New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NH-INBRE) at Keene State College
Experience the art of biomedical discovery.
Over the past ten years, the NH-INBRE network has supported biomedical science research at Keene State. It has provided support for research on cancer, cholera, hope in young people, nutrition and arsenic toxicity, PTSD, and communication in people with autism, among other areas.
NH-INBRE has directly engaged nearly 200 students through employment in research labs and projects and funding travel to conferences. Our student researchers come from a variety of majors including biology, chemistry, public health, psychology, criminal justice/social sciences, human performance/movement sciences, environmental studies, computer science, sustainable product design and innovation, and economics. After graduation, many INBRE student researchers pursue master’s or PhD degrees or are employed in the biotech/medtech field.
More than 20 Keene State professors have received support for their labs and projects from NH-INBRE in the form of funding for student researchers, supplies and equipment, travel, training, data analysis, and bioinformatics and consultation services.
The New Hampshire IDeA Network of Biomedical 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 through an Institutional Development Award (IDeA), P20GM103506, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH, and is a collaborative network of 2-year and 4-year colleges in the State of New Hampshire. The NH-INBRE network is comprised of two “lead” research-intensive institutions, the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire, and the “partner” primarily undergraduate institutions: Colby-Sawyer College, Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH), Franklin Pierce University, Keene State College, New England College, Plymouth State University, and Saint Anselm College.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 during the academic year and the summer and 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. Student researchers also have opportunities to present their research findings at regional or national meetings and conferences or to co-author articles in peer-reviewed journals.
• 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.
NH-INBRE funded Research Projects at KSC
Development of Artificial Intelligence-based Remote Health Monitoring System
Project Leader: Meenalosini Vimal Cruz, Department of Computer Science, Keene State College
The brain receives emergency signals from the body early in a health crisis, even before the patient feels symptoms. Monitoring brain signals and predicting outcomes based on abnormal signals can help to avoid fatalities such as a heart attack or cardiac arrest. This technique can also help to localize a pain signal from an unconscious patient. The overall objective of this project is to utilize advancements in Machine Learning/Deep Learning and Brain-Computer Interface techniques to analyze the features of brain EEG signals along with vital health parameters in order to detect an abnormality in a patient’s health condition early on and localize the affected area, well before the patient experiences symptoms. This method of injury or pain localization could help to save thousands of lives under critical health conditions.
Role of Nutritional Status on Arsenic Susceptibility
Project Leader: Priyanka Roy Chowdhury, Department of Biology, Keene State College
Arsenic compounds are prevalent environmental toxicants that are also potent carcinogenic agents to humans. The metabolism of arsenic has an important role in its toxicity and there exists striking variation in individual susceptibility to arsenic-induced health effects. Nutrition is also related to arsenic toxicity, where people with poor nutrition are particularly vulnerable, although the underlying mechanism of this interaction is not well understood.
Dr. Roy Chowdhury’s research focuses on understanding the cellular, biochemical and metabolic pathways that are involved in driving the observed arsenic-nutrition interaction. She will be studying these pathways under different nutritional and arsenic exposures in the popular Ecotox model organism Daphnia. Such mechanism-based inquiries will allow for better risk-management strategies for not only arsenic related health effects but also in other heavy-metal induced toxicity.
Other research supported by NH-INBRE at KSC
Establishing Bio-Ink Design Parameters for Extrusion-Based Bioprinting Processes
Dr. MD Ahasan Habib
Causal Factors Impacting Drug Overdose Deaths in Rural Populations: A Comparison of Northern New England and the Appalachia Highlands
Dr. Angela Barlow and Dr. Saran Ghatak
Impact of biofuels particles on cytotoxicity, oxidative stress and CYP1A1 upregulation
Dr. Nora Traviss
Brain-Computer Interface Assisted Healthcare System design and MRI Brain Image analysis using Deep Learning Techniques
Computer-Aided Diagnosis of Brain tumor through MRI images using advanced Deep Learning and Image Processing techniques
Dr. Meenalosini Vimal Cruz
Web-Based Data Assessment of an Acoustic Feedback Software for Autism
Dr. Lawrence Welkowitz and Dr. Karen Jennings
Exploring the Benefits of Informal Care Networks as Strategies for Self-care among Incarcerated Women with Histories of Trauma
Dr. Angela Barlow
Characterization of the Microbiome and Mycobiome of Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) Children and Their Mothers
Dr. Jeanelle Boyer
The Influence of Whole Body Vibration on Commercial Driver Fatigue in the Solid Waste Disposal Industry
Design, Synthesis and Evaluation of New Galantamine Derivatives as Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors
Dr. Jerry Jasinski
Using neighborhood based air monitoring and social media to encourage voluntary reduction in residential wood burning to improve air quality in Keene, NH
Dr. Nora Traviss & Dr. Thomas Webler
Previously funded NH-INBRE Research Projects at KSC
These projects continue to receive support through the NH-INBRE Research Support & Training Grant (RSTG)
Advancement of a Novel Fatty Acid Synthase Inhibitor
Cancer cells have a significantly different metabolism than healthy cells, including an increased need for fatty acids that are made directly in the cell. Previous efforts to use inhibitors of fatty acid synthesis in animal models of cancer led to undesired weight loss, preventing the advancement of the inhibitors in clinical studies. This research project developed an inhibitor of the thioesterase domain of fatty acid synthase (FASN) that could be tested in animal models of breast cancer to determine if it mitigates this side effect.
