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  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on February 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Washington, Using (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism   

    From U Washington: “Predicting autism: Researchers find autism biomarkers in infancy” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    February 15, 2017
    No writer credit

    By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.

    Researchers from the University of Washington were part of a North American effort led by the University of North Carolina to use MRI to measure the brains of “low-risk” infants, with no family history of autism, and “high-risk” infants who had at least one autistic older sibling. A computer algorithm was then used to predict autism before clinically diagnosable behaviors set in. The study was published Feb. 15 in the journal Nature.

    This is the first study to show that it is possible to use brain biomarkers to identify which infants in a high-risk pool — that is, those having an older sibling with autism — will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, at 24 months of age.

    2
    Annette Estes, left, plays with a child at the UW Autism Center.Kathryn Sauber

    “Typically, the earliest we can reliably diagnose autism in a child is age 2, when there are consistent behavioral symptoms, and due to health access disparities the average age of diagnosis in the U.S. is actually age 4,” said co-author and UW professor of speech and hearing sciences Annette Estes, who is also director of the UW Autism Center and a research affiliate at the UW Center on Human Development and Disability, or CHDD. “But in our study, brain imaging biomarkers at 6 and 12 months were able to identify babies who would be later diagnosed with ASD.”

    The predictive power of the team’s findings may inform the development of a diagnostic tool for ASD that could be used in the first year of life, before behavioral symptoms have emerged.

    “We don’t have such a tool yet,” said Estes. “But if we did, parents of high-risk infants wouldn’t need to wait for a diagnosis of ASD at 2, 3 or even 4 years and researchers could start developing interventions to prevent these children from falling behind in social and communication skills.”

    People with ASD — which includes 3 million people in the United States — have characteristic social communication deficits and demonstrate a range of ritualistic, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. In the United States, it is estimated that up to one out of 68 babies develops autism. But for infants with an autistic older sibling, the risk may be as high as one out of every five births.

    This research project included hundreds of children from across the country and was led by researchers at four clinical sites across the United States: the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, UW, Washington University in St. Louis and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Other key collaborators are at the Montreal Neurological Institute, the University of Alberta and New York University.

    3
    Stephen Dager.Marie-Anne Domsalla

    “We have wonderful, dedicated families involved in this study,” said Stephen Dager, a UW professor of radiology and associate director of the CHDD, who led the study at the UW. “They have been willing to travel long distances to our research site and then stay up until late at night so we can collect brain imaging data on their sleeping children. The families also return for follow-up visits so we can measure how their child’s brain grows over time. We could not have made these discoveries without their wholehearted participation.”

    Researchers obtained MRI scans of children while they were sleeping at 6, 12 and 24 months of age. The study also assessed behavior and intellectual ability at each visit, using criteria developed by Estes and her team. They found that the babies who developed autism experienced a hyper-expansion of brain surface area from 6 to 12 months, as compared to babies who had an older sibling with autism but did not themselves show evidence of autism at 24 months of age. Increased surface area growth rate in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of brain volume in the second year of life. Brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year.

    4
    MRI technician Mindy Dixon and Stephen Dager review a magnetic resonance spectroscopic image of a child’s brain chemistry.University of Washington

    The researchers input these data — MRI calculations of brain volume, surface area, and cortical thickness at 6 and 12 months of age, as well as sex of the infants — into a computer program, asking it to classify babies most likely to meet ASD criteria at 24 months of age. The program developed the best algorithm to accomplish this, and the researchers applied the algorithm to a separate set of study participants.

    Researchers found that, among infants with an older ASD sibling, the brain differences at 6 and 12 months of age successfully identified 80 percent of those infants who would be clinically diagnosed with autism at 24 months of age.

    If these findings could form the basis for a “pre-symptomatic” diagnosis of ASD, health care professionals could intervene even earlier.

    “By the time ASD is diagnosed at 2 to 4 years, often children have already fallen behind their peers in terms of social skills, communication and language,” said Estes, who directs behavioral evaluations for the network. “Once you’ve missed those developmental milestones, catching up is a struggle for many and nearly impossible for some.”

    Research could then begin to examine interventions on children during a period before the syndrome is present and when the brain is most malleable. Such interventions may have a greater chance of improving outcomes than treatments started after diagnosis.

    “Our hope is that early intervention — before age 2 — can change the clinical course of those children whose brain development has gone awry and help them acquire skills that they would otherwise struggle to achieve,” said Dager.

    The research team has gathered additional behavioral and brain imaging data on these infants and children — such as changes in blood flow in the brain and the movement of water along white matter networks — to understand how brain connectivity and neural activity may differ between high-risk children who do and don’t develop autism. In a separate study published Jan. 6 in Cerebral Cortex, the researchers identified specific brain regions that may be important for acquiring an early social behavior called joint attention, which is orienting attention toward an object after another person points to it.

