The battle against tropical diseases continues apace with major headway coming in the form of public-private funding collaborations that keep great researchers focused on developing effective new treatments:
University of Georgia researchers in collaboration with Anacor Pharmaceuticals have received a $5.3 million grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop a new drug for the treatment of Chagas disease, which they hope will be ready to enter clinical trials by 2016.
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which spreads via a subspecies of blood-feeding insects commonly known as "kissing bugs" because they tend to bite people on the face and lips. While the disease can progress slowly, chronic infection almost inevitably results in irreparable damage to heart and digestive system tissues.
Between 10 and 20 million people, mostly in Central and South America, are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, and Chagas disease kills more people in Latin America than any other infectious disease—including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. An increasing number of cases are also being documented outside the normal high transmission areas, including in the U.S. and Europe.
"The two drugs commonly used to treat Chagas disease, benznidazole and nifurtimox, require a long course of therapy and have a number of serious side effects," said Rick Tarleton, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Research Professor of Biological Sciences in the department of cellular biology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "This combined with the fact that many isolates of the parasite are resistant to these existing drugs emphasizes the tremendous need for new treatments."
A number of constraints, cost and side effects prime among them, prevent the most helpful drugs from getting to the people who need them the most. In the case of Chagas, that number of people is vast and this collaboration will have an effect on the lives of tens of milions. Fantastic work by Dr. Tarleton and his team. We wish them continued success in developing this new class of drug treatments focused on these devastating but often overlooked diseases.
A few notes on the many recent awards, honors and career accomplishments by Franklin College faculty and alumni:
Franklin alumnus, actor and singer Titus Burgess (AB ’01), former cast member on NBC’s 30 Rock , has a new show written by Tina Fey coming to Netflix soon. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” stars Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski.
David P. Landau, Distinguished Research Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Simulational Physics, was elected a Corresponding (Foreign) Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in December 2014. Prof. Landau has been actively involved with the Brazilian physics community since 1989 when he co-organized the first Brazilian satellite meeting on computational physics in Ouro Preto, Brazil.
LeAnne Howe, the Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature, received the inaugural MLA Prize for Studies in Native American Literatures, Cultures and Languages from the Modern Language Association of America. The award was presented to Howe, a faculty member in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences' English department, for her book Choctalking on Other Realities, Jan. 10 at the organization's annual meeting in Vancouver.
January in Slavery: An Oral Narrative of the South, written by Cal M. Logue, Meigs Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies, was honored in 2014 by two independent book publishers.
Associate professor of geography Hilda Kurtz received the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geograpbers (SEDAAG) Outstanding Service Award, and professor of geography Nik Heynen received the SEDAAG Research Honors Award, both at the recent SEDAAG meeting in Athens.
Dance department alumnus Matt Kent has been nominated for L.A. Critics Circle award for his choreography on the Pilobus Dance Theatre production of, "The Tempest."
Image: Actor and Franklin alumnus Titus Burgess.
Franklin College faculty play a vital public role by sharing their expertise in the media on a range of subjects. A sampling from just the past month:
On the Subject f 2014 having been the warmest year in modern history, Athletic Association Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences Marshall Shepherd was quoted widely, in outlets around the world – ABC News, Mother Nature Network, France 24, Think Progress, VICE News, Huffington Post, UPI, TIME, Washington Post, USA Today, and Vox.
"If you are younger than 29 years old, you haven't lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th-century average," noted Marshall Shepherd [VOX]
Shepherd was also called upon in national television media and print on the recent blizzard in the Northeast. AP, CBS, Evening News, MSNBC, Fox.com, New York Times
“Office workers have long stood up against sitting,” Stephen Mihm, associate professor of history, writes in an op-ed for Bloomberg News examining the evolution of the American work environment over the last two centuries
Blue glow in Hong Kong waters beautiful yet disturbing. “It’s extremely unfortunate that the mysterious and majestic blue hue is created by Noctiluca,” said Samantha Joye, Athletic Association Professor of Marine Sciences. Noctiluca is also referred to as Sea Sparkle, a harmful algal bloom, reports the Associated Press
Research on ex-felons in the U.S. by assistant professor of sociology Sarah Shannon was featured in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Geography professor Andrew Grunstein quoted in Climate Central on extreme temperatures at the Australian Open tennis tournament
Coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observances included an essay in TIME by Spalding Distinguished Professor of History James C. Cobb, “The Atlanta World of Dr. Martin Luther King”
Assistant professor of art Mark Abbe quoted in an AJC article about a King memorial for Georgia
Article on academic regrets in Times Higher Education (UK) quotes genetics professor Allen Moore
“Can an algorithm know you better than your Facebook friends?” asks an article in fivethirtyeight.com that quotes clinical psychologist Joshua Miller
How white flight destroyed the Mississippi Delta – article at MSN.com mentions Spalding Professor of History James C. Cobb
Cobb also spoke at the Washington & Lee University Founders Day commemorations, Washington & Lee News
Associate Press article on a lawsuit filed January 8 by the Obama Administration concerning fracking in the Gulf of Mexico quoted marine sciences professor Samantha Joye
The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts' Global Georgia Initiative brings author and human rights activist Loung Ung to campus for a public lecture on Thursday January 29 at 4 p.m. in the Larry Walker Room on the 4th floor of the Rusk Center. Her lecture is titled, "First They Killed My Father,"
Loung Ung was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed into her native city of Phnom Penh. Four years later, in one of the bloodiest episodes of the 20th century, some two million Cambodians – out of a population of seven million – had died at the hands of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Among the victims were both Loung’s parents, two sisters, and 20 other relatives. In 1980, Loung and her older brother Meng escaped to the United States.
Loung’s memoir, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, published in 2000, became a national bestseller and received the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association award for “Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature” in 2001. In 2013, she contributed as a writer to the film Girl Rising, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins as a writer, which explored the stories of nine girls from nine different countries suffering under human rights violations and the role of education in bringing positive change.
Recognized as one of the 100 Global Youth Leaders of Tomorrow, Ung's message of activism and peace is a welcome one on this campus - and in this country. Congratulations to the Willson Center on kicking off yet another great year of bringing distinguished guests to campus for important public events.
Through extraordinary imaging techniques and refined laboratory practices with a model organism, a UGA research team has published new evidence about the assembly of cell organelles in the human body:
Defective cilia can lead to a host of diseases and conditions in the human body—from rare, inherited bone malformations to blindness, male infertility, kidney disease and obesity.
a new study from University of Georgia cellular biologists shows the mechanism behind tubulin transport and its assembly into cilia, including the first video imagery of the process. The study was published in the Journal of Cell Biology.
"Cilia are found throughout the body, so defects in cilia formation affect cells that line airways, brain ventricles or the reproductive track," said the study's lead author Julie Craft, a sixth-year doctoral student at UGA. "One of the main causes of male infertility is the cilia won't function properly."
An interdisciplinary team from the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering collaborated on the research, which used total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to analyze moving protein particles inside the cilia of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga widely used as a model for cilia analysis.
A great collaboration between cell biology and engineering, and we salute the tenacity of Dr. Lechtreck, who has become a leading expert in a field that is only growing in importance to medical research. The progress on the fundamental understanding provided by his lab will have broad implications for treating a variety of conditions and diseases.