This project provides the research community 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 compound will also represent a lead compound for development into a novel and effective clinical therapeutic for use in the treatment of cancer.
Neural Mechanisms of Emotional Vigilance in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Hypervigilance is one of the diagnostic symptoms in PTSD and individuals with PTSD often exhibit biases toward threatening cues. Recent clinical trials have shown that training anxious individuals to overcome attentional biases can improve symptoms of anxiety. Many psychiatric conditions are characterized by behavioral dysfunctional in attention-emotion interactions, and some conditions benefit from treatment strategies associated with emotional cueing of attention. Dr. Fichtenholtz’s study combined Electroencephalogram (EEG) and Event-Related Potential (ERP) techniques with eye tracking and simple choice response latency measures to study this interaction in healthy adult participants and trauma-exposed individuals with and without PTSD. This integrative methodological approach has the potential to afford new understanding of how overt and covert attentional systems are biased by emotional value, which may inform novel approaches to intervention.
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 mental illness.
Dr. Scioli’s INBRE project evaluated his integrative intervention to instill fundamental (trait) hope in adolescents with symptoms of mild depression. This intervention was 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. By reducing hopelessness, the project expects to reduce the burden of mental illness and unhealthy lifestyles in the critical adolescent years.
Behavioral and Cortical Effects of Computerized Language Training for Autism
Our three-year study focused on improving social communication skills in adolescents with diagnosed Autism. According to the CDC, Autism prevalence has climbed to 1.7% or 1 in 59 children and computer-based language communication deficits have largely been a neglected area of study. Additionally, the use of computer-based language training programs to improve social skills in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) have largely been unexplored. This study demonstrated the viability of an iPad-based software application that provided visual feedback for “matching” of acoustical patterns in speech. Preliminary data suggest that such a program is easy to implement and produces improvement in several areas of the noncontent aspects of conversational speech.
In addition to fMRI studies of the speechmatch program at Dartmouth Medical Center, Dr. Welkowitz (along with Dr. Robert Taub) has received further funding through the NIH-funded Treat Center to further develop the software and to build cloud-based data analytic systems. Welkowitz and Taub have also submitted an SBIR grant to NIH’s NIDCD.
The Effects of PAH Exposure on Early Development
Project Leader: Dr. Susan Whittemore
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 were using the model organism the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) to assess the impact of developmental PAH exposure on normal heart function. They used 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
Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jason Pellettieri 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 severed 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), an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA/R15) from the National Institutes of Health (R15GM107826), and an NIH R15 grant (R15GM126456). 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 are investigating a possible novel mechanism for clearing dead or damaged cells from animal tissues and the molecular biology of regeneration using the planarian 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.
A Molecular Characterization of the Structure and Function of Petroleum 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)
Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Loren Launen led a study of petroleum hydrocarbon degradation in Great Bay Estuary salt marshes.
Petroleum hydrocarbons 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 petroleum hydrocarbons in soils and sediments are increasing globally. The major means of petroleum hydrocarbons 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 petroleum hydrocarbons degradation by salt marsh microbes, and collaborator Dr. Ní Chadhain’s expertise in molecular microbiology, the results of this project will be useful in understanding what factors limit or enhance bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons-contaminated salt marshes.
The mentor for Dr. Launen’s pilot project was Dr. Stephen Jones, Research Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire Marine Program.
For more information or questions about the NH-INBRE program in Keene State College,
contact Lynn Arnold firstname.lastname@example.org, Program Manager