Academics and research in the news

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Health grant aims to benefit older minorities in Michigan

Three Michigan universities are using a $3.5 million federal grant renewal for efforts to improve the health of older blacks and other minorities. The National Institutes of Health grant allows the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR) to expand its work through 2023. The center's research and education is led by faculty and staff from Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Black residents have higher rates of diabetes, stroke and other diseases than their white counterparts, officials said. Researchers seek to prevent health disparities. The center has focused on Detroit since its 1997 launch, but the latest grant brings aboard Michigan State and expands work into Flint. Goals include establishing a Healthier Black Elders Center in Flint, based on the one in Detroit. According to Peter Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State, MCUAAAR is a catalyst for widespread change. “It has two major aims,” he said. “Increase the number of diverse junior faculty working in aging and health research, and partner with older African Americans in meaningful ways to improve health and well-being.”

Your smartphone apps are tracking your every move

Research and investigative reporting continue to reveal the degree to which your smartphone is aware of what you’re up to and where you are – and how much of that information is shared with companies that want to track your every move, hoping to better target you with advertising. Several scholars at U.S. universities have written for The Conversation about how these technologies work, and the privacy problems they raise. All of this information on who you are, where you are and what you’re doing gets assembled into enormously detailed digital profiles, which get turned into money. Wayne State University law professor Jonathan Weinberg explains
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Want more easy protein? Go eat a bug

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued a lengthy report, "Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security." In the foreword, the authors say: “It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people." In 2018, the total is 7.6 billion. "To accommodate this number, current food production will need to almost double." The report details how edible insects may be a solution. "Being able to use our resources more efficiently is going to be key to making sure there is food available for everyone," says Julie Lesnik, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anthropology at Wayne State University, whose research focuses on the evolution of the human diet, especially eating insects. She organized a conference for professionals, Eating Insects Detroit, in 2016. "Any way to reduce our reliance on livestock is a key part of that," she says. "We don't have nearly the insect biomass here, in the continental U.S., as in the tropics," Lesnik says. "In Europe, insects are not a very widespread food. Meat is a big part of the traditional ancestral European diet."
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Blood markers suggest heart damage in amateur marathoners

Some of the same blood markers that spike following a heart attack also skyrocket in amateur long-distance runners, especially those who do a full marathon, researchers say. The small study in Spain tested non-professional runners before and after 10K, half-marathon and full-marathon races and found that a protein called troponin, which indicates damage to the heart muscle, surges to many times its normal level after a full marathon. It's not clear if this represents long-term damage, however, the study team writes in the journal Circulation. While deaths in long distance races are relatively rare, we shouldn't forget that the runner who sparked the marathon competitions, the Greek herald, Pheidippides, who in 490 BC ran a distance of about 26 miles from Marathon to Athens with the news of the victory his people had over the Persians died shortly after delivering that news, said Dr. James Glazier, a cardiologist at Detroit Medical Center and a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University, who wasn't involved in the study. The increase in troponin levels "suggests that marathons put quite a strain on the heart," Glazier said. "Other studies that looked at MRIs of the hearts of runners showed that they can become very enlarged after a race and we worry that with competitive running you might get some scarring of the heart and then maybe some rhythm problems."
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Does science have a bullying problem?

The secrecy — and the resulting confusion — are prime examples of the difficulties that scientific institutions and researchers face in dealing with the thorny issue of bullying. Some actions might fit into a grey zone. What one person considers firm management, another might consider bullying. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, a Ph.D. supervisor giving a student a raft of unfamiliar experiments to complete, with a deadline that leaves the student stressed and working all night. Is this bullying? The answer depends on the broader behavior and approach, explains Loraleigh Keashly, a communications scientist at Wayne State University.
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What the first Thanksgiving dinner actually looked like

Julie Lesnik, assistant professor of anthropology, wrote an article about the menu of the first Thanksgiving held nearly 400 years ago in Massachusetts. Lesnik points out that there is only one original account of the feast chronicled in a letter written by Edward Winslow on Dec. 11, 1621. In it he described the first Thanksgiving event held by the pilgrims. Winslow describes how the Puritans celebrated by feasting on waterfowl, eating goose and duck rather than turkey. The letter also recounts that the Wampanoag leader Massasoit Ousamequin was present, along with “some ninety men,” and that they gifted deer to Governor William Bradford.

Palestinians 'cast to the margins' as Israel deepens ties with Gulf states

Over the last month, Israeli leaders have made a string of friendly visits, gestures and statements towards Arab leaders in the Gulf, positioning Israel for what appears to be a more overt alliance with Gulf states, from Oman to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Palestinian struggle for statehood, meanwhile, has been "cast to the margins" by the leaders of these same Gulf countries, said Saeed Khan, a senior lecturer in Near East studies at Wayne State University. "It seems as though, among the Saudis, UAE and to a certain degree Oman, they are clearly putting their stock with the official Israeli political line. They're either turning a blind eye or seemingly not at all interested in the Palestinian issue," Khan told Middle East Eye.
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Marijuana a sure thing for entrepreneurs?

