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Kent State Researchers Receive More Than $1 Million in Grants to Fight Alzheimer’s and Study Climate Change

Two Kent State University researchers from the College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded more than $1 million in federal grants for their research projects.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging awarded Gemma Casadesus-Smith, Ph.D., from Kent State’s Department of Biological Sciences, a three-year $444,000 grant to research the mechanisms associated with the benefits of Pramlintide — a synthetic hormone — in models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scott Sheridan, Ph.D., from Kent State’s Department of Geography, received a three-year $565,000 NASA grant to study climate change through models of water clarity in the Great Lakes.

“These two grants will contribute significantly to our goal of growing impactful research at Kent State,” said Paul DiCorleto, Ph.D., vice president for research and sponsored programs. “They demonstrate the recognition by their peers that the projects of these two faculty are of the highest quality and importance.”

 

About Gemma Casadesus-Smith’s Grant

Pramlintide is a synthesized version of a hormone called amylin. The hormone, which helps the body to process glucose, is found naturally in humans and other animals.

“In the last 10 years, many researchers have started viewing Alzheimer’s as type-3 diabetes, because the brain becomes bad at using glucose,” Casadesus-Smith said.

Amylin has been found to not only improve insulin sensitivity to help metabolize glucose, but also to have a direct impact upon cognition.

In diabetic patients, amylin tends to bind to itself and form plaques in the pancreas. Why this happens isn’t yet clear, but when amylin plaques form, the body no longer receives the benefits of the hormone.

Pramlintide is a form of amylin that does not bind itself and is used in conjunction with other diabetes treatments to improve insulin function in diabetic patients.

Introducing amylin either systemically or directly into the hippocampus has also shown direct benefits in Alzheimer’s models. The question is why, Casadesus-Smith said.

“We know this drug works, but what we don’t know is how it works, and that’s what this grant will allow us to study,” she said.

Knowing why a drug works is vital to determining dosage, setting standards for clinical trials to help determine why a trial succeeded or failed, and allowing for development of new drug variations that can more directly target specific problems.

 

About Scott Sheridan’s Grant

This is Sheridan’s second NASA grant in this series of research, following up on a 2013 grant that focused on water clarity in the Gulf Coast.

The research uses NASA’s satellite imaging systems to establish and study indicators of climate change.

Sheridan’s work in this area began six years ago when a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found his work on synoptic climatology through a Google search.

“What we’re studying are trends and variability in water cloudiness as it related to weather conditions and climate change and variability,” Sheridan said.

This grant will study similar trends in the Great Lakes. Sheridan said the conditions there mean the markers are different.

The Gulf Coast cloudiness means changes in chlorophyll and other biological elements that are generally seen as bad for marine life, like coral and other larger aquatic life. In the Great Lakes, it’s more complex, he said. While too much algae are a problem, like those that contaminated Toledo’s water supply in 2014, lake water that’s too clear may indicate zebra mussels have taken over the ecosystem.

The grant will be administered through Kent State, but will also pay for the expertise of a professor and post-doctoral student at the University of South Florida, who specialize deciphering the water clarity readings from satellite images.

For more on Sheridan’s research, visit www.kent.edu/geography/profile/scott-sheridan.

For more on Casadesus-Smith’s research, visit www.kent.edu/research/gemma-casadesus-smith.

For more on Kent State’s Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, visit www.kent.edu/research.

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Photo Caption:
Gemma Casadesus-Smith, from Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, receives a three-year $444,000 grant to research the mechanisms associated with the benefits of Pramlintide.

Photo Caption:
Scott Sheridan, from Kent State's Department of Geography, receives a three-year $565,000 NASA grant to study climate change through models of water clarity in the Great Lakes.

Media Contacts:
Dan Pompili dpompili@kent.edu 330-672-0731
Emily Vincent evincen2@kent.edu 330-672-8595