OHSU researchers discover a mechanism promoting neural stem cells

Mouse hippocampal neural stem cells induced to proliferate in response to digested hyaluronan, supporting a novel mechanism for the control of neural stem cell maintenance with aging. Red = bromodeoxyuridine labeled cells; green = nestin positive cells; blue = DAPI-labeled nuclei.

Mouse hippocampal neural stem cells induced to proliferate in response to digested hyaluronan, supporting a novel mechanism for the control of neural stem cell maintenance with aging. Red = bromodeoxyuridine labeled cells; green = nestin positive cells; blue = DAPI-labeled nuclei.

A breakthrough study by OHSU scientists demonstrates, for the first time, a mechanism that prevents the formation of new neurons in old brains. The discovery provides a new path for investigation that may lead to the prevention—and potentially the reversal—of age-related dementia by promoting the formation of neurons and preventing their decline.

The production of neurons drops dramatically during aging, and the brain slows down. New reports continue to emerge that suggest—but do not prove—that strong social networks, learning a language, healthy diets, and exercise may slow the brain’s decline. These all contribute to overall health, but no cure has been found for age-related cognitive decline or the decreasing production of neurons.

The new study, published January 31 online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was led by Larry Sherman, Ph.D., a senior scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU. The lead author of the study, staff scientist Weiping Su, Ph.D., has worked with Sherman on previous research on neurodegenerative disorders.

Several years ago, Sherman’s lab discovered that hyaluronic acid, a major component of the material that surrounds most cells in the body, accumulates over time and is highly elevated in brains with various forms of brain injury, including some forms of dementia. In collaboration with Jacob Raber, Ph.D., in the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience at OHSU, Sherman’s group found that Interaction of the protein complex CD44 and hyaluronic acid is required for normal learning and memory. The team found that blocking hyaluronic acid activity promoted regeneration of neurons in mice.

The researchers further provide evidence that hyaluronic acid contributes to age-related reductions in neural stem cell production in the hippocampus, where these stem cells proliferate, migrate, and differentiate into new neurons throughout life. These stem cells, outside an old brain, still divide and still produce new neurons—just not very efficiently. This demonstrated that the cells continue to be able to produce neurons.

The study, which builds on 15 years of research conducted by the Sherman lab, suggests that disrupting either the CD44 receptor or the hyaluronic acid itself may provide a way to promote new neuron formation in elderly animals and people. This opens up the possibility of not only preventing the loss of normal learning, but restoring loss that may have occurred.

This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants NS056234 (LSS), core grant RR00163 supporting the Oregon National Primate Research Center, grant P30-NS061800 supporting the imaging core at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, National Institute on Drug Abuse training grant T32 DA07262, and a grant from Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Vote by Mar 9 for OHSU Researchers in STAT Madness—inspired by basketball, but all about research

Shoukhrat Mitalipov_OHSU is in the running for the championship in STAT Madness, a bracketed contest being held to find the best recent innovations in life sciences from the top U.S. research institutions. 
OHSU scientist Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., submitted his research, which provides key insights into mitochondrial replacement therapy. The field of 32 competitors includes Harvard and Yale, the University of Michigan and Ohio State, and Stanford and UCLA. Each submitted an innovative health or medicine research development published during 2016 in a peer-reviewed journal.  
Vote today—and every week until March 31—for the best ideas in science. 
In this first round of competition, OHSU is matched against Mount Sinai. You can vote on each match-up in each round of the competition. Voting rounds will be held weekly up to the final on March 29, or until a school wins.
The schedule of future rounds is included on the STAT Madness Rules page.

School of Dentistry hosts Research Day on March 9

Keynote speaker Laurie K McCauleyJoin the School of Dentistry for its 9th annual Research Day, which highlights the research activities and achievements of faculty, staff, and students. The event features poster presentations, a poster awards ceremony, and a keynote address by Laurie K. McCauley, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.

McCauley, dean and William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor in Periodontics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, will present “Osteal macrophages summon stem cells to regenerate bone.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017
Poster presentation
8:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Keynote address
12:15–1:15 p.m.
Poster awards ceremony
1:30–2:15 p.m.
OHSU School of Dentistry
Collaborative Life Sciences Building, 3A003A/B lecture hall

Research is an integral component of the School of Dentistry’s mission and supports its clinical and educational missions. Students in the School of Dentistry work with principal investigators and technical staff on research ranging from the basic mechanisms of diseases to evidenced-based dental treatment.

OCTRI Biomedical Innovation Program, funding for drug discovery

The Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) and the Office of Technology Transfer & Business Development (TTBD) are pleased to announce a funding opportunity to support drug discovery and therapeutic technology development efforts at OHSU.