Jeff Stoltman, a professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Wayne State University's Mike Ilitch School of Business, said a lot of his students look at opening a marijuana business as a sure thing. Stoltman said he pushes his students who are interested in the pot business to dig deeper into market realities. "They’re looking at this tremendous explosive growth in the states where the cannabis business was liberated a little earlier and there is this ‘Why not here, why not me?’ They don’t dig too deep to find out who is really benefiting the most of those kind of operations and what was the path that they took and can they replicate that here.”
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Most Detroiters in a decade worked in September

Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University and director of its labor program, said to decrease poverty, the city needs to decrease the number of those who are not participating in the workforce. This, he said, can be expensive and requires greater outreach efforts and mentorship, better access to transportation, improving schools and changing laws to make it easier for ex-offenders to be hired. "I think there's room for improvement in Detroit," 
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General Motors offers buyouts to 18,000 workers: 'The world is changing'

General Motors is a technology company that makes cars, and the skills its employees had yesterday are continuously becoming outdated. Experts say that is the underlying message of GM CEO Mary Barra's move on Oct. 31 to offer voluntary buyouts to GM's North American salaried workers with 12 or more years of experience with the company. On the surface, it's typical cost-cutting ahead of a potential dip in new-car sales and rising raw material costs. But look closer. Consider that Barra hails from a human resources background, so targeting employees with long seniority and high pay grades is strategic when a company is moving toward the development of more electric cars, fuel cells and autonomous vehicles, experts say. It means redeploying the workforce and freeing up significant capital, said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University.
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'Young people are very excited,' Michiganders getting midterm-ready

U.S. midterm elections are taking place across the country Tuesday. Other than voting for candidates, voters will also be saying 'yay' or 'nay' to three proposals on the ballots. One of them is the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. "It seems as though many in the state want to follow the example of Canada and be up to speed with that," said Saeed​ Khan, senior lecturer at Wayne State University. However, even if it becomes legal in Michigan, crossing the Canada-U.S. border with marijuana will continue to be a criminal offence under the U.S. federal law.
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Flint water crisis prompts Schuette, Whitmer to accuse each other of hurting victims

Flint is a majority African-American city and Democratic stronghold. But to turn out new urban voters in Flint, candidates will have to do more than hearken back to missed opportunities and old scandals, said Ronald Brown, an associate professor of political science at Wayne State University. Candidates must also speak about what they plan to accomplish in terms of improving schools and delivering clean water and safe streets, he said. "If it's just the Flint water issue, that’s not going to move those voters," Brown said. "I think it’s very difficult for any party to get out new voters, especially to get urban voters to vote, when you’ve not been able to solve your problems that have been around for a very long time," he said. 
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Mitovation sees path to commercialization

Mitovation has licensed three patents from Wayne State University and has built a prototype device designed to stop cell damage that occurs because of a lack of blood flow after heart attacks, something called post ischemia brain injury. The device looks like a small bike helmet, and it shoots infrared light through the skull and into the brain. Most of the damage occurs after a patient is resuscitated and the blood begins flowing again, a process known as reperfusion. The goal is to improve clinical outcomes of hospital patients who suffer heart attacks during their stay, shorten the length of their stay in intensive-care units and reduce long-term disability of those affected by brain injury in the wake of a cardiac arrest.
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Cardiosound wades into blood pressure monitoring

Turning a university research project into a for-profit company typically takes a veteran of the startup ecosystem, someone familiar with defining market opportunity and figuring out how to find customers in that market and make them pay for what you have. That was true for Cardiosound LLC, which formally launched in August. The company grew from efforts by Gaurav Kapur, a physician and associate professor of pediatrics at Wayne State, to find a better way to measure blood pressure, particularly in infants, where current methods are notoriously inaccurate. Kapur reached out to some colleagues at WSU — Sean Wu, a professor of mechanical engineering; Yong Xu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering; and William Lyman, a professor of pediatrics.
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Lead levels drop in Michigan kids after Flint spike. But so does testing.

“Lead is still in all these older homes in Michigan, and until it is substantially abated or these homes are removed from the housing stock, there is still a hazard to kids,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Housing. In Detroit, at least 10 percent of kids in eight of 27 city ZIP Codes tested positive for elevated lead levels. Many are in some of the city’s oldest and most blighted neighborhoods, such as the Virginia Park neighborhood in the city’s 48206 ZIP Code, where 19 percent of tested children had elevated levels last year. Thompson has led efforts to test children in that Detroit ZIP Code and another, 48214, where 16 percent of children had elevated lead levels last year. He said 85 percent of the 1,000 homes he’s tested in that neighborhood were positive for lead. It’s one of several initiatives in cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids, but remediation efforts are expensive.

OPINION: Soon we may have nanobots in our bloodstream

In the next decade or two, the blood of people will very likely be full of tiny nanobots that will assist in preventing them from falling ill. When injected into our bodies, the nanobots will protect the physiological system on a molecular level to ensure a healthy and long life. Is this science fiction? No, not at all. The future is much closer than we may think. In the nanomedicine age different kinds of nanobots will increasingly be used as very accurate drug-delivery systems, cancer treatment tools or miniscule surgeons. A research team from Wayne State University has developed a nanobot that works in combination with chemo­therapeutic drugs that may reverse drug-resistance in renal cell carcinoma by releasing the payload selectively to the tissue and core of the tumor resulting in its inhibition. Successful trials with mice found their life expectancy more than doubled.
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Digging for mid-1800s trash uncovers lives of Corktown residents

Thomas Killion, associate professor of anthropology at Wayne State, said he and his students worked for three years on the archaeological dig at the row house, one of Detroit's oldest surviving structures. The dig revealed more than 6,000 fragments and pieces of different household objects that helped paint a picture of how these workers lived in the mid-1800s. Killion said archaeologists don’t expect to find one huge item that reveals everything, but rather a lot of little things that add up to a story. “It was an interesting icon for this fairly mythical Irish neighborhood of Detroit. It had the trifecta there: (the beverages you drink in) early life, middle life and later life," he said. Krysta Ryzewski, associate professor in anthropology at Wayne State, has led the Roosevelt Park digs every other year since 2012. When plans to build the train station were announced in the early 1900s, the city wanted to forcibly remove those who lived around the station, Ryzewski said.