    “These longitudinal imaging studies, which follow the same infants as they grow older, are really starting to hone in on critical brain developmental processes that can distinguish children who go on to develop ASD and those who do not,” said Dager. “We hope these ongoing efforts will lead to additional biomarkers, which could provide the basis for early, pre-symptomatic diagnosis and serve also to guide individualized interventions to help these kids from falling behind their peers.”

    The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:29 pm on February 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Washington, UW joins elite effort for better cancer tests in primary care   

    From U Washington: “UW joins elite effort for better cancer tests in primary care” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    01.31.2017
    Brian Donohue

    1
    Dr. Eunice Chen examines a patient at the UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic. Clare McLean

    Primary-care doctors make first-line decisions about which patients – say, with an abnormal mole or a gastric complaint – should be referred out for cancer tests that are often expensive, invasive or difficult to schedule quickly.

    “That uncertainty is part of our everyday work as family doctors,” said Dr. Matthew Thompson, director of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a practitioner at the UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic in Seattle.

    3
    Dr. Matthew Thompson directs the family medicine program in the UW School of Medicine.

    So he’s jazzed about his department’s inclusion in an international effort that aspires to get better cancer diagnostics into primary-care doctors’ hands – to recognize cancers faster and reduce unwarranted referrals that wring patients’ emotions and wallets.

    “These technologies will take investment and development and testing, and I think primary care doctors will welcome that, as will our patients,” Thompson said.

    “CanTest,” a $6 million project funded by Cancer Research UK, makes UW Medicine a partner of the University of Cambridge and a handful of other elite research schools around the world; UW Family Medicine will direct its small share into the Primary Care Innovation Lab.

    “When the right test and technology comes up, we want to see which clinics in our WWAMI-based Practice & Research Network would be good sites for further studies,” Thompson said, referring to a group of 60 clinics across Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

    “Some of this is sharing; maybe there’s something that works in Australia or Denmark that we could be using here. How can we learn from each other across countries with the same kind of cancer issues?”

    4
    Technology aiming to screen for lung cancer with an exhalation is an example of a diagnostic pursued by this research grant. Owlstone Inc

    Over a five-year span of the grant, Cancer Research UK will train and support scientists to develop and share new screenings.

    “We want to nurture a new generation of researchers from a variety of backgrounds to work in primary-care cancer diagnostics, creating an educational melting pot to rapidly expand the field internationally,” said Dr. Fiona Walter, co- lead investigator at Cambridge.

    Dr. Willie Hamilton, co-lead researcher from the University of Exeter, said: “As a GP (general practitioner) myself, I know it can be frustrating to wait weeks for results before making any decisions for my patients. We’re trying to reduce this time by assessing ways that GPs could carry out these tests by themselves, as long as it’s safe and sensible to do so.”

    “We’re open to assessing many different tests, and we’re excited to hear from potential collaborators.”

    In addition to Hamilton, Walter and Thompson, the project’s senior faculty include Richard Neal, Yoryos Lyratzopoulos, Jon Emery, Hardeep Singh and Peter Vedsted. The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is the only other U.S. site.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on January 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: $279 million pledged for IHME to expand its work, , Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IHME, U Washington   

    From U Washington: “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation boosts vital work of the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    January 25, 2017
    Kayla Albrecht
    206-897-3792
    albrek7@uw.edu

    $279 million pledged for IHME to expand its work, highlighting UW’s position as global hub for improving population health worldwide.

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) announced today the foundation’s commitment to invest $279 million in IHME to expand its work over the next decade.

    The investment will allow IHME to build on its work providing independent health evidence to improve population health. The award complements other investments from the Gates Foundation to further the work of the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative, which was launched in May 2016 and is establishing a university wide, 25-year vision to advance the health and well-being of people around the world.

    “IHME provides critical data about global health trends that can empower policymakers worldwide to identify better solutions in the fight against disease,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    1
    An attendee at an Ebola workshop in Ghana reviews IHME data.Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

    Located within UW Medicine, IHME provides rigorous measurement and analysis of the world’s most prevalent and costly health problems and evaluates strategies to address them. The 10-year grant will fund IHME’s work to track how health resources are spent throughout the world, as well as innovations that identify future scenarios to allow decision-makers to better plan and set population health-related priorities. The funding will sustain IHME’s efforts as the coordinating center for the Global Burden of Disease project, the largest publishing collaboration in science, with more than 2,000 researchers worldwide. The grant also provides core support for IHME’s faculty, students, and staff.

    “IHME is deeply grateful for this funding and the foundation’s continued support,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME. “Behind this grant is not simply a decision to continue outstanding research and analysis, but also an uncompromising commitment to use health metrics sciences to improve people’s lives.”

