UW-Green Bay professor, researcher uses flies to study brain injuries in athletes | #wearegreenbay.com#

One professor and researcher at UW-Green Bay is studying traumatic brain injuries. He’s hoping the findings will have implications for athletes who suffer from concussions or CTE. But he’s not studying actual athletes, the subjects of his experiments are much smaller. Assistant Prof. Doug Brusich (Human Biology) studies how flies recover from their brain injures or if they recover at all. “Several successive injuries at a mild to moderate level result in the same sort of dysfunction as one severe injury suggesting that these more mild injuries, when coupled closely in time, is probably impactful toward outcomes,” says Brusich. Source: UW-Green Bay professor, researcher uses flies to study brain injuries in athletes | #wearegreenbay.com#

Video: Virus Without Borders

On Thursday, March 5, 2020, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Global Studies program presented “Virus Without Borders: The Global Threat and Response to COVID-19,” a free, multi-disciplinary look at the Coronavirus outbreak for the University community and the public. The panel consisted of UW-Green Bay professors Christine Vandenhouten (Nursing, Global Studies), Rebecca Hovarter (Nursing) and Brian Merkel (Human Biology and local organizer of the Tiny Earth event to discover new antibiotics.)

Panelists connected with local media, offered their expertise and answered audience questions. Watch the presentation below.

Video captured by: UW-Green Bay Academic Technology Services

Human Biology Seminar on bias and inclusivity in the sciences, March 6

Prior to her speaking for the NAS Seminar at 4 p.m., Prof. Andrea Romero from UW-Whitewater will be giving a Human Biology Seminar talk at 2 p.m. in Room 301 in the Environmental Sciences Building. She will explore the participation of women and people of color in the sciences, discuss what biases continue to prevent an inclusive environment and, using historical and intersectional lenses, provide recommendations for creating a more equitable culture in these fields. This talk is free and open to the public.

UW-Green Bay preparing to host presentation on Coronavirus | Seehafer News

UW-Green Bay Profs. Brian Merkel (Human Biology), Christine Vandenhouten (Nursing and Global Studies) and Rebecca Hovarter (Nursing) are organizing a presentation on the Coronavirus, which will feature a multidisciplinary look at the virus. The event is on Thursday, March 5, 2020 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Christie Theatre on the UW-Green Bay Campus. More via UW-Green Bay preparing to host presentation on Coronavirus | Seehafer News. 

UW-Green Bay to present ‘Virus Without Borders’ a multi-disciplinary look at the coronavirus outbreak, March 5, 2020

Green Bay, Wis.—University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professors Christine Vandenhouten (Nursing, Global Studies), Rebecca Hovarter (Nursing) and Brian Merkel (Human Biology and local organizer of the Tiny Earth event to discover new antibiotics) will join to present, “Virus Without Borders: The Global Threat and Response to the Novel Coronavirus” on Thursday, March 5, 2020 from 3 to 4:30 p.m., Christie Theater, University Union, Green Bay Campus.

The coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, where the first known case of the virus was detected. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee declared the coronavirus as an international public health emergency on January, 30, 2020. Worldwide, there are now more than 60,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with at least around 1,350 deaths. For now, the virus is contained to 15 confirmed cases in the United States, with one of those cases being in Madison, Wisconsin.

This presentation, sponsored by the UW-Green Bay Global Studies program, is a multi-disciplinary look at the world’s current health crisis. It is free and open to the public.

Attention members of the media: Faculty members will be available for interviews at 2:30 outside the Christie Theatre, by RSVPing to Sue Bodilly, bodillys@uwgb.edu.

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Press release by Marketing and University Communication Assistant, Joshua Konecke

‘Virus Without Borders’ presentation on March 5 at UW-Green Bay Campus

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Professors Chris Vandenhouten (Nursing and Global Studies), Rebecca Hovarter (Nursing) and Brian Merkel (Human Biology) will be presenting, “Virus Without Borders: The Global Threat and Response to the Novel Coronavirus” on Thursday, March 5, 2020 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Christie Theater on the concourse level of the University Union on the Green Bay Campus.

The coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, where the first known case of the virus was detected. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee declared the coronavirus as an international public health emergency on January, 30, 2020. Worldwide, there are now over 60,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with at least around 1,350 deaths. For now, the virus is contained to 15 confirmed cases in the United States, with one of those cases being in Madison, Wisconsin.

This event is free and open to the public.

UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. researches how fruit flies may be able to teach us about football injuries | WPR

“Fruit flies and humans may have more in common than you think. Flies were used during early research into human genetics, said Dr. Doug Brusich. Brusich, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is among a group of researchers who now use the insect to study traumatic brain injuries. Their findings could have implications for athletes.” More via How fruit flies may be able to teach us about football injuries | WPR.

CSET Scholarship Recipients

Nearly $80,000 awarded in scholarships through UW-Green Bay’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Green Bay, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s College of Science and Technology announced the awarding of nearly $80,000 in scholarships this year. There were 58 scholarships awarded, totaling $78,325. Natural and Applied Sciences awarded 18 scholarships, totaling $20,600; Resch School of Engineering awarded 24 scholarships, totaling $40,725; Human Biology awarded 16 scholarships, totaling $17,000. A scholarship reception was held Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 on the Green Bay Campus.

2019-2020 NAS Scholarship Awardees
James E. Casperson/Environmental Science Alumni Endowed Scholarship: Patrick Brodhagen, Bonduel, WI

Alfred O. and Phyllis E. Holz Endowed Scholarship: Emma Gilbertson, Nashotah, WI and Norah Swenson, Janesville, WI

Carol R. DeGroot Endowed Scholarship in Environmental Science: Alicia Krause, La Crosse, WI

Morgan/Macaluso Family Endowed Scholarship: Claire Stuart, Sullivan, WI

Ganga and Elizabeth Nair Endowed Scholarship: Jessica Kessler, Bryant, WI

Katie Hemauer Memorial Endowed Scholarship: Ashlyn Schnell, Bonduel, WI

Bradford Cook Memorial Endowed Scholarship: Sierra Schug, Athen, Wi

Barbara and Benjamin Cruz-Uribe Family Endowed Scholarship for the Study of Environmental Issues: Miranda Esser, Green Bay, WI

Chad Moritz and Beth Meyerand Annual Scholarship: BethaLynn Bontrager, Eagle River, WI

Moose Lodge Rod and Gun Club Annual Scholarship: Grace Pechman, Fond du Lac, WI

Ruth and James Wiersma Endowed Scholarship: Jessie Hanson, Minnetrista, MN

Herbert Fisk Johnson Endowed Scholarship for Excellence: Tyler Dvorachek, Howards Grove, WI, Carly Flunker, Sobieski, WI and Kyle Hansen, La Crosse, WI

Brown County Waste Transformation Team Annual Scholarship: Rachel Malcore, Brussels, WI

Science and Mathematics Endowed Scholarship: Caleb Torres, Sheboygan, WI

Nancy J. Sell Memorial Endowed Scholarship: Anna Liu, Des Moines, IA

2019-2020 Richard Resch School of Engineering Scholarship Awardees

NEW Engineering Endowed Scholarship-First Year: Allyssa Rueth, Slinger, WI

NEW Engineering Endowed Scholarship-Second Year): Michael McGuire, Freedom, WI

Susan Finco and Ed Kralovec Endowed Scholarship: Griffin Magee, Eland, WI

Superior Diesel Endowed Scholarship for Engineering Technology: Bailey Crary, Reedsburg, WI

Dykema Family Endowed Scholarship: Benjamin Desk, Markesan, WI

Lee and Kathy Anderson Endowed Scholarship for Engineering Technology: Michael Jensen, Suamico, WI

