|The College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce its first round of four Interdisciplinary Innovation Team Awards of $30,000 each in response to the proposals that were received in July 2012.
The research teams led by Dr. Ragib Hasan (Computer and Information Sciences), Dr. Rajesh Kana (Psychology), Dr. Trygve Tollefsbol (Biology), and Dr. Candace Floyd (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)/Dr. Vinoy Thomas (Physics) were selected for funding in this round.
Overall, there were investigators from ten different departments across UAB represented in these team efforts. Click here to read the proposal guidelines. The next submission opportunity is October 1, 2012 and the proposals can be electronically submitted.
Dr. Candace Floyd/Dr. Vinoy Thomas
Title: Developing an Orientation-graded Nanomatrix to Induce Axonal Growth
Spinal cord injury (SCI) induces devastating damage to neurons and their axons which results in permanent loss of function at and below the injury site. This typically renders persons who sustain such injury destined to a life of substantial disability. The human and economic cost of SCI is staggering; in the US there are 250,000 patients living with a SCI at an annual cost of nearly $4 billion per year. As of yet, there are no clinically-approved methods to repair the injured spinal cord and improve outcome after SCI, consigning patients and their caregivers to a life of disability management. Consequently, the goal of the proposed research is to develop and characterize a novel matrix to promote regeneration and repair of injured tissue after SCI. We plan to optimize designed nanomatrices based on bioresorbable polymers and proteins and characterize the effects of the novel growth-modulating substrate material on directed axonal growth in vitro conditions. Controlling the spatial and temporal release of growth factors remains a challenging problem in CNS regeneration and, we propose to develop new methods for spatially-controlled release of growth factors to overcome this challenge and to synchronize nerve growth factor delivery with axonal growth. This work will be accomplished by a highly interdisciplinary team that brings unique and relevant expertise in material processing/properties and development as well as expertise in neurobiology which makes us well poised to tackle this challenging and clinically-relevant issue.
Dr. Rajesh Kana
Title: A Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Investigation of Brain Metabolites and its relation to Neural Connectivity in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Potential Implications: This project examines brain metabolite level in adults with autism spectrum disorders using a novel technique, Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. The project explores the relation between neuronal function and biochemistry and might be a useful neural signature of autism because it could characterize, in vivo, key elements underlying the neuropathology of this disorder. This project, in the long-run, also can provide valuable insights that may lead to the development of appropriate neuropharmacological intervention for autism
Dr. Trygve Tollefsbol
Title: Chemosensitization of Ovarian Cancer by Exploiting Novel and Safe Epigenetic Compounds
Novel approaches to ovarian cancer treatment are urgently needed since disease recurrence continues to be a major health problem. Interdisciplinary approaches are critical to solving this problem which requires collective expertise and the investigative team for this proposal represents four different departments (Biology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Genetics and Biostatistics) and three different schools (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine and School of Public Health) at UAB. Recurrence of ovarian cancer is most often due to the acquisition of cellular resistance to platinum-based treatment regimens. Epigenetic aberrations involving DNA methylation and histone modifications are strongly associated with advancing ovarian cancer and preclinical studies suggest that epigenetic drugs, especially in combination, can sensitize ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapy although these drugs are often toxic. Bioactive dietary components such as polyphenols and sulforaphane mimic the hypomethylating or acetylating effects of epigenetic drugs, respectively, without toxicity to normal cells and they have better bioavailability to solid tumors than epigenetic drugs. The goal of this investigation is to develop a completely different approach to the chemosensitization of ovarian cancer by exploiting novel but safe epigenetic dietary compounds that reduce the risk of recurrence of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Ragib Hasan
Title: Towards an Interdisciplinary Approach for Securing Biomedical Devices
The proliferation of wireless-enabled mobile devices and biomedical devices has blessed our everyday life and has modernized healthcare. Today, smart and configurable biomedical and healthcare devices ranging from programmable pacemakers to insulin monitors and pumps have become very popular. In recent years, manufacturers have started using wireless and Bluetooth interfaces in such devices for configuration, communication, and data collection. At the same time, mobile computing devices such as Smartphones have become more sophisticated and are equipped with standard Bluetooth and wirelesss interfaces. However, the availability of Bluetooth and wireless communication interfaces in both mobile and medical devices also exposes the biomedical devices, medical infrastructure, and electronic medical records to novel attacks launched from mobile devices. Using mobile devices, attackers can sniff medical data from these channels, send malicious command to the medical devices, or trigger Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Such attacks disrupt healthcare services and can even cause patient death.
To protect our healthcare infrastructure from these threats, we must take a systematic approach towards assessing, analyzing, and understanding these potential threats to healthcare and biomedical devices. To this end, we propose an interdisciplinary research project involving a team of researchers from the UAB
Department of Computer and Information Sciences, the UAB School of Health Professionals, and the UAB Health System. Combining our team’s expertise in computer security and healthcare, we will explore the different types of emerging threats to our healthcare infrastructure. More precisely, the goal of this projectwill be as follows: (1) We will create a comprehensive threat model, enumerate possible attack techniquesfrom mobile devices, and identify the potential vulnerabilities in our healthcare infrastructure and biomedical devices; (2) We will develop an automated security analysis tool for biomedical devices and healthcare infrastructure; (3) We will perform a case study in which we will evaluate the security of real-life biomedical devices and equipment used at the UAB Hospital; and (4) Using our models, we will then develop potential solutions and defenses against such attacks. This research is fully aligned with the Center of Information Assurance Joint Forensics Research’s (CIA|JFR) mission and has received their endorsement of the project.