KSU researchers seek funding

Rex Santus

In an attempt to attract more research funding, researchers at Kent State are collaborating with the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Institute on two internally financed projects.

Each project will receive $100,000 in startup money. Researchers will submit grant proposals to outside funders like the National Science Foundation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and other federal and nonfederal agencies.

“The funding picture is difficult for everybody with the federal sequester and continuing resolutions that are happening with our federal budget,” said Grant McGimpsey, vice president for research and sponsored programs at Kent State.

One project is examining strokes. Wen-Hai Chou, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, said the first three hours after a stroke are crucial. Survival rates plummet after that mark.

More troubling, though, are white blood cells that attack the brain, mistaking it for bacteria, after strokes.

Chou is collaborating with professor Derek Damron, who also works in the Department of Biological Sciences at Kent State, and Keith McCrae of the Lerner Institute to find out why.

“We will try to find the target … to stop this injury,” Chou said. “Our strategy is to delete a gene in a mouse.”

Mice could be the key to understanding strokes, he said. The research team will remove a certain gene in mice that might be linked to the white-blood-cell attacks. Scientists will induce strokes in the animals, then study the results for insight.

If the strokes are found to have less severe consequences, it could be a breakthrough for stroke treatment intervention, he said.

The other project will study stem cells, which could one day lead to the regeneration of damaged body tissue, said Dr. George Muschler, who works in the biomedical engineering department at the Lerner Institute.

Muschler is collaborating with Chris Malcuit, assistant professor of bioengineering at Kent State, on the project. The partnership will expand the expertise of both institutions.

“I have expertise in measuring and harvesting and transplanting cells that come from connective tissues,” Muschler said. “Dr. Malcuit has expertise in looking for markers that have stem-cell properties.

“In the current environment, the best way to make the most competitive grant proposals is to gather enough expertise.”

Kent State’s research funding, compared with other public universities in Ohio, lands somewhere in the middle. The university’s $32.6 million in Fiscal Year 2012, for example, more than doubled Bowling Green State University’s $14.8 million.

But the University of Cincinnati accrued almost $230 million in research dollars in that same time period.

“We may be similar in size in terms of undergraduate enrollment,” McGimpsey said about the University of Cincinnati, “but we’re a very different institution. If you look at UC’s funding, a lot of it comes through their medical schools.”

Without its medical schools, the University of Cincinnati’s funding numbers would be “dwarfed,” McGimpsey said.

“We’re trying to make relationships with medical schools and research institutions,” McGimpsey said.

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].