IUPUI Biologists Are Growing ‘mini retinas’ to Better Understand Connection Between Eye and Brain

INDIANAPOLIS — IUPUI biologists are growing ‘mini retinas’ in the lab from stem cells to mimic the growth of the human retina. The researchers hope to use the research to restore sight when critical connections between the eye and the brain are damaged. These models also allow the researchers to better understand how cells in the retina develop and are organized. These results are published online in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research journal.

The lab-created mini retinas, called retinal organoids, are collections of cells that grow in a manner similar to how the retina develops in the body. The retinal organoids are created in an IUPUI biology department research lab using human pluripotent stem cells, or hPSCs, which can be derived from adult skin cells.

Axons of retinal ganglion cells, shown in red, derived from human pluripotent stem cells bundle together and navigate their environment using growth cones, shown in green, similar to human development of the optic nerve. Photo courtesy of the School of Science

Jason Meyer, an associate professor of biology in the School of Science at IUPUI, is using the retinal organoids to better understand retinal ganglion cells, or RGCs, which provide the connection between the eye and the brain. These cells project long axons to transmit visual information. When that connection is disturbed, a person loses sight.

“In the past couple of years, retinal organoids have become a focus in the research community,” Meyer said. “However, there hasn’t really been any emphasis on those retinal ganglion cells within these mini retinas, the retinal organoids, so this study is not only looking at how the retinal organoids develop and organize but also exploring the long axons they need in order to connect with the brain.”

RGCs are the cells primarily damaged by glaucoma, a disease that affects about 70 million people worldwide and is the second leading cause of blindness.

“There’s a lot we have to understand about these cells outside of the body before we can put them into humans for transplants and treating those diseases,” said Clarisse Fligor, a biology graduate researcher and first author on the paper. “This research is looking at ways that we can encourage growth of these cells for possible cell-replacement therapies to treat these different injuries or diseases.”

Fligor looked through different growth factors involved in RGC development and found that a protein called Netrin-1 significantly increased the outgrowth of axons from these cells.

“This protein is not expressed long term; it is most prominently during early human development,” Meyer said. “Once the retina is established, it’s not as available, which is why retinal ganglion cells usually can’t fix themselves. Strategies so far to replace retinal ganglion cells by transplanting new cells have not been able to restore those connections because the body itself doesn’t produce these signals.”

The researchers hope this study is an important step toward using lab-grown cells for cell-replacement purposes.

“If we want to be able to use these cells for therapies and encourage the proper wiring of these cells within the rest of the nervous system, perhaps we need to take a page out of the playbook of human development and try to re-create some of those features ordinarily found during early human development,” Meyer said.

“Three-Dimensional Retinal Organoids Facilitate the Investigation of Retinal Ganglion Cell Development, Organization and Neurite Outgrowth from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells”is published online in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research journal.

In addition to Fligor and Meyer, IUPUI and Indiana University authors on the study are Kirstin B. Langer, Akshayalakshmi Sridhar, Priya K. Shields, Michael C. Edler, Sarah K. Ohlemacher and Chi Zhang. Other authors are Daniel M. Suter and Yuan Ren of Purdue University and Valentin M. Sluch and Donald J. Zack of Johns Hopkins University.

The study was supported in part by the National Eye Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the Indiana Department of Health Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund.

About the School of Science at IUPUI

The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, computational, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The school is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana’s effort to expand and diversify its economy.

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‘Frankenstein’ Is On The Move at 200

British history professor Jason Kelly holds a copy of “Frankenstein,” which was first published 200 years ago. Kelly and his students created A Frankenstein Atlas, a website that breaks down all 331 geographic points associated with the 200-year-old book and its creation. Photo by Tim Brouk, Indiana University

First published on Jan. 1, 1818, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and its undead monster have been captivating international audiences for two centuries.

The tale has been made into almost 100 movies around the planet — from Boris Karloff’s 1931 classic to 2017’s “Mary Shelley,” which depicted the trailblazing creation of the story in the early 19th century.

