College of Graduate Studies

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Fatimah Kareen Khalaf, a PhD candidate in the Department of Medicine, writes a Special To The Blade medical article July 3, 2017 – “UT studying methods to prevent cardiorenal syndrome”

 

Joint heart and kidney disorder is called cardiorenal syndrome, which occurs when damage to one of these organs causes injury to the other one.

Your heart relies heavily on your kidneys to control the correct amount of salt and water within your body. In turn, your kidneys rely on your heart for correctly regulating your blood pressure.

Fatimah-Khalaf-photo-jpg

Fatimah Kareen Khalaf is a PhD candidate in the department of medicine in the University of Toledo college of medicine.

Therefore, when one of these organs begins to fail, the other often follows closely behind. For example, patients undergoing heart failure frequently develop a rapid decline in kidney function. This combined decrease in organ function contributes to longer hospital stays, more frequent re-admissions, and increased rate of death.

Scientists have not yet figured out what causes cardiorenal syndrome. However, intense research is ongoing to devise new methods aimed at the prevention and treatment of this medical syndrome.

At the University of Toledo, we are focused on understanding the mechanisms causing cardiorenal disease. We are developing new tools that physicians can use to help patients survive.

We are investigating specific molecules that the body makes. These molecules, called cardiotonic steroids, normally help to regulate the amount of salt and water in your body, when present at low levels. However, in cardiorenal syndrome, these hormones often become chronically elevated, which stresses the heart and kidneys.

We have found that chronic high levels of these hormones can cause an inflammatory reaction of the body’s immune system that, in turn, causes scarring of heart and kidney tissue. Furthermore, we have found that patients with cardiorenal syndrome who also have increased levels of cardiotonic steroids are more likely to experience heart attack, stroke, or death.

We are investigating how the body produces and regulates these molecules, so that we can develop new ways to avoid the heart and kidney damage that elevated levels can cause.

My role in David Kennedy’s research laboratory is to understand the first steps within the body to produce this syndrome. It turns out that this damaging process begins with our own immune cells interacting with injured kidney cells.

Immune cells are quiet in times of health, but become active during injury. As an army is built to fight during times of war, immune cells increase to fight against any harm to the body. I have found that high levels of cardiotonic steroids cause activation of immune cells that, in turn, leads to organ injury. Therefore, constant activation of immune cells leads to organ damage rather than protection.

I have been able to show that the first steps of inflammation and scarring that normally occur in cardiorenal syndrome can be stopped by exposing immune cells or kidney cells, in culture medium, to different drugs that block the action of cardiotonic steroids. In addition, I am developing experimental methods to discover more molecules that the body produces that may help to control the levels of cardiotonic steroids. We will then work to enhance these molecules when cardiotonic steroids levels get too high.

A lot remains unknown about the function of cardiotonic steroids in the kidneys. We have worked hard to find answers to some of these important, unanswered questions. However, still more research needs to be done before physicians can safely apply our findings in the clinic. We will continue to work hard to discover appropriate treatments that can improve the outcome of patients with cardiorenal syndrome.

Fatimah Kareen Khalaf is a PhD student in the department of medicine in the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences Biomedical Science Program, formerly the Medical College of Ohio. Ms. Khalaf is doing her research in the laboratory of David Kennedy. For more information, contact Kareem.Khalaf@rockets.utoledo.edu or go to utoledo.edu/​med/​grad/​biomedical.


UT offers first online PhD program at an Ohio university [VIDEO]

Christine Billau
419.530.2077

The University of Toledo is enrolling students for the first online PhD program approved in Ohio.

The Curriculum and Instruction: Special Education doctoral degree program starts in the fall semester and is open to up to six people across the country, specifically those who specialize in early childhood special education. It is the first such program to be offered online at a public or private university in the state.

“We are proud to play a pioneering role in the state of Ohio for making doctoral degrees more accessible to hard-working, full-time professionals who want to take the next step in their careers,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “This rigorous program of study is designed to prepare the leaders who will guide our education system into the future.”

“Students can complete the program without having to set foot on UT’s campus,” said Dr. Laurie Dinnebeil, chair of the UT Department of Early Childhood, Higher Education and Special Education in the Judith Herb College of Education. “Students will have the opportunity to work with nationally known leaders in the field of early childhood special education, research and measurement.”

Earning this doctoral degree would allow educators to advance into district, regional or state leadership positions. For example, they could serve as a state consultant to school districts, the director of a school district’s special education program or work for agencies and organizations at the national level. They also would be able to teach at colleges and universities.

