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.

WVU researcher studies how nursing homes can accommodate obese residents

West Virginia University researcher Nicholas Castle is part of a team investigating how nursing homes can best meet obese residents’ healthcare needs. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality—a division of the Department of Health and Human Services—has awarded them nearly $2 million for the project.

WVU to partner with Pitt to study opioid use in Appalachia

West Virginians may gain better access to investigational approaches to managing and preventing substance abuse disorders related to the ongoing opioid epidemic as part of a collaborative $5.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

WVU researcher studies new treatment for pancreatic cancer

One reason pancreatic cancer is so lethal is its resistance to traditional chemotherapy. But West Virginia University surgical oncologist Brian Boone is exploring whether FOLFIRINOX—a new combination of cancer drugs—can improve outcomes in patients whose pancreatic cancer is “borderline resectable,” meaning that a tumor may be too close to a blood vessel to be removed safely.

WVU and NIOSH study ways to prevent lung disease in dentistry professionals

Inhaling dangerous particulates is a hazard of coal mining, mold remediation, sandblasting … and dentistry. Fotinos Panagakos, associate dean of research at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry, is collaborating with a team at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study how microscopic, airborne particulates and gases might be generated during dental procedures. NIOSH—a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is funding the project.

WVU study links exposure to chemicals found in household items to lower heart disease rates in diabetics

Kim Innes, of the WVU School of Public Health, and her colleagues recently discovered that greater exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances was associated with lower rates of existing coronary heart disease in adults with diabetes. PFAS, considered a public health threat by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are manufactured chemicals that were popularized by various industries in the 1940s because of their ability to repel oil and water.

WVU biostatistician studies link between microbiome and preterm birth

Pregnant African American women are more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, but they’re underrepresented in studies of preterm birth rates. Snehalata Huzurbazar, a biostatistics professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, is working to change that.