    “We are proud to support IHME and the University of Washington. We feel lucky that our local university is also on the leading edge of innovation globally, and we are grateful that it has chosen to innovate to help the poorest people in the world,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    The $279 million grant is the largest private donation in the university’s history and continues a long tradition of critical investments in the University of Washington by the Gates Foundation, which include grant awards across its academic disciplines including library science, global health, education, law and others. As of Jan. 25, 2017, the foundation has awarded the University of Washington over 250 grants totaling nearly $1.25 billion.

    “We’re thankful for this generous grant, which demonstrates the Gates Foundation’s high level of trust and confidence in IHME to deliver unsurpassed work on the world’s health challenges,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “We share a vision – a world where all people can achieve their full potential – and through our partnerships we will improve the health and well-being of people here and around the globe.”

    IHME has grown from employing three individuals nine years ago to managing more than 300 faculty and staff today, while producing more than 200 scientific papers annually, and working closely with global and national institutions to improve health systems worldwide. Its findings are published in major scientific journals, policy reports, and online data visualizations. Moreover, IHME is now considered the trusted source for The World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, The National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, and a range of other national and global organizations.

    Among its work, IHME publishes the annual Global Burden of Disease study (GBD), a systematic, scientific effort to quantify the magnitude of health loss from all major diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex and population. With more than 2,000 collaborators in nearly 130 nations, the GBD examines 300-plus diseases and injuries and about 80 risk factors in every country, as well as sub-national assessments for China, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and South Africa. In the U.S., 230 causes of death are estimated in every county in every state by census tract.

    The 2015 study, released in October, included more than 13 billion estimates of illnesses and injuries evaluated. (See: http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/increase-global-life-expectancy-offset-war-obesity-and-substance-abuse)

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on January 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Complex cells that go back maybe 1 ¾ billion years, Conditions right for complex life may have come and gone in Earth’s distant past, , Selenium, , U Washington   

    From U Washington: “Conditions right for complex life may have come and gone in Earth’s distant past” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    January 17, 2017
    Peter Kelley

    1
    This is a 1.9-billion-year-old stromatolite — or mound made by microbes that lived in shallow water — called the Gunflint Formation in northern Minnesota. The environment of the oxygen “overshoot” described in research by Michael Kipp, Eva Stüeken and Roger Buick may have included this sort of oxygen-rich setting that is suitable for complex life.Eva Stüeken.

    Conditions suitable to support complex life may have developed in Earth’s oceans — and then faded — more than a billion years before life truly took hold, a new University of Washington-led study has found.

    The findings, based on using the element selenium as a tool to measure oxygen in the distant past, may also benefit the search for signs of life beyond Earth.

    In a paper published Jan. 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead author Michael Kipp, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences, analyzed isotopic ratios of the element selenium in sedimentary rocks to measure the presence of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere between 2 and 2.4 billion years ago.

    Kipp’s UW coauthors are former Earth and space sciences postdoctoral researcher Eva Stüeken — now a faculty member at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland — and professor Roger Buick, who is also a faculty member with the UW Astrobiology Program. Their other coauthor is Andrey Bekker of the University of California, Riverside, whose original hypothesis this work helps confirm, the researchers said.

    “There is fossil evidence of complex cells that go back maybe 1 ¾ billion years,” said Buick. “But the oldest fossil is not necessarily the oldest one that ever lived – because the chances of getting preserved as a fossil are pretty low.

    “This research shows that there was enough oxygen in the environment to have allowed complex cells to have evolved, and to have become ecologically important, before there was fossil evidence.” He added, “That doesn’t mean that they did — but they could have.”

    Kipp and Stüeken learned this by analyzing selenium traces in pieces of sedimentary shale from the particular time periods using mass spectrometry in the UW Isotope Geochemistry Lab, to discover if selenium had been changed by the presence of oxygen, or oxidized. Oxidized selenium compounds can then get reduced, causing a shift in the isotopic ratios which gets recorded in the rocks. The abundance of selenium also increases in the rocks when lots of oxygen is present.

    Buick said it was previously thought that oxygen on Earth had a history of “none, then some, then a lot. But what it looks like now is, there was a period of a quarter of a billion years or so where oxygen came quite high, and then sunk back down again.”

    The oxygen’s persistence over a long stretch of time is an important factor, Kipp stressed: “Whereas before and after maybe there were transient environments that could have occasionally supported these organisms, to get them to evolve and be a substantial part of the ecosystem, you need oxygen to persist for a long time.”

    Stüeken said such an oxygen increase has been guessed at previously, but it was unclear how widespread it was. This research creates a clearer picture of what this oxygen “overshoot” looked like: “That it was moderately significant in the atmosphere and surface ocean – but not at all in the deep ocean.”

    What caused oxygen levels to soar this way only to crash just as dramatically?

    “That’s the million-dollar question,” Stüeken said. “It’s unknown why it happened, and why it ended.”

    “It is an unprecedented time in Earth’s history,” Buick said. “If you look at the selenium isotope record through time, it’s a unique interval. If you look before and after, everything’s different.”

