John Brigande provides commentary: Hearing in the mouse of Usher

John V BrigandeThe March issue of Nature Biotechnology brings together a set of articles that provide an overview of promising RNA-based therapies and the challenges of clinical validation and commercialization. In his News and Views essay, “Hearing in the mouse of Usher,” John V. Brigande, Ph.D., provides commentary on two studies in the issue that report important progress in research on gene therapy for the inner ear. 
One in eight people in the United States aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears. That figure suggests that, if you don’t have hearing loss, you likely know someone who does. Worldwide, hearing loss profoundly interferes with life tasks like learning and interpersonal communication for an estimated 32 million children and 328 million adults worldwide. Inherited genetic mutations cause about 50 percent of these cases.
The challenge in developing gene therapy for the inner ear isn’t a lack of known genes associated with hearing loss, but a lack of vectors to deliver DNA into cells. Brigande, associate professor of otolaryngology and cell, developmental, and cancer biology at the OHSU School of Medicine, provides perspective on companion studies that demonstrate adeno-associated viral vectors as a potent gene transfer agent for cochlear cell targets.
The first study demonstrates safe and efficient gene transfer to hair cells of the mouse inner ear using a synthetic adeno-associated viral vector that promises to be a powerful starting point for developing appropriate vectors for use in the human inner ear. The second study demonstrates that a single neonatal treatment with this viral vector successfully delivers a healthy gene to the inner ear to achieve unprecedented recovery of hearing and balance in a mouse model of a disease called Usher syndrome. Individuals with Usher syndrome type 1c are born deaf and with profound balance issues and experience vision loss by early adolescence. The research teams were led by scientists from the Harvard School of Medicine.
Brigande sees these new studies as potentially spurring investment and kickstarting the development of new approaches to correct a diverse set of deafness genes. 
Note: Brigande teaches in OHSU’s ethics course, and let us know he is not responsible for the clever title of his News and Views article. Andy Marshall, chief editor at Nature Biotechnology and fan of Edgar Allen Poe, suggested the title over Brigande’s. So we want to make sure you know—it was Andy Marshall who came up with the creative title. Everything else is Brigande’s.

V Scholar Award in cancer research; internal applications due April 17

OHSU has been invited by the V Foundation for Cancer Research to apply for their V Scholar Award, a program designed to identify, retain and further the careers of talented young faculty members. The award provides $200,000 over two years to support young tenure-track faculty early in their cancer research career by funding projects that are either laboratory-based fundamental research or translational research.

To be eligible, the candidate must have completed at least two years of fellowship training (at least one for M.D.s), hold a tenured track position (no more than five years since joining faculty), and must not have been promoted to associate professor.

OHSU may submit up to two nominations if at least one of the two nominee applicants identifies as someone from an underrepresented in science minority ethnic group (for the purposes of this application: African American or of African descent, Hispanic American, or Native American and/or an Alaskan Native). As in 2016, the V Foundation is continuing to raise funds to support the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund initiative. Among the highly ranked finalists for the 2017 V Scholar program, the Foundation will designate at least one of the highest ranked applications from a minority applicant as the recipient of a 2017 Stuart Scott Memorial Fund V Scholar Award.

If you are interested in applying, please submit your CV, a 1-5 page research summary, and a letter of support by Monday, April 17, 2017 using the OHSU Competitive Application Portal (CAP). Up to two candidates selected by OHSU will have until June 1, 2017 to submit their full applications to the Foundation.

For more funding opportunities, take a look at the Weekly Funding Alerts.

Lasker essay contest deadline April 3

laskerCalling all students, interns, residents, and fellows who love to write! The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation is accepting entries for their 2017 essay contest. Essays must be 800 words or less will be evaluated on innovation of ideas, how well those ideas are conveyed, and writing quality and clarity.

This year’s topic is “Using at least one specific example, propose ways in which breakthroughs in biomedical research can be made part of the daily global dialogue, so that a much wider public becomes better informed and more supportive of biomedical research endeavors.”

The contest is open to medical school students, interns, residents, and fellows; doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical research; graduate students in public health programs; and graduate students in other health professions programs. First-place award is $10,000 and an all expense-paid trip to New York to meet the 2017 Lasker Award winners on Sept. 15, 2017.

The deadline to submit all materials is April 3. Read the full guidelines and apply here.

OCTRI KL2 Career Development Program: Request for Applications

The Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute KL2 Mentored Career Development program supports early-career clinical and translational investigators who wish to pursue multidisciplinary research. Scholars in the program receive salary support and funds for research activities, as well as additional support services through OCTRI and the Human Investigations Program.  The OCTRI KL2 program is funded through the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.  You are eligible for this program if you have a current or pending full-time faculty appointment as an assistant professor (or equivalent level) at OHSU, PSU, OSU, or UO and have no prior funding as a faculty-level principal investigator on an NIH grant except an R03 or R21.

The appointment provides a maximum of $100,000 or 75% of a scholar’s salary for up to two years.  It is expected that the scholar’s department will provide additional salary support if necessary. The award also includes $25,000 per year for research activities, travel, and a waiver of tuition for the Human Investigations Program.  At the end of the appointment, the scholar is expected to apply for an independent career development award, such as a K23, K08 or VA CDA, or an independent grant such as an R01 or equivalent.  

The KL2 application process has several steps: First, you need to submit a letter of intent and an NIH biosketch, due April 3, 2017.  Letters of intent are then used to determine who will be invited to submit full applications. They should address the aims of the research, preliminary data, a summary of the research plan, career development goals and plans, and the proposed mentor team. Full proposals are due May 1. Finally, if you are invited to submit a full proposal, you will also be asked to give an oral presentation on your proposed work during the week of May 22-25.

Please refer to the complete RFA for specific information regarding the letter of intent, eligibility and evaluation criteria, and other information about the program. Learn more about the OCTRI KL2 opportunity.



Last call for Research Week abstracts!

FPP 21469239 Research Week 2017 ART RGBToday, March 7, is the last day to submit your abstract if you’d like to give an oral or poster presentation at OHSU Research Week this May.

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.

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, 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.

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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