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Image of cannabis buds stored in pots at a cannabis store counterBudtenders, healthcare providers seek more training as cannabis use rises sharply in perinatal women

Nov. 15, 2021

In the absence of consistent counseling from healthcare providers, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are getting information on using cannabis from the retail marijuana workers known as budtenders, according to a study led by Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, vice chancellor for research at WSU Health Sciences.
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Blackboard with the chemical formula of MethadoneIncreased take‑home methadone during pandemic did not worsen outcomes

Nov. 1, 2021

Relaxing limits on take-home doses of methadone—a medication used to treat opioid addiction—does not appear to lead to worse treatment outcomes, according to a new study led by Washington State University researchers. The study looked at the impact of a temporary policy change allowing providers to send patients home with additional methadone doses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Image of tired man rubbing foreheadSleep loss does not impact ability to assess emotional information

Oct. 11, 2021

It’s no secret that going without sleep can affect people’s mood, but a new study shows it does not interfere with their ability to evaluate emotional situations… For the study, about 60 adult participants spent four consecutive days in the Sleep and Performance Research Center at the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
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Combine harvesting wheatWSU awarded $10 million to increase nutrition in food crops

Oct. 6, 2021

An approach that promises to increase nutrition literally from the ground up, WSU’s Soil to Society project, recently received a five-year, $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture… The project taps WSU’s agricultural strengths in soil science, plant breeding, and food science and combines that with the nutritional and human health expertise from WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
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WSU researchers to study cancer risk in night shift workers

October 5, 2021

Researchers at the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center will spend the next two years investigating disruptions to the cellular clock mechanisms in night shift workers thanks to nearly $360,000 in grants. The goal is to find ways to prevent and mitigate the increased cancer risk in people working nonstandard hours, who account for more than 15% of the U.S. workforce.
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Little girl playing with soap bubbles in a city parkScience backs nature as key to children’s health

September 29, 2021

The presence of green spaces near homes and schools is strongly associated with improved physical activity and mental health outcomes in kids, according to a massive review of data from nearly 300 studies. Conducted by Washington State University and University of Washington scientists, the review highlights the important role that exposure to nature plays in children’s health.
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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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Image of Pacific Islander woman in traditional dress
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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Research Highlights

Wake Up With Research:
The Animal and Human Bond, Thursday, January 27
Join us virtually for “Wake Up with Research,” and start your day with a brain boost as our experts connect their research to you and the community. Learn from our researchers as they simplify complex problems and offer solutions that enrich quality of life for us all. The Animal and Human Bond Thursday, January 27, 2022 7:30 AM–8:30 AM Presented by Jon Oatley, Gail Oneal, and John Roll. Sponsored by MultiCare.

Visit the event page for more details. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Making an Impact
Cannabis use could cause harmful drug interactions

Doctor holding cannabis in one hand and pills in the other handUsing cannabis alongside other drugs may come with a significant risk of harmful drug-drug interactions, new research by scientists at Washington State University suggests. The researchers looked at cannabinoids—a group of substances found in the cannabis plant—and their major metabolites found in cannabis users’ blood and found that they interfere with two families of enzymes that help metabolize a wide range of drugs prescribed for a variety of conditions.
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Researcher on the Rise
Q&A with Chris Szlenk

Portrait photo of Chris SzlenkLooking for a change after completing his undergraduate degree in chemistry, Chris Szlenk left his home state of Alabama in 2017 to pursue a PhD at WSU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. A rotation in the lab of assistant professor Senthil Natesan got him interested in computer-aided drug design.
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Media Mentions

Researcher Mary Paine (College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences) was quoted in a recent Washington Post article titled “Certain foods and beverages can interact with drugs.” Paine leads the Center of Excellence for Natural Product Drug Interaction Research, an NIH-funded, multidisciplinary center established to develop standardized approaches to study the interactions between natural products and conventional drugs.

Research by Ofer Amram (College of Medicine) on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted methadone treatment for opioid addiction was covered by McClatchy newspapers around the country, from the Miami Herald to the Bellingham Herald. The study was also the focus of an article in the Spokesman-Review and a Spokane Public Radio piece.

Hans Van Dongen (College of Medicine/Sleep and Performance Research Center) was quoted in an NIH Record article titled “Pandemic Has Interrupted Our Slumber,” which highlights key points from this year’s Sleep 101 Symposium on Sleep Health in the Pandemic and Beyond. Van Dongen was one of the featured speakers at the event, which was sponsored by the National Heart Lung Blood Institute, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Sleep Research Society. A video recording of the event is available here. Van Dongen’s presentation starts at around 53:26.

A study published by Amber Fyfe-Johnson (College of Medicine/IREACH) that showed that nature plays a key role in children’s physical and mental health received attention in various news outlets, including Very Well Mind, NewsMD’s Health Fusion, KGMI Radio (Bellingham, WA), and the Spokesman-Review.

A study led by Celestina Barbosa-Leiker (College of Nursing) that asked healthcare providers and cannabis retail workers about their perceptions of cannabis use in pregnant and nursing women was highlighted by several news outlets, including Healio, Becker’s Hospital Review, and Culture Magazine.

