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Home | Tag Archives: Ph.D. (page 2)

Tag Archives: Ph.D.

Plant Extract Shows Promise in Treating Pancreatic Cancer

A natural extract derived from India’s neem tree could potentially be used to treat pancreatic cancer, according to a new study in the journal Scientific Reports.

Biomedical scientists at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) tested nimbolide, a compound found in neem leaves, against pancreatic cancer in cell lines and

mice. The results revealed that nimbolide can stop pancreatic cancer’s growth and metastasis without harming normal, healthy cells.

“The promise nimbolide has shown is amazing, and the specificity of the treatment towards cancer cells over normal cells is very intriguing,” says Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., an associate professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s Center of Emphasis in Cancer.

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers with 94 percent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis. The cancer grows quickly and there are currently no effective treatments available, underscoring the importance of finding new therapies.

In the study, Lakshmanaswamy and his lab observed that nimbolide was able to reduce the migration and invasion capabilities of pancreatic cancer cells by 70 percent; meaning the cancerous cells did not become aggressive and spread. And that’s promising, the researchers say. In humans, this migration and invasion (metastasis) of pancreatic cancer to other regions of the body is the chief cause of mortality.

Nimbolide treatments also induced cancer cell death, causing the size and number of pancreatic cancer cell colonies to drop by 80 percent. “Nimbolide seems to attack pancreatic cancer from all angles,” Lakshmanaswamy says.

The TTUHSC El Paso researchers stress that one of the most important findings is that nimbolide did not harm healthy cells in both the in vitro and in vivo experiments.

AutophagyLead author and postdoctoral researcher Ramadevi Subramani, Ph.D., explains, “Many people in India actually eat neem and it doesn’t have harmful side effects, which suggests that using nimbolide for pancreatic cancer will not cause adverse effects like chemotherapy and radiation typically do.”

While the results are promising, Lakshmanaswamy says there’s still a long way to go before nimbolide can be used to treat pancreatic cancer in humans.

The TTUHSC El Paso team plans to continue researching the anticancer mechanisms behind the plant extract. They’ll also study various ways to administer nimbolide to maintain its potency against pancreatic cancer.

Additional TTUHSC El Paso collaborators who participated in the study were postdoctoral researchers Arunkumar Arumugam, Ph.D., Sushmita Nandy, Ph.D., and graduate students Fernando Camacho, Elizabeth Gonzalez, and Joshua Medel.

Time Lapse Video Nimbolide vs. Control

UTEP Professor shows hearing aids improve memory, speech

A recent study by Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso, found that hearing aids improve brain function in persons with hearing loss.

Hearing loss, if left untreated, can lead to serious emotional and social consequences, reduced job performance and diminished quality of life. Untreated hearing loss also can interfere with cognitive abilities because so much effort is put toward understanding speech.

“If you have some hearing impairment and you’re not using hearing aids, maybe you can figure out what the person has said, but that comes with a cost,” Desjardins explained. “You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources – your brain power – in order to figure out that message.”

As people age, basic cognitive skills – working memory, the ability to pay attention to a speaker in a noisy environment, or the ability to process information quickly – begin to decline.

Desjardins studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss who had previously never used hearing aids.

They took cognitive tests to measure their working memory, selective attention and processing speed abilities prior to and after using the hearing aids.

After two weeks of hearing aid use, tests revealed an increase in percent scores for recalling words in working memory and selective attention tests, and the processing speed at which participants selected the correct response was faster.

By the end of the study, participants had exhibited significant improvement in their cognitive function.

“Most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime,” said Desjardins, who joined UTEP in 2013. “Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids and they are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening. They may not be able to perform their job as well. Or if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”

Hearing loss affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans ages 45 to 64, but only about 20 percent of people who actually need hearing aids wear them, Desjardins said.

Desjardins’ new study focuses on the use of hearing aids by Hispanics. Research shows that only five percent of Mexican-Americans wear hearing aids. She has developed a survey to investigate their attitudes toward hearing loss. The survey will be conducted at health fairs in the community, including the Mexican Consulate in El Paso, Texas.

Desjardins also will begin work on another study that will look at older bilingual people and their ability to understand speech.

Desjardins earned both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in audiology from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

Author: UTEP

UTEP Computer Science Department develops award-winning interactive Agent System

University of Texas at El Paso Professor of Computer Science David Novick, Ph.D., and his students have developed a system for virtual agents and an immersive interactive application titled “Survival on Jungle Island.”

The UTEP AGENT system was created to study understanding between embodied conversational agents (ECAs) and humans, with emphasis on the effects of paralinguistic behaviors on engagement and rapport. Paralinguistics includes behaviors such as gesture, intonation and rhythm in speech, gaze and turn taking. The team’s research includes work on personality traits of humans and agents.

In “Survival on Jungle Island,” the ECA and a human interact, using speech and gesture, in a 40-60 minute adventure composed of 23 scenes. A study conducted with the adventure showed that rapport increases when the ECA asks the human to perform task-related gestures and then perceives a human performing these gestures.

In the jungle adventure, the system simulates a survival scenario in which the player interacts with the ECA, Adriana. In order to survive, both human and ECA must collaborate, cooperate and build a relationship.

