UToledo News » Research

UToledo News

Categories

Search News

Archives

Resources

Research

UToledo Psychologists to Study How Classical Music Might Further PTSD Treatment

Researchers at The University of Toledo are teaming up with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for an innovative project to examine whether classical music could be a useful addition in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For some patients with PTSD, getting to a place in treatment where they are able to confront their emotions can be overwhelming.

Dr. Jason Rose, left, and Dr. Matthew Tull received a two-year, $80,000 grant through the American Orchestras’ Future Fund to study if classical music could be a useful addition in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Our thinking is that music might provide an alternative way to aid patients in connecting with and expressing their emotions, enabling them to stay in these treatments and hopefully benefit more from them,” said Dr. Matthew Tull, professor of psychology and one of the lead researchers on the project. “We’re not looking at classical music as an alternative treatment for PTSD, but something that might facilitate currently available empirically supported treatments for PTSD.”

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra and UToledo were recently awarded a two-year, $80,000 grant through the American Orchestras’ Future Fund to back the research.

In addition to playing recordings, researchers hope to bring Toledo Symphony Orchestra musicians directly into the clinic to examine if there’s a difference in patients’ reactions to live music.

“We are honored to be one of the 19 orchestras in the U.S. to receive this special grant,” said Zak Vassar, president and chief executive officer of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. “The Futures Fund grant opens many doors for us, and we couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with The University of Toledo on a two-year project exploring the psychological effects of experiencing classical music. Through this collaboration, we are able to advance the state of the performing arts, not just in our community, but across the globe.”

The project’s first year will focus on experiments that examine the effects of bursts of classical music on targeted emotional experiences. Researchers will monitor those effects by testing for both psychological and physiological reactions.

In the second year, researchers will marry their laboratory findings with traditional treatment strategies in the clinic to see what extent classical music can help patients with PTSD.

“Music has such a great emotion-evoking quality about it. There is research on how music affects emotion, but there really hasn’t been much on the impact of classical music on individuals with PTSD. We believe this is an innovative project,” said Dr. Jason Rose, associate professor of psychology and the other lead researcher on the project.

The American Orchestras’ Future Funds program is supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

UToledo Expertise Sought to Examine Poverty in City, County

A new study by the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center at The University of Toledo focuses on poverty in Toledo and Lucas County using different lenses and sheds new light on who is struggling in our area and why.

Toledo City Council commissioned UToledo experts to prepare the report and offer recommendations based on successful practices demonstrated in other cities.

Dr. Sujata Shetty talked about the report that examines local poverty during a Toledo City Council Committee meeting Aug. 15.

“Our goal is to provide a more nuanced understanding of poverty and encourage targeted collaboration,” said Dr. Sujata Shetty, professor in the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning, interim director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center, and lead researcher on the report. “Thank you to Toledo City Council and the city of Toledo for the opportunity to do this critical work, which we hope will be useful to the city, spark meaningful change, and help families.”

The report examines housing affordability, educational attainment, employment, cost of living and other factors associated with poverty, as well as geographic areas that show relatively higher concentrations of poverty and related characteristics.

“We care deeply about the community and are proud to be Toledo’s university,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “As a public institution, the heart of our mission is to use our expertise and knowledge to improve lives.”

The study’s findings using 2017 data include:

• 26.5% of residents in the city of Toledo lived below the federal poverty level, compared to 19% of Lucas County residents.

• 32.3% of the city’s residents had a high school diploma as their highest educational attainment.

• 48% of city residents are renters, and 52% own their home.

The report also offers solutions that other cities found to be effective in fighting poverty and helping families.

Those anti-poverty initiatives include:

• Cincinnati’s “Hand Up Initiative,” which provides people in dire need with training opportunities and gets them back to work into jobs with higher pay through partnerships with organizations and corporations, focused on fields such as truck driving, construction and home-care aid.

• St. Paul’s “Job Opportunity Fund,” which offers $500,000 in low-interest loans to spur job creation and retention by supporting business ventures in defined areas of concentrated poverty.

• Lancaster’s “Commission to Combat Poverty” and “One Year Strategies,” which resulted in the creation of nine functioning “action teams” that focus on a particular segment of the poverty challenge, such as jobs action, food security, education and data analysis.

• Rochester’s “Kiva Rochester Crowdfunded Loans Program,” where residents can apply for loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 with 0% interest and no fees. The fees are crowdfunded, and the loans are for small business owners looking to create jobs by performing renovations, paying training fees, and buying new equipment.