The Biomedical Innovation Program (BIP) Drug Discovery/Therapeutic Track is a funding mechanism that aims to accelerate creative, trans-disciplinary drug discovery, and therapeutic development research. Examples of responsive projects may include (but are not limited to) research involving target validation, development of small molecules, antibodies, vaccines and biologics.

The current RFA can be found here.

Letters of intent are due on April 3, 2017.

Program highlights:

  • Up to $60,000 in funding
  • Project management and hands-on support from BIP staff
  • Access to project-specific mentors and experts

Questions? Please contact Jonathan Jubera at jubera@ohsu.edu, or visit the OCTRI Funding Opportunities page for more information.

Funding for this award is made possible by the OHSU Foundation via the University Venture Development Fund.

Technology Transfer and Business Development—satisfaction survey open until March 31

You’re invited to give your feedback on OHSU’s Technology Transfer and Business Development. The team serves as a resource for innovative and entrepreneurial thinking at OHSU, supporting the university through intellectual property protection, the formation of startup companies, facilitating industry collaborations, and promoting strategic partnerships.

OHSU-RGB-4C-POSTechnology Transfer and Business Development 
satisfaction survey. 

Complete the survey by
March 31 at 3 p.m.

Technology Transfer and Business Development’s goal is to ensure that OHSU innovations are developed into products that will benefit the global community. Your responses to the satisfaction survey will help the team better understand the needs of the OHSU community and inform the executive team’s planning and decision making to improve current processes.

The survey is open to all OHSU employees and students and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Everyone who completes the survey will have a chance to win one of several $50 OHSU food vendor gift cards—and TTBD will pay the prize taxes.

TTBD Innovator Spotlight: Bill Rooney, Ph.D.

Bill Rooney, Ph.D.

In the coming year, patent-pending imaging software developed by OHSU scientists will be used to validate, for the first time in humans, a new imaging approach to map brain metabolism at high spatial resolution and determine if metabolic deficits are common in individuals with progressive multiple sclerosis. Part of what makes translation of this study to the human brain possible is the new software, which was developed by a team led by Bill Rooney, Ph.D., professor and director at the OHSU Advanced Imaging Research Center. Rooney, together with colleagues Rebecca Spain, M.D., assistant professor of neurology, and Manoj Sammi, Ph.D., assistant professor within the Advanced Imaging Research Center, are advancing this approach with funding provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

This approach will also be applied to investigate a newly discovered physiology, the glymphatic system, that clears out toxins in the brain, including those that form Alzheimer’s plaques. Until now, the glymphatic system has only been studied in small animals, and the application of less invasive methods will support human studies. A $1.4 million Allen Distinguished Investigator award from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is funding this next step in the Alzheimer’s research being conducted by OHSU scientists. Jeff Iliff, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, and Rooney are co-leaders of the study.

For Rooney, the potential discoveries of the upcoming study, and the imaging software that makes the study possible, become most meaningful when they are developed so they can improve patient care.

“Researchers are great at discovery, but the other aspects of developing these ideas into tools and drugs and devices that advance human health—that’s where things can fall apart,” Rooney said. “Discoveries are often not taken past this point. Having ideas and novel concepts is wonderful, but if they don’t really rise to the level where they’re advancing human health, that’s a real shame. But there is considerable strength collectively in the Pacific Northwest that should be tapped to advance neuroscience and technology.”

Toward building that collective in the Northwest, Rooney is playing an important role as the university and industry work to build an ecosystem that actively moves research from the laboratory into practical use. His contributions to creating a Northwest hub for neurotechnology include participating in the Northwest NeuroNeighborhood and the launch of the NeuroFutures annual conference, which will be held at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, this July 2017. These initiatives are building collaborations that draw on the strengths of all actors.

In the Advanced Imaging Research Center, Rooney works with scientists Charles Springer, Ph.D., and Xin Li, Ph.D., to develop an improved model for analyzing data using dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. The Shutter Speed Paradigm is able to map the metabolic activity of cancer cells within a single tumor and the cells’ focal response to breast cancer therapy—something no other technique can do. The technology, MRI Biomarker for Cancer Identification, was commercialized in 2012, licensed by Imbio, Inc, and supported by an NIH Small Business Innovation Research grant.

Drawing on the Shutter-Speed Paradigm, Rooney and his team developed the software being used in the upcoming study, High Spatial Resolution Brain Metabolic Imaging software, which has the ability to map cerebral metabolic activity at high spatial resolution. This could improve diagnosis and therapy monitoring of neurological disorders, from Alzheimer’s and other senile dementias to multiple sclerosis and brain tumors.