The game begins with a cinematic sequence of a stormy shipwreck, providing background information as to how the person ended up in the survival situation. This scene is followed by another two scenes, which serve as an inconspicuous tutorial to avoid breaking the impression of an immersive reality.

The first scene contains personal questions that let the player and the ECA get to know each other, giving the impression that Adriana is processing what she hears. The second scene moves the story forward by providing an explanation as to how the ECA Adriana has survived in the jungle so far, and shows that she reacts to the player’s responses.

At the end of the scene, the story continues to develop depending on the player’s choice of what to do next.

Novick created the system with the help of his Advanced aGent ENgagement Team (AGENT), comprising postdoctoral fellow Ivan Gris; UTEP undergraduate and graduate students Adriana Camacho, Alex Rayon, Joel Quintana, Anuar Jauregui, Timothy Gonzales, Alfonso Peralta, Victoria Bravo, Jacqueline Brixey, Yahaira Reyes and Paola Gallardo; French Air Force Academy cadets Guillaume Adoneth and David Manuel; and El Paso high school students Brynne Blaugrund and Nick Farber.

To enable the interaction between humans and ECAs, the team combined the use of Unity 4, an animation software; a Microsoft Kinect motion sensing device; and the Windows Speech SDK software. The team also built “middleware,” which enabled more rapid development of applications including the jungle adventure.

The UTEP AGENT system recently received the award for Outstanding Demonstration at the 17th ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction held in November in Seattle, Washington.

“UTEP’s virtual-agent team now ranks among the best in the world,” Novick said. “We are both building exciting new virtual-agent technology and learning how to make agents more adaptable to humans.”

Author: UTEP

El Paso Pediatric Researcher’s cartoons are a hit on YouTube

A faculty member at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) has a popular YouTube channel that’s garnered more than 12 million views.

Pediatric researcher Marie Leiner, Ph.D., uses YouTube to share cartoons she creates for children. The cartoons, however, are not just for entertainment — they’re educational and specifically designed to solve social problems in children to instill good behavior.

“I started creating these cartoons because I was worried about how to reduce aggression among children,” Leiner says. “I wanted to create a way to help teachers and parents with behavioral problems.”

Each of Leiner’s episodes feature a little girl named Didi or a boy named Pepin that turn into superheroes when they see children behaving badly, like bullying, lying or stealing. The cartoons apply the social learning and moral disengagement theory to teach good behavior. They work by having children observe a particular behavior and its subsequent rewards or punishments.

Featured online in English and Spanish, the cartoons are most popular in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Peru. They are also very popular in the United States in Spanish. Children seem to be big fans of Didi and Pepin, Leiner says, and frequently contact her on YouTube with comments like “We want more cartoons! Please post more.”

Leiner has conducted presentations around the world to share her educational cartoons and books with elementary school teachers, too. Teachers are encouraged to play the episodes in class and then hold a class discussion about what was learned.

After using Leiner’s cartoons, many teachers contact Leiner to let her know how the lessons went. Comments include, “This is very good material. Thank you for posting.” And, “It’s a pleasure to use your videos in the classroom. They have helped us a lot and are very useful for educators.”

Leiner’s efforts have earned her more than 20,000 YouTube subscribers so far. The pediatric researcher serves as the cartoon’s producer, scriptwriter and voice of several characters, but receives assistance with the animation. The videos are part of a larger project that’s testing the effectiveness of a model of communication for children using a story format.

The videos were made possible with grants from Kohl’s and Workforce Solutions of the Upper Rio Grande.

Honorary Doctorate bestowed on Internal Medicine Professor

Jerzy Sarosiek, M.D., Ph.D., AGAF, FACG, professor of medicine and vice chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine was recently bestowed with an honorary doctorate (Doctor Honoris Causa) from his alma mater, the Medical University of Bialystok in Bialystok, Poland.

Traveling to Poland for the award, Dr. Sarosiek was honored for his innovative contributions to research in gastroenterology. For more than 30 years Dr. Sarosiek has collaborated with research teams from medical universities in Poland; mentoring and overseeing in his gastroenterology research laboratory many research fellows and physicians who subsequently received their philosophy degrees in Poland and advanced in their academic careers and still collaborate with Dr. Sarosiek on various projects.

Dr. Sarosiek graduated from the Medical University of Bialystok and while getting medical training at the University Hospital he also earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1975, and in 1986 earned a postdoctoral habilitation degree in medicine.

Dr. J. Sarosiek 2He continued postdoctoral training at New York Medical College, Gastroenterology Research Laboratory at Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, New York; at Research Center of University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; held positions at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at Kansas University School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas; and was appointed to TTUHSC El Paso in 2009.

He is the author or co-author of more than 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals and 18 book chapters; as well as patents related to research addressing the role of the balance between aggressive factors and protective mechanisms in health and disease of the alimentary tract, including colonization with Helicobacter pylori in collaboration with Barry Marshall, M.D., 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Dr. Sarosiek is a Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGAF) and the American College of Gastroenterology (FACG).

Since 1996, Dr. Sarosiek has been a permanent member of the Scientific Committee of the World Organization for Specialized Studies on Diseases of the Esophagus (OESO). Headquartered in Paris, France, this international assembly brings world leading specialists from across 19 disciplines to focus studying of the esophagus.

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