The 70-credit hour program is designed to be completed in less than five years by part-time students who register for six credit hours each semester, including summers.

All coursework is available online with the exception of two professional seminars that students can attend virtually using Skype or FaceTime technology if they cannot attend in person.

“I’d like to congratulate The University of Toledo for this innovative approach and for changing the dynamics of higher education by offering this degree,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey.

No matter the distance, students enrolled in the program will have access to all University services and resources relevant to the program, such as the UT Virtual Lab, and the library and all of its digital resources and databases. Students also will have access to supplementary support as needed, such as the UT Writing Center and College of Graduate Studies staff and resources.

Students will present information about their progress using web-based tools, such as discussion boards and webinars.

Course instructors, as well as the students’ dissertation advisor and dissertation committee members, are already accustomed to working with students from a distance. UT offers an online master’s degree and an education specialist degree program online, and students complete comprehensive examinations and master’s projects online.

“Educational scholars are used to working by themselves in classrooms, schools or other settings that provide educational experiences,” Dinnebeil said.  “That means that the quality of research that online students complete will not differ from the quality of research that traditional face-to-face doctoral students in our college complete.”

To apply, go to utoledo.edu/admission.


Several UT graduate business programs receive high continental and global rankings from Eduniversal

By Bob Mackowiak : June 23rd, 2017

Eduniversal, a global ranking and rating agency specializing in higher education, has again repeatedly included The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation in its latest listing of Best Business School programs.

The just-published results of the Eduniversal ranking for the 4,000 best masters and MBAs in 32 fields of study worldwide ranks the UT College of Business and Innovation in these programs:

• Master of Business Administration, ranked No. 35 in General Management, North America;

• Human Resources Management, ranked No. 30 in Human Resources, North America;

• Marketing and Professional Sales, ranked No. 37 in Marketing in North America;

• Master in Supply Chain Management, ranked No. 93 in Supply Chain and Logistics, worldwide; and

• Executive MBA, ranked No. 47 in Executive MBA and MBA part time, North America.

In announcing the rankings, Eduniversal stated: “This recognition acknowledges the quality and success your institution has achieved over the past year, to which we measure across three main criteria: The reputation of the programs: highly recognized by recruiting companies and have an active approach toward them; the salary of first employment after graduation: placement of your graduates in the best job positions on the market; and student satisfaction: working to improve your programs by taking into account feedback from your students.”

“We are very excited by these prestigious rankings, which validate the high quality of our faculty and students, as well as the significance of our curriculum,” Dr. Gary Insch, dean of the College of Business and Innovation, said. “The fact that our Supply Chain Program ranked No. 93 in the entire world is a truly remarkable achievement.

“These significant recognitions are among the reasons that many well-known companies come to the UT College of Business and Innovation to find the talent they need,” Insch added. “It reflects very positively on our outstanding quality, and demonstrates the extremely dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship enjoyed by our college and the business community.”

The Eduniversal Evaluation System compiles and analyzes hundreds of data about business schools from global, national and regional higher education systems, taking into account the accreditations, the results of other rankings, and the distinctions obtained in the country of the schools analyzed.

Eduniversal (best-masters.com) has been working since 1994 to provide schools and students with the best information possible in the higher education sector. The Eduniversal ranking is published once a year and was announced at its recent annual world convention.


Scientist Studies effect of Algal Blooms on Turtles

By Kim Goodin : June 5th, 2017 (UT News)

When the tap water of more than 500,000 northwest Ohioans was declared unsafe in August 2014, the three-day crisis caused global concern. Most was focused on how high levels of microcystin in citizens’ Lake Erie-fed tap water could affect those using it to drink, cook and bathe.

There was scant discussion regarding how the toxin, which is caused by certain freshwater cyanobacteria found in algal blooms, affects wildlife in and around freshwater lakes such as Lake Erie because little research existed.

This painted turtle from the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio, was trapped and released by Dr. Jeanine Refsnider and her assistants after they took measurements to assess the effects of algal blooms on the reptile.

Dr. Jeanine Refsnider, assistant professor of ecology in UT’s Department of Environmental Sciences, is among the first to study how the harmful effects of algal blooms influence the health of Lake Erie wildlife, particularly turtles.

