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Advances in Research

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FEBRUARY 2015

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IN HUMAN CLINICAL TRIAL, UAB TO TEST DRUG SHOWN TO COMPLETELY REVERSE DIABETES IN HUMAN ISLETS, MICE

New research conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has shown that the common blood pressure drug verapamil completely reverses diabetes in animal models. Now, thanks to a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, UAB researchers will begin conducting a potentially groundbreaking clinical trial this year to see if it can do the same in humans.

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UAB RESEARCH EXAMINES YOUTH SPORTS INJURY RATES

David Schwebel, Ph.D., associate dean for Research in the Sciences and professor in the Department of Psychology, and Carl Brezausek, M.S., former researcher in the Center for Educational Accountability and instructor in the UAB School of Education, have taken an in-depth look at patterns in pediatric sports-related injuries in a new study published in the Journal of Athletic Training. The study suggests that tailoring safety regulations more closely by age could impact the incidence of injury.

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UAB PART OF NIH-FUNDED RESEARCH CONSORTIA STUDYING MORE THAN 200 RARE DISEASES

Physician scientists at 22 consortia, including investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will collaborate with representatives of 98 patient advocacy groups to advance clinical research and investigate new treatments for patients with rare diseases. The collaborations are made possible through awards by the National Institutes of Health ¬ totaling about $29 million in fiscal year 2014 funding ¬ to expand the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network, which is led by NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

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SOUTHERN RESEARCH INSTITUTE AND UAB PARTNER TO DEVELOP LIFE-CHANGING MEDICAL DEVICES

Southern Research Institute, developer of seven FDA-approved cancer drugs, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have partnered to develop new medical devices to improve healthcare in the United States and around the globe. The strategic partnership, which is called the Alliance for Innovative Medical, will have Southern Research Institute and UAB researchers work together to create medical devices across five key areas. The goal is for the first group of AIMTech-created medical devices to hit the market by 2020.

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UAB PART OF PROMISING DRUG TRIAL FOR RETT SYNDROME

A recently concluded study of an experimental drug for Rett Syndrome showed promising results, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Neuren Pharmaceuticals of Melbourne, Australia. UAB was one of three study sites for the drug, known as NNZ-2566.

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UAB STUDY REVEALS DIABETIC EYE SCREENINGS VIA TELEMEDICINE SHOW VALUE FOR UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES

Eye screenings of people with diabetes in underserved communities revealed that one in five had early stage diabetic retinopathy, according to a new study by a research consortium including investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The findings, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, also indicated that nearly half of the mostly minority populations screened had additional vision conditions such as glaucoma or cataract. The study, which used a telemedicine screening approach, also provided early validation of the efficacy of telemedicine in reaching underserved populations.

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NEW RESEARCH AT UAB SHOWS VULNERABILITY IN MOBILE PHONES’ APPLICATIONS OFFERING VOICE COMMUNICATION SECURITY

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers are explaining why there are concerns with the end-to-end security of an increasingly popular means of communication, and what users can do to defend against potential threats. Through a project funded by Cisco Systems, researchers in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences examined the vulnerabilities in security of video- and voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, communications. The team developed attacks that uncovered these vulnerabilities in a currently used security scheme, and once those weaknesses were identified, the team suggested alternatives that may protect against potential attacks.

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UAB STUDY LOOKS AT RACIAL DISPARITY IN DEATHS DURING CHILDBIRTH

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggest barriers to care may be the primary cause of the high rate of black women who die during childbirth. National statistics show black women are nearly four times more likely to die in childbirth than are white women.  Statistics over 20 years showed the rate of death during childbirth at UAB Hospital is about the same for black women as it is for white women. The findings, published November 5, 2014, in Anesthesia & Analgesia, looked at 77 maternal deaths occurring between 1990 and 2010. The study authors report that there was insufficient evidence to suggest racial disparity in the incidence of death and that there was no association between mortality status and insurance status, income, body mass index, marital status or parity.

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UAB RESEARCHER HAS KEY ROLE IN MASSIVE NON-HODGKIN LYMPHOMA STUDY

In 2001, Christine Skibola, Ph.D., now a professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, joined forces with a small group seeking a large goal – discovery of genetic and environmental links to the white blood cell tumors that collectively are called lymphomas. This has now resulted in the largest epidemiology and genetic studies of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) ever conducted. Thus far, these studies have culminated into four genetics papers published in Nature Genetics, American Journal of Human Genetics and Nature Communications, and an entire monograph in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs comprising 13 papers on environmental and medical risk factors found to be associated with various lymphoma subtypes.

