A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Research of Consequence Is a Mason Hallmark

By Michele McDonald on November 2, 2015

From innovative cancer treatments to concussion detection, George Mason University researchers are pioneering techniques designed to change the lives of patients and their families.

George Mason’s Science and Technology Campus brings together researchers from across the university, including the College of Science, College of Education and Human Development, College of Health and Human Services, and the Volgenau School of Engineering.

Personalized medicine is at the forefront, and the Mason-based Center for Proteomics and Molecular Medicine has pioneered proteomics, or the study of proteins. Led by Lance Liotta and Emanuel “Chip” Petricoin, the center has discovered treatments for patients with metastatic breast cancer who otherwise had few options.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and American Association for Cancer Research recently awarded Petricoin a $1 million grant to find better treatments for pancreatic cancer, a cancer with a dismal survival rate.

Petricoin also is working with concussion expert Shane Caswell, executive director of Mason’s SMART [Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing] Lab. They’re looking for biomarkers, or clues, that will help detect concussions. In addition, members of the general public are invited to use the SMART Lab to assess their running gait, body composition, and aerobic potential.

Meanwhile, researchers at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases say they are within a few years of developing a cure for HIV. Funding for this effort comes from a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Center researchers also are looking to the natural world for treatments of diseases and other conditions. Research supported by a $7.5 million grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency found sophisticated germ-fighting peptides in alligator blood that could help prevent infection in soldiers wounded in the field. In another study, curcumin, found in the popular Indian spice turmeric, stopped the deadly Rift Valley Fever virus from multiplying in infected cells. Still other Mason researchers discovered that cranberry extract prevented bacteria associated with cystic fibrosis from taking hold in lung tissue.

At the Microbiome Analysis Center, researchers are studying microbial communities that live within the human body and even on the skin. They are also looking at how these tiny organisms can be barometers of environmental health in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.

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