Grant to focus on depression treatment

New Orleans — Benjamin Hall, an assistant professor of cell and molecular biology and neuroscience at Tulane University, has won a $1.8 million grant that will enable him and his research team to explore questions that could eventually lead to new treatments for chronic depression.

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health means Hall can purchase new lab equipment and employ additional researchers to study the role of the NMDA receptor in the treatment of depression. The NMDA receptor plays a critical role in the transmission of information between neurons.

The drug ketamine, which interferes with the NMDA receptor, produces rapid antidepressant actions in treatment-resistant patients. However, because of its hallucinatory side effects, ketamine has not been approved for treatment of depression.

Typical antidepressant therapies can take several weeks to work, placing patients with the most severe cases at risk for suicide or attempted suicide, Hall said.

Ketamine’s ability to cause rapid antidepressant actions by inhibiting the NMDA receptor is exciting, Hall said. But knowing the exact mechanisms underlying these effects could aid in the development of antidepressants that do not produce its unwanted side effects.

UNO Model U.N. club receives award

New Orleans — The University of New Orleans Model United Nations Club earned the Outstanding Delegation Award at the National Model United Nations Conference held last month in New York City.

The UNO delegation consisted of 18 students and faculty adviser John Hazlett, who is the director of the bachelor of arts degree program in international studies. The delegation, which was assigned to represent the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, also won four Outstanding Position Paper awards.

The UNO delegation was Brett Netto, Anna Marie Walter, Ashis Dahal, Chase Hukins, Carolina Andrade, Eduardo Abreu, Francisco Juelle, Hugo Garza, Jahi Mackey, Jonathan Lumpkin, Katie Pickett, Karen Lundy, Margaret Sullivan, Michael Bentley, Minie Taylor, Romy Lacour, Renee Barrow and Shaniqua Casey.

Dillard launches Brain Food lectures

New Orleans — Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough will launch his official lecture series, Brain Food, with a lecture from Michael Eric Dyson on at 7 p.m. April 18 in Lawless Memorial Chapel.

The series is free and open to the public.

In his previous post as president of Philander Smith College in Arkansas, Kimbrough created the popular Bless the Mic series, which booked speakers ranging from hip-hop star Common and motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant, to conservative commentator Ann Coulter and controversial author Charles Murray.

Dyson, a sociology professor at Georgetown University, has authored 16 books on topics ranging from Malcolm X, to Marvin Gaye, to Hurricane Katrina.

Loyola to hold final tax help sessions

New Orleans — The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, which provides free tax preparation assistance for people with low to moderate incomes, will hold its final session Thursday with extended hours.

The remaining sessions, are Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program office is located at Loyola College of Law, Broadway Activities Center, 501 Pine St., Room 202.

Those attending tax preparation sessions should bring identification, Social Security cards for each member of their household, tax returns and all other tax documents, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms and Social Security statements.

UNO hires Gregorio to head foundation

New Orleans — University of New Orleans President Peter J. Fos announced that Anthony Gregorio has been hired as executive director of university advancement.

He also will serve as executive director of the UNO Foundation, succeeding Patrick Gibbs, who recently retired.

Gregorio will be responsible for the Office of Development, the UNO International Alumni Association, the Nims Center Studios and the activities of the UNO Foundation, including coordinating the activities of the UNO Foundation Board. The UNO Foundation has agreed to fund his position.

Newman Civic Fellow announced

New Orleans — Boston-based Campus Compact has selected Tulane University junior Nhu Ngoc Pham as a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow for her work to make quality health care more accessible for low-income communities and people of color.

As a health care intern with the Micah Project, Pham is participating in a community-based research study focused on improving health care system operations and reducing the cost of emergency room visits. Ngoc also regularly provides language translation services for various nonprofits and conducts weekly visits with residents at the St. Charles Health Care Center.

Loyola presents panel talk on Germany

New Orleans —The Joseph A. Butt, S.J., College of Business at Loyola University New Orleans will present a panel discussion on Germany from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the St. Charles Room, located in the Danna Student Center.

The panel includes the German Honorary Consul to the U.S. Paul Andersson and German native Jan Heinrich Garbers, director of geomatics at TMG Consulting. The speakers will discuss German business practices and relationships between Germany and the United States, following by a question-and-answer session.

State Supreme Court justice to speak

New Orleans — Bernette J. Johnson, the first black chief justice in the history of the state of Louisiana, will be the keynote speaker at the Southern University at New Orleans Honors and Awards Day ceremonies at 11 a.m. April 17 in the University Gymnasium.

More than 700 students will be recognized during the annual Honors and Awards Day ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.

Research sheds light on infections

New Orleans — Research led by Dr. David Martin, professor and chief of infectious diseases at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, sheds new light on a common sexually transmitted infection that can increase a woman’s risk of premature deliveries and susceptibility to the virus that causes AIDS.

The findings are published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases and are also highlighted in the Nature publication, Nature Reviews, which reviews research by leading international researchers.

Martin and his group found that a common STI-causing parasite “cultivates” bacteria, changing thinking about which comes first — infection or bacteria. They discovered that there are two unique bacterial communities that are very strongly associated with infection caused by the trichomonas parasite. So instead of these unique bacterial communities predisposing a woman to infection as originally thought, the researchers now believe that trichomonas takes on the role of a “farmer” by cultivating bacterial communities that are beneficial to it.

Martin and his group discovered one of these bacterial communities is a new species which they named Mnola because it was discovered in New Orleans.

LSUHSC makes PTSD finding

New Orleans — Research led by Ya-Ping Tang, associate professor of cell biology and anatomy at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has shown for the first time that the timely manipulation of a certain gene in the brain during exposure to trauma might prevent the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team conducted a series of experiments using a specific strain of transgenic mice, in which the gene could be turned on and off during exposure to trauma as well as to subsequent stress.

Clinically, PTSD may occur immediately following a trauma, but in many cases, a time interval may exist between the trauma and the onset of disease, which is triggered by a second stressor.

Tang’s team discovered that exposure to trauma and stress was not enough to produce consistent PTSD-like behavior. However, when the gene was turned on during exposure, consistent PTSD-like behavior was observed in all of the behavioral tests.

Compiled by the New Orleans bureau

Altered on April 8, 2013