OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

One in five older Americans take medications that work against each other

PORTLAND, Ore. – About three out of four older Americans have multiple chronic health conditions, and more than 20 percent of them are being treated with drugs that work at odds with each other – the medication being used for one condition can actually make the other condition worse.

This approach of treating conditions “one at a time” even if the treatments might conflict with one another is common in medicine, experts say, in part because little information exists to guide practitioners in how to consider this problem, weigh alternatives and identify different options.

One of the first studies to examine the prevalence of this issue, however, found that 22.6 percent of study participants received at least one medication that could worsen a coexisting condition. The work was done by researchers in Connecticut and Oregon, and published in PLOS One.

In cases where this “therapeutic competition” exists, the study found that it changed drug treatments in only 16 percent of the cases. The rest of the time, the competing drugs were still prescribed.

“Many physicians are aware of these concerns but there isn’t much information available on what to do about it,” said David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.

“Drugs tend to focus on one disease at a time, and most physicians treat patients the same way,” Lee said. “As a result, right now we’re probably treating too many conditions with too many medications. There may be times it’s best to just focus on the most serious health problem, rather than use a drug to treat a different condition that could make the more serious health problem even worse.”

More research in this field and more awareness of the scope of the problem are needed, the scientists said. It may be possible to make better value judgments about which health issue is of most concern, whether all the conditions should be treated, or whether this “competition” between drug treatments means one concern should go untreated. It may also be possible in some cases to identify ways to treat both conditions in ways that don’t conflict with one another.

A common issue, for example, is patients who have both coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Beta blockers are often prescribed to treat the heart disease, but those same drugs can cause airway resistance that worsens the COPD.

“There are several types of beta blocker that don’t cause this negative interaction, but many of the other types are still prescribed anyway,” Lee said. “It’s this type of information that would be of value in addressing these issues if it were more widely known and used.”

The chronic conditions in which competing therapies come into play include many common health concerns – coronary artery disease, diabetes, COPD, dementia, heart failure, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis and others.

This study was done by researchers from OSU and the Yale University School of Medicine, with 5,815 community-living adults between the years 2007-09. The lead author of the study was Dr. Mary E. Tinetti at Yale University, and it was supported by the National Institutes of Health. The analysis included a nationally representative sample of older adults, and both men and women.

The research identified some of the most common competing chronic conditions, in which medications for one condition may exacerbate the other. They included hypertension and osteoarthritis; hypertension and diabetes; hypertension and COPD; diabetes and coronary artery disease; and hypertension and depression. These issues affect millions of older Americans.

“More than 9 million older adults in the U.S. are being prescribed medications that may be causing them more harm than benefit,” said Jonathan Lorgunpai, a medical student at the Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “Not only is this potentially harmful for individual patients, it is also very wasteful for our health care system.”

Direct competition between medications is just one of the concerns, the report noted. Use of multiple medications can also lead to increased numbers of falls and delirium, dizziness, fatigue and anorexia.

The researchers pointed out that the presence of competing conditions does not necessarily contraindicate the use of needed medications, but rather the need for this competition to be more seriously considered in treatment.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

David Lee, 503-494-2258

Playing with Barbie dolls could limit girls’ career choices, study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In one of the first experiments to explore the influence of fashion dolls, an Oregon State University researcher has found that girls who play with Barbie dolls see fewer career options for themselves than for boys.

“Playing with Barbie has an effect on girls’ ideas about their place in the world,” said Aurora M. Sherman, an associate professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU. “It creates a limit on the sense of what’s possible for their future. While it’s not a massive effect, it is a measurable and statistically significant effect.”

Findings of the research, conducted by Sherman and Eileen L. Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz, were published today in the journal “Sex Roles.” The study was supported by research and start-up funding from the OSU College of Liberal Arts Dean’s office and the School of Psychological Science.

Barbie, introduced in 1959, was the first “fashion doll,” with an emphasis on her clothes and appearance. Past research has found that the way fashion dolls such as Barbie are physically formed and dressed communicates messages of sexualization and objectification to girls. 

Sherman’s experiment was designed to examine how Barbie might influence girls’ career aspirations.

Most of the past research on fashion dolls has been observational study of children and the toys in natural settings. In an actual experiment, the researcher controls a variable - in this case, the type of toy each child played with. 

