Founded in 1868, WSU consists of 13 schools and colleges offering more than 380 programs to nearly 28,000 graduate and undergraduate students. It is currently Michigan’s third-largest university and one of the 100 largest universities in the United States.
The WSU main campus encompasses 203 acres (82 ha) linking more than 100 education and research buildings in the heart of Detroit. It also has six extension centers in the metro Detroit area providing access to a limited selection of courses. The institution is a notable engine in metro Detroit’s educational, cultural and economic landscape, as manifested through efforts such as its thriving research and technology park and hosting of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival.
TSRI Study Points Way to Better Vaccines and New Autoimmune Therapies
A new international collaboration involving scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) opens a door to influencing the immune system, which would be useful to boost the effectiveness of vaccines or to counter autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
The research, published August 1, 2016, in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, focused on a molecule called microRNA-155 (miR-155), a key player in the immune system’s production of disease-fighting antibodies.
“It’s very exciting to see exactly how this molecule works in the body,” said TSRI Associate Professor Changchun Xiao, who co-led the study with Professor Wen-Hsien Liu of Xiamen University in Fuijan province, China.
An Immune System Tango
Our cells rely on molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) as a sort of “dimmer switches” to carefully regulate protein levels and combat disease.
“People know miRNAs are involved in immune response, but they don’t know which miRNAs and how exactly,” explained TSRI Research Associate Zhe Huang, study co-first author with Liu and Seung Goo Kang of TSRI and Kangwon National University.
In the new study, the researchers focused on the roles of miRNAs during the critical period when the immune system first detects “invaders” such as viruses or bacteria. At this time, cells called T follicular helpers proliferate and migrate to a different area of the lymph organs to interact with B cells.
“They do a sort of tango,” said Xiao.
This interaction prompts B cells to mature and produce effective antibodies, eventually offering long-term protection against infection.
“The next time you encounter that virus, for example, the body can respond quickly,” said Xiao.
Identifying a Dancer
Using a technique called deep sequencing, the team identified miR-155 as a potential part of this process. Studies in mouse models suggested that miR-155 works by repressing a protein called Peli1. This leaves a molecule called c-Rel free to jump in and promote normal T cell proliferation.
This finding could help scientists improve current vaccines. While vaccines are life-saving, some vaccines wear off after a decade or only cover around 80 percent of those vaccinated.
“If you could increase T cell proliferation using a molecule that mimics miR-155, maybe you could boost that to 90 to 95 percent,” said Xiao. He also sees potential for using miR-155 to help in creating longer-lasting vaccines.
The research may also apply to treating autoimmune diseases, which occur when antibodies mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues. Xiao and his colleagues think an mRNA inhibitor could dial back miR-155’s response when T cell proliferation and antibody production is in overdrive.
For the next stage of this research, Xiao plans to collaborate with scientists on the Florida campus of TSRI to test possible miRNA inhibitors against autoimmune disease.
A plastic derived from cornstarch combined with a volcanic ash compound, Montmorillonite clay, could help heal the bones of hundreds of thousands of patients with orthopedic injuries who need bone replacement after tumor removal, spinal fusion surgery or fracture repair.
Researchers at Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak will publish their preclinical findings in the journal Nanomedicine. Kevin Baker, Ph.D., director, Beaumont Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, worked on the study with Rangaramanujam Kannan, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins, formerly with Wayne State University.Traditional bone graft procedures require surgeons to remove bone from another part of the patient’s body to heal the affected area and encourage new bone growth. Harvesting a patient’s bone can result in complications at the harvest site. Some surgeons also use bone donated from cadavers. However, there is a limited supply of donor bones available.
Using a synthetic material will likely lead to a reduction in the surgery complication rate. The patient will only need to heal from one surgery because harvesting bone would not be necessary.
The goal is to use the material without any additional permanent hardware placed in a patient’s body. Current procedures often require a metal or non-resorbable plastic implant because traditional bone grafts are not strong enough without the added support.
“This improves outcomes for the patient because internal hardware can pose a challenge with respect to being a potential site for infection, and can complicate MRI and CT imaging tests. In addition, from the surgeon’s perspective, not having to worry about a large piece of metal or hard plastic in the area may make future procedures easier,” Baker says.
The biodegradable polymer, reinforced with Montmorillonite clay nanoparticles for strength, dissolves in the body within 18 months. As the material dissolves, new bone formation takes its place. The material is created by injecting the polymer-clay mixture with carbon dioxide, resulting in an implant that looks like foam, but is rigid like bone. Researchers designed the bone material to be porous, just like actual human bone.
The material is still in the research phase and likely won’t be available to patients for several years.
A Wayne State University researcher understands that the three most important things about real estate also apply to small ground robotic vehicles: location, location, location.
In a paper recently published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, Weisong Shi, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, describes his development of a technique called LOBOT that provides accurate, real-time, 3-D positions in both indoor and outdoor environments. The project was supported in part by the Wayne State Career Development Chair award, which gives Shi an opportunity to explore other areas after receiving tenure at WSU.
Scientists believe small ground robotic vehicles have great potential for use in situations that are either uncomfortable or too tedious for humans. For example, a robot may become part of industrial operations, assist senior citizens or serve as a tour guide for an exhibition center. Keeping a robot as small as possible enables it to move through narrow passageways, such as tunnels.
To complete such missions, a robotic vehicle often must obtain accurate localization in real time. But because frequent calibration or management of external facilities is difficult or impossible, a completely integrated self-positioning system is ideal. In addition, that system should work indoors or outdoors without human calibration or management and cost as little as possible.