“Turtles are quite robust,” Refsnider said. “For a lot of species of vertebrates, what you see is when they’re stressed, their immune function is depressed, just like you find in humans. For turtles, preliminarily, we don’t really see that. [Their] immune system doesn’t seem to get weaker when they’re under stress.”

Refsnider and her team have been trapping turtles at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio, since mid-May and will continue through next month. In the field, they take baseline measurements, such as weight and size; determine the genders; check females for eggs; count the number of leeches clinging to shells; and photograph the shells.

Dr. Jeanine Refsnider set up a trap to catch turtles at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The turtles are not harmed by the tests performed in the lab or field, she said.

“Turtles that aren’t able to bask as much as they should tend to have more leeches and more algae growing on their shells, and we think that’s an indicator of worse health,” Refsnider noted.

The team also will take blood samples from each turtle’s tail for various assays to be examined in Refsnider’s lab.

“We’re looking for baseline levels of physiological stress,” she said. “When an organism is exposed to a longer-term stressor, the ratio of different types of white blood cells changes. It takes a few days, but you can actually get an estimate of their stress level by counting the number of white blood cells and looking at this ratio.

“We’re expecting that turtles during an algal bloom will have higher stress levels and lower immune functioning than turtles that are not exposed to an algal bloom, or turtles from different years when there isn’t any exposure to algae.”

Jessica Garcia, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in biology, walked a painted turtle to the water at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Refsnider’s research, funded in part by a $10,000 Ohio Sea Grant, will continue through 2018. This year, turtles will be trapped and analyzed in May and June, then again in August. In 2018, Refsnider’s team will repeat a spring catch, when algal blooms are absent from Lake Erie, and again in August, when warmer lake temperatures, increased rainfall and other factors contribute to the formation of algal blooms.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spring measurements and rainfall projections indicate that the formation of harmful algal blooms this summer will be in the “middle of the pack” — neither severe nor insignificant.

Since Lake Erie is the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, it is most susceptible to algal bloom formation.

Refsnider said this year she’d like to sample about 80 turtles, including painted turtles, which are the most common to be seen basking on rocks and other structures; map turtles, which live closer to streams and rivers; snapping turtles; and red-eared slider turtles, which are not indigenous to Lake Erie, but are bought in pet stores and sometimes released into the wild.

Jessica Garcia returned a painted turtle to the water at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

Map turtles will be subject to an additional assay that takes place during 48 hours in Refsnider’s lab.

“We inject a skin irritant in the webbing between their toes that causes their body to think it’s infected, so the skin swells a little bit,” Refsnider said. “It is similar to the response to a bacterial infection. We can measure how much their skin swells in response to that irritant. It usually peaks at about six hours, then goes back to normal within the next 36 hours.”

She said her team measures the injected area every six hours.

Jessica Garcia checked a net for turtles at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

None of the turtles, she added, are harmed by tests performed in the field or the lab.

Refsnider expects turtle research to be a precursor for further studies among Lake Erie’s wildlife, including water snakes, frogs and water birds.

“Since turtles are pretty tough, you can expose them to new climates and it doesn’t seem to affect them too much,” Refsnider, who has conducted research on turtles previously, said. “But a toxin in their water might be a substantially bigger problem; we’re just not sure. It could be that it doesn’t affect turtles, but it affects snakes or birds.”

She said water snakes at the Ottawa refuge are similar to the indigenous Lake Erie water snakes found only around the limestone islands scattered near the Catawba/Marblehead peninsula in Catawba Island, Ohio.

“The snake we’ll be studying is closely related to the Lake Erie water snake, and there are two rare turtle species that live along Lake Erie,” Refsnider said. “Whatever impact algal blooms have on these common species, they’re going to have on the rare species because both are closely related, so this will have implications on the endangered species.”

At UT since 2015, Refsnider was drawn by the opportunity to study how organisms respond to rapid environmental change. The ecological climate surrounding Lake Erie seemed an ideal laboratory.

“The ecology here is really interesting,” Refsnider said. “For the Midwest, Ohio has a really diverse community of reptiles and amphibians, which is what I work on. This is a great fit for me.”

She hopes research that begins with 80 turtles will have broader applications as scientists grapple with the effects of unprecedented climate change.

“If we can tell that algal blooms have a severe impact on these populations, maybe we can think about how to protect certain habitat areas from any kind of water exchange with Lake Erie so they have a refuge,” Refsnider noted. “Understanding the role algal blooms play in the decline of a local species will give us a better idea of how to protect these species against some human-caused threats.”