Girls ages 4 to 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a fashion Barbie with dress and high-heeled shoes; a career Barbie with a doctor’s coat and stethoscope; or a Mrs. Potato Head with accessories such as purses and shoes. Mrs. Potato Head was selected as a neutral doll because the toy is similar in color and texture, but doesn’t have the sexualized characteristics of Barbie.

After a few minutes of play, the girls were asked if they could do any of 10 occupations when they grew up. They were also asked if boys could do those jobs. Half of the careers were traditionally male-dominated and half were female-dominated. 

Girls who played with Barbie thought they could do fewer jobs than boys could do. But girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly the same number of possible careers for themselves and for boys. 

There was no difference in results between girls who played with a Barbie wearing a dress and the career-focused, doctor version of the doll.

Childhood development is complex, and playing with one toy isn’t likely to alter a child’s career aspirations, Sherman noted. But toys such as dolls or action figures can influence a child’s ideas about their future, she added.

More research is needed to better understand fashion dolls’ effect on girls, Sherman said. It is possible that some girls are more vulnerable to adverse messages from fashion dolls such as Barbie, she pointed out.  She is working on two other studies now, including one about girls’ perceptions of weight and body image based on doll size and shape. 

“For parents, the most important thing is to look at the child’s toy box and make sure there is a wide variety of toys to play with,” Sherman said.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Aurora Sherman, 541-737-1361 or Aurora.sherman@oregonstate.edu

OSU a partner in $320 million “digital manufacturing” initiative

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the Design Engineering Laboratory in its College of Engineering have been chosen as one of the key partners in a new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, just announced by President Obama with $70 million in federal support.

The UI Labs in Chicago, Ill., will be the lead institution in this initiative, which is also expected to attract $250 million in support from other academic, industry and government organizations. Collectively, about 70 academic and industry participants hope to revolutionize the way that things get built.

“This is a transformative opportunity to shape the future of American manufacturing,” said Warren Holtsberg, chairman of UI LABS. “We salute the vision of the president.”

OSU engineering experts have been working toward similar goals for several years now, and agree that the potential of the new initiative is extraordinary.

“We now can use sophisticated computer systems and advanced design methods to do mechanical design, testing, and error identification before anything is actually built,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU.

“The advantages in saving time and money on the road to manufacturing the products of the future could be profound,” Spinrad said. “This should increase productivity, make American manufacturing more competitive, and create more jobs – and new types of jobs - both in Oregon and across the nation. We’re excited to be a part of this.”

Key industry investors in the new project include General Electric, Rolls-Royce, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Boeing, Deere, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Illinois Tool Works and PARC. Thousands of small and mid-sized companies will also be involved. And OSU’s research in this field, which will continue to assist regional industries, includes such companies as Daimler Trucks, Blunt, PCC Structurals, ESCO, Intel, Xerox and HP.

Oregon industry members of the Northwest Collaboratory for Sustainable Manufacturing have also expressed interest in participating in the new institute.

“Within minutes of forwarding the news of the selection of UL Labs for the DMDI Institute and OSU’s participation in it, I had calls and emails from our industry partners in the Portland area wanting to know how to get involved,” said Rob Stone, head of the OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Digital design allows for new product development to be accelerated by up to 50 percent. Most of the initial federal support for this initiative is from the Department of Defense, which envisions ways to create needed military vehicles and other technology much faster and at less cost. But the concepts could ultimately be used to manufacture anything from a tank to an automobile, washing machine, jet aircraft or toaster oven.

According to Matt Campbell, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering and one of the university’s leaders in this field, digital manufacturing is a concept that greatly reduces physical prototypes and testing, as well as time to manufacture.

“In design, the idea is to fail early and often, so that we succeed sooner,” Campbell said. “Our digital tools will predict performance and where failure will occur, and reduce or eliminate the need for costly prototypes. Then we’ll use 3D printers and other tools to automate and streamline actual manufacturing.”

This approach, researchers say, will provide a fundamentally new way for digital information to flow among designers, suppliers, and customers, as well as to and from intelligent machines and workers on the factory floor.

In announcing the grant for this new initiative, President Obama said that digital manufacturing is critical to America’s future.

“The country that gets new products to market faster and at less cost, they’ll win the race for the good jobs of tomorrow,” Obama said. “And if you look at what’s happening in manufacturing, a lot of it is much more specific.  Companies want to keep their inventories low.  They want to respond to consumer demand faster.

