New Hampshire Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) at Keene State College
Announcement: NH-INBRE research funding available for 2016-2017
Experience the Art of Biomedical Discovery
The New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biological Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) is a state-wide initiative led by the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire designed to develop a coordinated network of biomedical research and training. Specifically, it aims to:
- Nurture scientific, scholarly and administrative interactions
- Develop biomedical research infrastructure
- Create research opportunities for students and faculty
- Stimulate science and research culture
- Advance bioinformatics and genomics infrastructure, training and research activities
NH-INBRE is funded by NIH Grant Number P20GM103506 from the IDeA program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, and is a collaborative network of 2 year and 4 year colleges in the State of New Hampshire. The IDeA program builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research; faculty development; and infrastructure improvements. For more information about the INBRE activities around the state, visit nhinbre.org.
Here at Keene State College, NH-INBRE is supporting advances in scientific discovery and training the next generation of researchers in a number of ways:
• Research projects. In addition to addressing important scientific questions, these projects directly engage our undergraduates in the process of discovery, giving them valuable hands-on experience.
• Research training activities. This includes money for faculty members engaged in biomedical research to hire student research assistants both during the academic year and the summer, funds for research travel, and supplies. In many cases, students can spend a summer working on a research project alongside a faculty mentor, rather than seek other summer employment.
• Access to research resources. Additionally, through the NH-INBRE network, our faculty and students have access to colleagues, training, research instrumentation, and other research-related resources and experiences around the state.
To date, NH-INBRE has directly engaged 86 students by providing research and/or travel support.
NH-INBRE funded Research Projects at KSC
Advancement of a Novel Fatty Acid Synthase Inhibitor
Cancer cells have a significantly different metabolism than healthy cells and this has been the focus of many laboratories’ studies. Researchers have been looking for an answer to address the weakness in currently available fatty acid synthase (FASN) inhibitors that have failed in clinical tests for cancer due to anorexia and undesired weight loss of target patients. This research project advances a novel compound tagged as the most potent inhibitor known of the thioesterase domain of fatty acid synthase discovered through a high-throughput screening effort that started with over 360,000 compounds.
Dr. Baures’ project aims to develop a high value tool compound for investigating the inhibition of the multi-domain enzyme fatty acid synthase in cancer outcomes and a host of other metabolic disorders in animal models. The result of this project hopes to feed into his further research to develop the lead compound into a novel and effective clinical therapeutic for use in the treatment of cancer.
An Efficacy and Feasibility Study of a Hope-Centered Intervention for Adolescents
The adolescent years are an important time for building self-confidence, fine-tuning relationship skills, expanding coping strategies, and developing a sense of purpose in life. However, it is also a time when personal, social, and existential challenges may result in the first signs of a mental illness.
Over the past decade, Dr. Anthony Scioli has developed an integrative approach to understanding hope. Along with his theoretical work, Dr. Scioli has created a variety of hope assessment tools. Most recently he designed a multi-modal intervention to build hope using classic philosophical reflections, Cognitive-Behavioral Exercises, and structured meditations.
The overall aim of Dr. Scioli’s INBRE project is to evaluate his integrative intervention to instill fundamental (trait) hope in adolescents with symptoms of mild depression. This intervention will be developed and evaluated in the context of a training and research program designed to cultivate hope-oriented undergraduate scientist-practitioners.
The pilot data gathered from this research will be the first step towards developing formal, larger scale, clinical trials. The expected long- term impact will be to reduce the burden of mental illness and unhealthy lifestyles in the critical adolescent years by reducing hopelessness.
Behavioral and Cortical Effects of Computerized Language Training for Autism
Communication deficits in Autism have been emphasized in the most recent diagnostic manual (DSM-5), and this study focuses on prosody and pragmatic language deficits in Autism. Research studies have examined social communication impairments from a variety of perspectives and utilized a variety of tools. A neglected area of study has been the use of computer-based language training programs to improve social skills in individuals with Autism Spectrums Disorders (ASD). While other studies have examined non-verbal aspects of social communication such as eye gaze or facial expressions in ASD (Johnstone, et al, 2006), the present study will focus on the emotional, non-content aspects of communication expressed by voice. The current study focuses on use of an iPad assisted language feedback program (“Speechmatch”) designed to improve emotional expression or prosody in conversation. In addition, the neural basis of emotional prosody dysfunction in ASD will be explored through social comprehension and social attention subtests of a neuropsychological test.
