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WSU Research Disease Onset

Tasmanian devils evolve to resist deadly cancer

Tasmanian Devil

Exploring evolutionary genetics to stop disease

Ornery marsupials about the size of a small dog, Tasmanian devils reign as the dominant carnivore on their native island of Tasmania, 150 miles south of Australia. But in the past 2 decades, these ferocious creatures have faced a lethal threat: a fast-spreading, contagious cancer.

Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) causes painful red welts to erupt on the animal’s mouth and head. Victims become unable to eat. They either starve to death or suffocate. Spreading like a virus, DFTD has wiped out 80 percent of Tasmanian devils in the wild. Epidemiological studies said that extinction was inevitable.

But some … » More …

Understanding obesity and eating disorders

A closeup of Sue Ritter in a lab

Studies shed new light on conditions that afflict hundreds of millions worldwide

Through its premiere College of Veterinary Medicine, WSU has been a leader of translational and biomedical research, including collaborative and comparative research that has direct application to human health. Neuroscientists Bob and Sue Ritter, researchers in Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience and members of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, have devoted their careers to studying the complex hormonal and neurological pathways of appetite and satiation. With funding from the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive Diseases and Kidney and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, they are probing the fundamental processes … » More …

Fighting cancer, the ultimate foe

A photo of Weihang Chai doing research in a lab

Scientists search for the secret to malignant cells’ longevity

Cancer cells are like villainous cyborgs in an action film: they simply won’t die.

Molecular biologist Weihang Chai seeks ways to terminate them. The associate professor in the College of Medicine studies the role of telomeres, the protective tips of chromosomes, in tumor growth.

Every time a normal cell reproduces, a snippet of the telomere is lost. When telomeres become short enough, the cell stops growing and eventually dies.

But in a cancer cell, something prevents telomeres from shortening. The cell can reproduce again and again and keep on growing.

In a lab on the WSU … » More …