“And what that means is, is that manufacturers who can adapt, retool, get something out, change for a particular spec of a particular customer, they’re going to win the competition every time,” Obama said.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, most manufacturing has been done by building a prototype based on an original design, then observe what does and doesn’t work. Clearly this approach can work, but it’s slow, wasteful and expensive.

The technology being created at OSU, and other partners in this initiative, is to translate almost every aspect of a mechanical system into data that can be mixed and matched in sophisticated computer systems – what a part will do, how it will perform, what materials it is made of, how much stress those materials can take before they fail, what will happen at the intersection where one component interacts with another, where failures might occur, and how those failures can be prevented.

“This field holds great promise to design and test completed machines on a computer before they are ever built,” said Irem Tumer, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean for research and economic development in the College of Engineering. “We’ll see what works, identify and solve problems, make any changes desired, and then go straight to commercial production.”

In theory, a new machine should work perfectly the first time it is ever built – because that’s what the computer predicted.

Some strengths that the OSU team will bring to this initiative include virtual testing and performance; automated machining and assembly planning; innovation in conceptual design; automation of difficult design decisions; and process model prediction.

Advances already made at OSU include work on failure propagation analysis; a model repository; verification tools that will ensure the model should work; automated machining and assembly planning; and virtual performance of safety and reliability. Continuing work is studying fault behavior, to determine what will happen if a part fails.

“We’ve already done a lot of work with single parts and small groups of components,” Tumer said. “Now we’re taking that complexity to the level of a finished and completed machine, sometimes thousands of parts working together.

“That’s a much more difficult challenge,” she said. “But it’s also why the support from President Obama and the federal government is so important.

“This infusion of federal and private funding should significantly speed progress in the field,” Tumer said.  “We know these systems are going to work, and we really believe the impact on American manufacturing is going to be extraordinary.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Matt Campbell, 541-737-6549

Low birth weight reduces ability to metabolize drugs

PORTLAND, Ore. – Researchers have identified another concern related to low birth weight – a difference in how the body reacts to drugs, which may last a person’s entire life and further complicate treatment of illnesses or diseases that are managed with medications.

The findings add to the list of health problems that are already known to correspond to low birth weight, such as a predisposition for adult-onset diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. The implication, researchers say, is that low birth weight may not only cause increased disease, but it may also lessen the effectiveness of the drugs used to treat those diseases.

The research is among the first of its type to implicate low birth weight as a permanent factor in drug response. It was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, by researchers from Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University. Funding was provided by both universities and the National Institutes of Health.

When more fully understood, low birth weight may be added to the list of factors already being considered in medication dosages, such as age, weight, gender and ethnicity. Some of that is already being done in infants. But right now it’s not one of the factors considered in adults, scientists say, and more work needs to be done before such consideration is warranted.

“Low birth weight affects the development of organs, as the fetus tries to finish development of the brain and, in a sense, sacrifice as necessary the ordinary development of organs such as the kidney,” said Ganesh Cherala, an assistant professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy.  “But the kidney is one of the primary filtering agents in the body, and is directly involved in drug elimination.”

The kidneys of low birth weight individuals have a significantly impaired ability to filter and excrete foreign compounds, Cherala said. Since the biologic impact of a medication is affected by its absorption, metabolism and excretion, low birth weight individuals might be less able to excrete drugs.

However, the biologic processes are not that simple, Cherala said. Because of liver metabolism and other issues, in many cases low birth weight individuals end up having less response to a drug, instead of more.

“A pain killer, for instance, might end up being metabolized in the liver instead of making its way to the brain where it is supposed to function,” Cherala said. “You might need more of that same drug in a low birth weight individual to have the same effect.”

The complexities of these processes need additional study before recommendations could be made to alter drug dosages based on low birth weight status, Cherala said. But this issue could be important and should be further explored, he said.

In developed countries about 8-10 percent of individuals are born with low birth weight, but the issue is of higher concern in some developing nations where 20-25 percent of babies are born with this condition. Low birth weight is generally caused by poor nutrition during pregnancy.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Ganesh Cherala, 503-418-0447

Sustainable manufacturing system to better consider the human component

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1d1A4YE

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have developed a new approach toward “sustainable manufacturing” that begins on the factory floor and tries to encompass the totality of manufacturing issues – including economic, environmental, and social impacts.