    The use of selenium — named after the Greek word for moon — as an effective tool to probe oxygen levels in deep time could also be helpful in the search for oxygen — and so perhaps life — beyond Earth, the researchers said.

    Future generations of space-based telescopes, they note, will give astronomers information about the atmospheric composition of distant planets. Some of these could be approximately Earth-sized and potentially have appreciable atmospheric oxygen.

    “The recognition of an interval in Earth’s distant past that may have had near-modern oxygen levels, but far different biological inhabitants, could mean that the remote detection of an oxygen-rich world is not necessarily proof of a complex biosphere,” Kipp said.

    Buick concluded, “This is a new way of measuring oxygen in a planet’s historical past, to see whether complex life could have evolved there and persisted long enough to evolve into intelligent beings.”

    The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the NASA Astrobiology Institute and Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:02 am on January 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Fethya Ibrahim, U Washington,   

    From U Washington: Women in STEM – “Passion never rests: Fethya Ibrahim’s journey through mechanical engineering” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    January 10, 2017
    Chelsea Yates

    First in her family to attend college, senior Fethya Ibrahim is making the most of her time at the UW.

    1
    ME senior Fethya Ibrahim in the Machine Shop. Photo credit: Mark Stone / University of Washington.

    Fethya has been a research assistant in ME’s Cell Biomechanics lab, a 2015-16 McNair Scholar, and she has held multiple mechanical engineering internships at Physio-Control, Inc. Since 2013, she has worked as a tutor in the Engineering Academic Center, and this year she is serving as President of the UW Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

    We recently sat down with Fethya to talk about her involvement and volunteerism on and off campus and why — thanks in part to her experiences in ME’s Machine Shop — she decided to pursue a degree in ME.

    ME: Why did you decide to attend UW and study ME?
    FI: The “Why UW?” part is easy! In the sixth grade, my teacher arranged a class field trip to the UW. As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew I wanted to come to school here. Being at the UW has been a pretty big deal for me; I’m the first in my family to attend college, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do so.

    But the “Why study ME?” part is a little more complicated. I loved math and science, so engineering made perfect sense. I explored a few programs before settling into mechanical engineering. The turning point happened the summer I worked in Nathan Sniadecki’s Cell Biomechanics lab. The design and prototyping work I did there — along with the encouragement I received from Professor Sniadecki — is what helped me decide that ME was what I wanted to do. But I wasn’t sure that I’d succeed in the department. One class in particular that I was extremely hesitant about was ME 355, “Introduction to Manufacturing Processes.” It’s a very “hands on” class that involves learning how to use all of the major machines in the Machine Shop, and every ME student has to take it to graduate.

    2
    Photo credit: Mark Stone / University of Washington.

    ME: Tell us more about your experience in the Machine Shop.
    FI: I was incredibly nervous — I found the Shop to be an intimidating space. I had no prior experience with hand tools, let alone machinery. And all of the equipment seemed to be designed and built for users who were taller than me, with bigger hands than mine, and certainly more upper body strength. I wanted to do well in the Shop but feared it just wasn’t for me. I was also worried that my attire would present a safety concern and that I wouldn’t be able to use the machinery and would fail the class.

    ME: So what happened?
    FI: I met Eamon and Reggie, the Shop instructors. And suddenly the Shop became a very different space — full of possibility, and fun! The instructors made sure everyone in class knew how to safely use the equipment. They worked with me to ensure that my clothing would not present a safety issue (I wear a jacket or my favorite UW sweatshirt over my dress to keep my scarf, sleeves and fabric draping tucked in and tight). And then they encouraged me to, well, just start machining.

    Over time, I became more comfortable with tooling and machining. I discovered that I really liked to operate the lathe. The amount of work it can do is incredible — shaping, cutting, polishing, finishing. Once I found my rhythm for running it, the lathe began to feel quite intuitive.

    ME: What other skills did you develop while working in the Machine Shop?
    FI: I had to learn how to be patient with the machines, and with myself. I’m the type of person who likes to “get” things immediately — and do them well — and with the equipment in the Machine Shop, that just wasn’t going to happen right away. I often had to ask for help reaching things, lifting things, and getting the machines to work. But there’s a lot of help around if you just ask. And people really like to help! It’s funny that this idea was so novel to me as helping others means a lot to me personally. So, it was good for me to learn how to ask.

    I also started watching the instructors’ hands during demos. They were always so still, so quiet. For them it was all about sensing the flow of the machine, and once I relaxed into this idea, things started to come a little more easily. By the end of the quarter, I was surprised by how much I could do, how quickly I could work the machines, and how much self-confidence I’d developed.

