Georgia State Adds Two University Research Centers

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didyouknow?Georgia State University has created two new research centers—the Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development and the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine—dedicated to health and medicine.

Researchers in the centers have already procured more than $55 million in external research funding.

“These new university-level research centers are tremendous resources for Georgia State to meet the health care challenges of the 21st century,” said James Weyhenmeyer, vice president for research and economic development at Georgia State. “These researchers will play a key role in bringing scientific innovations into the everyday practices and policies that directly affect people’s lives and the health of communities.”

The Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development will promote and produce the health, safety and well-being of children, adults and families with and without disabilities through research, service and advocacy.

“Our center’s multi-faceted work is focused on the prevention and treatment of child maltreatment, reduction in family violence and improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities and their families,” said John Lutzker, director of the Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development and associate dean of faculty development at Georgia State. “We will utilize the resources provided by the university research center model to build upon our existing capacity and infrastructure to catalyze existing programmatic research.”

The center is named in honor of the late Mark Chaffin, whose practice, teaching, research and publications focused mainly on the development, adaptation and implementation of evidence-based service models in youth-serving prevention and social services systems, such as child welfare, juvenile justice and early childhood developmental disabilities systems.

The Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine will transform information gained from biomedical research into knowledge improving the state of human health and disease. The research focus of the center is to dissect molecular insights of cardiovascular remodeling in obesity and obesity-related diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases and stroke with special emphasis on the regulation of these processes.

“Our center meets healthcare needs by converting significant research findings into diagnostic tools and medicines to improve the health of individuals,” said Ming-Hui Zou, director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine. “The center is designed to help millions of people suffering from heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

Both centers’ research agenda includes working with scientists across all disciplines and continuing to provide leadership at local, national and international levels.

For more information about the Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development, visit healthy.gsu.edu.

For more information about the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine, visit medicine.gsu.edu.

Georgia State Research Paves Way For Early Detection Of Liver Cancer

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doctorLed by Georgia State University, researchers have developed the first robust and noninvasive detection of early stage liver cancer and liver metastases, in addition to other liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and liver fibrosis.

Their findings were published Wednesday (May 13) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More than 700,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer each year. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths annually, according to the American Cancer Society. The rate of liver cancer in the U.S. has sharply increased because of several factors, including chronic alcohol abuse, obesity and insulin resistance.

“Liver cancers associated with high mortality rates and poor treatment responses are often diagnosed in the late stages because there is not a reliable way to detect primary liver cancer and metastasis at a size smaller than one centimeter,” said Jenny Yang, lead author on the paper, Distinguished University Professor and associate director of the Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics at Georgia State.

The liver is a common site for a variety of cancers, including melanoma, breast, pancreatic and colon cancers. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the leading imaging technique to detect disease without using radiation. MRI contrast or imaging agents aid MRI techniques to obtain tissue-specific images.

As reported by Yang, the applications of MRI contrast agents are not effective for early detection of cancerous tumors because they are hampered by uncontrolled blood circulation time, low relaxation rate or sensitivity, and low specificity. Most contrast agents, she said, are rapidly excreted from the liver, not allowing sufficient time to obtain quality imaging.

To more effectively detect cancerous tumors at an early stage, researchers from Georgia State, in collaboration with researchers from Emory University, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia, have developed a new class of protein-based contrast agents (PRCAs) and an imaging methodology that provides robust results for the early detection of liver cancer and other liver diseases.

ProCA32, the researchers’ newly developed contrast agent, allows for imaging liver tumors that measure less than 0.25 millimeters. The agent is more than 40 times more sensitive than today’s commonly used and clinically approved agents used to detect tumors in the liver.

ProCA32 widens the MRI detection window and is found to be essential for obtaining high-resolution quality images of the liver. This application has important medical implications for imaging various liver diseases, the origin of cancer metastasis, monitoring cancer treatment and guiding therapeutic interventions, such as drug delivery.

“Our new agents can obtain both positive and negative contrast images within one application, providing double the accuracy and confidence of locating cancerous tumors,” Yang said. “These agents are also expected to be much safer with reduced metal toxicity.”

The researchers have shown proof-of-concept that ProCA32 can be used to detect cancerous liver tumors at an early stage with high sensitivity. They have also demonstrated that these new agents better aid the imaging of multiple organs, including the kidney and blood vessels, in addition to the liver and tumors.

“ProCA32 may have far-reaching implications in the diagnosis of other malignancies, which in turn would facilitate development of targeted treatment along with effective monitoring of reduction of tumor burden,” Yang said. “Our agent and methodology can also be applied to study the brain and monitor treatment outcomes in a number of disorders, including stroke and recovery after stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors and gliomas.”

The research is supported by the National Institutes of Health.