This approach, they say, builds on previous approaches that considered various facets of sustainability in a more individual manner. Past methods often worked backward from a finished product and rarely incorporated the complexity of human social concerns.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, and reflect part of society’s growing demands for manufacturing systems that protect both people and the environment, while still allowing companies to be economically viable and make a profit on their products.

“People around the world – and many government policies – are now demanding higher standards for corporate social responsibility,” said Karl Haapala, an OSU assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “In the early days, industry dealt with ‘end-of-pipe’ challenges to reduce pollution or increase efficiency. There’s still a place for that, but we’re trying to solve the problem at the source, to begin the process right at the drawing board or on the shop floor.”

“We want to consider a whole range of issues every step of the way,” Haapala added, “so that sustainability is built into the entire manufacturing process.”

The researchers demonstrated the approach with the production of stainless steel knives, based on an industry project. But the general concepts could be used for virtually any system or product, they said.

With every decision the method considers manufacturing techniques, speed of the operations, environmental impacts, materials, energy used and wastes. Decisions can be based on compliance with laws and regulations, and the effects of different approaches on worker safety and satisfaction.

“This is one of the few approaches to systematically consider the social aspects of the workplace environment, so that people are happy, productive, safe, and can contribute to their families and communities,” said Hao Zhang, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering and graduate research assistant on the study.

“Suppose we make changes that speed up the output of a manufacturing line,” Zhang said. “In theory that might produce more product, but what are the impacts on tool wear, increased down time or worker satisfaction with the job? What about risk of worker injury and the costs associated with that? Every change you make might affect many other issues, but too often those issues are not considered.”

Social components have often been left out in the past, Zhang said, because they were some of the most difficult aspects to scientifically quantify and measure. But health, safety and happiness that start on the workshop floor can ripple through the entire community and society, Haapala said, and they are too important to be pushed aside.

This approach incorporates previous concepts of sustainability that have been found to have proven value, such as “life cycle assessment” of systems that considers the totality of energy used, environmental impacts and other issues. And it lets manufacturers make value judgments about the issues most important to them, so that a system can prioritize one need over another as necessary.

OSU researchers are further developing these approaches in collaboration with Sheldon Manufacturing, Inc., of Cornelius, Ore., a designer and manufacturer of laboratory equipment. This work has been supported by Benchmade Knife Co., Sheldon Manufacturing and the Oregon Metals Initiative.

These demands are a special challenge to small and medium sized companies that may not always have the necessary broad range of engineering expertise, the OSU engineers said. They hope the systems being developed can be implemented at many levels of manufacturing.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Karl Haapala, 541-737-3122

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Sustainable manufacturing

On the shop floor

Aging men: More uplifts, fewer hassles until the age of 65-70

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study of how men approach their golden years found that how happy individuals are remains relatively stable for some 80 percent of the population, but perceptions of unhappiness – or dealing with “hassles” – tends to get worse once you are about 65-70 years old.

The reasons vary, researchers say, but may be because of health issues, cognitive decline or the loss of a spouse or friends.

“In general, life gets better as you age in the sense that older adults on average have fewer hassles – and respond to them better – than younger adults,” said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “And they also experienced more uplifts – a least, until their mid-70s.”

“But once you turn 70, how you react to these hassles changes and may be dependent on your resources or your situation in life,” added Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research.

Results of the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs, are being published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

The researchers used data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, which looked at 1,315 men ages 53 to 85 years of age – predominantly comprised of white males who were initially in good health at entry into the study in the 1960s. This particular study aimed to take a fresh look at the emotional reactions of older adults and evaluate whether three previously established, yet contradictory models of aging had validity.

One of those models, known as the hedonic treadmill model, suggests that how happy or unhappy you are is relatively stable through your life, outside of a few up-or-down blips. A second theory posits that in general things get better as you age, while the third says your life will spiral downhill rapidly once you turn 80.

The new study, led by researchers from Oregon State and Boston University, found some support for all three models, depending on whether you looked at hassles or uplifts – and the age of the men. How men appraised their uplifts was stable, the researchers say, supporting the hedonic treadmill theory. But how they appraised hassles depended on their age: Appraisals got better through their 60s, but then started to become more severe in their 70s.

Nonetheless, Aldwin noted, some men respond more intensely to life’s ups and downs than others, but both the perception and intensity of these events is highly variable among individuals.

