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Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane

Latest Headlines

Image of Rayce RudeenRayce Rudeen Foundation creates endowment for student research

August 27, 2021

The Rayce Rudeen Foundation is giving its largest-ever gift to the WSU College of Nursing to support undergraduate and graduate student research related to addiction or mental health. The foundation donated $100,000 for the creation of the Rayce Rudeen Fund Supporting Student Addiction Research Endowment.
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Combating dementia in Native, Pacific Islander communities

August 9, 2021

The National Institute on Aging has awarded a $14.6 million grant to a new WSU-led project battling disparities associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups.
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Image of wildfires lighting up a hill at night
Study to look at health threat from heat, wildfires, and power outages

August 6, 2021

Assistant Professor Claire Richards of the WSU College of Nursing will study the public health threat posed by the combination of wildfire smoke, extreme heat, and power outages. Richards’ study was one of nine proposals awarded funding under WSU’s New Faculty Seed Grant Competition.
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Portrait image of John Roll with downtown Spokane skyline in the background
WSU faculty named leaders, new members of Washington State Academy of Sciences

July 15, 2021

The Washington State Academy of Sciences has appointed John Roll as president-elect of its board of directors. Celestina Barbosa-Leiker will be joining Roll on the board, and new academy members for 2021 include Glen Duncan and Kathryn Meier.
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Health equity issues the focus of new HERC seed grants

July 9, 2021

WSU’s Health Equity Research Center (HERC) awarded seed grants to five research teams that will explore health equity issues with potential to draw major funding for further research. Three of those grants were awarded to WSU Health Sciences Spokane faculty, including Patrik Johansson and Amber Fyfe-Johnson (Medicine/IREACH) and Julie Postma (Nursing).
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Study: Kratom a danger for older adults

July 1, 2021

Older adults are using kratom, often as an alternative to opioids for pain relief. As the plant-based substance’s popularity has grown, however, so have calls to poison centers, often with severe consequences for older adults.
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Sleepless woman in bed at night
Stress during pandemic linked to poor sleep

June 17, 2021

Many people likely lost sleep over COVID‑19. A study of more than 900 twins led by Washington State University researchers found that stress, anxiety and depression during the first few weeks of the pandemic were associated with less and lower quality sleep.
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Research Highlights

Wake Up with Research

Watch our September 22 virtual event on the health implications of wildfire smoke.

Making an Impact
Research identifies potential role of ‘junk DNA’ sequence in aging, cancer

The human body is essentially made up of trillions of living cells. It ages as its cells age, which happens when those cells eventually stop replicating and dividing. Scientists have long known that genes influence how cells age and how long humans live, but how that works exactly remains unclear. Findings from a new study led by researchers at Washington State University have solved one small piece of that puzzle, bringing scientists one step closer to solving the mystery of aging.Aging researcher Jiyue zhu talks to members of his research laboratory on the WSU Health Sciences Spokane campus

A research team headed by Jiyue Zhu, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, recently identified a DNA region known as VNTR2-1 that appears to drive the activity of the telomerase gene, which has been shown to prevent aging in certain types of cells.
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Researcher on the Rise
Q&A with Cassandra Nikolaus

Portrait image of Cassandra NikolausA research assistant professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Cassandra Nikolaus conducts research focused on food security within the WSU Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH). We sat down with her to find out more about food security in the United States and why it is an issue that is near to her heart, as well as learn about the research projects that keep her busy and her hopes for the future of her career.
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Media Mentions

Michael McDonell—an associate professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and director of the WSU Center for Cannabis Policy, Research, and Outreach—was quoted in a National Public Radio story about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to open up the production of medical and research-grade cannabis to several U.S. companies. In addition, the Associated Press ran a widely picked up news story announcing the creation of the WSU Center for Cannabis Policy, Research and Outreach. That story also quoted McDonell in his role as director of the new center, which encompasses nearly 100 scientists across the working on a diverse range of cannabis-related projects

A recently published paper on COVID-19 related stress in pregnant women authored by Associate Professor Celestina Barbosa-Leiker and others in the College of Nursing received attention from KOMO News in Seattle, Healio, and other outlets.

Recent research findings show exactly how night shift work increases your risk of developing cancer. Hans Van Dongen, professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and one of the study authors, explains the research in a video segment on The study was also featured in Forbes and many other media outlets.

Awards & Honors

Portrait image of Hans Van DongenTwo researchers at WSU Health Sciences Spokane were among the winners of this year’s Sahlin Faculty Excellence Awards, which the university presents to recognize the truly outstanding accomplishments and exceptional individual achievements of its faculty. The 2021 Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship, and Arts went to sleep scientist Hans Van Dongen, professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and director of the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center. The 2021 recipient of the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Outreach and Engagement is Ka’imi Sinclair, a health disparities researcher in the Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) and an associate professor in the College of Nursing.
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Funding Highlights

Led by co-principal investigators Celestina Barbosa-Leiker and Astrid Suchy-Dicey, a group of scientists in the Colleges of Nursing and Medicine has received a three-year, $1.7 million award from the National Institute on Aging for a study of risk and protective factors of cognitive performance in American Indians. In partnership with the Strong Heart Study—a 30-year cohort of aging American Indians—the researchers will collect psychological and cognitive data to determine the relationship between lower cognitive scores and higher stress, higher depression, and more substance use. They will also look at whether improvements in health-related quality of life and community connectedness could mitigate these negative effects. Findings from the study could inform prevention strategies to help Native people avoid developing Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementias, which are usually preceded by impaired cognitive performance.

Boyang Wu, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been awarded a five-year, $1.9 million R01 grant by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. The grant provides funding for a project that will try to unravel the molecular mechanisms by which non-cancerous stromal cells support the growth and progression of prostate cancer. The ultimate goal is to identify pathways that could be targeted with drugs to disrupt tumor-stromal interactions and potentially halt the spread of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer affects one in nine men and causes nearly 30,000 deaths in the United States each year.

The National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded a five-year $2.9 million R01 grant to a team of scientists led by Sterling McPherson, associate professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and lead PI in the Analytics and PsychoPharmacology Laboratory. Their project involves a randomized controlled trial that will evaluate whether an incentive-based behavioral treatment that reinforces alcohol abstinence combined with the smoking cessation medication varenicline could successfully reduce both alcohol use and cigarette smoking among heavy-drinking smokers. Tobacco and alcohol combined kill more than half a million people each year in the U.S., making the addiction to these two substances combined the leading cause of preventable death.

Grant & Contract Award Summary
April 1 – June 30, 2021

Researchers on our campus have closed out a challenging fiscal year on a high note, as evidenced by the many projects included in the latest grant and contract award summary. The summary provides an overview of funding activity in the final quarter of this past fiscal year, which covers awards for new and continuing research and other sponsored projects received between April 1 through June 30.
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