Several UToledo graduate students assisted on this project, including Alex DiBell, who is pursuing a master’s degree in geography and planning while working as a policy intern for Toledo City Council, and Ph.D. students Brittany Jones and Philemon Abayateye.

Doctoral Student’s Research Brings New Insight to Removing Breastfeeding Barriers

A new study from The University of Toledo suggests providing more robust support for new mothers who experience stressful life events leading up to the baby’s birth, such as a lost job or a critically ill family member, could improve breastfeeding rates.

Slightly more than half of U.S. mothers follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that their infants receive only breast milk for the first six months of their lives.

Dugat

Vickie Dugat wanted to better understand what barriers may exist for women — and identify efforts that might remove some.

“There’s a lot of data that suggests it’s beneficial for both mother and baby to breastfeed for six months,” said Dugat, a health education doctoral student in the UToledo College of Health and Human Services. “This is an issue that we need to talk about, and one that needs to be researched more deeply.”

There are a variety of reasons why new mothers may either choose not to breastfeed or find themselves unable to do so. A lack of family and social support, embarrassment, personal preference, lactation problems, and work-related issues are commonly cited in studies of American breastfeeding practices.

As Dugat sifted through the existing literature, she noticed that little work had been done examining the association between prenatal stressful life events and exclusive breastfeeding.

With help from Dr. Joseph Dake, professor and chair of the UToledo School of Population Health, Dugat linked up with a pair of Ohio University researchers to dig into the issue.

Using a data set of nearly 44,000 U.S. mothers, researchers compared breastfeeding statistics for an infant’s first three months with self-reported incidents of 13 major stressful events in the mother’s life during the year prior to birth.

Included in that list were separations or divorce, homelessness, moving to a new address, bills that couldn’t be paid, someone close to them suffering with a drug or alcohol problem, lost jobs, and the death or serious illness of someone close to them.

Their findings, published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, found a clear connection between higher numbers of stressful life events and lower rates of exclusive breastfeeding for three months.

Of the U.S. mothers included in their data set, 52 percent of those who did not report any major stressful life events in the year prior to giving birth were more likely to breastfeed exclusively for three months. Among women who experienced three or more stressful life events, that dropped to just 32 percent.

While the findings were consistent across most demographic groups, the association between stressful life events and shorter duration of breastfeeding was most pronounced for women younger than age 30.

“The implication is it might be possible to create policies or programs to educate lactation consultants and physicians on which population may need a little bit more assistance when it comes to breastfeeding and handling stressful life events,” said Dugat, who was lead author on the study. “We could also potentially improve breastfeeding practices with efforts that minimize exposure to stressful life events.”

Originally from Florida, Dugat completed her undergraduate work at the University of Florida and earned a master’s in public health from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

She chose UToledo for her doctoral work after meeting Dake at a conference and learning the flexibility she’d have in her research here.

“Something that we pride ourselves in is that we do not assign our doctoral students to a particular faculty member when they come in,” Dake said. “There are benefits to that, but our program is geared a little more toward allowing them to explore and shift their research interests, as long as it’s under the oversight of a faculty member who can be a good mentor to them.”

For Dugat, who is passionate about improving the health of mothers and infants, that freedom to pursue her interests was crucial in selecting a doctoral program.

“I absolutely love that. With other Ph.D. programs, sometimes you have to do the research that faculty are already doing,” Dugat said. “Having that flexibility and the ability to be creative in my research is what attracted me here.”

Thanks to the relationship Dake has built with Ohio University through the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, he was able to make a connection for Dugat with researchers who had similar areas of interest.

“We really try to push the idea that if you love what you do, you spend time on it, and you’re passionate at what you do, you’re going to be a better professional, and you’re going to be more successful in it,” Dake said.

UToledo physicists awarded $7.4 million to rev up solar technology to power space vehicles

The U.S. Air Force awarded a team of physicists at The University of Toledo $7.4 million to enhance the reliability and efficiency of lightweight power to improve the safety and effectiveness of Department of Defense missions.

Dr. Randall Ellingson, professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization will lead the five-year contract to develop solar technology that is lightweight, flexible, highly efficient and durable in space so it can provide power for space vehicles using sunlight.