Beth and Richard Gochnauer Endowed Scholarship for Engineering Technology: Billie Komorowski and Pa Yeng Yang, Green Bay, WI

Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance Future All-Stars Annual Scholarship: Adam Jensen, Little Chute, WI, Charles Sheraden, Green Bay, WI, Aaron Splan, Pulaski, WI and Isaiah Stonebraker, Mishicot, WI

BPM, Inc., A Specialty Paper Mill, Annual Scholarship for Engineering Technology: Kyle Still, Abrams, WI

FEECO International Engineering Technology Annual Scholarship: Wade Druar, Green Bay, WI

HATCO Corporation’s David G. Hatch Annual Scholarship in Engineering: Wade Druar, Green Bay, WI and Elliott Seiler, Sturgeon Bay, WI

Optima Machinery Corporation Annual Scholarship in Engineering: Joshua Mendez, Green Bay, WI

Georgia-Pacific Annual Scholarship in Engineering: Denny Christoff, Luxemburg, WI, Elizabeth Heinen, Oostburg, WI, Cade Koschnik, Appleton, WI, Joshua Mendez, Green Bay, WI and Gabriel Weiler, Green Bay, WI

Foth Companies Endowed Scholarship in Engineering: Colton Koss, Luxemburg, WI and Paul VanderKelen, Green Bay, WI

The Ken Metzler Engineering Scholarship: Denny Christoff, Luxemburg, WI and Elizabeth Heinen (awarded in August of 2019), Oostburg, WI

Spring 2020 Human Biology Scholarship Awardees:

Jeremy Green Family Scholarship: Nathaniel Disher, Stevens Point, WI

Dr. Donel Sullivan Scholarship: Ruchita Patel

Herbert and Crystal Sandmire Scholarship: Kaitlyn Baier, Elk Mound, WI, Brooke Breitrick, Bowler, WI, Katie Cudnohufsky, Ben Gilles, Madison, WI, Akanksha Gurtu, De Pere, WI, Logan Johnsen, Louisburg, KS, Anna Liu, Des Moines, IA, Ashlyn Schnell, Bonduel, WI, Kristen Shaver, Hortonville, WI, Emily Song, Grace Stabenau, Howard, WI, Sydney Walker, De Pere, WI, Ashley Willes, Kaukauna, WI and Taylor Wolf, Waconia, MN

Fall 2019 Human Biology Scholarship Awardees:

Jeremy Green Family Scholarship: Mareah Desotelle

Dr. Donel Sullivan Scholarship: Ben Gilles, Madison, WI

Herbert and Crystal Sandmire Scholarship: Justin Ferkin, Elena Garcia, Two Rivers, WI, Natalie Gawron, Black River Falls, WI, Abigail Heil, Wisconsin Rapids, WI, Mackenzie Hemauer, Sara Kroneck, Amber Perez, Menomonee Falls, WI, Emma Sloot, St. Paul, MN, Grace Stabenau, Howard, WI, Kayla Vrieze and Ashley Willes, Kaukauna, WI

Herbert and Crystal Sandmire Summer Research Internship: Brooke Breitrick, Bowler, WI and Janay Walters

Herbert and Crystal Sandmire Scholars Program: Anna Cudney, Appleton, WI, Jenna Grandinetti, Grafton, WI, Lauren Russell, Burlington, WI and Marissa Spatz, Auburndale, WI

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Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

CSET Scholarship Reception 2020

– Photos by Dan Moore, Marketing and University Communication

Faculty note: Assistant Profs. Mandeep Singh Bakshi and Georgette Moyle-Heyrman publish article

Assistant Profs. Mandeep Singh Bakshi (Chemistry, NAS) and Georgette Moyle-Heyrman (Human Biology) recently published an article in ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. The article is titled, “Functionalized Iron Oxide–Metal Hybrid Nanoparticles for Protein Extraction from Complex Fluids.” This work demonstrates that the hybrid nanomaterials are much more efficient in extracting protein fractions from complex biological fluids in comparison to pure nanomaterials with applications in biotechnology. The article can be read here

