JBU Recieves Part of Biomedical Grant

Siloam Springs, Ark. (August 14, 2005) — *** Dr. Brian Greuel's ( associate professor of biology) research is focused on trying to understand how the myelin proteolipid protein gene is expressed at high levels in the brain and spinal cord, but not in other parts of the body. The protein encoded by this gene is a major component of the myelin sheath, which protects the axons of nerve cells and promotes efficient conduction of nerve impulses. Abnormal levels or forms of this protein lead to a number of neurodegenerative disorders and it is frequently the target of attack by the immune system in multiple sclerosis. If scientists and researchers can understand how expression of the proteolipid protein gene is controlled, they might be able to modulate its expression and thereby contribute to the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at repairing the damage done to the myelin sheath in these diseases.***

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (UAF), the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and seven partner institutions have received a five-year, $16.7 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand and improve biomedical research in Arkansas.

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a division of NIH, awarded the grant through its Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. This Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) award follows a four-year, $9.3 million grant funded in 2001 to create the Arkansas Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN).

The new INBRE grant is intended to enhance biomedical research through support of individual research projects, state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation and new programs in biomedical education. The funds will be shared among the lead institutions, UAMS, UAF and UALR, as well as seven partner institutions that include Arkansas State University, Hendrix College, John Brown University, Lyon College, Ouachita Baptist University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Central Arkansas.

“This grant is critical for continued development of biomedical research programs that will improve the lives of Arkansans since laboratory research is a vital link in finding new medical treatments,” said Lawrence E. Cornett, Ph.D., director of Arkansas INBRE and a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the UAMS College of Medicine. “Thanks to BRIN funding, we have helped to establish research programs that are conducting cutting-edge research in neuroscience and cancer biology through recruitment of highly-skilled and research-focused faculty and students to these institutions across the state.”

In the past four years, the BRIN funds allowed the lead and partner institutions to recruit 10 new faculty members with a specific research focus or biomedical expertise; award 85 faculty fellowships to support research activities; award 51 summer student fellowships to work in research labs at UAMS, UAF or UALR; and provided equipment grants to improve research infrastructure at the participating institutions.

The initial grant provided funds to enhance the Microarray Core Facility for genetic analysis in the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging; the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center Proteomics Core Facility and the UAF Center for Protein Structure and Function for protein analysis; and the UAMS Digital and Confocal Microscopy Laboratory to provide access to sophisticated microscopes for research purposes. At the same time, multimedia Access Grid Studio facilities with high-speed data connections were established at UAF, UAMS and ASU, joining an international network of such facilities that already included UALR.

In addition, the funds supported creation of a bioinformatics graduate program, jointly operated by UAMS and UALR. The program offers masters and doctoral degrees that train students to apply information science and biostatistical techniques in analyzing biological, health, medical and genetic data.

UAMS has served as the administrative core for the BRIN organization and will continue for the renamed INBRE.

“Our initial funding allowed us to build research infrastructure, recruit faculty and cultivate collaborations between our member institutions to create a foundation for biotechnology research and education in Arkansas,” Cornett said. “With this new funding, we now have the opportunity to build on that foundation by providing increased support for these facilities, research projects and education programs.”

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