UT researchers aim to outsmart Lyme disease – by Muhammed Saad Moledina, a PhD student in Biomedical Science Program at the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences


Kyle Pagel, graduate student in Environmental Sciences, along with UT researchers, study red-headed woodpeckers to solve mysteries of charismatic, declining species

By Christine Billau

(UT NEWS May 30, 2017)

The red-headed woodpecker’s feisty, loud personality fits the reputation of crimson-maned creatures, but the student researcher gently holding the bird bucked the trend.

University of Toledo graduate student Kyle Pagel was calm, steady and methodical as he banded the woodpecker’s legs with tiny, colorful identifying rings and looped a miniature backpack armed with a light- level geolocator and pinpoint-GPS around its legs.

WINGING IT: UT graduate student Kyle Pagel held a red-headed woodpecker at Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. He is helping to conduct research on the bird to discover migration routes and why the species is in decline.

“The woodpecker is wearing it like a climbing harness,” said Pagel, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental sciences at UT. “The backpack is so thin and light that it doesn’t inhibit flight or movement.”

The bird that flies freely once again from tree to tree isn’t the scarlet-mohawked woodpecker regularly spotted in backyards. The red-headed woodpecker is about the size of a robin or 10 times larger than a warbler.

This 70-gram, boldly patterned “flying checkerboard” is the seventh bird of its kind in a week that the UT team has examined at Oak Openings Metropark, taken a blood sample from, and outfitted with tracking technology to identify migration routes.

“This is such as photogenic, popular species, it’s surprising how little is known about them,” Pagel said. “It’s fascinating to work with such a charismatic bird.”

Pagel, along with Dr. Henry Streby, ornithologist and UT assistant professor of environmental sciences, launched a study this month of red-headed woodpeckers that could last up to 10 years and solve many mysteries about the species.

For the next several weeks, the birding team’s office will be located throughout the Oak Openings region, including sites along Girdham Road and Jeffers Road at Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. They expect this year to put tracking technology on 20 adult red-headed woodpeckers in Ohio and 20 in Minnesota, and on another 25 juveniles in each of those states.

“They’re in extreme decline, especially in the Midwest and Great Lakes area, maybe because of habitat loss and changes in their food supply,” Streby said. “We’re lucky to have Oak Openings just west of Toledo because it’s a place where red- headed woodpeckers seem to be doing relatively well. We want to figure out what’s working here and see if we can offer recommendations for habitat management elsewhere.”

Every morning the team sets up mist nets and uses recorded calls, drums and decoy birds to attract the woodpeckers.

Researchers are using blood samples to analyze DNA and hormones, as well as measure stress, immune system condition and aging.

The miniature backpack weighs about two grams and uses a light-level geolocator to gather data about when the birds go in and out of tree cavities each day. Pinpoint GPS, like on a cell phone, will tell the researchers where the birds traveled.

RESEARCH PREP: At Oak Openings Metropark, Dr. Henry Streby set up a mist net used to gently collect red- headed woodpeckers so more can be learned about the vanishing species.

“Red-headed woodpeckers are inconsistent,” Streby said. “Some years they migrate for the winter, some years they don’t. We want to know why. We also want to know where they go when they’re not here on their breeding grounds. It could only be as far south as Kentucky or Tennessee. That is what we will learn for the first time when we recover the backpacks from the birds.”

Food availability, specifically acorns, is one of the factors being observed at Oak Openings this season, as well as reproductive success and genetics.

“We’re studying all of this without knowing whether these woodpeckers are going to leave or not,” Streby said. “It’ll take several breeding seasons to be able to analyze their habits and help us know what needs to be done to conserve the species, especially in places where the populations are shrinking.”

Streby also has been studying golden- winged warblers for five years using light-level geolocators that weigh less than half a paper clip to track migration patterns. The songbirds, which are about the size of a ping-pong ball, travel thousands of miles once they leave their spring and summer nesting grounds.

 


UT’s Master’s in Accounting ranked a top online degree program!

UT’s Master of Accountancy has been identified as one of the best 50 Master of Accounting degree programs in 2017-2018!

“Without a doubt, one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to earn CPA licensure in Ohio is through the University of Toledo’s top master’s degree in accounting.” – Online Accounting Degree Programs, please Click Here to know more


UT makes ad­vances in treat­ing sex­ual dys­func­tion


By ERIN SEMPLE | SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Published on May 1, 2017 | Updated 1:04 a. m.