With so many reiterations and takes on the book, Jason M. Kelly, an associate professor of British history and director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, and his spring 2018 “Machines and the Age of Invention” class took a deep read of the book, poring over the many locations visited — or even just mentioned in passing — by Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the numerous other characters. From this, Kelly and his students constructed A Frankenstein Atlas, a living research project that maps 331 locations that reside in the book or were visited by Shelley during the writing process.

“It’s a slowly growing site to learn about ‘Frankenstein’ and explore the many facets of the book,” Kelly said. “In class, it allowed us to think about what kinds of historical sources and methods we use in the context of literary analysis.”

Kelly and his students are still publishing new data to A Frankenstein Atlas. Fueled by Github, other researchers and classes will be able to add new “branches” to the work, allowing the atlas — and the legacy of “Frankenstein” — to grow for another 200 years.

Question: How was the data created to fill and launch A Frankenstein Atlas?

Jason Kelly: The first thing we needed to do was read “Frankenstein.” So we did a group read of the book pretty quickly. Our first pass set the groundwork for our semester-long discussion of the historical context of “Frankenstein.” Each student was assigned two or three chapters, and their job was to code them. I created an online interface and helped them map their data.

Q: What struck you most about the novel while conducting the research?

JK: It’s an epistolary novel, a novel of letters, and it’s a travel journal at the same time. Mary and Percy Shelley, Claire (Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s stepsister) were touring through in 1816. They had been keeping travel journals. You can actually read sections of “Frankenstein” and go back to the travel journals to flesh out the spaces and places they’re talking about.

Because there is a strong geographical element to “Frankenstein,” and we used location as our jumping-off point, which gave us the opportunity to pursue historical geographic information systems approaches. The model that helped shape the project was “Mapping the Lakes,” a project that examined the Lake poets. We borrowed the format and developed it into this pedagogical platform. We made it an open source data set so that people can add to and develop it.

Q: As a professor of British history, how did your travel experience influence the project?

JK: I do a lot of research on the Grand Tour, a one or two year trip through Europe that many British elites took during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And, fortunately, my research takes to locations across the continent. So, Percy and Mary’s visit to the continent—specifically Lake Geneva where she composed “Frankenstein”—was similar to my other work.

Q: What other sources did you use during your analysis?

JK: In one instance, we pulled data on where historical ice sheets, and we read journals from the 18th and 19th-century scientific expeditions. We even studied where whaling ships were likely to travel. These were the types of information that Mary had access to when she described the ice at the beginning and end of the book. We triangulated these data sets, and when we brought it all together, we were able to get a good sense where Mary was situating the action in the novel. It was a great exercise in the ways that science and literature can come together and talk to each other.

Q: What were your students’ reactions to the book?

JK: They loved it. They arrived with an image of Frankenstein mediated by the movies. But when they read the book, like almost anyone I’ve spoken to who has never read the book before, they said, “Oh, this isn’t at all what I thought it was about.” This is talking about all the same issues we’re grappling with today, like religion, ethics, responsibility and what makes us human. It’s such a contemporary novel, and it’s 200 years old.

Read the original article from IUPUI NewsTim Brouk

A Message from Rafael Macia from the Institute for European Studies

Just as a reminder before the November 5th deadline, please see below the announcement for EURO’s research and travel awards for Fall 2018 – Spring 2019. You can find more information, along with the application forms for graduate students, and for faculty.

Research and Travel Awards for Faculty
The Institute for European Studies is happy to announce two grant competitions for the Fall of 2018 and the Spring of 2019. Eligible applicants are allowed to apply for both, but with the understanding that only one award may be accepted per person.

The Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Grant offers one $1,500 award in the Fall and one in the Spring to an IU faculty member (TT or NTT) to support research and / or travel related to any aspect of European politics, society, or culture, whether current or historical in scope.

EURO’s Title VI Grant offers 2 awards of $1,500 each in the Fall and 2 in the Spring to IU faculty to support international research and / or travel, as well as 2 awards of $750 each (also Fall and Spring) to support domestic research and / or travel related to any aspect of European politics, society, or culture, whether current or historical in scope.

Research and Travel Awards for Graduate Students

The Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence Grant: One $1,500 award in the Fall and one in the Spring to an IU graduate student to support research and/or travel related to any aspect of European politics, society, or culture, whether current or historical in scope.