    ME: Tell us about your experiences tutoring in the Engineering Academic Center (EAC).
    FI: I started tutoring at the EAC through the Minority Scholars Engineering Program when I was a sophomore. I just love it! I help students with calculus-based physics and math courses in one-on-one sessions and workshops. Tutoring has been a wonderful way for me to contribute to the UW community and also to sharpen my skills! I’m constantly practicing my math, science and communications skills.

    3
    Photo credit: Mark Stone / University of Washington.

    ME: In addition to tutoring students on campus, you also go home on weekends to mentor students at your community center. Why?
    FI: I’m thankful that my community has been supportive of my educational pursuits and for the opportunities I’ve had at the UW, and it’s important to me to give back. I come from an immigrant community here in Seattle; our older generations didn’t have the resources to pursue education due to war and conflict in their home countries. As a result, most older men and women in our community are not college-educated, and very few have a high school education.

    On the weekends, I’m a youth mentor and teach Arabic at our community center, where we host a range of college readiness workshops. I also facilitate discussions about current events, social issues and try to help the younger generations understand why they should be proud of who they are. If I can be a mentor for young women in particular — to show them that it’s possible for women to earn engineering degrees and have professional careers — then that’s just as important to me as earning the degree itself.

    ME: This year you’re also serving as President of the UW chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), correct?
    FI: Yes! NSBE is a student-led organization that’s fun, supportive and inspiring. It provides professional development and networking opportunities on campus and outreach to high school students, which I find very meaningful. I’m eager to take NSBE to the next level. As President, I’m focusing on the organization’s growth. I want to establish a sustainable administrative structure that future leaders can build from.

    ME: You’ll be graduating this spring. What’s next?
    FI: I hope to get a job doing design work at Boeing. That would be ideal. I’ll also continue advocating for and mentoring the girls in my community. I want to help them break the glass ceiling and know that they have a place in STEM fields and professions.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:48 am on January 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , CSE, U Washington, Zillow   

    From U Washington: “Zillow Group pledges $5 million for new UW Computer Science and Engineering building” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    January 10, 2017
    Jennifer Langston

    1
    The 3,000-square-foot Zillow Commons will be a flexible events space in the new building that can host faculty meetings and departmental gatherings, workshops, conferences, research talks, industry recruiting events and other functions to benefit UW CSE, the campus and the broader community.LMN Architects

    Zillow Group, which houses a portfolio of the largest real estate and home-related brands on mobile and web, has committed $5 million toward the development of a second Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) building on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.

    The new building will allow the university to double the number of CSE degrees it awards each year, and reduce the number of qualified students who are turned away from the program each year.

    Zillow Group’s pledge is a natural extension of its longtime partnership with UW CSE. The company’s donation will help fund construction of a new 130,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility — slated for completion in 2019 — that will provide much-needed classroom, laboratory and collaborative spaces. One of the building’s highlights will be the “Zillow Commons,” a 3,000-square-foot event and multiuse space to be used by students, faculty and the community.

    “The University of Washington’s CSE program plays a vital role in our region’s technology ecosystem and is a recognized leader in education, as well as diversity in tech,” said Zillow Group COO Amy Bohutinsky. “Having founded our company in Seattle, we have long benefited from this wealth of talent and are proud to be able to support the expansion of such an extraordinary program. As Zillow Group’s first corporate donation, our hope is that this gift will help expand the education opportunities in our state and ensure more young people have access to high quality STEM education.”

    “We’re truly grateful for this gift both because of what it will mean for our students and state, and because of how it represents Zillow Group’s commitment to our region,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “It’s heartening to have such tremendous support from a home-grown company. Zillow Group’s dedication to innovation and education has helped it grow as an industry leader and as a strong partner in Washington’s innovation ecosystem.”

    “Students are clamoring for a CSE education, but we have to turn away roughly two-thirds of students who meet the prerequisites due to lack of space,” said Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering. “At the same time, our innovative companies are clamoring for more CSE graduates. By generously supporting our expansion, Zillow Group is laying the foundation for a brighter future for Washington’s students and our economy.”

    For more information, contact Lazowska at lazowska@uw.edu or Camille Chotzen, Zillow Group, at press@zillow.com.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:01 pm on January 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EVO Project, , U Washington   

    From U Washington: “Game your brain to treat depression, studies suggest” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    01.03.2017
    Bobbi Nodell

    1
    Project: EVO targets an individual’s core neurological ability to process multiple streams of information and helps to treat the cause of depression, researchers found. Scott Areman

    Researchers have found promising results for treating depression with a video game interface that targets underlying cognitive issues associated with depression rather than just managing the symptoms.

    “We found that moderately depressed people do better with apps like this because they address or treat correlates of depression,” said Patricia Areán, a UW Medicine researcher in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

    The first study enrolled older adults diagnosed with late-life depression into a treatment trial where they were randomized to receive either a mobile, tablet-based treatment technology developed by Akili Interactive Labs called Project: EVO or an in-person therapy technique known as problem-solving therapy (PST).