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BRAIN INFLAMMATION A HALLMARK OF AUTISM, ACCORDING TO LARGE-SCALE ANALYSIS WHICH INCLUDED EFFORTS
AT UAB

An analysis of data from autopsied human brains reveals brains affected by autism share a pattern of ramped-up immune responses. The study, a collaborative effort between Johns Hopkins and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, included data from 72 autism and control brains. It was published online in the journal Nature Communications.

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UAB STUDY SUGGESTS POTENTIAL THERAPY FOR SECOND MOST COMMON FORM OF DEMENTIA

Drugs that boost the function of a specific type of neurotransmitter receptor may provide benefit to patients with the second most common type of dementia, according to research by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

 

UAH COLLEGE OF BUSINESS PROFESSOR’S ARTICLE ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

Dr. Liwu Hsu, Assistant Professor of Marketing, recently co-authored a paper as a lead author, “Brand architecture strategy and firm value: how leveraging, separating, and distancing the corporate brand affects risk and returns” accepted for publication in Journal of Academy of Marketing Science.

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UAH COLLEGE OF BUSINESS PROFESSOR CO-AUTHORS PAPER

Dr. Yongchuan Bao, Associate Professor of Marketing, co-authored a paper, “Linking Network Ties to Entrepreneurial Opportunity Discovery and Exploitation: The role of Affective and Cognitive Trust”, with Shenggang Ren, Rui Shu, and Xiaohong Chen, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, forthcoming.

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UAH COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING PROFESSOR RECEIVES AWARD

Dr. Michael Anderson receives awards and grants for the “ALDOT Traffic Count Program and Model Evaluation,” ($186,193) sponsored by the Alabama Department of Transportation, October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2016, and the “Modeling Support for ALDOT and Alabama MPOs,” ($50,000) sponsored by the Alabama Department of Transportation, October 2014 – September 2014.

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UAH COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING PROFESSOR AWARDED GRANT

Dr. Hongyu Zhou was awarded a $2,500 grant for the UA System Collaborative Research Initiation Program, January-December 2015, “Ultra-lightweight materials using nano surface-engineered polymeric aerogel and in-situ produced carbon nanotubes for structural application and energy storage” H. Zhou, lead-PI, with Jialai Wang PI UA and Yu Lei Co-PI UAH.

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HS3 SCIENCE DATA PUBLISHED BY JOINT NASA/UAH DATA CENTER

The Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC), a NASA Earth science data center managed jointly by UAH’s Information Technology and Systems Center and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, published datasets from the third season of NASA’s airborne Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission during this period. In this mission, two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft carried instruments to monitor tropical storms and the surrounding environment to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. Data from the HS3 mission are archived and available from the GHRC.

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REGIONAL AIR SEA INTERACTIONS CLIMATOLOGY DATASETS PUBLISHED BY JOINT NASA/UAH DATA CENTER

The Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC), a NASA Earth science data center managed jointly by UAH’s Information Technology and Systems Center and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has published a set of Regional Air Sea Interactions (RASI) climatology datasets containing coastal mountain gap wind events and resulting sea surface temperature changes due to ocean upwelling. These datasets were created using an automated intelligent algorithm, which identified gap wind and coastal ocean upwelling events using two satellite-based microwave datasets. The Cross-Calibrated Multi-Plat-form (CCMP) ocean surface wind data product was used for wind data while the Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Temperatures (OISST) data product provided by Remote Sensing Systems was used for sea surface temperatures. Data is available from 1998-2011 for three regions in Central America: Tehuantepec, Papagayo, and Panama.

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NEW LIGHTNING IMAGING SENSOR SCIENCE PROCESSING ALGORITHM ANNOUNCED BY JOINT NASA/UAH DATA CENTER

The Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC), a NASA Earth science data center managed jointly by UAH’s Information Technology and Systems Center and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, announced an update to the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) science dataset showing global lightning from space, along with associated background and browse imagery datasets. A new version of the LIS science processing algorithm developed by the LIS science team was received, producing improvements resulting in more lightning events, groups, flashes, and areas, and background images being recovered. This incremental algorithm update is used to generate all near-real time LIS data from August 2014 forward, and all quality controlled data beginning May 2014.

