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Magnet-based drug delivery system shows promise for cancer treatment

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia has developed a non-invasive method of delivering drugs directly to cancerous tissue using magnetic forces, a form of treatment that could significantly reduce the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.

“We showed that we can deliver anti-cancer drugs exactly in the area where they are needed and they can kill cancer cells,” said Andrey Zakharchenko, a graduate student in the Nanostructured Materials Lab in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences who led the study.

The researchers from UGA and Clarkson University in New York first created very fine nanoparticles that acted as drug carriers, one a substrate base carrying the drugs, and the other loaded with enzymes.

Upon application of a relatively weak magnetic field, the two nanoparticles merge, forcing a reaction that releases the drugs at a specific location.

By controlling the timing of the interaction, researchers could pinpoint delivery of the drug to a precise location, thus preventing side common side effects of chemotherapy, such as hair loss or cardiac toxicity.

Researchers performed the proof of concept study in vitro using chemotherapy drugs and cancer cells. The next step would be to develop an animal model, Zakharchenko said.

The article appears in the January issue of the journal Nature Catalysis and is the result of a three-year research collaboration between UGA and Clarkson University that was funded by the National Science Foundation. A link to the paper can be found here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41929-017-0003-3

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UGA-Griffin named Good Corporate Citizen of the Year

The University of Georgia Griffin campus was named the Good Corporate Citizen of the Year at the 105th Annual Dinner of the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 25. The award recognizes an organization that has made a commitment to improving the quality of life for all in Griffin-Spalding County.

Cindi Shaddix of BB&T, sponsor of the award, praised the university for its support of the community over the years.

“This organization has supported the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce and the Griffin Spalding County United Way for many years,” Shaddix said. “They are consistently recognized by United Way as a Pacesetter organization for their significant economic contribution to our community. As we all know, money raised in our county by United Way is reinvested in our county which provides services to our citizens of greatest need.”

She also said employees of UGA-Griffin can always be counted on to volunteer on boards and organizations within the community.

“The University of Georgia Griffin campus remains a proud member of the Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce and we are deeply appreciative of this honor,” said UGA-Griffin Assistant Provost and Campus Director Lew Hunnicutt. “To all of Griffin and Spalding County, I would say two words about our presence here … expect more!”

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Georgia Museum of Art wins three statewide awards

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia received three awards at the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries annual conference for its exemplary work.

GAMG presented the museum with awards for the exhibition “Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design,” its studio workshop educational program and museum professional of the year, to Hillary Brown, the museum’s director of communications. The awards ceremony took place in Rome, Georgia, on Jan. 19.

“Modern Living” was on view at the museum from June 10 to Sept. 17 and celebrated Giò Ponti (1891–1979), the father of modern Italian design. Christy Crisp, chair of the GAMG awards committee, praised the exhibition for “providing extensive opportunities for community members of all ages (and a variety of interests) to engage with both exceptional examples of the decorative arts and personal art-making activities.”

The museum’s studio workshop series is aimed at developing artistic skills with a variety of media and techniques, including abstraction, drawing and acrylics, and is offered at a cost of materials only. The award committee recognized the series for its focus on adult learners within museums and its dedication to connecting active local artists both with the content of museum exhibitions and with members of the community who participate in the program.

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UGA grad student named Cross Scholar

Rishi Masalia, a doctoral candidate in the plant biology department of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has been named one of seven K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders for 2018 by the American Association of Colleges and Universities for his commitment to teaching and learning, as well as his involvement in science outreach in the Athens community. Masalia is the fifth UGA student to win the award.

A biologist and bioinformatician by training, his area of expertise is candidate gene identification through genetic mapping and RNA expression techniques using cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) as a model. Hailing from the Arizona desert, Masalia chose to focus his research efforts on understanding the genetic mechanisms governing crop-water relations, specifically identifying candidate genes conveying an increase in drought resistance while minimizing growth or yield penalties.

He serves an ambassador with the American Society of Plant Biologists and is a co-founder of the Athens Science Cafe, the Athens Science Observer, UGA SPEAR and Science Athens. 

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UGA law school creates Benham Scholars Program

The University of Georgia School of Law has created a Benham Scholars Program, which will focus on helping to maintain and increase diversity in the legal profession.

The program is named in honor of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham, who was a first-year law student 50 years ago and became the law school’s second African-American graduate in 1970.

The Benham Scholars Program is funded as part of the New Approaches in Diversity and Inclusion initiative announced by UGA President Jere W. Morehead last semester. Private donations received from the Office of the President will be matched by private law school funding to support the program, which will focus on four key areas: recruitment, preparation for law school, academic support and career planning.

The first Benham Scholars will be admitted to the law school for the 2018-19 academic year.

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UGA scientists help map genetic code of peanuts

An international group of agricultural scientists, including University of Georgia and USDA scientists based in Georgia, have mapped the genetic code of the peanut. Results of the five-year research project give scientists around the world a map with which to unlock some of the genetic potential of the peanut plant.

