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UGA to add glycoscience researcher Robert Haltiwanger as newest GRA Eminent Scholar

One of the nation’s leading glycobiology researchers will join the University of Georgia faculty this fall as its newest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Robert Haltiwanger, currently head of biochemistry and cell biology at Stony Brook University, will join UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Biomedical Glycoscience. His addition brings the total number of GRA scholars at UGA to 16.

The Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, recognized as a world-class research facility, is devoted to understanding the many important roles of sugars that are added in diverse complex combinations to proteins and other biological molecules that are responsible for life.

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UGA researchers to develop new treatment for Chagas disease

University of Georgia researchers in collaboration with Anacor Pharmaceuticals have received a $5.3 million grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop a new drug for the treatment of Chagas disease, which they hope will be ready to enter clinical trials by 2016.

Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which spreads via a subspecies of blood-feeding insects commonly known as “kissing bugs” because they tend to bite people on the face and lips. While the disease can progress slowly, chronic infection almost inevitably results in irreparable damage to heart and digestive system tissues.

Between 10 and 20 million people, mostly in Central and South America, are infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, and Chagas disease kills more people in Latin America than any other infectious disease—including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. An increasing number of cases are also being documented outside the normal high transmission areas, including in the U.S. and Europe.

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UGA to celebrate African-American life, history and culture during Black History Month

The University of Georgia will celebrate Black History Month 2015, “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture,” this February with a variety of programs and activities across campus, including a panel discussion hosted by journalist Soledad O’Brien as part of her “Black in America Tour.”

The month-long series of lectures, performances, movies and discussions will celebrate diversity and inclusion on campus, with particular focus given to milestones in African-American culture during the 20th century.

The “Black in America Tour” will come to UGA on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Tate Student Center Grand Hall. The event will feature a screening of “Black and Blue,” the latest segment of the CNN documentary series “Black in America,” followed by a panel discussion on the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities. Tickets are free for students with valid UGACards who pay activity fees on the Athens campus and $5 for non-students; they are available at the Tate Student Center Cashier Window.

O’Brien will moderate a panel of experts, including economist, author and political commentator Julianne Malveaux and socio-political comedian W. Kamau Bell.

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UGA professor of veterinary pathology to receive 2015 Iverson Bell Award

Dr. K. Paige Carmichael, a professor of veterinary pathology and the former associate dean for academic affairs in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, has been chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Iverson Bell Award given by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

The Iverson Bell Award is given every other year to a member of AAVMC’s academic veterinary community in recognition of outstanding leadership and the promotion of diversity in veterinary education. Carmichael is the 14th veterinary educator to receive the award, which will be presented at the AAVMC’s 2015 Annual Conference March 13-15 in Washington, D.C.

“I am shocked, delighted and humbled all at the same time,” Carmichael said. “I stand on the shoulders of many others who have paved the path that I have been lucky enough to walk. I hope to do the same for others.”

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Beating the clock: UGA researchers develop new treatment for rabies

Successfully treating rabies can be a race against the clock. Those who suffer a bite from a rabid animal have a brief window of time to seek medical help before the virus takes root in the central nervous system, at which point the disease is almost invariably fatal.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have successfully tested a new treatment on mice that cures the disease even after the virus has spread to the brain. They published their findings recently in the Journal of Virology.

“Basically, the best way to deal with rabies right now is simple: Don’t get rabies,” said study co-author Biao He, a professor of infectious diseases in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “We have vaccines that can prevent the disease, and we use the same vaccine as a kind of treatment after a bite, but it only works if the virus hasn’t progressed too far.

“Our team has developed a new vaccine that rescues mice much longer after infection than what was traditionally thought possible.”

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UGA researchers image and measure tubulin transport in cilia

Defective cilia can lead to a host of diseases and conditions in the human body—from rare, inherited bone malformations to blindness, male infertility, kidney disease and obesity. Scientists knew that somehow these tiny cell organelles become deformed and cause these diseases because of a problem related to their assembly, which requires the translocation of vast quantities of the vital cell protein tubulin. What they didn’t know was how tubulin and another cell organelle known as flagella fit into the process.   

Now, a new study from University of Georgia cellular biologists shows the mechanism behind tubulin transport and its assembly into cilia, including the first video imagery of the process. The study was published in the Journal of Cell Biology.

“Cilia are found throughout the body, so defects in cilia formation affect cells that line airways, brain ventricles or the reproductive track,” said the study’s lead author Julie Craft, a sixth-year doctoral student at UGA. “One of the main causes of male infertility is the cilia won’t function properly.”

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UGA presents 2015 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award

The University of Georgia presented four awards to Athens and university community members for exemplary community service Jan. 23 as part of the 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast sponsored by UGA, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government and the Clarke County School District.

The breakfast commemorates the life of the late civil rights leader. Held at the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center, the event had a capacity crowd with more than 600 people in attendance.

Ricky Roberts, an academic adviser in the UGA Honors Program; Charles King, a senior education major at UGA; Lemuel “Life” LaRoche, founder of Chess and Community Conference Inc.; and Joan Prittie, executive director of Project Safe Inc. received the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award for significant efforts to build bridges of unity and understanding as they strive to make King’s dream of equality and justice a reality.

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Grant supports UGA’s continued fight against infectious disease

The University of Georgia Research Foundation has received an additional $710,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its research into the elimination of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease affecting millions of people throughout most of Africa and some of Asia, the Middle East and the Americas to include studies on control and elimination of intestinal worms that infect almost 2 billion people globally.

This grant adds to the more than $22 million in support awarded to UGA by the Gates Foundation since 2008, when researchers in the Schistosomiasis Consortium for Operational Research and Evaluation, or SCORE, began looking for ways to gain control of and ultimately eliminate the disease that causes more than an estimated 200,000 deaths per year in sub-Saharan Africa alone, according to the World Health Organization.

“We’ve made great progress in our understanding of this disease and what must be done to stop it,” said Dan Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and principal investigator for the project. “This latest supplement will expand our research to include parallel studies on the debilitating and even more widespread soil-transmitted helminthes, round worm, whipworm and hookworms, and it will carry the project forward to 2018.”

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New model predicts Ebola epidemic in Liberia could be ended by June

The Ebola epidemic in Liberia could likely be eliminated by June 2015 if the current high rate of hospitalization and vigilance can be maintained, according to a new model developed by ecologists at the University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University.

The model includes such factors as the location of infection and treatment, the development of hospital capacity and the adoption of safe burial practices and is “probably the first to include all those elements,” said John Drake, an associate professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology who led the project. The study appears in the open access journal PLOS Biology Jan. 13.

Drake said that the UGA model should be useful to public health officials as they continue to combat the Ebola epidemic because it offers both general insights and realistic forecasts, something few models are able to do.

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UGA’s Odum School of Ecology to hold graduate student symposium Jan. 16-17

The 21st annual Graduate Student Symposium at the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology will be held Friday, Jan. 16 and Saturday, Jan. 17 in the ecology auditorium. A showcase for student research, the symposium is free and open to the public.

The symposium, which is organized and run by Odum School graduate students, provides an opportunity for ecology students at all levels to give professional presentations about their original research.

This year’s event features 35 oral presentations by graduate students and 11 posters by undergraduates. Oral presentations will take place Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Undergraduate poster sessions will be held Jan. 16 from 12-2 p.m. and 4:45-7 p.m. in the Odum School’s lobby.