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WSU Research Sustaining Health

Making packaged food safer, more nutritious, and delicious

A photo of a two researchers looking over data

Microwave-assisted thermal processing technologies transform “ready-to-eat meals”

Foodborne illnesses sicken more than 8.9 million Americans each year and claim more than 2,300 lives. In addition to human suffering, the illnesses exact a staggering economic toll—more than $15.6 billion in medical expenses, lost income, and more according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates.1

Dr. Juming Tang is finding new ways to make our food safer. The Regents Professor and Distinguished Chair of Food Engineering has developed new methods of controlling bacteria and viruses in “ready-to-eat meals”— frozen, refrigerated, or shelf-stable entrees sold at retail markets and used in institutions, as well as shelf-stable rations … » More …

Happier humans

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Across cultures, introverts benefit from social behavior

Humanity can be roughly divided into 2 personality camps: introverts and extroverts. Generally speaking, introverts prefer small groups of friends, enjoy stretches of solitude, and may feel drained by the expansive socializing that fuels the more numerous extrovert camp.

There’s a common stereotype that assumes introverts are antisocial or fundamentally unhappy. But studies show that introverts aren’t antisocial; like extroverts, they experience higher levels of happiness when they engage in outgoing behaviors. However, those studies were done in the U.S. and other Western countries with similar cultural values.

WSU professor Timothy Church wanted to see if these personality-related … » More …

Improving hospital care outcomes

A photo of an old woman sitting with a bunch of medications on a table

Managing medications after discharge

Being released from the hospital seems like the end of an ordeal. But when her mother came home from a stay in the intensive care unit, WSU College of Nursing professor Cindy Corbett saw for herself how perplexing, even dangerous, the transition can be.

Despite her education and experience as a nurse, Dr. Corbett found herself struggling to straighten out which medications her mother needed at what dosage and when they had last been administered. Each of the care providers she contacted had only a partial picture of what her mother needed. She knew that if she was having trouble … » More …

Finding treatment for genetic disorders

A closeup photo of a DNA sequence representation

Experimental drug could help children with a rare inherited condition

A rare inherited disorder that afflicts children, succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency (SSADHD) is a defect in GABA metabolism that mimics autism and epilepsy. It triggers seizures, low muscle tone, developmental delays, and a host of neurological problems. There is no treatment beyond simply managing seizures and other symptoms.

SSADHD is caused by a mutation in a single gene that leaves a critical enzyme in short supply. K. Michael Gibson, a board-certified clinical biochemical geneticist and director of the Experimental and Systems Pharmacology Unit in the College of Pharmacy, discovered the enzyme defect during … » More …

Preventing sensory loss

Study explores ways to safeguard fragile cells in the inner ear

It doesn’t take much to damage the delicate sensory cells of the inner ear—loud noises, a toxin, or even a life-saving antibiotic can damage or kill the minuscule hair cells that convert acoustic signals to electrochemical signals in the nervous system. If too many of these fragile cells die, hearing dies with them.

WSU researcher Allison Coffin, of the University’s Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, wants to make sure this doesn’t happen.

With funding from the National Institute of Health and the Action on Hearing Loss Foundation, Dr. Coffin is exploring ways … » 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 …