    Project: EVO runs on phones and tablets and is designed to improve focus and attention at a basic neurological level. The results, published Jan. 3 in the journal Depression and Anxiety, showed that the group using Project: EVO demonstrated specific cognitive benefits (such as attention) compared to the behavioral therapy, and saw similar improvements in mood and self-reported function. Joaquin A. Anguera, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researcher in neurology and psychiatry, is the lead author, and Areán is the senior author. The researchers have no commercial interests in the intervention manufactured by Akili Interactive Labs in Boston. The studies were funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

    “While EVO was not directly designed to treat depressive symptoms; we hypothesized that there may indeed be beneficial effects on these symptoms by improving cognitive issues with targeted treatment, and so far, the results are promising,” said Anguera.

    People with late-life depression (60+) are known to have trouble focusing their attention on personal goals and report trouble concentrating because they are so distracted by their worries. Akili’s technology was designed to help people better focus their attention and to prevent people from being easily distracted.

    Arean said most of the participants had never used a tablet, let alone played a video game, but compliance was more than 100 percent. The participants were required to play the game five times a week for 20 minutes, but many played it more. Participants in this arm of the study also attended weekly meetings with a clinician. The meetings served as a control for the fact that participants in the problem-solving therapy arm were seen in person on a weekly basis, and social contact of this nature can have a positive effect on mood.

    Second study

    A second study, which was another joint effort by UW and UCSF, randomized more than 600 people across the United States assessed as moderately or mildly depressed to one of three interventions: Akili’s Project: EVO; iPST, an app deployment of problem-solving therapy; or a placebo control (an app called Health Tips, which offered healthy suggestions).

    Areán, the lead researcher on the study published Dec. 20 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JIMR), found that people who were mildly depressed were able to see improvements in all three groups, including the placebo. However, those individuals who were more than mildly depressed showed a greater improvement of their symptoms following their use of Project EVO or iPST versus the placebo.

    Areán said much of her research is aimed at providing effective treatment to people who need it, and these results provide great potential for helping people who don’t have the resources to access effective problem solving therapy. But, she stressed, the apps should be used under clinical supervision because without a human interface, people were not as motivated to use it. In the JIMR study, 58 percent of participants did not download the app.

    Akili’s technologies are based on a proprietary neuroscience approach developed to target specific neurological systems through sensory and digital mechanics. The company’s technology platform used in this trial is based on cognitive science exclusively licensed from the lab of Dr. Adam Gazzaley at UCSF, and adaptive algorithms developed at Akili, which are built into action video game interfaces. The technology targets an individual’s core neurological ability to process multiple streams of information.

    Project: EVO is undergoing multiple clinical trials for use in cognitive disorders — including Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury and pediatric attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the company is on path for potential FDA clearance to treat pediatric ADHD.

    Areán is recruiting for a study at UW and Cornell of older adults (60+) willing to have their brains scanned before and after interacting with Akili’s technology. A separate UW Medicine study is seeking participants 45+ with depression. For details, email brighten@uw.edu.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:09 am on December 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Defibrillators’ value varies among heart-failure patients, , U Washington   

    From U Washington: “Defibrillators’ value varies among heart-failure patients” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    12.27.2016
    Brian Donohue

    Research aims to better identify which patients are likelier to benefit from device’s protection against sudden cardiac death.

    1
    A cardioverter defibrillator is “essentially a paramedic implanted in you to monitor your heart 24/7,” said UW Medicine cardiologist Wayne Levy. Wikimedia Commons | Dr. Gregory Marcus

    In the 1980s, cardiologists recognized that patients with heart failure – a poor quality of blood-pumping that can persist for years – were also more likely to die suddenly of cardiac arrest.

    In 2004, University of Washington researchers showed that defibrillators implanted in this population decreased sudden death by 60 percent. The finding led to formal medical guidance that any heart-failure patient with an ejection fraction (measure of pumping capacity) of less than 35 percent is eligible for a defibrillator to protect against sudden death.

    New research [Science Direct ] led by a UW Medicine cardiologist identifies who among the device-eligible patients is more likely to benefit from being implanted.

    “We found that younger male patients without diabetes or kidney disease tend to have a much greater benefit from a defibrillator, while older female patients with comorbidities have much less benefit,” said Dr. Wayne Levy, medical director for the UW Regional Heart Center Clinic and professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine.

    He was corresponding author for the study published in late November in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.

    An implanted defibrillator senses when the heart is having a life-threatening arrhythmia and delivers a shock to re-normalize the heartbeat. It does not make the patient feel better, unlike other heart-failure therapies.

    Levy and colleagues developed the Seattle Proportional Risk Model to predict which heart-failure patients were at greater risk of sudden death. The model was tested in a large cohort of patients eligible to participate in an exercise-training study. The defibrillator benefit was 2.7-fold greater in patients in the highest quartile of predicted sudden death.