Dr. Randall Ellingson has received $7.4 million from the U.S. Air Force to develop solar technology that is lightweight, flexible, highly efficient and durable to improve the safety and effectiveness of Department of Defense missions.

Ellingson is applying his persistent dedication to discovery in the fast-growing field of photovoltaics to champion the U.S. armed forces by advancing power generation technologies for space vehicle applications to survive natural and man-made threats.

“Our goal is to protect our troops and enhance national security by accelerating the performance of solar cells,” Ellingson said. “Our primary goal is to reduce the power system payload by developing highly efficient and lightweight technology to replace liquid fuels and minimize battery storage needs.”

In order for the technology to achieve both high efficiency and the flexibility to be used on a curved surface like a wing or fuselage, Ellingson’s team is making tandem solar cells — two different solar cells stacked on top of each other that use two different parts of the sun’s spectrum — on very thin, flexible supporting material.

UToledo physicists have had great success drawing record levels of power from the same amount of sunlight using the tandem technique with what are called perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry.

“The University of Toledo is a worldwide leader driving innovation in photovoltaics research, education and application,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “This critical collaboration with the U.S. Air Force strengthens national security and fuels a cleaner energy future for generations to come.”

UToledo’s flexible, lightweight, low-cost technology will be tested under space-like radiation exposure.

“In outer space, the radiation environment is much more harsh, where high-energy photons and particles, arising from both our sun and our galaxy, can damage the solar cells,” Ellingson said.

“We are proud our photovoltaics team at The University of Toledo has been selected once again to use its state-of-the-art expertise to advance Air Force missions in service to the nation,” Dr. Frank Calzonetti, UToledo vice president for research, said. “This major award demonstrates the high regard the U.S. Air Force has in The University of Toledo’s solar energy research capabilities and the confidence in our research team. Dr. Ellingson has performed exceptionally well in meeting the high demands of the Air Force in providing research that supports the nation’s defense posture.”

For more than three decades, The University of Toledo has focused with precision on the potential of photovoltaics to transform the world and improve sustainability to combat the energy crisis.

Harold McMaster, an inventor and namesake of UToledo’s McMaster Hall, pioneered the vision for commercializing solar energy in northwest Ohio and donated funds to UToledo to gather great minds and craft solutions.

One of the world’s largest manufacturer of solar cells, First Solar, originated in UToledo laboratories.

The University created the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization in January 2007 with $18.6 million in support from the Ohio Department of Development, along with matching contributions of $30 million from federal agencies, universities and industrial partners. The center works to strengthen the photovoltaics and manufacturing base in Ohio, through materials and design innovation.

UToledo Researchers Look to Filter-Feeding Fish to Develop New Way of Collecting Harmful Algae

Researchers at The University of Toledo are using clues from nature to engineer a potential solution to address the annual algal blooms that foul Lake Erie and hundreds of other freshwater lakes across the world.

The innovative project could lead to a new type of filter that would allow scientists to actively screen large amounts of blue-green algae from the water before it’s able to release cyanotoxins.

Dr. Adam Schroeder used dye to demonstrate how a filter inspried by the paddlefish works like a vortex to clean water. The conical cross-step filter could help collect algae from lakes.

“I’m interested in the whole idea of biomimicry. There are lots of processes that biological organisms do really well — much more efficiently than we can,” said Dr. Adam Schroeder, visiting assistant professor in the UToledo College of Engineering. “I want to take algae out of the water. What examples do I have for solutions for separating a particle from the water?”

With help from a College of William and Mary biologist, Schroeder and Dr. Brian Trease, assistant professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, focused on the paddlefish, a prehistoric-looking freshwater fish that lumbers through lakes and rivers with its mouth agape to collect nutritious zooplankton.

“They’re processing lots of water for minutes at a time to filter out food. We can take that concept and then expand it beyond what we see in biology,” Schroeder said.

The research team’s findings were recently published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

Dealing with harmful algal blooms requires a multidisciplinary approach. Researchers at UToledo are studying the health impacts of harmful algal blooms, developing new ways of filtering cyanobacteria out of water, and actively monitoring blooms in Lake Erie.

Schroeder, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from UToledo in 2018, brings a different perspective.

“Somebody without any knowledge of the problem might say why can’t we just pick up the algae,” he said. “So why can’t we? It’s nice to explore that idea — what would we need to do to get rid of the algae?”

Currently, environmental scientists gathering algal samples use conventional-looking nets that have a small canister at the end to collect algae. The trouble with using those nets to remove large amounts of algae, however, is that they can only gather so much before they clog.

