Biologist’s Research Holds Promise for Fighting Cancerous Tumors
Boise State Update
By: Sherry Squires Published 8:52 am / March 28, 2013
From prevention to diagnosis to treatment, researchers tackle the complexities of cancer from many angles. Boise State University biology professor Allan Albig is working in a relatively new area that examines the interactions between the body’s cells and connective tissues that surround them. Unraveling their mysteries could hold promise for slowing or stopping the growth of cancerous tumors.
It is well known that the connective tissues and cells that make up the human body talk to one another. But what all information they contain, and what causes a protein in connective tissue to signal a cell to grow, or stop growing, is relatively poorly understood.
Albig received a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for his biomolecular research. A major goal of the work done in his lab is to discover and characterize extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules and other proteins that positively or negatively impact angiogenesis, the physiological process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels.
Angiogenesis is a normal and vital process in growth and development, as well as in wound healing. However, it is also a fundamental step in the transition of tumors from a dormant state to a malignant one.
Discovering how these molecules interact with cells could lead to the treatment of diseases associated with excessive or insufficient angiogenesis, such as cancer, vascular diseases, obesity and even baldness.
Albig is working with graduate student Arpita Malik and three undergraduates on his three-year project.
Boise State University Student Wins Science Academy Award
Cheri L. Lamb, a doctoral student in the Boise State University Biomolecular Sciences Ph.D. Program, won a First-Place Award for Best Oral Paper Presentation at the 55th Annual Symposium of the Idaho Academy of Science. The meeting, held at the ISU campus in Pocatello, took place March 21-23, 2013. A panel of Academy judges selected Lamb for the award based on her presentation, “Activation of Hepatic Stellate Cells by the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor During Experimental Liver Fibrosis.” Dr. Kristen A. Mitchell sponsored and directed Ms. Lamb’s research for this project. Lamb will receive a certificate and a monetary award.
The Idaho Academy of Science (IAS) was chartered in 1958 to further the cause of science and science education in Idaho. The Academy seeks to promote public understanding and appreciation of the sciences and applied technology in the modern world, and to improve the effectiveness of scientific education in Idaho. With Trustee positions allocated to every institution of higher learning in the state, as well as at-large representatives, our membership is very broad-based. The Academy is also the only statewide organization in Idaho which embraces all scientific and engineering disciplines. More information about the IAS is available at http://www.IDAcadSci.org.
Boise State Team Selected for Microgravity University for Fifth Year
December 19, 2012
For the fifth straight year, a Boise State University student research team has been accepted into NASA’s Microgravity University program.
Boise State’s team is one of 14 selected nationally and will join student teams from Purdue University, Rice University, University of Arizona, Virginia Tech and more.
“Boise State’s proposal was well designed and the outreach efforts that were detailed in the proposal were outstanding,” said NASA Education Specialist James Semple, who coordinates the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. “We felt like the educational outreach plan the students submitted would reach a large segment of the community. That, along with the technical evaluation, led to the team’s selection.”
Boise State’s proposal is titled “The Effects of Teriparatide on Calcium Signaling in Bone Cells During Parabolic Flight,” and the results of the research could benefit astronauts who suffer bone density loss in space as well as people who suffer from osteoporosis and other bone loss diseases. The team will work through the winter and spring to design, build and test their experiment in preparation for Flight Week at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in June.
“We are extremely proud of this year’s team,” said Boise State researcher Julia Oxford. “The students worked together to create a collaborative research project that not only addresses NASA’s mission but also utilizes the unique conditions of alternating weightlessness and hypergravity of the ‘Weightless Wonder’ to study bone cell physiology. Impressive, as well, is that the students design and build the instrument that will measure the cellular response to changing gravitational forces in real time during the flight. The fact that the students have been awarded this opportunity indicates that they are among the best and brightest in the nation.”
Nic Baughman, a business major and chemistry minor, leads Boise State’s team that includes students from four different colleges. Elisa Barney Smith, electrical and computer engineering, is faculty lead. Also assisting the team are Barbara Morgan, former NASA astronaut and Distinguished Educator in Residence at Boise State; Oxford, biological sciences; Liliana Mellor, post doctoral assistant in biology; Matt Dolan, electrical engineering graduate student who is Boise State’s first Microgravity Fellow; and Lindsey Catlin, a member of the Microgravity 2012 team who is now serving as a biology research assistant.
“They have really demonstrated the ability to work together as a multi-disciplinary team,” Barney Smith said. “We knew they had put together a high-quality proposal, but the competition was higher than ever this year.”
The team has been working for nearly a year putting together their plan. In addition to experimentation prep, equipment design and ground experiments this spring, they also will be fundraising to pay for the trip to Houston.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” Baughman said. “As a business major, I think the greatest aspect is that I get to collaborate with scientists from different fields and we all bring diverse perspectives to the table. We get to take what we learn in class and directly apply it in much more depth. That is the kind of real world experience that sets the student experience apart.”
Student team members include:
- Nic Baughman, senior, from Fruitland, business management major with entrepreneurship emphasis, chemistry minor
- Travis Baker, senior, from Fruitland, biology major with human emphasis
- Kellen Mather, senior, from Boise, biology major with human emphasis
- Tara Smith, junior, from Boise, biology, secondary education major
- Daniel Lambert, junior, from Applegate, Ore., computer science major, applied mathematics minor
- James Pelton, junior, from Boise, computer science major
- Landon Nye, senior, from Boise, mechanical engineering major
- Toby Grant, sophomore, from Nampa, mechanical engineering major
- Kevin Warburton, sophomore, from Idaho Falls, mechanical engineering major, biomedical engineering minor
- Shaun Millard, sophomore, from Boise, biology major with human emphasis
- Libby Stewart, freshman, from Gladstone, Ore., biology major with human emphasis
- Ashley Kelley, junior, from Boise, elementary education major
The experience during Flight Week includes hands-on experimental research and interaction with some of the world’s top technical minds at NASA. The students also will experience weightlessness when they test their experiment onboard the “Weightless Wonder.” The aircraft flies extreme parabolic maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, simulating hyper gravity and microgravity from two times the force on Earth to what someone would feel walking on the moon and floating in space. For more information about the program, visit http://reducedgravity.jsc.nasa.gov/.
To learn more about Boise State’s Microgravity experience, visit a student blog at http://boisestatemicrogravity2012.blogspot.com.