    Levy related circumstances in which heart-failure patients’ families adamantly request a defibrillator for their loved one, citing its potential benefit despite the patient’s other signs of deteriorating health. Until now, though, cardiologists have had no hard data to support their clinical experience that might suggest the patient is unlikely to benefit from being implanted, even if he or she is eligible.

    “With that information, the physicians, patients and their families can make a more informed decision about whether to place a defibrillator,” Levy said.

    He hopes that organizations such as the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the Heart Rhythm Society will consider the finding as grounds to revisit medical practice guidelines for implanting defibrillators in heart-failure patients.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:56 am on December 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Washington   

    From U Washington: “Parkinson’s patient dodges, jabs to maintain her mobility” 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    12.27.2016
    Barbara Clements

    Boxing is therapy for body and brain alike, leaving woman feeling empowered and less like a victim, she says.

    The Arlington garage, transformed into a gym, greets visitors’ noses and eyes almost simultaneously. A whiff of sweat hangs amid a patchwork of boxing posters covering the walls. In the ring, trainer Bret Summers is putting Suzanne Taitingfong through her paces.

    “Harder, hit me harder,” Summers barks as Taitingfong jabs at the pads Summers holds up as targets. “Okay, now back, back, back, and to the side. Eyes up.”

    Summers moves on to his next trainee while Taitingfong, 60, takes a break and reflects on her journey to this farmland dotted by log cabins, shaggy Highland cattle and dirt roads. She says the hour-long boxing sessions with others who are fighting the effects of Parkinson’s disease is worth the trip.

    “It is easy to feel like a victim with this disease,” she said. “When I walk into the ring, I don’t feel like a victim, I feel empowered. I am physically fighting against the disease.”

    Parkinson’s causes a person’s brain to gradually stop producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine, the loss of which gradually reduces a person’s ability to control movements.

    In 2010, Taitingfong noticed she couldn’t move her shoulder. Balance emerged as a problem. For five years, she was able to moderate symptoms through drugs and exercise, but her body became less her own. The Marysville mother of three felt trapped in her home as her legs torqued painfully with dystonia. On the advice of her daughters, she consulted UW Medicine physicians and decided to try deep brain stimulation to control the spasms and tremors.

    Dr. Andrew Ko, a surgeon, said that drugs such as levodopa can lose their impact over time or begin to have unpleasant side effects. Given that Taitingfong was experiencing both, “she was an excellent candidate for deep brain stimulation,” in which implanted probes and a neurostimulator act as a pacemaker for the brain, controlling and resetting electrical activity in the area of the brain causing the tremors.

    Taitingfong underwent surgery from Ko in January 2016. A follow-up procedure in February programmed the neurostimulator device in her chest, which is hard-wired to her brain. Adjustments began to find just the right amount of electrical activity to control the tremors.

    “Once they found the right combination, my leg immediately relaxed and the tremors subsided,” she said. “My husband said my face lit up and I had the best smile he’d seen in years.”

    She knows it isn’t a cure, but the treatment at UW Medical Center has given her the energy and the time to seek out other activities to keep Parkinson’s advance at bay.

    Her search for activities led her to a gym in Bellevue that promoted boxing for Parkinson’s patients, but the long drive from Marysville led her to seek a closer option. She contacted Summers, a former pro fighter whose uncle also suffers from the disease. Hence the boxing club was created, and it now meets twice a week. Taitingfong hopes to expand club membership and is working with the Marysville YMCA to include classes for Parkinson’s patients.

    “The physical activity makes you feel like a victor,” she said, before returning to spar with Summers. “You don’t quite feel like the victim anymore.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on December 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Miqin Zhang, Synthetic ‘scaffolds’ for muscle regeneration, U Washington,   

    From U Washington: Women in STEM – “UW researcher pursues synthetic ‘scaffolds’ for muscle regeneration” Miqin Zhang 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    1
    UW professor Miqin Zhang.Matt Hagen

    12.19.16
    James Urton

    The word “engineering” can bring to mind images of bridges, spacecraft and even particle colliders. But the human body could use assistance from engineers as well, especially when the natural processes that shape and govern our cells, tissues or organs need a helping hand.

    Miqin Zhang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Washington, is looking for ways to help the body heal itself when injury, disease or surgery cause large-scale damage to one type of tissue in particular: skeletal muscle. Muscles have a limited ability to regenerate, repair and realign themselves properly after certain types of damage.

    Zhang and her team are taking a synthetic approach to muscle regeneration. Their goal is to create a synthetic, porous, biologically compatible “scaffold” that mimics the normal extracellular environment of skeletal muscle — onto which human cells could migrate and grow new replacement fibers.

    As she recently showed in a review article published online Nov. 16 in Advanced Materials, this endeavor builds on decades of work into the growth, repair and behavior of normal skeletal muscle, but also relies on keen knowledge of engineering and materials science. Zhang sat down with UW Today to explain the project’s goals and progress to date.

