Biology department receives $1 million-plus grant for hamsters

Allison Remcheck

The biology department soon will become about $1.6 million richer because of a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Dave Glass, professor of biological sciences, has received the grant for 14 consecutive years. Over this time, he has accumulated $4,754,342 for Kent State.

This four-year experimental grant will be used for hamster research.

Glass monitors the circadian rhythms of the hamsters, which is the biological process that determines sleep and daily activity and patterns.

Even though hamsters “are 180 degrees” off the human sleep schedule, Glass said this research will be beneficial for humans.

“(The circadian rhythm) is very similar between (the hamsters) and us,” Glass said. “So we can use them as modules to understand how the human circadian rhythm works.”

With more information about the circadian rhythm, Glass said scientists will be able to help people with sleep problems, depression, jet lag and people who work the night shift.

“Those people who have a perturbed circadian life also have a much higher risk for depression, alcoholism and cardiovascular diseases,” Glass said.

He said the research will help with “understanding how these neurotransmitters work in the clock in the brain to control our rhythms.”

Amelie Cornil, a research technician at Kent State, works in the hamster labs performing microdialysis on hamster brains. She takes samples and measures the peptides.

“Once we measure the proteins and the peptides, we are able to understand better the details of the regulations of the circadian rhythms,” Cornil said.

Microdialysis with hamsters is a rare experiment, Cornil said.

“We are one of the only labs that are capable of doing that,” she said. “People are kind of impressed by microdialysis.”

She said the hamsters are not harmed. The lab is regulated by a vet, the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee on campus and the USDA.

“It’s amazing how when they wake up, they’re in great health and running around,” she said.

In order to receive a grant from the institute, one has to be one of the elite researchers.

“I did score really well – the sixth percentile,” Glass said.

Glass said a panel of 20 to 30 peers review and critique the applications. The panel scores the applications, and the scores are averaged, along with the scores from other panels.

The scores are then ranked from one to five, with one being the best and five being the worst. Glass received a 1.31.

Because of a lack of government funding, institutional grants are now more difficult to receive, Glass said. Four years ago, someone in the 18th to 20th percentile could receive a grant. Now the applicant must be in the top 10 to 12 percent.

The first time Glass applied, he wasn’t awarded with grant money.

“Actually, hardly anybody gets it on the first time,” he said.

But after 14 years of winning, Grant said it was still exciting to get the affirmative letter.

“Your whole body goes numb and it’s the coolest feeling in the whole world,” he said.

Contact science reporter Allison Remcheck at [email protected].