores Social, Economic Influences on Eating Habits

Dr. Pablo Monsivais at Fresh Basket grocery store

Poor eating habits can cause obesity and increase our risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and stroke.

That much we’ve known, but what scientists are still figuring out is what aspects of our diets affect our health and what factors drive us toward consuming a poor diet in the first place.

The latter is the research focus of Pablo Monsivais, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor in nutrition and exercise physiology in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. He studies how social and environmental factors influence people’s eating habits, exploring associations between diet and factors such as income level, employment status, and neighborhood access to different types of food outlets. » More …

Sleeping in Space Showcased at Research Symposium

Many of us have at times had trouble sleeping in the comfort of our own bedrooms, so it’s hard to fathom what it might be like to get sleep on a spacecraft. Those who attended last week’s Inland Northwest Research Symposium at WSU Spokane got a pretty good idea during the keynote lecture presented by scientist Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans.

Flynn-Evans—who leads the Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center—painted a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of sleeping in space, along with solutions being tested as NASA prepares for manned missions to Mars.

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Meet a Scientist: Dr. Lucia Peixoto’s Work Narrows the Search for Autism Risk Factors

Lucia Peixoto in her lab on the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus

Lucia Peixoto in her lab on the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus

A landmark study by scientists at WSU and elsewhere has brought focus to the search for genetic links to autism spectrum disorder, which affects an estimated 2 million Americans. Published in the Jan. 16 issue of Science Signaling, the study identifies more than 2,000 areas of DNA that are active when mice learn a new task and are strongly associated with autism. Taking a closer look at one of those areas, the researchers found a genetic mutation that is associated with increased risk of developing autism.

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First Translational Medicine Symposium Showcases Progress, Challenges in Dealing with Brain Diseases

Finding a cure is an important goal of research on brain diseases. However, to patients and their loved ones, research that can help preserve or restore functional ability in their daily lives is just as crucial. This was one of the takeaways from the first annual WSU Translational Medicine Symposium held last week at the Providence Auditorium in Spokane.

The symposium brought together researchers, entrepreneurs, physicians, patients, and caregivers to share knowledge about treatment innovations and key issues related to brain diseases, the theme for this inaugural event.

Photo of ALS patient Matt Wild and his wife Theresa Whitlock-Wild
Assisted by his wife Theresa, Matt Wild talks about life with ALS during the symposium’s clinical problems discussion panel. (More event photos available on our Flickr page)

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