Steve James (College of Nursing/Sleep and Performance Research Center) was interviewed for a KHQ TV segment on the effects of working long shifts. The segment described a recently published WSU study that measured fatigue and post-shift driving performance in nurses after working three consecutive simulated 12-hour day shifts versus three simulated 12-hour night shifts.

Georgina Lynch (College of Medicine) was featured in an episode of Inside Industry with IREO, a podcast series about working with industry to fund research that is produced by the WSU Innovation and Research Engagement Office (IREO). Lynch discussed her work on the use of eye-tracking technology to screen for autism spectrum disorder.

Awards & Honors

Portrait image of Janessa GravesJanessa Graves—an associate professor and director of evaluation in the College of Nursing—has been elected to the board of the Washington State Public Health Association (WSPHA) for a two-year term. The WSPHA is a nonprofit organization whose members work in healthcare, public health, and other fields dedicated to improving the health and safety of people and communities. Graves conducts research that spans a broad range of public health topics, with a particular focus on rural health, pediatric injuries, and access to care.

Portrait image of Kay MeierInterim chair and professor of pharmaceutical sciences Kay Meier was named as a 2021 Fellow of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). She is one of only 16 nationwide to receive the honor, which is given to members who demonstrated excellence through their contributions to pharmacology and the society. Meier conducts research on the molecular pharmacology of cell signaling in cancer cells, with a focus on mechanisms that involve G protein-coupled receptors.

Portrait image of Jason WuBoyang (Jason) Wu, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has received the Pacesetter Award for Life and Health Sciences from the WSU Office of Research. Presented to him during WSU’s fifth annual Research Week, the award recognizes a promising junior faculty member who has excelled in their sponsored projects activity. Wu has an active portfolio of nearly $4.3 million in federally funded grants to study the molecular mechanisms that drive the growth and spread of prostate cancer, with a particular focus on finding therapeutic targets to help treat aggressive variants of the disease.

Publication Highlight

A group of researchers in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine recently published a study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences that may ultimately lead to new treatment options for Parkinson’s Disease and a related condition known as Gaucher Disease. Their paper, “Glitazone Treatment Rescues Phenotypic Deficits in a Fly Model of Gaucher/Parkinson’s Disease,” describes research conducted by first author Olwanifemi “Nife” Shola-Dare, a recent neuroscience and Honors College alumna, and supervised by senior author Jason Gerstner, an inaugural fellow in WSU’s Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience. As part of the study, the researchers tested a class of compounds known as glitazones in a fruit fly model of Gaucher Disease, a genetic disorder in which fat-laden Gaucher cells build up in certain areas of the body, such as the spleen or the liver. Gaucher Disease comes with some neurological symptoms that are similar to those seen in Parkinson’s Disease, and the genetic mutation that leads to Gaucher Disease is also the strongest genetic risk factor for Parkinson’s Disease. Glitazones were originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes but have shown some promise for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, including Parkinson’s Disease. In this study, the research team set out to test whether glitazones might also ease neurological symptoms in Gaucher Disease. They found that administering glitazones in a fly model of Gaucher Disease reduced sleep loss and motor impairments and restored normal levels of a protein that is a key part of autophagy, the cellular housekeeping process that clears out the misfolded, aggregated, and accumulated proteins that are the hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases. These findings suggest that glitazones could be further tested as a potential compound to change the progression of neurological impairment in Gaucher Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

Funding Highlights

Portrait image of Kimberly HonnAssistant professor Kimberly Honn (Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine/Sleep and Performance Research Center) has been awarded two new contracts totaling more than $1 million to study fatigue issues that affect Navy personnel. One is a three-year contract funded by the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC). It provides funding for a sleep deprivation study that will use civilian volunteers to examine the effects of fatigue on performance of a simulated side-scan sonar analysis task, modeling a Navy task to identify potential threats on the seafloor. Funded by the Naval Postgraduate School, the other project involves a laboratory study testing a combined intervention using blue-enriched light, exercise, and melatonin to help maintain performance and alertness when rapidly changing from daytime to nighttime schedules, as is often done by Navy pilots. Both studies could potentially lead to performance and safety improvements in US Naval operations, as well as other shiftwork settings.

Portrait image of Steve JamesStephen James, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, recently received a two-year $329,157 contract from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) to continue the evaluation of the revised Basic Law Enforcement Academy for the State of Oregon. James and the Oregon Center for Policing Excellence rewrote the 16-week police academy to comply with Oregon state law (House Bill 3194) that police training be evidence based or research based. The revised academy is based on more than a decade of work by the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center to quantify police behaviors that build trust and legitimacy with communities.

Portrait photo of Jiyue ZhuJiyue Zhu, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has received $313,650 in funding from a yearlong National Institute on Aging R56 award, which funds high-priority, short-term projects. The goal of the project is to develop a mouse model with human-like telomere maintenance for the study of human aging, cancer, and other age-related diseases. In normal human cells, the length of telomeres—the protective caps at the end of each strand of DNA—gets progressively shorter as cells divide, which serves as an aging clock. Laboratory mice do not share this characteristic. This has created a bottleneck in addressing fundamental questions about human aging and cancer biology through the use of mouse models, which this project seeks to eliminate.

Grant & Contract Award Summary
July 1 – September 30, 2021

This summary provides an overview of funding activity in the first quarter of this fiscal year, which covers awards for new and continuing research and other sponsored projects received between July 1 through September 30.
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