Deceptively simple fruit fly may provide life-saving lessons according to UW-Green Bay researchers

The deceptively simple Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) may have life-saving lessons to share with the significantly more complex Homo sapiens, lessons that could lead to future changes in treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-4According to a peer-reviewed research paper published recently in the journal Fly[1],  results from studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay suggest three significant findings with potential implications for humans:

  • First, repetitive, moderate blows to the head at short intervals have potential for serious injury. There appears to be a cumulative effect from a series of moderate blows within a short time frame, which can be as harmful as a single significant blow.
  • Second, the time frame for increased harm caused by repeated injuries can operate at shorter timescales than has been previously appreciated. The research suggests that consideration must be paid to repetitive injuries that occur closely together.
  • Finally, TBI caused an initial impairment of motor coordination, temporary recovery, and then a second, delayed impairment before full recovery was achieved. Single severe injuries caused the same impairment as repetitive moderate blows. Thus, if only using coordination measures, there is a risk for improperly determining an individual has recovered from a TBI event, whether severe or moderate, at an early time-point, when in fact they are still in the process of fully recovering.

By now you’re probably asking, “All of this from a fruit fly?”

“That’s a question I get a lot,” smiles Doug Brusich, assistant professor of Human Biology and leader of the research team. “People wonder why we use fruit flies and how results from those studies can have any relevance to humans.”

Brusich recited the reasons with the ease of someone who has answered this question many times before:

“Fruit fly genes mirror human genes very closely,” said Brusich, “so while findings may not be completely analogous, they usually point us to something that might be worthy of further study in mammals, including humans.

“Their genes are also easier to work with than mammal genes,” he continued. “For example, where mammals might have nine genes that govern sodium channels, fruit flies have one. If you make a change in that sodium channel and observe a result, you have a potential indication of a similar importance in mammals.

“Fruit flies also breed quickly, from larvae to adults in 10 days, and have 80-day life cycles,” said Brusich, “so we can develop hundreds of flies for study in a relatively short time. And we can use flies at varying stages of  their lives to see if age has any impact on the results.

“We also have to consider the financial and ethical aspects of our research,” he added. “Fruit flies are very inexpensive to maintain in the lab, especially compared to the cost of other potential subject animals like mice. And the ethical questions that arise when inflicting brain damage on flies are much less complex.

“It’s also important that the ways we produce injuries on flies in the lab is as similar to the ways humans experience TBIs,” Brusich concluded, “The results from fruit fly research come from impact and rotational forces that closely resemble forces humans might experience.”

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-3

Expanding the research to new levels

Brusich and his team at UW-Green Bay—former undergraduate student Lauren Putnam (2018), and current undergraduates Nathaniel Disher, Brooke Kalata and Ashley Willes—knew the literature contained well documented fruit fly studies of TBI based on single, high-impact strikes. They wondered, though, whether the methods in those studies could be used to study milder injuries, which are more common but less understood.

“There were two reasons we pursued this path,” explained Brusich. “First, mild head trauma is quite common and affects human health. Roughly 70-90% of the greater than 1.5 million annual TBI events resulting in hospital visits in the United States are classified as mild, however, just as many mild injuries are estimated to go unreported. Additionally, we have evidence that mild head injuries which fail to even meet classic criteria for a concussion result in changes in brain health.

“Second,” he continued, “mild injuries have so far been poorly studied or modeled by mammalian or fly models of TBI. This is in part because mild injuries don’t always generate noticeable outcomes. As a result, we have little information about mild TBI.

“Expanding our studies to reduced levels of severity opens the possibility of investigating similarities and/or differences in predisposition and consequences in response to severe versus mild TBI,” he concluded.

Douglas Brusich Fruit Fly Research-2

Is it dead or just sleeping?

Anyone who has swatted a house fly has seen the immediate effect of a (lucky) strike. The fly is temporarily stunned and may sit motionless for a short time before recovering and flying off to annoy you again.

