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October 15, 2010

ULM's Biology Department leads way in research-intensive collaborations

The excellent faculty in the ULM Department of Biology know that the hallmark of biological science is interdisciplinary scholarship and research collaborations.

To this end, Associate Professor Chris Gissendanner has secured funding for genetic research since 2007 through an organization known as INBRE - the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence. Among the organization's numerous goals are to share resources that might help increase the number of competitive investigators in Louisiana.

INBRE, the umbrella organization for the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network, provides financial support to connect predominantly undergraduate universities, including ULM, led by biomedical research-intensive universities such as LSU.

Gissendanner's project is funded until 2012 and is aimed at understanding the functions of the NR4A gene during cell proliferation and cell differentiation, a gene which appears to play a crucial role in understanding the development of several human diseases including atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegeneratio.

"The NR4A gene family is a type of nuclear receptor that contributes to embryonic development and healthy physiological growth in adults," said Gissendanner. "I am especially interested in discovering more about the role of NR4A during normal development and its impact on the formation of organs and organ systems. By understanding the normal function of a gene, it becomes easier to understand how that gene might be responsible for a disease condition."

Gissendanner said that given the importance of NR4A in normal development and disease, the primary objective of the project will be continuing to uncover how the gene functions during cell growth and change, within context of a particular organisms' development.

"Dr. Gissendanner is a very talented educator and scientist, who has brought state-of-the art, quality, molecular biology research to the biology department," said Department Head Professor Sushma Krishnamurthy. "We are very proud of his accomplishments."

"Dr. Gissendanner is the quintessential example of what the National Institutes of Health has intended its INBRE projects to do," said Eric Pani, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at ULM.

Pani continued, "Through the funding and mentoring he has received from participating in LBRN, Dr. Gissendanner has conducted independent and significant research that has resulted in the data and publications essential for making his applications for federal funding competitive with those from scientists at research-intensive institutions. Consequently, he has secured a multi-year grant from the NIH to continue his research. We are extremely pleased with Dr. Gissendanner's work and look for him to become a leading scientist in his field and to mentor other ULM faculty members."

Researchers and students at LBRN-connected schools are paired with mentors and collaborators at the state's biomedical research-intensive centers, including LSU, LSU Health Sciences Centers in Shreveport and New Orleans, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the Tulane Medical Center and the Tulane National Primate Research Center. The program also includes an extensive summer research-training program from undergraduates and graduate students and includes students from 23 institutions in the state.

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