Kent State Researchers net $1M in federal funding

Gemma Casadesus-Smith and Scott Sheridan individually received grants from NIH and NASA respectively

Kent State Researchers net more than $1 million in federal grants

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Two Kent State faculty in separate fields are responsible for netting over the past week more than $1 million in federal grants for their research projects.

On Wednesday, biology professor Dr. Gemma Casadesus-Smith received official notice of a three-year $444,000 grant from NIH’s National Institute on Aging to research the mechanisms associated with the benefits of Pramlintide — a synthetic hormone — in models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Late last week, Professor and acting Geography Chair Dr. Scott Sheridan was awarded a three-year $565,000 NASA grant to study climate change through models of water clarity in the Great Lakes.

 “These grants will contribute significantly to our goal of growing impactful research at Kent State,” said Research Vice President Paul DiCorleto. “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. Biology Professor Gemma Casadesus-Smith

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 allows for development of new drug variations that can more directly target specific problems.

For more on Gemma Casadesus-Smith’s work, visit

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. Geography Professor Scott Sheridan

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

In 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


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 04:23 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2023 03:19 PM