Research funds may be used to conduct preliminary thesis or dissertation feasibility studies or to compile evidence for their Master’s thesis or dissertation. While priority is given to students pursuing an MA or doctoral minor in European Studies, all IU graduate students are welcome to apply.

Grant recipients are expected to send a report detailing how the grant was used and on invitation, to present their results at a lecture hosted by the Institute for European Studies.

The Fall application deadline for all competitions is November 5, 2018, at 5 pm.

The Spring application deadline for all competitions is March 25, 2019, at 5 pm.

Two IUPUI Researchers Receive 2018 Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award

IUPUI faculty from the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and the School of Liberal Arts have been named recipients of the 2018 Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award.

Established in 2010, the award recognizes outstanding IUPUI researchers who show promise in becoming nationally and internationally known for their research and creative activity. It is given to associate professors within the first three years of being appointed or promoted to that title.

This year’s Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award recipients are Brian E. Dixon, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and Andrea R. Jain, associate professor, Department of Religious Studies, School of Liberal Arts.

Dixon and Jain spoke about their research in videos produced by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at IUPUI.

Brian E. Dixon

Brian E. Dixon

“The tools and platforms Brian Dixon designs, builds and evaluates are routinely deployed and used by health systems and public health agencies in Indiana. The systems therefore impact real-world practice and support future research as new data are collected by the operational systems,” said Gerardo Maupomé, associate dean of research and professor of social and behavior sciences, in a letter of recommendation. “These systems have the capacity to be replicated across the U.S. and internationally through other research programs at IUPUI.”

Watch this video about Brian E. Dixon’s research!

Andrea R. Jain

NIH Awards $1.75 million to IUPUI to Further Explore a Promising Brain-Obesity Link

INDIANAPOLIS — IUPUI biologist Nick Berbari has received a $1.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the connection between obesity and tiny hairlike projections on brain cells called cilia. Cilia are thought to function like a cell’s antennae and help in communication between cells.

Berbari’s research team is working to determine how altered signaling processes impact appetite regulation.

The knowledge Berbari and his research team acquire could potentially open new therapeutic approaches to obesity, which impacts the health and longevity of over 93 million Americans.

“With hunger, there is an initial urge to eat and to continue eating until feeling full,” Berbari said. “Cilia dysfunction is known to be associated with certain types of obesity, but it is unclear why their dysfunction leads to people overeating and results in obesity.”

“Put simply, we will be looking at how a little cellular antenna in the brain is important for appetite. When we study rare syndromes that are associated with obesity, we might learn important information and gain potentially therapeutically advantageous ideas about how to treat obesity in the general population.”

The goal of Berbari’s research, which will be conducted in mice, is to determine how altered signaling processes impact appetite regulation, feeding behavior and obesity. The research team includes a School of Science at IUPUI postdoctoral fellow, doctoral and masters’ degree students, and several undergraduate research assistants.

Nick Berbari

Peer-Led Team Learning International Society: 8th Annual Conference

Hosted by the Stem Education Innovation and Research Institute at IUPUI; this event will be held Thursday through Saturday, June 6-8 of 2019.

The title of this event will be ” Weaving Together Best Practices,” and they’re looking for presentations, workshops and posters! The deadline to submit in order to receive feedback is Friday, February 15, 2019. Submit here!

There are many threads of the program to be explored such as sustainability of PLTL campus programs, critical thinking, meta-cognition, and PLTL – discourse analysis including cyberPLTL, PLTL and the sense of belonging, workplace skills development and PLTL, and implementations in non-STEM disciplines.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr.Ne’Shaun Jones, Conference Chair info@pltlis.org!

Message from the Vice Chancellor for research

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Research Fellowships 2019-2020

The Huntington Library awards over 150 research fellowships annually. The application deadline for fellowships in the 2019-2020 academic year is November 15, 2019. Recipients of all fellowships are expected to be in continuous residence at the Huntington and to participate in and make contributions to its intellectual life.

