Several of the more aggressive pathogens that infect humans can thrive in an oxygen-free environment of the human gut. These pathogens also have the ability to acquire the essential nutrient iron from an abundant cofactor, specifically heme (the cofactor that makes blood and muscle appear red).
Newly published research from University of Georgia researchers reveals how a key enzyme in this new pathway functions to release the iron atom in the absence of oxygen. Further illumination of the atomic mechanism will provide an opportunity for a new class of antimicrobial compounds.
The study, "Radical new paradigm for heme degradation in Escherichia coli 0157:H7," was published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 10.
A common bacterium that more than half of people have in their gut can use hydrogen gas present in the gastrointestinal tract to inject a cancer-causing toxin into otherwise healthy cells, according to a recently published study led by University of Georgia researchers.
The bacterium's reliance on hydrogen presents a pathway to potential new treatment and preventive measures in fighting gastric cancers, which kill more than 700,000 people per year, said corresponding author Robert Maier, Georgia Research Alliance Ramsey Eminent Scholar of Microbial Physiology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
Previous studies solidified the relationship between stomach ulcers and cancer and certain strains of Helicobacter pylori, a stomach-dwelling bacterium that causes 90 percent of all gastric cancers. Earlier research also found a link between a toxin known as CagA, or cytotoxin-associated gene A, and cancer formation, but the new study exposes how the bacterium uses hydrogen as an energy source to inject CagA into cells, resulting in gastric cancer, Maier said.
"There are many known microbes in the human gut that produce hydrogen and others that use hydrogen. The implications of the study are that if we can alter a person's microflora, the bacterial makeup of their gut, we can put bacteria in there that don't produce hydrogen or put in an extra dose of harmless bacteria that use hydrogen," Maier said. "If we can do that, there will be less hydrogen for H. pylori to use, which will essentially starve this bacteria out and result in less cancer."
On Nov. 11, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will induct former Georgia Rep. Richard Royal and pioneering Georgia soybean specialist John Woodruff into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The celebration will be part of the college's alumni awards ceremony and banquet at the Classic Center in downtown Athens. The public is invited to attend but tickets are required.
The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1972 to recognize individuals who made extraordinary contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in Georgia.
"I would like to congratulate the new inductees into the Ag Hall of Fame," said Elliott Marsh, president of the CAES Alumni Association. "The 2016 inductees are outstanding additions and join a group of notable women and men who have helped enhance agriculture in Georgia and throughout the world."
Inductees are nominated by members of the public and selected by the awards committee of the college's alumni association. Those nominated must possess the following characteristics: impeccable character, outstanding leadership, noteworthy contributions to Georgia's agricultural landscape and recognition for achievements in agriculture as well as other areas.
The University of Georgia has created a research institute that will work to help communities rethink, transform and adapt their infrastructure in a time of rapid environmental and social change.
The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems will be administered by the College of Engineering and will include faculty members from more than nine academic units across campus. Faculty in the new institute will explore ways to strengthen traditional "gray" infrastructure systems-such as water and sewage treatment, urban drainage, energy and transportation- and to integrate them with "green" and "blue" infrastructure-green spaces, bodies of water, and ecosystems that perform vital functions such as buffering storms and cleansing water and air.
"The institute will be nationally unique in that it unites engineering with ecology, environmental design and planning, atmospheric science, law and policy, public health, and other disciplines to effectively combine green and gray infrastructure solutions for resilience to weather and climate-related extremes," said Brian Bledsoe, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Resilient Infrastructure and the institute's inaugural director. "By bringing together UGA's diverse strengths we hope to produce integrative research that can be used by communities, businesses and governments to mitigate risks through improved decision-making and infrastructure design at a variety of scales."
Graduate students in the University of Georgia School of Social Work who face financial challenges while earning a degree are receiving help, thanks to the re-establishment of a federally funded scholarship program.
The school was recently awarded $2.6 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Service Administration, as part of its Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program. The funds will be distributed to students in need over the next four years, contingent upon the program's annual review by the federal agency. The award is the largest to be received by the school for the program. The school had previously received four years of funding for the scholarships that ended in June 2016.
The school, which began distributing the grant money in August, will continue to award the scholarships to students who are enrolled full time in the clinical practice concentration of the social work graduate degree program. Scholarship applicants must also demonstrate they come from a disadvantaged background and intend to serve in primary care settings with underserved populations. Award amounts vary and are determined based on the level of demonstrated need for each applicant. Awards may be for up to $30,000 per year and cover at least half the cost of tuition.
"This scholarship should help at least 50 students each year through 2020," said David Okech, director of the social work master's degree program and the scholarship program. "This is a good thing, because there is a great need for clinical social workers in the state of Georgia and in the country as a whole." This year 52 of 63 applicants were awarded the scholarship.
