MU Discoveries: Expanding the Frontiers of Knowledge
New discoveries, research initiatives and public service projects top the list of MU achievements in FY 2006.
In March, a research team including MU reproductive biologist Randy Prather announced the birth of a litter of transgenic swine engineered to produce heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a breakthrough that made headlines across the globe.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, was the work of a group of scientists assembled by Yifan Dai of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. It included scientists from Prather's group at MU's National Swine Resource and Research Center, the laboratory of Jing X. Kang at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the laboratories of Dai and Rhobert Evans at the University of Pittsburgh. The research was jointly funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and an unrestricted gift to the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute from the Robert E. Eberly Program for Transplant Innovation.
The scientists say pigs with omega-3 fatty acids will provide geneticists with a new swine research model, one that may allow them to better determine how omega-3 fatty acids boost cardiovascular function in humans. As a food source, the omega-3 producing swine may also have important nutritional benefits.
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March also saw an award of more than $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for a unique collaboration among researchers at MU's College of Education and the Moberly, Mo., public school system. The grant will fund establishment of the Moberly Community Coalition for Children and Families Project, a project that aims to help researchers, educators, social service agency workers, mental health professionals, and parents to either prevent or more quickly identify mental illnesses in schoolchildren.
In June, an MU research engineer landed a major contract from the U.S. Army to develop battlefield nanotechnology applications. Shubhra Gangopadhyay, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU, received a $4.79-million contract to explore how nanotechnology might enhance microchip-based devices in various weapons systems.
The objective is to "use microchip technology to make smaller and better-controlled warheads and munitions systems," says Gangopadhyay, who also heads MU's International Center for Nano/Micro Systems and Nanotechnology. These projects are meant to have an immediate benefit for American service personnel, she adds. "This isn't basic research, and we have to quickly deliver a working product. We have to make sure whatever research we are doing can be used by the soldier."
In the fall, faculty researchers from MU Extension received a five-year $2.4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help young, low-income couples develop stronger, more stable relationships. They will use the federal grant to develop and evaluate a curriculum focused on teaching young parents skills that make relationships healthy.
"Our goal is to have strong parenting and communication between the parents for the benefit of the child," says Kim Allen, who serves as co-director of the project funded by the grant.