Erin Semple is an M.D./PhD graduate student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Sexual dysfunction can be an uncomfortable topic, but if you have experienced it, you are not alone.

Sexual dysfunction occurs in about one-third of men in the United States and worldwide. It is important to understand sexual dysfunction for the purpose of finding treatments.

Erin Semple is an M.D./PhD graduate student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Men experience sexual dysfunction in many forms. Erectile dysfunction, or the inability to maintain an erection, is common. Some men lack the desire to engage in sexual activity. Others experience premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation.

Medications such as Viagra are known to help, but in some men, they are ineffective. Viagra and related medications target the blood flow to the penis which is necessary to achieve an erection.

There are not many treatment options for men who have a low desire for sexual activity. Often this problem is secondary to other medications, an unhealthy lifestyle, or mental health problem. Testosterone replacement is used in certain cases for improving sexual desire.

Similarly, men who have either premature or delayed ejaculation have few treatment options. One type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor has shown promise for treating premature ejaculation in men. Unfortunately, delayed ejaculation is not well-understood, and treatment usually focuses on finding and treating any underlying cause.

Signals from the brain are also known to influence sexual function.

In our lab at the University of Toledo College of Medicine & Life Sciences, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, we study how sexual function is influenced by a hormone in the brain called melanocortin. Melanocortin binds to a protein called the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R), which activates many different cells in the brain, called neurons.

Mice also have MC4R in their brains, so they can be used as a model to test how this receptor affects sexual behavior.

When we remove this protein from all neurons of male mice, we find that the mice have difficulty reaching ejaculation. This means that some of the neurons that are activated by melanocortins are important for controlling ejaculation.

 We want to know which neurons are responsible for this behavior, so we selectively restore MC4R in certain populations of neurons in the brain.

We found that restoring these proteins in a very specific region of the brain called the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) results in normal ejaculation.

Because sexual function gets worse with age, we also tested these mice as they got older.

We found that older mice without MC4R proteins in their brain are completely unable to reach ejaculation and also have signs of erectile dysfunction.

When we restored these proteins in the PVN, the mice were able to reach ejaculation and no longer had erectile dysfunction.

The results of our studies indicate that melanocortins in the PVN are important for ejaculation, and perhaps erectile function in older mice.

Drugs that increase melanocortins in the brain are being explored as treatments for sexual dysfunction, but there are unwanted side effects such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and excessive yawning.

This is because melanocortins act on many different neurons. Imagine a river that flows into multiple smaller streams. This river sends the same water to all of its branches, but only one of the streams leads to the pathway affecting sexual function. If we can increase the flow of that one stream, without affecting the others, we can improve sexual function without unwanted side effects. We have identified that one stream affecting sexual function starts in the PVN of the brain. Now we need to follow that stream to identify even smaller branches that lead to sexual function.

So far, we have found one group of cells in the PVN, called oxytocin neurons, which are involved in sexual behavior. Using the same method as before, we restored MC4R only on oxytocin neurons and found that these mice had normal sexual behavior compared to mice with no MC4R.

Our future goals are to learn how these oxytocin neurons within the PVN are influencing sexual behavior. We may be able to develop therapies with fewer unwanted side effects for men of all ages by continuing our studies to find specific melanocortin cells that are involved in sexual behavior.

Erin Semple is an M.D./​PhD graduate student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences biomedical science program. She is completing her doctoral studies in the neuroscience and neurological disorders track in the lab of Jennifer Hill. For details email Erin.Semple@rockets.utoledo.edu or go to utoledo.edu/​med/​grad/​biomedical

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Election Results for GSA Officers 2017-2018

Click Here for Election Results for GSA Officers 2017-2018


Careers in Science Day on April 6, 2017

We have Dr. Gil Van Bokkelen, the CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder of Athersys, coming to speak at 10am, with a Q&A session afterwards. He’ll be speaking about his work in Stem Cells, as well as on his career path. His seminar is titled, “Opportunities in the Field of Regenerative Medicine – Impact on Areas of Substantial Unmet Medical Need” In the afternoon, there are 15 min opportunities for students or faculty to meet with him in small groups (1-3 people) to discuss specific/personal questions. These meetings are available by reservation only.

In the afternoon there is a career fair, which includes 12 scientific companies (see the website for an exact list, including job postings). These companies are specifically interested in grad students in the sciences, but there are plenty of positions for undergrads too and for students of all majors.