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UAH RECEIVES NOTIFICATION OF AWARD

The NASA Science Mission Directorate awarded funding for 24 projects under the 2014 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) Advanced Infor-mation Systems Technology (AIST) program A.41 solicitation. UAH’s Information Technology and Systems Center received notification that two proposals in which they are participating were selected for funding. In the proposal entitled, “Illuminating the Darkness: Exploiting Untapped Data and Information Resources in Earth Science”, submitted by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) scientist Rahul Ramachandran, Manil Maskey of UAH is contributing expertise to address the utilization of semantic technologies to explore, visualize, and analyze representations of semantically identified information in order to discover new useful information in Earth Science. In the proposal entitled, “DEREChOS: Data Environment for Rapid Exploration and Characterization of Organized Systems,” submitted by Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) scientist Thomas Clune, Dr. John Rushing of UAH is contributing expertise. In this project, the Automated Event Service (AES) is being extended to enable a much broader class of Earth science investigations to exploit the performance and flexibility of the service.

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UAH AND SOLAR PROBE PLUS (SPP)

This NASA space mission will launch in July 2018 with its goal of measuring the Sun’s atmosphere down to a closest approach of approximately 4 million miles (8 times closer to the Sun than the planet Mercury). One of the instruments on-board SPP will be the Solar Probe Cup (SPC) – a variation on a Faraday Cup design that has an extensive space flight history. The SPC will be viewing the Sun during the entire mission as the spacecraft orbits between Venus and the Sun and will continuously measure the ion and electron components of the wind emanating from the Sun. UAH’s Dr. Kenneth H. Wright, Jr. and graduate student Phyllis Whittlesey are working with NASA/MSFC and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) personnel to develop a facility in which to test the SPC. Recently, the ion source operational boundaries for the flux-energy region have been defined. Additional details are being acquired to facilitate the automation of commanding a user defined path through the flux-energy region. Ms. Whittlesey presented a poster paper at the 2014 Fall AGU Meeting which describes the SPC and its operational characteristics and recent test data from the MSFC facility.

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UAH PROFESSOR RECEIVES GRANT

Dr. Gang Li received a grant from VPR of the Industry/University Cooperative Graduate Student Research Program. It will cover stipend and tuition for Mr. Junxiang Hu. The industrial partner is Dr. Parker, a former Ph.D. student of Dr. Gary Zank.

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UA PROFESSOR DEVELOPING WEARABLE DEVICE TO TRACK DIET

Dr. Edward Sazonov, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UA, is developing a sensor worn around the ear that would automatically track diet, giving medical professionals and consumers accurate information that can be missed with self-reporting. Called an Automatic Ingestion Monitor, or AIM, it has potential to monitor eating by automatically detecting and capturing imagery of food intake and to estimate the mass and the energy content of ingested food. The sensor feels vibrations from movement in the jaw during food intake, and the device is programmed to filter out jaw motions, such as talking, that are not coming from drinking or eating. Estimates of energy intake would be taken from the pictures of food or drink. Sazonov is the lead on a $1.8 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Health to test the practical accuracy of the wearable sensor in tracking diet.

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UA RESEARCHER FOUND LINKS AMONG DEPRESSION, SLEEP PROBLEMS, OSTEOARTHRITIS

Dr. Patricia Parmelee, director for the Center for Mental Health & Aging at UA, has discovered links between high levels of pain and symptoms of depression exacerbated by a combination of sleep disturbances due to pain. A four-year study of 367 people in Philadelphia, PA, showed participants with greater symptoms of depression had experienced more pain and worsened sleep problems. Additionally, the study showed a combination of sleep disturbance and high pain at baseline led to much greater depression. Parmelee’s findings were recently published in Arthritis Care and Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology. A new goal is to determine how osteoarthritis interacts with the body to cause sleep disturbances and depression.