It turns out the temporary disorientation we casually observe is one of the behaviors researchers look for after striking flies in the lab. They also have other behavioral clues to watch for and record.

But those clues are subtle and you can’t have a lab full of researchers swatting willy-nilly at a room full of flies that are smaller than a house fly’s wing. For one thing, the lab is only the size of a galley kitchen. For another, how would you observe and record any of the fruit flies’ behavior in such an environment? How do you set up a study that provides predictable levels of “swat” energy and enables recording of the results?

Brusich and his team arrived at a MacGyver-like solution by adapting a compression spring-powered device developed by researchers at UW-Madison specifically for fruit fly research. The original device produced a strike (a “swat”) by attaching a vial of 20 to 60 flies to the end of the 10-inch-long coil spring, affixing the spring horizontally to a padded surface, pulling the spring upward to a 90-degree deflection from the table, then releasing the spring to return to its horizontal position, stunning the flies in the vial.

This method has become known as the High-Impact Trauma (HIT) method and has been widely adopted in fly research.

For his team’s purpose, Brusich modified the device so it could reliably and accurately produce single or multiple strikes at 60-, 70-, 80- and 90-degree deflections. This enabled the team to examine the results of repetitive HIT events to about 34,000 fruit flies across varying levels of severity, from mild to severe.

The team also combined low-tech and high-tech solutions to study the fruit flies’ ability to walk (geotaxis) after TBI events. They used a plywood frame and elastic bands to hold several vials upright, then dropped the frame three times from a set height, forcing the flies to the bottom of the vial.

They then used a Logitech webcam to watch as the flies reacted: some scrambled to the top, some remained confused and some stayed at the bottom. Using screen shots and statistical modeling software, the flies’ actions were catalogued, timed and plotted.

The results of the study confirmed other researchers’ findings for severe TBI effects (strikes at 90-degree deflections) and produced the three novel results described above (arising from repetitive strikes at varying intervals that produce less severe, but cumulative, TBI effects).

“We were happy that our study produced results so consistent with what others had found,” said Brusich. “And we think the findings that resulted from expanding the methodology to less severe levels of TBI have potential implications for further study in fruit flies and mammals. Future findings could change the way we assess and treat TBI.”

From TBI to epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease

Brusich is already taking information from his TBI research into others areas of exploration.

“I initially got into studying epilepsy from experiments I conducted as part of my graduate thesis,” said Brusich. “I started using TBI in part to model post-traumatic epilepsy, which my lab is now studying. More broadly, TBI findings are relevant to aging and neurodegeneration, such as from dementias like Alzheimer’s, and so the more we learn from this model the better. TBI is also a trending topic in research, so the additional perks are that it is garnering more funding and becoming an attractive and enjoyable area of research for prospective students.

“I have long wanted my role to be a split research-teaching one at a primarily undergraduate school like UW-Green Bay,” he continued, “and the simple, low-cost set up of my lab is appropriate for undergraduate involvement. The supportive environment created by my dean and by the school in general has enabled us to carve out this niche for ourselves versus the research functions at some of the larger schools.”

Aspiring researchers welcome

Brusich hopes other students who share his passion for fundamental research will consider joining him.

“I always mention my research interests in the courses I teach and ask students to chat with me if they think they might be interested in research,” said Brusich.

“I compile a list of these students and others who have heard about the opportunity, then invite students from the list to interviews held once or twice a year. Students are always welcome to contact me (email is best) if they are interested in research.”


[1] Lauren J Putnam, Ashley M Willes, Brooke E Kalata, Nathaniel D Disher & Douglas J Brusich (2019): Expansion of a fly TBI model to four levels of injury severity reveals synergistic effects of repetitive injury for moderate injury conditions, Fly, DOI: 10.1080/19336934.2019.1664363.

Story by freelance writer Jim Streed ’05, photos by Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay photographer and videographer