“What we found was that among 80 percent of the men in the study, the hassles they encounter from their early 50s on tended to decline until they reached about 65 to 70 years of age, and then they rose,” Aldwin pointed out. “Conversely, about 20 percent of the men perceived experiencing more uplifting events until they turned 65-70 and they begin to decline.”

The study drew from the perceptions of the men over events in their lives that were big and small, positive and negative. Self-regulation – or how they respond to those events – varied, Aldwin said.

“Some older people continue to find sources of happiness late in life despite dealing with family losses, declining health, or a lack of resources,” she said. “You may lose a parent, but gain a grandchild. The kids may leave the house, but you bask in their accomplishments as adults. You find value in gardening, volunteering, caregiving or civic involvement.”

Aging is neither exclusively rosy nor depressing, Aldwin said, and how you react to hassles and uplifts as a 55- to 60-year-old may change as you enter what researchers call “the fourth age,” from 75 to 100, based on your perceptions and/or your life experiences.

“Who falls into these groups and why can begin to tell us what kind of person ultimately may be happy late in life and who may not,” Aldwin said. “Once we find that out, we can begin interventions.”

The researchers on the study, who included Yu-Jin Jeong and Heidi Igarashi of OSU, and Avron Spiro III of Boston University, hope to expand their research beyond the limited VA sample and look at the mental health outlook for aging women, minorities and persons with varied economic and health backgrounds.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Carolyn Aldwin, 541-737-2024; Carolyn.aldwin@oregonstate.edu

Volcanoes, including Mt. Hood, can go from dormant to active quickly

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study suggests that the magma sitting 4-5 kilometers beneath the surface of Oregon’s Mount Hood has been stored in near-solid conditions for thousands of years, but that the time it takes to liquefy and potentially erupt is surprisingly short – perhaps as little as a couple of months.

The key, scientists say, is to elevate the temperature of the rock to more than 750 degrees Celsius, which can happen when hot magma from deep within the Earth’s crust rises to the surface. It is the mixing of the two types of magma that triggered Mount Hood’s last two eruptions – about 220 and 1,500 years ago, said Adam Kent, an Oregon State University geologist and co-author of the study.

Results of the research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, were published this week in the journal Nature.

“If the temperature of the rock is too cold, the magma is like peanut butter in a refrigerator,” Kent said. “It just isn’t very mobile. For Mount Hood, the threshold seems to be about 750 degrees (C) – if it warms up just 50 to 75 degrees above that, it greatly decreases the viscosity of the magma and makes it easier to mobilize.”

Thus the scientists are interested in the temperature at which magma resides in the crust, they say, since it is likely to have important influence over the timing and types of eruptions that could occur. The hotter magma from down deep warms the cooler magma stored at 4-5 kilometers, making it possible for both magmas to mix and to be transported to the surface to eventually produce an eruption.

The good news, Kent said, is that Mount Hood’s eruptions are not particularly violent. Instead of exploding, the magma tends to ooze out the top of the peak. A previous study by Kent and OSU postdoctoral researcher Alison Koleszar found that the mixing of the two magma sources – which have different compositions – is both a trigger to an eruption and a constraining factor on how violent it can be.

“What happens when they mix is what happens when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste in the middle,” said Kent, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “A big glob kind of plops out the top, but in the case of Mount Hood – it doesn’t blow the mountain to pieces.”

The collaborative study between Oregon State and the University of California, Davis is important because little was known about the physical conditions of magma storage and what it takes to mobilize the magma. Kent and UC-Davis colleague Kari Cooper, also a co-author on the Nature article, set out to find if they could determine how long Mount Hood’s magma chamber has been there, and in what condition.

When Mount Hood’s magma first rose up through the crust into its present-day chamber, it cooled and formed crystals. The researchers were able to document the age of the crystals by the rate of decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements. However, the growth of the crystals is also dictated by temperature – if the rock is too cold, they don’t grow as fast.

Thus the combination of the crystals’ age and apparent growth rate provides a geologic fingerprint for determining the approximate threshold for making the near-solid rock viscous enough to cause an eruption. The diffusion rate of the element strontium, which is also sensitive to temperature, helped validate the findings.

“What we found was that the magma has been stored beneath Mount Hood for at least 20,000 years – and probably more like 100,000 years,” Kent said. “And during the time it’s been there, it’s been in cold storage – like the peanut butter in the fridge – a minimum of 88 percent of the time, and likely more than 99 percent of the time.”

