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College of Medicine researchers receive more than $1 million from National Institutes of Health

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine received grants in April from the National Institutes of Health totaling more than $1 million. Some of the studies will continue until 2024 and between them anticipate more than $5 million in funding during that time.

“A Mouse Model to Define Immunovirologic Determinants of Polyomavirus CNS Disease”

Investigator: Dr. Aron Lukacher, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine

Grant Amount: $383,993 (total anticipated: $1,928,900 through March 2024)

Awarded by: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Goal: The goal of this second, five-year renewed grant is to uncover factors leading to brain diseases caused by polyomaviruses. Polyomaviruses silently infect most humans but can lead to severe disease in the central nervous system in patients with compromised immunity. Findings from this work could help investigators identify risk factors and design therapies for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, an often fatal central nervous system disorder.

“Role of Sox2 in Stress Adaptations to Ovarian Cancer Anchorage Independence”

Investigator: Nadine Hempel, associate professor of pharmacology

Grant Amount: $435,101 (total anticipated: $2,167,956 through March 2024)

Awarded by: National Cancer Institute

Goal: This collaborative work with Dr. Mythreye Karthikeyan of the University of South Carolina will seek to determine how Sox2, a key developmental gene, plays a role in the spread of ovarian cancer throughout the body. By identifying key stress adaptations of ovarian cancer, like those regulated by Sox2 in metastasis, researchers hope to identify therapeutic targets for ovarian cancer treatments.

“Sleep Cortical Dynamics and Neurobehavioral Risk in Children and Adolescents: A Longitudinal Study”

Investigator: Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, associate professor of psychiatry

Grant Amount: $380,365 (total anticipated: $1,163,356 through January 2022)

Awarded by: National Institute of Mental Health

Goal: Study how changes in brain activity during sleep in childhood and adolescence may be associated with an increased risk for the development of mental health disorders.

“Establishing the effect of flavor on the addictive potential of electronic cigarettes”

Investigator: Andrea Hobkirk, assistant professor of psychiatry and public health sciences

Grant Amount: $229,950

Awarded by: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Goal: Determine if flavor type and nicotine level alter the addictive potential of electronic cigarettes. The data collected from the study may help researchers understand why electronic cigarettes are attractive to teens and if they may help smokers stop using regular cigarettes.

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