A Quick Diagnosis  of Ebola

Alland lab quick diagnosis  of ebola


A rapid test to diagnose Ebola, as well as viruses causing symptoms similar to Ebola, would allow health workers to take the test to remote locations where the spread of Ebola has been especially rampant and diagnose patients where they live.

John Emerson

Researcher David Alland received a grant of nearly $640,000 from the National Institutes of Health to develop a rapid test to diagnose Ebola as well as other viruses that can cause symptoms similar to Ebola. Alland, a professor of medicine, associate dean for clinical research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and the principal investigator, says health workers would be able to take the test to remote locations where the spread of Ebola has been especially rampant and diagnose patients where they live.

The test could be used wherever electricity—including power from car batteries—is available, according to Alland, pointing out that a diagnosis would take far less time. Alland hopes to develop the test within the next 13 months, using genetic material from Ebola and other viruses that cannot cause or spread disease. The work in his laboratory will not involve the use  of live virus. — Rob Forman

Fighting Cancer

Understanding a cancer-causing protein better.

Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey will try to further uncover the role of a protein associated with lung cancer development and metastasis, thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer in men and women. An estimated 159,000 people in the United States, and nearly 4,000 in New Jersey alone, died in 2014 because of lung cancer.

An early study of the disease by researcher Sharon R. Pine and her colleagues identified the Sox9 protein as a key transcription factor that controls when genes are turned on and off—which could lead to the development of lung cancer metastasis. Sox9 is overproduced in many cancers, including those of the lung. Overproduction of Sox9 is regulated by two key cell-to-cell messaging pathways known as Notch and TGF-ß, making Sox9 a critical protein that carries out the malignant effects initiated by these signaling pathways. Pine and her colleagues aim to build on their earlier findings, elucidating how Sox9 acts as a convergence “hub” for multiple cancer pathways in lung cancer, including Notch and TGF-ß.

Detecting cancer earlier with new imaging.

A new imaging method under development at Rutgers could help physicians detect cancer and other diseases earlier, speeding treatment and reducing the need for invasive, time-consuming biopsies. The technique uses nanotechnology to reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions deep inside the body. It is showing promise in early tests by Rutgers researchers in the schools of engineering and pharmacy.

The Rutgers scientists, who published initial results of their work in Nature Communications, were awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health, to advance their research.

“Our new mode of fluorescent imaging aims not only to reveal diseases earlier, but also to learn more about the diseases before performing surgery,” said Prabhas Moghe, the lead researcher on the project and professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biochemical engineering. “I like to think of it as an optical biopsy." — Carl Blesch

The Best Kind of Reward

Rutgers recently received the BEST Award, a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that will show promising biomedical  sciences graduate trainees job opportunities in fields other than the traditional academic research career. The BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) Award for Rutgers, one of only seven institutions nationwide to receive the grant, will underwrite development of the Rutgers Interdisciplinary Job Opportunities for Biomedical Scientists (iJOBS) program, which will prepare doctoral students and postdoctoral scientists for a range of careers within the biomedical science and engineering fields. — Rob Forman and Carl Blesch

Crime Busters

Forensic experts in crime labs around the world could soon have a new tool to help them better analyze DNA evidence, thanks to the work of a Rutgers University–Camden computer scientist. Desmond Lun, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, is part of a collaborative research team that has been awarded a $1.7 million Army Research Office grant to create a software program based on a computational method for analyzing DNA evidence.

The research will hopefully lead to a way to more accurately analyze DNA evidence at a crime scene. When a forensic analyst takes a DNA sample from a human, the DNA from anyone in contact with the object is potentially in the sample. “It’s a big problem for crime labs,” Lun says. “Before forensic scientists can determine anything else about the evidence, they must first know how many people contributed to a DNA sample.” — Ed Moorhouse

A Worthwhile Bet

The Center for Gambling Studies, at the School of Social Work, was recently given $1.2 million to  conduct the first comprehensive investigation of online betting behavior in the United States. Funded by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the three-year project is in response to  a mandate from New Jersey governor Chris Christie to examine the gambling’s impact on problematic gambling behaviors. New Jersey recently became the third state in the United States to allow online gambling. The Center for Gambling Studies, created in 2007, is the nation’s only gambling research, policy, and training center in a school of social work. — Beth Salamon

A Sweet Partnership

Rutgers University–Newark and Nestlé Nutrition U.S. recently entered a partnership to promote nutrition, health, and wellness for expectant mothers and families with young children who live in the Newark Fairmount Promise Neigh­borhood. The six-module curriculum is based on a 2008 study that found children begin to develop unhealthy dietary patterns, mirroring older children and adults, as early as 12 to 24 months. The one-year collaboration, entitled First 1,000 Days: Early Childhood Nutrition Education Program, will provide training for program graduates to act as peer educators and deliver the material throughout the community. — Carla Capizzi

Center Adds to Its Mission

A Rutgers community health center that has dramatically improved care for public housing residents in Newark, New Jersey, will soon start providing mental health services to address a pressing need: helping people cope with the stress of living in poverty. Cindy Sickora GSN’86, SN’09, founder of Jordan and Harris Community Health Center and director of community programs at Rutgers School of Nursing, recently won a $1.5 million, three-year Health Resources and Services Administration grant to add mental health services to the center to help community residents combat depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. — Jeff Tolvin RC’72