In other words – even though hot magma from below can quickly mobilize the magma chamber at 4-5 kilometers below the surface, most of the time magma is held under conditions that make it difficult for it to erupt.

“What is encouraging from another standpoint is that modern technology should be able to detect when magma is beginning to liquefy, or mobilize,” Kent said, “and that may give us warning of a potential eruption. Monitoring gases, utilizing seismic waves and studying ground deformation through GPS are a few of the techniques that could tell us that things are warming.”

The researchers hope to apply these techniques to other, larger volcanoes to see if they can determine their potential for shifting from cold storage to potential eruption, a development that might bring scientists a step closer to being able to forecast volcanic activity.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Adam Kent, 541-737-1205

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Tyler and Alison
OSU researchers
examine rocks in
front of Mt. Hood.

 Adam Kent
OSU's Adam Kent

Study confirms link between salmon migration and magnetic field

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of scientists last year presented evidence of a correlation between the migration patterns of ocean salmon and the Earth’s magnetic field, suggesting it may help explain how the fish can navigate across thousands of miles of water to find their river of origin.

This week, scientists confirmed the connection between salmon and the magnetic field following a series of experiments at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in the Alsea River basin. Researchers exposed hundreds of juvenile Chinook salmon to different magnetic fields that exist at the latitudinal extremes of their oceanic range. Fish responded to these “simulated magnetic displacements” by swimming in the direction that would bring that toward the center of their marine feeding grounds.

The study, which was funded by Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, will be published this month in the forthcoming issue of Current Biology.

“What is particularly exciting about these experiments is that the fish we tested had never left the hatchery and thus we know that their responses were not learned or based on experience, but rather they were inherited,” said Nathan Putman, a postdoctoral researcher in Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and lead author on the study.

“These fish are programmed to know what to do before they ever reach the ocean,” he added.

To test the hypothesis, the researchers constructed a large platform with copper wires running horizontally and vertically around the perimeter. By running electrical current through the wires, the scientists could create a magnetic field and control both the intensity and inclination angle of the field. They then placed 2-inch juvenile salmon called “parr” in 5-gallon buckets and, after an acclimation period, monitored and photographed the direction in which they were swimming.

Fish presented with a magnetic field characteristic of the northern limits of the oceanic range of Chinook salmon were more likely to swim in a southerly direction, while fish encountering a far southern field tended to swim north. In essence, fish possess a “map sense” determining where they are and which way to swim based on the magnetic fields they encounter.

“The evidence is irrefutable,” said co-author David Noakes of OSU, senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center and the 2012 recipient of the American Fisheries Society’s Award of Excellence. “I tell people: The fish can detect and respond to the Earth’s magnetic field. There can be no doubt of that.”

Not all of the more than 1,000 fish swam in the same direction, Putman said. But there was a clear preference by the fish for swimming in the direction away from the magnetic field that was “wrong” for them. Fish that remained in the magnetic field of the testing site – near Alsea, Ore. – were randomly oriented, indicating that orientation of fish subjected to magnetic displacements could only be attributable to change in the magnetic field.

“What is really surprising is that these fish were only exposed to the magnetic field we created for about eight minutes,” Putman pointed out. “And the field was not even strong enough to deflect a compass needle.”

Putman said that salmon must be particularly sensitive because the Earth’s magnetic field is relatively weak. Because of that, it may not take much to interfere with their navigational abilities. Many structures contain electrical wires or reinforcing iron that could potentially affect the orientation of fish early in their life cycle, the researchers say.

“Fish are raised in hatcheries where there are electrical and magnetic influences,” Noakes said, “and some will encounter electrical fields while passing through power dams. When they reach the ocean, they may swim by structures or cables that could interfere with navigation. Do these have an impact? We don’t yet know.”

Putman said natural disruptions could include chunks of iron in the Earth’s crust, though “salmon have been dealing with that for thousands of years.”

“Juvenile salmon face their highest mortality during the period when the first enter the ocean,” Putman said, “because they have to adapt to a saltwater environment, find food, avoid predation, and begin their journey. Anything that makes them navigate less efficiently is a concern because if they take a wrong turn and end up in a barren part of the ocean, they are going to starve.”

The magnetic field is likely not the only tool salmon use to navigate, however, Putman noted.

