Basic and Translational Research

Our faculty are pursuing projects that will contribute to groundbreaking discoveries in medicine while training medical students in proper research methodology. In the area of basic and translational research, Central Michigan University constructed a 12,600 square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility for its College of Medicine faculty on its Mount Pleasant campus. The facility opened in June of 2013 and houses eight College of Medicine faculty.

Basic and translational research projects

Often referred to as "bench to bedside" research, translational research focuses on investigating results discovered in a basic science laboratory – in a cell culture or animal mode of disease, for example – to determine how such results might be applied to human treatments.

    Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s are diseases of the elderly that are progressive, deadly and difficult to treat. Alzheimer’s disease alone affects 16.1 million Americans, including 180,000 in Michigan. Alzheimer's disease in Michigan has increased to over 103% in the last five years. 

    College of Medicine researchers are conducting externally funded research using programmed stem cells and novel DNA delivery systems together with developing state-of-the-art chemogenetic and optogenetics methodological approaches to understand and effectively treat these diseases. 

    Primary investigators: Julien Rossignol, Ph.D., Ute Hochgeschwender, M.D.

    Diabetes is especially common in Central and Northern Michigan, with 10.4% of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes in 2014. Research groups in the College of Medicine are working on a variety of fronts to understand and find more effective treatments for diabetes and the complications of diabetes.

    One research group has external funding to study the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in a common heart complication caused by diabetes that leads to heart failure.

    Primary investigators: Mariana Rosca, M.D. and Neli Ragina, Ph.D.

    College of Medicine faculty are tackling human cancers by identifying molecular and biochemical signatures of cancer cells and relating those signatures to abnormal growth and metastasis in human cell culture and in mouse models. Other laboratories are working to identify new molecular and biochemical targets for cancer chemotherapy, while still others are involved with developing an all-purpose human cancer vaccine. 

    Primary investigators: Jesse Bakke, Ph.D., Stave Kohtz, Ph.D., Rosemary Poku, Ph.D.

    While mosquitoes are responsible for carrying diseases in many parts of the world, mosquito bites are annoying everywhere. A College of Medicine researcher is studying human hypersensitivity to mosquito saliva and the role this may play in the evolution of mosquito saliva antigens. Our vector-borne disease researchers are also making progress in identifying how disease-causing viruses such as zika and dengue enter and replicate in the mosquito.

    Primary investigator: Michael Conway, Ph.D.

    Mitochondria are subcellular organelles that are the power plants of the cell. Their role is to harvest the energy in the food we eat in the presence of oxygen and convert it to cellular energy. Inherited or acquired defects in this process affects one in 1500 people and are often progressive and devastating. There are very few treatment options.

    Several research groups in the College of Medicine have made important advances in our basic understanding of these problems and are proposing potential treatments for these deadly diseases.

    Primary investigators: Edward McKee, Ph.D., Mariana Rosca, M.D., Stave Kohtz, Ph.D.

    Pancreatic cancer has
    an 8% five-year survival rate, primarily due to a lack of early symptoms, high
    metastatic rates, and poor clinical drug responses. Globally, researchers seek
    to identify new drugs that may increase the overall survival of patients. We
    think the greatest leap in patient survival will be due to early detection of
    pancreatic cancer tumors. Mechanistic understanding of metastasis,
    specifically, understanding how pancreatic cancer cells survive the process of
    developing into distant metastatic sites, will be critical to developing
    therapies limiting the metastatic potential of early lesions. A critical
    component of metastasis is cellular adhesion and migration. We aim to uncover regulators
    of adhesion in pancreatic cancer cells. These protein regulators may provide
    new drug targets for metastatic pancreatic cancer as well as potentially
    prevent the development of metastatic sites in early pancreatic cancer.

    Primary investigator: Jesse Bakke, Ph.D.