In the paper titled “LOBOT: Low-Cost, Self-Contained Localization of Small-Sized Ground Robotic Vehicles,” Shi and lead author Guoxing Zhan, one of his former graduate students, describe their technique, which combines a GPS receiver, local relative positioning based on a 3-D accelerometer, a magnetic field sensor and several motor rotation sensors.
The researchers noted that IEEE Transactions, the leading journal in the field, prominently featured their paper in its April 2013 issue. They are proud that their work was in progress before President Barack Obama’s June 2011 announcement of the National Robotics Initiative, which seeks to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people.
Shi’s technique combines elements of common localization schemes for ground robotic vehicles, noting that each of those schemes has limitations. One scheme, using GPS alone, requires a lot of power. Another, radio-based positioning, requires proper calibration, a friendly environment and a set of external devices to generate or receive radio signals.
A third scheme, the use of vision techniques, relies heavily on recognition of objects or shapes and often has restricted spatial and visual requirements. Additionally, those objects and shapes must be captured and loaded into a computer which, like GPS, requires a lot of power.
A fourth scheme, inertial sensors, is part of the LOBOT design. Inertial sensors often are used to detect movement, but unlike radio- or vision-based techniques, operate independently of external environmental features and need no external reference. However, previous methods of maintaining their accuracy have resulted in high cost and calibration difficulty.
LOBOT uses a hybrid approach that localizes robotic vehicles with infrequent GPS use, a 3-D version of the accelerometer used in other inertial sensor systems and several motor rotation sensors — all installed on the robotic vehicle. All of the components are commercially available, with some costing as little as $20.
Researchers have generated functional hepatocytes from human stem cells, transplanted them into mice with acute liver injury, and shown the ability of these stem-cell derived human liver cells to function normally and increase survival of the treated animals.
This promising advance in the development of cell-based therapies to treat liver failure resulting from injury or disease relied on the development of scalable, reproducible methods to produce stem cell-derived hepatocytes in bioreactors, as described in an article in Stem Cells and Development, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Stem Cells and Development website.
Massoud Vosough and coauthors demonstrate a large-scale, integrated manufacturing strategy for generating functional hepatocytes in a single suspension culture grown in a scalable stirred bioreactor. In the article “Generation of Functional Hepatocyte-Like Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells in a Scalable Suspension Culture” the authors describe the method used for scale-up, differentiation of the pluripotent stem cells into liver cells, and characterization and purification of the hepatocytes based on their physiological properties and the expression of liver cell biomarkers.
David C. Hay, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, U.K., comments on the importance of Vosough et al.’s contribution to the scientific literature in his editorial in Stem Cells and Development entitled “Rapid and Scalable Human Stem Cell Differentiation: Now in 3D.” The researchers “developed a system for mass manufacture of stem cell derived hepatocytes in numbers that would be useful for clinical application,” creating possibilities for future “immune matched cell based therapies,” says Hay. Such approaches could be used to correct mutated genes in stem cell populations prior to differentiation and transplantation, he adds.
“The elephant in the room for stem cell therapy rarely even acknowledged let alone addressed in the literature is that of scalable production of cells for translational application,” says Editor-in-Chief Graham C. Parker, PhD, research professor, Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Baharvand’s groups’ landmark publication not only demonstrates but exquisitely describes the methodology required to scale up stem cell populations for clinical application with a rigor to satisfy necessary manufacturing standards.”
Scientists have started applying lessons from how ants operate to the corporate world. The result: fewer meetings, more time working, and tasks completed much more quickly.
Ants may free us from that scourge of modern society: the meeting (and maybe even the overbearing boss).
If that sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, know that scientists are serious about recruiting ants to improve human collaboration. Ants pull off remarkable feats of collective cognition and action with no one (not even the queen) running the show. Despite possessing tiny brains, the world’s roughly 11,000 species of ants regularly construct massive colonies, share food, repel intruders, and formulate efficient foraging strategies without the help of a single memo or meeting.
The secret is uncoordinated decision making. Ants perceive and react to the world through the lens of the colonies’ thousands (or millions) of tiny interactions, rather than a single agent’s directions. This collective intelligence is far more efficient and effective than any individual. In a way, ant colonies act as an enormous brain: Each individual is analagous to a neuron in the human brain. Intelligence is embedded in the interaction of the many parts.
Ant algorithms (PDF) are already a thriving industry in computer science, artificial intelligence, and robotics. But human groups tackling complex problems also face dilemmas similar to ants: how to make efficient, accurate decisions among many compatriots. So scientists at Wayne State University drafted ant-inspired algorithms to find the optimal balance between the time spent on planning and execution when moving a product from concept to market. Kai Yang, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at Wayne State, used mathematical models of ant behavior–“non-discrete ant colony optimization” in the scientific lingo–to model the creation of a mobile phone product on time with the highest levels of quality.
“You need to find the sweet spot of ‘right amount of communication, at right time,’ and ‘good quality’ to make the whole work together seamlessly,” says Yang by email. Corporate teams waste significant time coordinating among different groups and specialities. Managers must always decide (usually sub-optimally) on the tradeoff between time spent in meetings (potentially wasting time) and building something (potentially locking in mistakes). Yang and his team applied how information is transferred among ants using long-term pheromone trails (chemical messages) to disparate project teams. The goal: to minimize the hypothetical product development cycle time at the lowest possible cost.