The purpose of this project is twofold: 1. to assess the effectiveness of an iPad/computer based language training program on conversational speech in adolescents with Autism and 2. study the generalizability of this training program to real-life social conversation. This study continues the work in Dr. Welkowitz using computer based audio and visual (soundwave image) feedback regarding matching of various speech parameters, including volume, pitch and rhythm. The goal is to teach individuals with Autism to better “match” these non-content aspects of speech that are uttered by others in conversation. Such “matching” or vocal congruence is key to improved social performance.
Previously funded NH-INBRE Research Projects at KSC
The Effects of PAH Exposure on Early Development
Project Leader: Dr. Susan WhittemoreProfessor of Biology Dr. Susan Whittemore is leading a study of the effects of PAH exposure on early development. Phenanthrene, pyrene, fluoranthene, and benzo(a)-pyrene are common contaminants, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, deposited into soil, water, and air as a result of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing compounds.
Research students in the Whittemore lab are using the model organism the African Clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) to assess the impact of developmental PAH exposure on normal heart function. We use a variety of techniques to assess for cardiac effects including video recordings of beating hearts and quantitative gene expression analysis.
Light-Induced Pigment Cell Apoptosis
Project Leader: Dr. Jason Pellettieri
Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jason Pellettieri (shown middle with research students Emily Neverett and Brad Stubenhaus) is leading a study of the effects of intense visible light on pigment cells in planarians (Schmidtea mediterranea), aquatic flatworms with an amazing ability to regrow lost body parts. Preliminary data suggest that planarian pigment cells die when exposed to bright visible light for extended periods of time. Further research may have implications for human health and understanding disease mechanisms. For human health, a normal number of pigment cells are critical. Skin melanocytes, for example, normally provide protection from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but stimulate the growth of too many melanocytes, and you’re a candidate for melanoma.
Following his NH-INBRE supported project, Dr. Pellettieri was awarded an EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1445541) and an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA/R15) from the National Institutes of Health (R15GM107826). The EAGER program supports “potentially transformative research ideas or approaches,” and the R15 program supports meritorious health-related studies that engage undergraduates in top-quality research. Dr. Pellettieri and his research students will be investigating a possible novel mechanism for clearing dead or damaged cells from animal tissues, using the freshwater planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as a model organism.
The mentor for Dr. Pellettieri’s NH-INBRE project was David Mullins, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
Publications: Stubenhaus, B. and Pellettieri, J. Detection of Apoptotic Cells in Planarians by Whole-Mount TUNEL Staining. Methods in Molecular Biology (in press).
A Molecular Characterization of the Structure and Function of Aromatic Hydrocarbon Degrading Microbes Present in the Tidal Wetlands of the Great Bay Estuary.
Project Leader: Dr. Loren Launen, Keene State College
Project Collaborator: Dr. Sinéad Ní Chadhain (visiting scholar)
PAHs are a group of highly toxic pollutants produced whenever fossil fuels are burned. They are released into the atmosphere, soils and surfaces and due to their chemical stability, the levels of PAHs in soils and sediments are increasing globally. The major means of PAH removal from salt marshes is through microbial degradation by indigenous microbial communities. However, our understanding of the structure and function of these microbial communities is limited. Drawing on a combination of Dr. Launen’s experience characterizing PAH degradation by salt marsh microbes, and collaborator Dr. Sinéad Ní Chadhain’s expertise in molecular microbiology, the results of this project will be useful in understanding what factors limit or enhance bioremediation of PAH-contaminated salt marshes.
The mentor for Dr. Launen’s pilot project was Dr. Stephen Jones, Research Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire Marine Program.
Contact the Office of Sponsored Projects and Research
Please visit our staff page for a directory of contacts for various sponsored projects and research functions.