Archive for July, 2012

GRA Eminent Scholar Tsai awarded $1.5 million USDA grant to further innovations in biofuels

GRA Eminent Scholar Chung-Jui (C.J.) Tsai at the University of Georgia focuses her research on how plants function.  A recent $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is aimed at furthering her understanding of how the plant protein tubulin affects the development of Populus, a genus of woody plant that includes poplar, aspen and cottonwood trees.  Tsai expects to build on recent research findings that tubulin proteins regulate wood development and plant water use.

“We are interested in traits that influence biofuel production, and the number one trait is biomass volume,” Tsai said.  “So wood formation is something we are very interested in.”  Tsai thinks, however, that tubulin manipulation will more likely affect cell wall properties, leading to greater ease in biomass deconstruction and in the processing of poplar tress into products like ethanol.

Tsai also hopes to explore tubulin’s role in plant water use, with the goal of making trees more drought resistant.  “This could translate into more biomass from trees grown in stressful environments, like the persistent drought many parts of the country are experiencing,” she said.

Read the UGA News Release here>

July 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

GRA Eminent Scholar Sholl makes case for carbon dioxide capture directly from air

As reported in a number of scientific journals, GRA Eminent Scholar David Sholl and Georgia Tech colleague Christopher Jones project that extracting carbon dioxide directly from air is both economically and chemically feasible.  According to one study, the researchers expect that a CO2 removal unit the size of an ocean shipping container could extract about 1,000 tons of gas per year with operating costs of about $100 per ton.

“Even if we removed CO2 from all the [power and chemical plant] flue gas, we’d still get only a portion of the carbon dioxide emitted earch  year,” Sholl said. “If we want to make deep cuts in emissions, we’ll have to do more — and air capture is one option for doing that.”  Jones added that carbon dioxide from large sources such as coal-burning power plants accounts for less than half of the worldwide emissions of the gas, with much of the remaining emissions coming from mobile sources like cars, buses, planes and ships.

Sholl and Jones also reported on advances in adsorbent materials for selectively capturing carbon dioxide.  The carbon recapture technique and new materials might initially be used to supply carbon dioxide for industrial use, including fuel production from algae or enhanced oil recovery.  “As the technology matures,” Jones said, “we envision implementing CO2 capture from the air as a climate stabilization strategy, in parallel with CO2 capture from flue gas and enhanced utilization of alternative energies.”   Read more here>

July 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

NIH awards $9 million renewal grant to Emory CFAR

With a $9 million, five-year grant, the National Institutes of Health has renewed Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research as an NIH CFAR, one of 21 located throughout the United States.  This is the third competitive renewal grant since the Emory CFAR earned NIH designation in 1998.  The grant will expand AIDS research at Emory through the provision of equipment, services, expertise, training and materials.

GRA Eminent Scholar Eric Hunter, PhD.; James W. Curran, MD, MPH; and Carlos del Rio, MD, are co-directors of the Emory CFAR.  Read more here>

July 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment

Emory Vaccine Center joins intensive national effort to develop HIV/AIDS vaccine

GRA Eminent Scholar Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, will lead Emory’s project in an intensive national effort to develop a vaccine against HIV and AIDS.  As a part of the national Centers for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID), Emory University will receive $7 million in funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

“Despite the development of lifesaving drugs, the HIV/AIDS epidemic still remains a tremendous challenge, with 34 million infected individuals throughout the world.  Our greatest hope for stopping this disease remains an effective vaccine,” Ahmed said.  “The intensive approach of CHAVI-ID will give us an excellent chance of accomplishing this.”  Ahmed’s collaborators at Emory are Bali Pulendran, Ph.D., professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, and GRA Eminent Scholar Guido Silvestri, chief of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes Primate Research Center.  Read more>

July 17, 2012 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Brain-muscle communication requires LRP4 protein connection

GRA Eminent Scholar Lin Mei and colleagues at Georgia Health Sciences University have taken another step forward in their studies to determine the complex communication between motor neurons and muscle cells.  The scientists’ recent finding is that communication between brain and muscle requires that both have the protein LRP4 present.  “That’s against the dogma,” Mei said.  When the researchers eliminated the protein only from muscle cells in mice, a weak connection with the brain still formed, and the mice survived for several days. 

In addition to explaining nerve-muscle communication better, the scientists hope that their findings will eventually enable gene therapy that delivers LRP4 to bolster insufficient levels in patients with disabling disorders such as myasthenia gravis and other forms of muscular dystrophy.  Read more>

July 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Cancer Genomics Center launched at Emory

The Emory Molecular Interaction Center for Functional Genomics (MicFG) has been launched with a five-year $4.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The new center will focus on networks of interactions between proteins and is the only southeastern center in the nine-member NCI Cancer Target Discovery and Development Network.

According to MicFG leader Haian Fu, GRA Distinguished Investigator Emeritus, “Genomic alterations in tumors often lead to rewired protein-to-protein interactions  that drive tumor development and progression.  Our goal is to map these hubs and pathways, identify new molecular targets, and disrupt these hubs through new ‘pathway-perturbing’ drugs.”

GRA Eminent Scholar Joel Saltz is a co-leader of the center and will direct its genomics bioinformatics  component.  Read more>

July 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

GRA Eminent Scholar Barbara Boyan honored

GRA Eminent Scholar Barbara Boyan was inducted as a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering at the World Biomaterials Congress last week in Chengdu, China.  Fellows are selected for their significant contributions to the biomaterials field as well as national and international recognition of their accomplishments.

Boyan, the Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering at Georgia Tech, was also recently elected to the National Academy of Science, is a Fellow of the International Team for Implantology,  and is the 2012 recipient of the Orthopaedic Research Society Women’s Leadership Award.

July 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm Leave a comment