Drug-resistant organisms, or so-called "superbugs," are a growing public health threat because "last-resort" therapeutics-employed only when other drugs fail to kill an infection-are failing. A University of Georgia-led research team is the first to examine multiple strains of one of the most dangerous superbugs known to science and a last-resort antibiotic used to treat it. The team's discovery deepens the understanding of how pathogens adapt to protect themselves from antibiotics and will enable researchers to develop therapeutics aimed at evading this mechanism.
M. Stephen Trent, in the College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Infectious Diseases, and his team found that several strains of the Gram-negative bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii are mutating into drug-resistant bacteria by shedding a layer of their outermost membrane in response to exposure to colistin, also known as polymyxin E, a decades-old antibiotic. The bacterium inactivates production of an essential molecule that colistin is designed to bind to, which then prevents the drug from entering the cell to neutralize the infection-suggesting that the bacterium adapted a novel mechanism to protect itself.
Previous research isolated this behavior to a single strain of A. baumannii, but this study is the first to track multiple strains and determine that colistin-resistance is a response to treatment. Trent and his team chose colistin for the study not only because it represents the end of the line for bacterial infection treatment options, but also to understand how Gram-negative bacteria like A. baumannii survive without that essential cell wall molecule-called lipopolysaccharides, or LPS.
"Bacteria are phenomenally adaptive, and if the antibiotic can't bind to or enter the bacterium, it is not effective," said Trent, the UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor of Infectious Diseases. The theory is, if scientists better understand how bacteria become superbugs, scientists can develop effective antibiotics to combat the bugs' resistant mechanisms.
A record number of 19 University of Georgia students and recent alumni-including six doctoral students and five May graduates-were offered international travel-study grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Eighteen accepted the offer, but with the closure of Turkey's program at the end of July, only 15 were able to participate. Of the group, five will be teaching English, nine received academic research grants and one received a creative research grant to focus on playwriting in Canada. Seven are graduates of the UGA Honors Program.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities to graduate students and recent college graduates in an effort to further mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. The program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study in over 140 countries.
"To have Fulbrights offered to 19 UGA students and recent alumni is certainly testament to the caliber of our institution," said Maria de Rocher, assistant director of the Honors Program and chair of the Fulbright selection committee at UGA. "We work with most of the applicants individually, helping them through the process. Their commitment to serving as cultural ambassadors and increasing understanding of the wider world was abundantly clear."
The University of Georgia rededicated the newly renovated H.H. Tift Building on the UGA-Tifton campus Sept. 27.
Renovation of the historic Tift Building—the campus's first structure—was completed in May and funded by $5 million in state support. The facility houses the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics as well as administrative offices. The renovated building also contains modern classroom space to provide faculty and students with the latest in learning technology.
Speakers at the rededication ceremony included UGA President Jere W. Morehead, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Sam Pardue and UGA student and biological sciences major Lolita Muñoz.
Morehead emphasized the important link between UGA-Tifton and the surrounding communities.
"Today, we celebrate more than the renovation of the historic Tift Building," Morehead said. "We celebrate the unwavering and longstanding bond between UGA-Tifton and the many communities it proudly serves all across South Georgia. Indeed, the strengths and opportunities of this area of the state and the mission of this campus are perfectly aligned."
The Tift Building complements the campus's vital research enterprise, which is recognized worldwide for scientific discoveries related to agricultural commodities such as cotton, peanuts, pecans, turf grass and vegetables.
Four University of Georgia faculty members-Chris Garvin, Janice Hume, Marisa Anne Pagnattaro and J. Marshall Shepherd-have been selected as the university's 2016-2017 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows.
The fellowship program, which was created by the Southeastern Conference in 2008, includes training, mentoring and networking to advance academic leaders. Participants will engage with senior administrators at UGA and attend two SEC-wide workshops with representatives from throughout the conference.
"This program allows the SEC ALDP Fellows to engage in frank conversations with senior administrators about the variety of issues they face as academic leaders," said Meg Amstutz, associate provost for academic programs and UGA's SEC ALDP liaison. "Through the two workshops, participants are able to network with colleagues across the SEC and discuss the ways in which their campus leaders respond to challenges that arise."
The University of Georgia will significantly expand its instruction and research in the critical area of informatics with the formation of the Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education.
The GII will be administered by the College of Engineering and will include faculty members from across campus to create new synergies that enable research advances in fields ranging from data analytics and cybersecurity to public health and agriculture. The GII also is developing an informatics core curriculum that will serve as a foundation for discipline-specific informatics programs.
An interdisciplinary, seven-member faculty planning committee charged in 2015 by Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten began exploring ways to build upon the university's established strengths in informatics, and their plan established the framework for the proposal to create the GII.
"The ability to extract meaning from large volumes of data is transforming business and our understanding of the world," Whitten said. "By establishing the Georgia Informatics Institutes, our faculty have put the University of Georgia at the forefront of the information revolution."