“They likely have a whole suite of navigational aids that help them get where they are going, perhaps including orientation to the sun, sense of smell and others,” Putman said.

The Oregon Hatchery Research Center is funded by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and jointly run by ODFW and Oregon State University.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276; Nathan.putman@oregonstate.edu

David Noakes, 541-737-1953; david.noakes@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Putman_Graphical_Abstract

Orientation of

salmon to field

Genetic function discovered that could offer new avenue to cancer therapies

The study this story is based on is available online: http://rsc.li/1fcWMim

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a genetic function that helps one of the most important “tumor suppressor” genes to do its job and prevent cancer.

Finding ways to maintain or increase the effectiveness of this gene – called Grp1-associated scaffold protein, or Grasp – could offer an important new avenue for human cancer therapies, scientists said.

The findings were just published in Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, by researchers from OSU and Oregon Health & Science University. The work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The Grasp gene was studied in the skin of mice in this research, but is actually expressed at the highest levels in the brain, heart and lung, studies have shown. It appears to play a fundamental role in the operation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene, which is a focus of much modern cancer research.

The p53 gene is involved in repair of DNA damage and, if the damage is too great, causing a mutated cell to die before it can cause further problems, up to and including cancer. Dysfunction of p53 genetic pathways have been linked to more than half of all known cancers - particularly skin, esophageal, colon, pancreatic, lung, ovarian, and head and neck cancers.

“DNA mutations occur constantly in our bodies just by ordinary stresses, something as simple as exposure to sunlight for a few seconds,” said Mark Leid, professor of pharmacology and associate dean for research in the OSU College of Pharmacy, and one of the lead authors on this study.

“Just as constantly, the p53 gene and other tumor suppressors are activated to repair that damage,” Leid said. “And in cases where the damage is too severe to be repaired, p53 will cause the apoptosis, or death of the mutated cell. Almost all of the time, when they are working right, these processes prevent the formation of cancers.”

But the activity and function of p53 can sometimes decline or fail, Leid said, and allow development of cancer. Promising approaches to cancer therapy are now based on activating or stimulating the p53 protein to do its job.

The new study has found that the Grasp gene is significantly involved in maintaining the proper function of p53. When “Grasp” is not being adequately expressed, the p53 protein that has entered the cell nucleus to either repair or destroy the cell comes back out of the nucleus before its work is finished.

“It appears that a primary function of Grasp is to form sort of a halo around the nucleus of a damaged skin cell, and act as kind of a plug to keep the p53 cell inside the nucleus until its work is done,” Leid said. “A drug that could enhance Grasp function might also help enhance the p53 function, and give us a different way to keep this important tumor suppressor working the way that it is supposed to.

“This could be important,” he said.

OSU experts created laboratory mice that lacked the Grasp gene, and so long as the mice were reared in a perfect environment, they developed normally. But when they were exposed to even a mild environmental stress – ultraviolet light similar to moderate sun exposure – they began to develop cellular abnormalities much more rapidly than ordinary mice. Most significantly, mutated skin cells did not die as they should have.

In normal mice, the same moderate light exposure caused a rapid increase in expression of the Grasp gene, allowing the p53 protein to stay in the nucleus and normal protective mechanisms to do their work.

Most current cancer therapies related to the p53 tumor suppression process are directed toward activating the p53 protein, Leid said. A therapy directed toward improving the Grasp gene function would be a different approach toward the same goal, he said, and might improve the efficacy of treatment.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Mark Leid, 541-737-5809

OSU surpasses fundraising milestone of $1 billion

 

A copy of President Ray’s speech is available online: http://bit.ly/1dRiaHx

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray announced today that the university’s first comprehensive campaign has surpassed its $1 billion fund-raising goal – 11 months ahead of schedule.

Ray made the announcement at his annual “State of the University” address in Portland to an audience of more than 600 business, political, civic and education leaders, alumni and friends of the university. He encouraged contributions through the remainder of the year to further deepen the university’s impact on students, the state, nation and world. Gifts to The Campaign for OSU now total $1,012,601,000.

“While this is a remarkable milestone, this campaign has never been about the big number,” Ray said. “Our generous donors are committed, as is the university, to transforming Oregon State into a top-10 land grant research university to significantly advance the health of the Earth, its people and our economy.”