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UA PROFESSOR RECEIVED CROSS CULTURAL RESEARCH AWARD

Dr. Melissa Johnston, assistant professor and school library media program coordinator for the School of Library and Information Studies at UA, was named a recipient of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s Cross Cultural Research Award at its international convention general session in Jacksonville, FL. Johnston collaborated with Dr. Lucy Santos Green, of Georgia Southern University, on a study titled “Global Perspectives’ Exploring School-Based Brazilian Librarianship through Institutional Ethnography.” They received a plaque and a monetary gift from AECT for their research. In 2013, Johnston and Green conducted an institutional ethnography study of school-based Brazilian librarianship in south Brazil.

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UA, UAB CENTERS, CYBER RESEARCH CONSORTIUM AWARDED NSF GRANT

The National Science Foundation has awarded a group of university cyber researchers across the state a grant to develop an upcoming conference on ethics and digital forensics. The Alabama Cyber Research Consortium, comprised of the state’s seven doctoral granting universities, was, along with UA’s Cyber Institute and UAB’s Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research, awarded an NSF Science, Technology, and Society grant to design the three-day conference at the National Science Foundation in Bethesda, MD, in May. The conference will provide opportunities for academics and practitioners to gather and address critical issues in digital forensics, including a lack of unifying ethical standards, procedures and guidelines for routine activities such as digital forensic analysis and cybercrime case processing.

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UA PSYCHOLOGISTS AWARDED CONTRACT TO BOLSTER SERVICES FOR PAIN, BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

A team of psychology researchers at UA has been awarded a two-year contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to help integrate behavioral health and chronic pain treatment plans into Alabama’s 15 federally-qualified health centers. Dr. Beverly Thorn, UA professor of psychology, received a Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award for approximately $250,000 to start the Alabama Initiative for Integrated Primary Care-Behavioral Health Services which, over the next two years, will work with leaders and staff members of health centers throughout the state to assess their capacity for the integration of behavioral health into their clinics.

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UA TO TEST VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS FOR PREVENTING MARIJUANA USE BY YOUTH

Marijuana is the most commonly used and misused drug among adolescents and the primary drug of choice for adolescents entering substance abuse treatment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Few studies of prevention and intervention of adolescent marijuana use have included contextual cues, a gap in literature Dr. Amy Traylor, assistant professor of social work at UA, hopes to fill with a virtual reality-based study of adolescents’ reactions to contextual cues. Traylor was recently awarded a $275,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to create and test virtual environments to identify common cannabis-related proximal and contextual cues adolescents encounter. The environments will be constructed after holding focus groups with adolescents and staff members at a substance abuse treatment facility in Tuscaloosa.

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THANKSGIVING WEEK BRINGS DRIVING DANGERS, ACCORDING TO UA STUDY

Automobile crashes caused by deer, alcohol and bad weather are more common during the week of Thanksgiving than the rest of the year, according to a recent study of traffic data by the UA Center for Advanced Public Safety. During the past five years, crashes during the seven-day holiday period – Thanksgiving and three days before and after – in Alabama have been increasing, according to the CAPS analysis. The 2,482 crashes recorded in 2013 were 22 percent more than in 2009. On average, there were 350 crashes per day during the period over the past five years, according to CAPS. With the improvement of the economy and the drop in gas prices, there is generally an expectation that the number this year will be over 2,500 crashes, said Dr. David Brown, a research associate with CAPS who directed the study.

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NANOTECHNOLOGY-BIOTECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE BROUGHT RESEARCHERS TO UA

Approximately 200 researchers from across the state attended a scientific forum on nanotechnology on the UA campus. UA hosted the second NanoBio Summit at the Bryant Conference Center featuring a dozen scientists from in-state and neighboring institutions as well as representatives from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Southern Research Institute, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and elsewhere. The conference provided opportunities to accelerate new research and academic collaborations among researchers in various fields while sharing the latest research findings, innovations, and implementations of nanotechnology.

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STUDENT RESEARCHERS RECOGNIZED AT UA’S NANOBIO SUMMIT

Judges selected seven student presenters as winners for their research poster presentations given during a recent scientific forum on nanotechnology and biotechnology hosted by UA. Four undergraduate and three graduate students, representing various universities, were recognized for their work during the NanoBio Summit 2014. The summit brought 200 students, faculty, researchers and state and federal program officials to the UA campus, said Dr. Carl A. Pinkert, vice president for research and economic development at UA. Dr. Patty Sobecky, associate provost for academic affairs, highlighted the many opportunities for under-graduate and graduate students to network with researchers representing academia, industry and government.