Looking beyond the tooth: WVU studies impact of social support on kids’ oral health

Limiting sugary drinks and insisting on regular toothbrushing can prevent tooth decay in kids. Maybe providing their mothers with social support can, too. A study by Daniel McNeil, a WVU School of Dentistry researcher, suggests children may be less likely to have a lot of cavities if their mothers have someone to talk to about their problems.

WVU researcher finds link between deprivation and rural suicide rates

This is National Suicide Prevention Week, and John Campo—the chief behavior wellness officer at West Virginia University—is examining trends in suicide rates to make suicide prevention more effective. His recent findings suggest that rural residents may be especially vulnerable to suicide when they face economic challenges.

WVU researchers to spearhead collaborative opioid treatment program in rural counties

West Virginia University’s expertise on combating the opioid epidemic will be utilized in a federally-funded program targeting seven rural West Virginia counties. The project, supported by a $1 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services award, aims to strengthen opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services in Calhoun, Gilmer, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Jackson and Tyler counties.

WVU researcher studies differences in the immune systems of men and women

Females are less susceptible to infection but are 10 times more likely than males to develop an autoimmune disorder, such as hypothyroidism or rheumatoid arthritis. The female immune system is “a double-edged sword” in that way, said Jennifer Franko, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

Using bacteria from hot springs, WVU biochemist studies RNA splicing in humans

About 70 percent of the human genome doesn’t code for anything. When it’s transcribed to RNA—the instructions our cells follow when they make proteins—most of the message doesn’t contain any useful information. As West Virginia University researcher Aaron Robart put it, it’s “junk DNA.”

WVU researchers use telehealth to head off hospitalizations and ER visits

West Virginia University researcher Steve Davis is piloting an intervention program that uses telehealth to connect rural West Virginians with nurses who can help them manage—and even prevent—conditions like these. The program will focus on individuals being discharged from long-term care facilities as they transition to life back at home.

WVU researcher explores link between intercellular communication and incurable blindness

West Virginia University researcher Jianhai Du is investigating how the retina pigment epithelium turns proline—an amino acid—into fuel that the retina can easily burn. Using animal models and primary human cells, he and his team discovered that if the RPE can’t process proline properly, the retina is undernourished, and retinal degenerative diseases result. Their findings, which appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, may point to innovative treatments that make incurable blindness preventable.