Donors have brought private support for Oregon State to an all-time high, with annual totals exceeding $100 million for the last three years. More than 102,000 donors to the campaign have:

  • Created more than 600 new scholarships and fellowship funds – a 30 percent increase – with gifts for student support exceeding $170 million;
  • Contributed more than $100 million to help attract and retain leading professors and researchers, including funding for 77 of Oregon State’s 124 endowed faculty positions;
  • Supported the construction or renovation of more than two dozen campus facilities, including Austin Hall in the College of Business, the Linus Pauling Science Center, new cultural centers, and the OSU Basketball Center. Bonding support from the state was critical to many of these projects.

 

Business leaders Pat Reser, a 1960 OSU alumna; Patrick Stone, a 1974 graduate; and Jim Rudd have co-chaired the campaign since its public launch in 2007. All three have been trustees of the OSU Foundation, and Reser, board chair of Reser’s Fine Foods, also serves as chair of Oregon State’s new Board of Trustees that was appointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“Our donor community is growing because people are deepening their ties to Oregon State – and that helps make us a better university,” said J. Michael Goodwin, CEO and president of the OSU Foundation, the nonprofit organization charged with raising, administering and stewarding private gifts to the university.  “This broad base of support positions Oregon State well for future philanthropic support and engagement from our alumni, parents and friends.”

Donors from every state and more than 50 countries have invested in OSU as part of the campaign. Almost 40 percent of these campaign donors are first-time donors to the university. More than 1,000 donors have made campaign gifts of more than $100,000, including 177 donors who have made gifts of $1 million or more. Oregon State joins only 34 other public universities in the country to have crossed the billion-dollar mark in a fund-raising campaign.

“The campaign is about developing and energizing a community of dedicated advocates, people who share our vision of what Oregon State can accomplish,” Ray said. “These partners have changed Oregon State forever – and I believe the best is yet to come.”

In his State of the University address, Ray said Oregon needs to quit talking and start planning to meet its goal of a more educated citizenry to achieve economic and social prosperity. He cited the state’s lack of apparent focus on reaching Oregon’s “40-40-20” educational achievement goal, which calls for 40 percent of adult Oregonians to hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or a meaningful postsecondary certificate, and all adult Oregonians to hold a high school diploma or equivalent by the year 2025.

OSU has developed a plan to do its part and is committed to those goals, already demonstrating success, Ray said. But more is needed.

“Beyond Oregon State University’s own enrollment management and strategic plan, I have no idea how the state will get to 40-40-20, which could require as many as 35,000 more students annually enrolled in our four-year universities and colleges,” Ray said. “There is no statewide blueprint.”

Ray went on to describe how OSU’s enrollment grew by 1,532 students in Corvallis and online and by another 135 students at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

“Despite those gains, the net increase in enrollment among all Oregon public universities outside of Oregon State totaled 14 students,” Ray pointed out. That includes an enrollment increase at the Oregon Institute of Technology of 413 students.

OSU has been following a plan for the past two years to help the state achieve its goals. Ray said the university expects to educate 28,000 students in Corvallis, 3,000 to 5,000 students at OSU-Cascades by 2025; and grow its online enrollment to more than 7,000 students. The university also plans to educate another 500 students annually by 2025 at a new marine studies campus located in Newport.

Ray, who recently completed his 10th year as OSU president, pointed to several Oregon State University initiatives that will help boost the economy:

 

  • OSU will lead a new national effort through its College of Forestry to advance the science and technology necessary to utilize wood in the construction of taller buildings in a public-private partnership that will advance manufacturing in Oregon and boost rural economies;
  • The university launched the OSU Advantage last year – a one-stop shop for linking businesses with the students and researchers of Oregon State to accelerate new business development and spinoff companies;
  • OSU’s research enterprise continues to grow and reached $263 million in 2013 – a 70 percent increase over the last decade. Two major initiatives include the selection of Oregon State to lead the design and construction of the next generation of ocean-going research vessels for the United States, and the selection of OSU, along with partners in Alaska and Hawaii, to operate one of six national sites for unmanned aircraft systems.

Industry-sponsored research is up 60 percent in five years, Ray pointed out, and licensing agreements with industry have increased 83 percent. Since 2006, OSU has helped launched 20 startup companies, which have raised $190 million in venture capital and created hundreds of jobs.

“Economic development,” Ray said, “is part of our DNA.”

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Kearney Hall

Kearney Hall

 

Video that could be downloaded for B-roll is available online: http://bit.ly/1frg9Xc