Traditional Japanese gardens and red moon-shaped bridge Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens San Marino California

The Huntington is an independent research library with significant holdings in British and American history; British and American literature; art history; the history of science and medicine; and the history of the book. The Library collections range chronologically from the eleventh century to the present. 

Long-Term fellowships are for nine to twelve months in residence with a stipend of $50,000. Three long-term fellowships are funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities ($4,200/ month from the NEH; the balance of the stipend from the Huntington funds).

Short term fellowships are for one to five months in residence and carry stipends of $3,500.

The Dibner Program in the History of Science offers historians of science and technology the opportunity to study in the Burndy Library, a remarkable collection in the history of science and technology. Both long and short term fellowships are available.

Travel grants and exchange fellowships for study in the United Kingdom and Ireland are for study in any of the fields in which The Huntington’s own collections are strong and where the research will be carried out in the libraries or archives in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We also offer exchange fellowships with Corpus Christi, Linacre, Lincoln, and New Colleges, Oxford; Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Durham University; and Trinity College Dublin.

To learn more about these opportunities and applications, click here  to visit the Huntington Library website!

Internal Grants for Faculty From Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (OVPIA)

OVPIA supports a variety of competitive funding opportunities that help IU faculty members advance their research and teaching through international engagement. These include a number of exchange programs as well as internal grant programs!

  •   Short-Term Exchange Program for the 2019-2020 academic year (deadline: October 12, 2018); exchange positions will be offered in Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Korea, and Thailand.
  • Freie Universität Berlin- IU Joint Research Workshops and Short-Term Research Grants (deadline September 28th)
  • Global Gateway Seed Grants for China, Europe, India, Mexico, and ASEAN (deadline: minimum of 8 weeks prior to event)
  • International Short-Term Visitors Grans (deadline: minimum of 8 weeks prior to event)
  • Language Learning Grants (deadline: minimum of 8 weeks prior to start of program)
  • Overseas Conference Grant (deadlines: October 1, 2018; January 15, April 1, and July 1, 2019)
  • Overseas Study Program Development Grants (deadlines: November 1, 2018; February 2, 2019)
  • President’s International Research Awards (PIRA) (deadline TBD)
  • Renmin University of China- IU joint research grants (deadline: November 1, 2018; April 1, 2019)

As you plan international activities, check out these opportunities! Follow this link for guidelines and on-line application forms! If you have any questions, email ovpia@iu.edu!

IUPUI professor lands NIH grant to research methods to strengthen bones, resist fractures

INDIANAPOLIS — There may be a new way to treat degenerative bone conditions in osteoporosis and diabetes sufferers, among others, thanks to a researcher in the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI.

IUPUI associate professor of biomedical engineering Joseph Wallace. Photo courtesy of John Gentry

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year grant of nearly $2 million to Joseph Wallace, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, in support of research that is expected to identify ways to build bone mass and improve bone quality.

Wallace’s research involves both mechanical properties of bone and bone mass, attempting to keep bones from fracturing by increasing the amount of bone through mechanical stimulation and improving the quality of the bone with pharmaceutical treatment. Collagen is targeted as an interventional approach to improving the bone material properties.

“We’re trying to use combination therapies, where we can both increase the amount of material that’s present but at the same time modify the quality of that tissue to enhance its ability to bear load without fracture,” Wallace said. “That’s the focus of this grant, to understand those quality-based effects that can enhance bone fracture resistance.”

The research project, “Targeting Collagen as an Interventional Approach to Improve Bone Material Properties,” is being funded through the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Wallace likens collagen to rebar, the metal reinforcement put in place before concrete is poured. Collagen helps support loads on the bones, such as the impact of one’s weight while walking. While most research today is focused on the mineral portion of bone, Wallace is looking at ways to modify the collagen component so that bones can better resist fractures. He is working with the FDA-approved drug raloxifene to determine if certain components of the drug can increase bone’s mechanical properties by improving tissue quality.

“With this grant, we will continue research to provide new ways of approaching the treatment of fragility-related diseases,” Wallace said. “From osteoporosis to diabetes’ effects on bone mass to genetic childhood diseases, this research could have a far-reaching positive impact for those suffering from many diseases with musculoskeletal complications.”

Read the original article from IUPUI News