When novel ideas have the potential to improve patient care as technologies or therapies, OHSU Technology Transfer and Business Development provides expertise and resources to steward innovations from the laboratory to clinical application through the process of commercialization. The team provided support for the commercialization of the MRI Biomarker for Cancer Identification and worked with Rooney to file the patent for the new imaging software. The office provides expertise, connects scientists with investors, identifies new collaborative partners, and processes material transfer agreements. Bringing research findings to patients requires the time, resources, and expertise of more than a single individual.

The combined intellectual, technological, and financial resources of universities, industry partners, and government collaborators working with scientists, engineers, neurologists, radiologists, and neurosurgeons is creating an ecosystem that could put Portland and the Pacific Northwest at the forefront of neurotechnology—and tackle some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

Funding Focus: Finding funding 101, March 21

Join us for March’s Funding Focus seminar on the basics of finding funding for your research. We’ll be discussing internal, foundation, NIH, and non-NIH, federal funding. Explore various online search tools and learn how to tailor your search to best align with your research goals. You’ll walk away with new skills to start mapping a strategic funding plan.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
11:30 a.m – 12:30 p.m.
Biomedical Information Communication Center (BICC), room 124

Funding Focus is a series offered by Research Funding and Development Services throughout the year to share advice, tips, and general information on funding for the OHSU research community. Faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and administrators are all welcome to attend. Questions? Contact funding@ohsu.edu.

Don’t forget: Research Week abstracts due Mar. 7

FPP 21469239 Research Week 2017 ART RGBA friendly reminder: If you’d like to give an oral or poster presentation at OHSU Research Week this May, be sure to submit your abstract by Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

Don’t forget that a limited number of scholarships are available to students presenting posters at Research Week. For more information about the scholarship or abstract submissions in general, visit the OHSU Research Week website.

Outgoing Subawards session: Best practices, March 14

Does your research department subcontract with third parties for projects or programs?

Research Administration Training & Education (RATE) offers a number of learning opportunities including the Outgoing Subawards series.

Coming up in March:

Outgoing Subawards: Best practices
Tuesday, March 14
2 to 3 p.m.
Center for Health and Healing
3171, room 1A

Meet the Sub-out team and gain insight into best practices for development and administration of subawards. The course covers topics including required documents and how to fill them out to avoid administrative hang-ups; creating a subaward scope of work and budget; potential pitfalls in sub-out requests and how to avoid them.

Part instruction and part discussion, this session is intended for departmental staff who coordinate or manage administrative aspects of subaward or subrecipient relations and processes.

Register for the course in Compass.


Introducing Sue Downs, R.N., M.B.A., M.S.N.

The Clinical Translational Research Center and the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit have a new nurse manager. Sue Downs leads the team that supports human research conducted by OHSU scientists and external clients. The role includes making sure the center has the capacity and expertise to follow research protocols for studies ranging from first human use of drugs to sleep studies. New training and mentorship programs are two of the first initiatives to maintain a pipeline of nurses with a solid foundation in research.

What sparked your interest in nursing and research?
I was committed to not becoming a nurse. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all nurses and I swore I wouldn’t follow in their footsteps. But while I was in college, I took a part-time job in the children’s ward at a hospital and I just loved it. At the end of my time there, some of the nurses in the ward pulled me aside and told me I had a special way with people and advocating for patients. They were persuasive. So I went home and submitted my application to nursing school. I went to Weber State University for my RN degree, and then to Grand Canyon University for my MBA and MSN, with an emphasis in nursing leadership in health care systems. I’m from the Southwest—Arizona and Utah—but very much consider Portland my home. I’ve lived here most of my adult life.

Tell us about your research and what drew you to it?
I always want to see the data and outcomes. In every job I’ve had, I’ve wanted to know why things are done the way they are. Are we making the best decisions? In nursing, this information is so meaningful when it can improve patient care.

I’m working now on my Ph.D., with an emphasis in cognition. One of my interests is the relationship of perception to science. The other is retention in nursing. Lots of research has been conducted on why 30 percent of nurses leave the profession in the first six years, but little is known about why nurses stay.

What brought you to OHSU?
I actually held this position a number of years ago—and then went on to work as an educator and a quality control manager in hospice settings. But I love this research setting. Patients have different diagnoses and ages, come from different populations, and have different levels of wellness. Also, research is incredibly collaborative—we all come together for the patients.

Welcome to the Research News Blog

Welcome to the Research News Blog

OHSU Research News is your portal to information about all things research at Oregon Health & Science University. Visit often for updates on events, discoveries, and important funding information.

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