This discovery by the Peanut Genome Consortium, a group of scientists from the U.S., China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Israel and several countries in Africa, gives scientists the capability to find beneficial genes in cultivated and wild peanuts to use in breeding new peanut varieties. These traits can lead to greater yields, lower production costs, lower losses to disease, improved processing traits, improved nutrition, improved safety, better flavor and virtually anything that is genetically determined by the peanut plant.

In 2012, the U.S. peanut industry urged The Peanut Foundation to initiate a research program to map the genetic code of the peanut plant. The resulting International Peanut Genome Initiative is the largest research project ever funded by the industry, with the $6 million cost shared equally among growers, shellers and manufacturers. Peanuts are a staple in diets across the globe, from the Americas to Africa and Asia. They are also a key ingredient in Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods that treat severe acute malnutrition and a crop that farmers in developing countries rely on for personal and community economic well being.

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UGA professor named to most recent class of NAI Fellows

The National Academy of Inventors has named a University of Georgia faculty member who is a leading researcher in regenerative medicine to the 2017 class of NAI Fellows.

Steven Stice, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center, joins an elite group of 912 innovators representing more than 250 prestigious research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions.

Election to NAI Fellow status is a professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Six UGA faculty members have been named NAI Fellows since the honor was established in 2013, and an additional Fellow joined the faculty last year.

Stice, the D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has led industry and academic research teams in the area of pluripotent stem cells for over 25 years. At UGA he has conducted pioneering work in developmental biology and genetics to advance animal and human medicine. His group derived some of the original human pluripotent stem cell lines placed on the first National Institutes of Health human embryonic stem cell registry. Stice was a key member of the team that produced the first cloned rabbit in 1989 and the first cloned transgenic calves in 1998 (George and Charlie), for which he was granted the first U.S. patent in cloning animals. He has produced the first genetically modified pluripotent stem cells derived from pigs and cattle and, more recently, in avian species. His research has led to 16 U.S. patents in stem cells, cloning and regenerative medicine, including the first U.S. patent on animal cloning and therapeutic cloning from adult animal cells.

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Navarro new associate director of Honors Program

A competitive internal search for a new associate director of the Honors Program ended recently with the appointment of Maria Navarro, professor of interdisciplinary education in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Since 2005, Navarro has served on the faculty of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, where she teaches and mentors undergraduate and graduate students and conducts academic outreach across the state and nation.

Her academic focus spans food, agricultural and environmental sciences, with a special emphasis on global food security and international agriculture, development and technology change. She has worked in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Western Asia and has garnered a total of $3,455,902 in collaborative grant funding.

In her new role with the Honors Program, Navarro oversees Honors academic advising and the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, or CURO. She is also responsible for representing Honors and CURO regionally and nationally, coordinating Honors curricular offerings, supervising several staff members and working closely with Williams on future Honors initiatives. She will continue teaching “Reflections on Fighting Hunger,” a course she initially developed for the Honors Program, which is now one of her most requested classes.

Her UGA teaching awards include the Richard B. Russell Award, which recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching; the D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Teaching, given by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and the Lilly Teaching Fellowship, as well as the USDA National New Teacher Award. Navarro has also received both of the Honors Program’s teaching awards, the Hatten Howard Award and the Lothar Tresp Outstanding Honors Professor Award.

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Early, Dunn to receive President's Medal

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors to Mary Frances Early, the first African-American to earn a degree from UGA, and Delmer “Del” Dunn, former UGA vice president for instruction, during Founders Day activities on Jan. 22.

The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.

“I am pleased that Mary Frances Early and Del Dunn will be honored for their decades of service to this university and to the state of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Ms. Early and Dr. Dunn both helped set new standards for educational excellence within their respective fields, and multiple generations of students have benefited from their exemplary leadership.”

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UGA to lead NSF project to rapidly sequence corn pangenome

When the human genome was first sequenced in 2001, the project focused on a single individual. Since that time, several new genomes have been assembled and additional genetic data have been generated for thousands of individuals, producing a more complete picture of human genetic makeup, with broad implications for human health, from biomedical science to anthropology. Now, researchers plan to begin a similar process with corn.

Though corn, or maize, is the most widely planted and most genetically diverse crop in the world, practically all genomic analysis of corn relies heavily on a single inbred line. Modern breeding efforts to improve productivity increasingly require deeper genetic variety for more marginal environments and uses, requiring a more complete understanding of maize genomic diversity.

Researchers at the University of Georgia, Iowa State University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York will work together to sequence, assemble and annotate 26 different lines chosen to represent the diversity of corn. The National Science Foundation-funded project will combine leading edge DNA sequencing technology with a technique called optical mapping to produce high-quality genome assemblies with characterization and release of the 26 lines in two years.