Five CALS-affiliated research initiatives receive UW2020 awards

Five research proposals with CALS faculty as principal investigators, co-PIs, or co-investigators are among the 12 recipients recently selected for Round 6 of UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative awards. They include research on the microstructure of ice, preserving biodiversity through banking of genetic material, metallic micronutrients and their relationships to human microbiota, as well as diabetes, leukemia and metabolism.

The goal of UW2020 is to stimulate and support cutting edge, highly innovative and groundbreaking research at UW-Madison and the acquisition of shared instruments or equipment that will open new avenues for innovative and significant research.

The five projects with CALS affiliations are:

Accelerating diabetes and metabolism research at UW–Madison
Judith Simcox (Co-PI, Biochemistry); Alan Attie (Co-I, Biochemistry); David Pagliarini (Co-I, Biochemistry); Federico Rey (Co-I, Bacteriology)

This project establishes two new innovative research core facilities that will accelerate diabetes and metabolism research at UW–Madison by providing state-of-the-art experimental capacity to support a new Comprehensive Diabetes Center. These new cores include a Mouse Phenotyping and Surgery Core (MPSC) and the Advanced Lipidomics Facility (ALF).

Cracking the structure of ice: establishing a cryogenic electron backscatter diffraction and Raman capability at UW–Madison
Richard Hartel (Co-I, Food Science)

This project will develop the capability to perform scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of water and CO2 ice in the UW–Madison Geoscience Department, focusing on electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis for ice microstructure and Raman spectroscopy for ice composition. EBSD of ice is an extremely rare analytical capability worldwide.

Establishing proof-of-principle models for animal biodiversity biobanking
Francisco Pelegri (PI, Genetics); Claudio Gratton (Co-I, Entomology); Susan Paskewitz (Co-I, Entomology); Sean Schoville (Co-I, Entomology)

This project will preserve biodiversity by biobanking genetic material and regenerating species through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and inter-species SCNT. Adverse events such as climate change and habitat fragmentation are threatening biodiversity and will lead to an increase in species extinction. An extinct species is lost forever, but, in principle, molecular methods allow preservation of samples representing the species and, through SCNT-mediated cloning, the ability to regenerate an animal population. Preservation of nuclear samples and SCNT-mediated cloning approaches hold promise for regenerating critically endangered species and preserving biodiversity. The project also has important implications for in vitro organ production for regenerative medicine.

Metabolic profiling of leukemic cells through isotope tracing in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Jing Fan (PI, Nutritional Sciences)

This project will leverage cutting-edge metabolomics and isotopic labeling-based flux analysis in humans to investigate metabolic reprogramming in malignant lymphocytes in their natural habitat such as the blood stream and bone marrow. The investigators will bring high-end mass spectrometry analyses into the clinic to address current questions in cancer research, including (a) how is in vivo metabolism altered by leukemia, (b) do cancer cells have specific metabolic needs that can be therapeutically targeted, and (c) how might the metabolic preference of cancer cells be impacted by microenvironment?

Mining the human microbiota for metallophores
Michael Thomas (PI, Bacteriology); Federico Rey (Co-PI, Bacteriology)

This project will generate new knowledge about the importance of controlling the homeostasis of metal micronutrients to the health and stability of the human microbiota and likely change our thinking about the importance of metallophores within the framework of microbial communities. An additional value of this project is the potential to discover novel chemistry in the pathways of synthesis of metallophores, which can also be used for synthetic biology purposes to make new drugs or antibiotics to improve human health.

Learn more about all of the WARF Discovery Initiative award winners here.