    What drew you to work on tissue engineering?

    I suppose it’s easier to say first where I didn’t come from in choosing to work on this problem: I’m not a biologist. I’m an engineer. That is my training and that is how I like to work — building things up one at a time to solve problems.

    And a lot of the problems I like to work on are in biology or medicine, but I come at them from an engineering standpoint. So engineering solutions for these biological “problems” — like finding effective treatments for cancer or creating scaffolds for cell growth — means assembling components that are compatible with our bodies, which our cells can respond to.

    For tissue engineering and repair, we’ve been focusing lately on skeletal muscle. There’s really a medical need for platforms or scaffolds for muscle fiber regeneration, since after injury the body’s abilities to repair skeletal muscle are really quite limited.

    How so?

    Skeletal muscle makes up a large part of the human body — 40 to 50 percent by weight. And when damage occurs to skeletal muscle on a small scale, we’ve seen that skeletal muscle possesses innate repair mechanisms. Through these mechanisms, a new fiber can grow, for example, essentially repairing or replacing the damaged one.

    But above a critical threshold of damage to skeletal muscle, our bodies no longer employ those effective repair mechanisms. Instead, the body forms scar tissue at the wound site — and then you’ve essentially lost control of that muscle function. You can’t get it back. Surgically, you could graft in skeletal muscle. But that depends on the availability of donor tissue.

    So we know that the body can repair skeletal muscle. It just doesn’t do so beyond a certain threshold of damage.

    What do you envision as a solution to the problem of scar tissue formation?

    Natural skeletal muscle is surrounded by a complex extracellular matrix that supports muscle fibers as they form and grow in the body. What we would like to do in this field, which many researchers are working on, is to create an artificial extracellular matrix into which we could introduce a progenitor type of cell — like stem cells or muscle progenitor cells — and then provide them with the proper signals to differentiate into muscle fibers. We believe that scaffold and signals are what is needed to grow new muscle fibers, which you could then transplant to the site of damage.

    3
    A microscopic view of porous chitosan scaffolds, visualized using a scanning electron microscope. From left to right, each scaffold was constructed with an increasing density of chitosan. Miqin Zhang

    What types of materials are these scaffolds made of?

    In general, with designing scaffolds for cell growth, the material we work with really depends on the type of cell we’d like to introduce into the scaffold to proliferate. For bone tissue regeneration, which we’ve worked on in the past, we created a scaffold made of chitosan — a complex polysaccharide, essentially long chains of sugar-like molecules — combined with other materials to create a calcified scaffold.

    For skeletal muscle, we and other researchers work with a variety of anisotropic materials.

    What are anisotropic materials?

    These are materials with physical properties that differ based on direction or orientation. They form the basis of the scaffolds and are usually complex polymer materials. The innate “directionality” of anisotropic materials helps the progenitor cells grow into three-dimensional forms like a myotube, which is a precursor to a muscle fiber.

    But there are structural challenges to overcome. The scaffold must be micropatterned to promote cell migration, growth and proliferation in the right direction. This involves nanoscale design details, and some polymers are better for this than others. The production of highly aligned nanofibers in a large area remains a great challenge.

    We have developed several methods to produce nanofibers made of natural polymers with a high degree of alignment and uniformity over large areas. In addition, we often coat the scaffold with biomolecules that help the cells stick to the scaffold and provide them with the right signals to grow and differentiate.

    What types of biomolecules provide these signals?

    There are adhesion proteins, growth factors and transcription factors that deliver specific messages to cells depending on their structure and location in the scaffold. We have used growth factors in combination of anisotropic materials to successfully induce high-level and rapid differentiation of human embryonic cells into muscle cells. As I said before, I approach this project from an engineering perspective. But the knowledge basis we use comes from cell biology and physiology — because in the end, we’re trying to get cells to grow, differentiate and form tissues on a large scale.

    Are there other uses for these scaffolds beyond tissue regeneration?

    Of course! In my lab, we have also used them to study certain cancer cells, such as stem cell-like cells in glioblastoma. By changing what we make the scaffolds out of, the protein messages we coat them with or the nanopore structures within the scaffolds, we can reveal many different properties of cells. We can also test the types of external signals, be it a structural feature of the scaffold or a protein message, that can promote or inhibit cell growth. And those are just the sorts of information we need to understand to create effective cancer cell treatments.

    It uses the same principle — using nanoscale scaffolding polymers — but to find better ways of doing the opposite: inhibit cell growth rather than promote it. That really demonstrates the utility of these technologies. And we’re at the right time to combine biological and engineering approaches to make it happen.

    For more information, contact
    Miqin Zhang
    mzhang@uw.edu or
    206-616-9356.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    u-washington-campus
    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, bo
    near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

     
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