“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
January 8, 2020
OSU developing disease-reversing gene therapy
3d illustration of cells secreting exosomes by Meletios Verras (Via Shutterstock)
What began as a proof of concept turned into a promising discovery for scientists at The Ohio State University. The research involves something called exosomes—nano-size, fluid-filled particles that human cells release to communicate with other cells. Exosomes are part of a natural cellular function, so they don’t trigger an immune response, making them ideal candidates for delivering therapeutic materials to reverse disease processes.
In the simplest terms, it works like this: The scientists use donated human cells to produce millions of exosomes, then turn them into “nanocarriers” genetically programmed to deliver treatment to a specific location. Exosomes can go almost anywhere in the body—even crossing the blood-brain barrier—and the research team tested this capability on mice with glioma brain tumors. The therapy slowed the growth of the tumors and prolonged survival for the mice.
Senior study author L. James Lee, professor emeritus of chemical and biomolecular engineering at OSU, thinks the technology could potentially be used to treat neurological diseases as well.
“Hopefully, one day this can be used for medical needs,” Lee said. “We’ve provided the method. If somebody knows what kind of gene combination can cure a certain disease but they need a therapy, here it is.”
NC State grad breaks two spaceflight records
Image via YouTube
At the end of December, Christine Koch broke the record for the longest spaceflight by a female astronaut. And since she’s not scheduled to return to Earth until February, her International Space Station adventure will top out at 328 days. (That’s almost 11 months, if you don’t feel like doing the math.)
This milestone follows on the heels of another first: In October, she and colleague Jessica Meir conducted the first all-female spacewalk. (Both have said they’d like to be the “first woman on the moon,” as well.)
Koch’s extended tour is aimed at gathering information about the effects of long-duration deep-space exploration, which could facilitate future excursions to Mars.
Koch has received scads of congratulations from all quarters—including from Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran, cast members of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In a NASA video shared on Twitter, the actors said, "We’re so inspired by your work and everything you’re doing and what you’re doing for science and what you’re doing for women and for the world. Thank you. Thank you so much for your effort. We want to be you. We really do, but we can’t because you are you and you’re the best at being you.”
Northwestern faculty rank high in “influence and eminence”
Global data firm Web of Science Group (a Clarivate Analytics company) recently released its annual Highly Cited Researchers list. The list includes scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated “significant research influence among their peers.” To make the list, researchers had to have produced multiple scholarly papers that ranked in the top 1% of citations for their field and year of publication.
It’s an impressive honor—and Northwestern University is well represented on the list: In all, 32 faculty members with a university affiliation received this recognition. The list covers papers that were published and cited between 2008 and 2018 within 21 fields (as well as a category for cross-field performance). The fields ranged from materials science to cardiology to physics and astronomy.
The university’s interim vice president for research Milan Mrksich underscored the value of the researchers’ work. “Publication in prestigious journals is one way our faculty members shape research fields and share their knowledge, which provides innovations that solve important challenges, improve health, and benefit society.”
Ohio's venture capital boom
Skyrocketing housing costs in Silicon Valley and other coastal tech hubs are making Flyover Country more compelling to workers and businesses. And venture capital investors are taking note.
One area reaping the benefits is Ohio, where VC funding doubled between 2013 and 2018, according to Axios. Capital invested in the Buckeye State rose from $432 million to $1.16 billion last year. All that funding is attracting even more startup talent.
The tech industry in Columbus is booming with investments in startups that are disrupting insurance, financial services, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare. Companies surging include Root Insurance, valued at $3.65 billion, Mobikit, a data platform for wired vehicles, and Branch, an insurance startup that raised $8.5 million.
Kentucky’s manufacturing tech research gets a $24 million boost
The University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and six other institutions across the commonwealth have received a five-year, $24 million grant that will help them advance next-gen “manufacturing technologies, flexible electronics and robotics.” The grant comes from The Kentucky National Science Foundation's EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). It also aims to develop a more STEM-literate workforce.
In a joint statement, UK president Eli Capilouto and UL president Neeli Bendapudi said, “This cooperative project will help bolster Kentucky's economy, create jobs and put the Commonwealth at the forefront of automation and human-machine interaction.”
The project bears an unwieldy name (but cool acronym): Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Partnership for Enhanced Robotics and Structures—KAMPERS—and will rely on multidisciplinary researchers from a number of Kentucky universities and colleges.
“We've got UK, the flagship, land-grant university; we've got a dynamic metro university, UofL; we have regional universities throughout the state; and we have a really good community and technical college system,” said Seth DeBolt, professor in the UK Department of Horticulture and co-investigator on the project. “We're partnering with every one of those institutions in this effort and that's what's really incredible about this, because we have to build intellectual infrastructure that's going to last generations.”
The American Royal announces move from KS to MO
Three years ago, agricultural education and competition organization the American Royal announced plans to relocate from Kansas City, MO, where it has been since 1899. Now, the group has secured 115 acres in Kansas City, KS, and plans to begin construction of a new $250 million complex in 2020. The Royal will receive $80 million in Kansas sales tax revenue; private fundraising will cover the rest.
Sprout Social IPO raises $150 million
Chicago-based Sprout Social went public on December 13, offering 8.8 million shares at $17—the midrange of its per-share price. The company raised $150 million with a market valuation of roughly $814 million. Sprout develops software that enables businesses to manage their social media campaigns.
Truist Financial Corp. is buying Hearst Tower in Charlotte
Truist Financial Corporation, the result of the BB&T and SunTrust merger, has announced that it’s buying Hearst Tower in Charlotte, NC, to serve as its headquarters. The 47-story building, which is expected to eventually house 2,000 employees, came with a $455.5 million price tag. The transaction is slated to close next March
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
Useless information that is strangely fascinating.
- La Grande Vitesse, a public sculpture commonly known as “the Calder,” is located in this city.
- Historians credit this city with having three founding fathers, Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, and George Walker.
- This city’s Main Street is second only to New York City for the largest collection of cast-iron architecture in the nation.
Click here for today's answers
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