When the paddlefish feeds, its mouth creates a vortex of swirling water that helps it collect food indefinitely without its biological filters clogging. Using that concept, Schroeder developed a conical cross-step filter that mimics the paddlefish while adding creative engineering solutions.

Lab tests showed their design is able to transport suspended particles roughly the same size as the predominant Lake Erie algae downstream toward the end of the filter and is resistant — though not immune — to clogging.

The researchers’ next step is to develop a method for sequestering the particles after they exit the back of the filter. If they can do that and develop a method to remove what particles attach to the filter walls, it might be possible to create a filtering apparatus that can operate continuously in lake waters.

“We see this as a complementary solution. The real problem is that the algae is there in the first place. We have to stop all these nutrients from getting in the water, but that’s a really hard problem to solve and even harder to do it quickly,” Schroeder said.

In the meantime, he believes it is worth examining other, out-of-the-box ideas that might contribute to making lakes and rivers healthier.

“You don’t need to clean up the whole bloom, but maybe you need to keep a 500-meter radius clear of algae. That’s something we might be able to do,” Schroeder said.

Algae Researchers to Fan Out Across Lake Erie to Collect Water Samples Aug. 7

Five years after a water crisis in Toledo left half a million residents without safe tap water for three days, environmental scientists from the U.S. and Canada will board research vessels and fan out across western Lake Erie to collect water samples at nearly 200 locations in four hours in a united effort to create a high-resolution picture of this summer’s harmful algal bloom (HAB) and ultimately protect the public drinking water supply.

The second annual HABs Grab on Wednesday, Aug. 7, will bring together researchers from The University of Toledo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Bowling Green State University, Wayne State University, Michigan Technological University, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research and LimnoTech. The HABs Grab has nearly doubled in size this year with the addition of Canadian partners, including the University of Windsor, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, left, and Zachary Swan, a graduate student, examined a YSI EXO sonde, which is used to measure water quality parameters, including how much blue-green algae is present, temperature, clarity, oxygen levels, turbidity and pH.

A major goal is to estimate the mass of total microcystin toxin for one day during the peak of algal bloom season, as well as to characterize the different forms of microcystin and the genes that produce them.

“Collaboration is critical in our efforts to understand a harmful algal bloom as large as Lake Erie’s — the lake is simply too large for one organization to handle,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and professor of ecology, said. “This massive one-day sampling event allows us to not only analyze the current bloom, but focus on unraveling the mystery of why some algal blooms are highly toxic, while others are less so.”

Bridgeman, who has studied algae in the Great Lakes for nearly two decades, and his research team at UToledo collect samples and track cyanobacteria throughout Lake Erie’s western basin once a week every summer during algal bloom season.

“Harmful algal blooms are an international issue,” Bridgeman said. “The ultimate solution is to prevent blooms from growing in the first place by preventing water pollution. In the meantime, discovering what triggers a bloom to start producing toxins would be a large step toward protecting people, pets and wildlife.”

HABs Grab is funded by NOAA’s ECOHAB research program.

“The main goal of the project is to develop a bloom toxicity forecast, and the HABs Grab provides data to estimate toxin mass in the lake,” said Dr. Justin Chaffin, leader of the HABs Grab project who is based at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. Chaffin earned his Ph.D. in biology from UToledo in 2013 while studying in Bridgeman’s lab.

“This coordinated effort will assist in improving the accuracy of microcystin toxin concentrations in HAB forecast products,” Deborah Lee, director of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said. “It is a true testament to collaboration and coordination across institutional and international boundaries.”

The Lake Erie Center is UToledo’s freshwater research and science education campus focused on finding solutions to water quality issues that face the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants.

Drones monitoring algal blooms capture high-quality, low-cost data to protect drinking water, swimmer safety

Low-flying eyes in the sky are improving the accuracy of water quality assessments in the Great Lakes and the rivers that flow into them.

A new study at The University of Toledo finds drones armed with sensors are useful tools in the fight against harmful algal blooms, particularly for monitoring key spots within Lake Erie, such as near drinking water inlets and off the shore of public beaches.

Dr. Richard Becker used a drone to assess water quality on Lake Erie.

Researchers compared data gathered by the drones with satellite data and boat-based water sampling at 10 locations over Lake Erie and the Maumee River.

“We get the same results on both drones compared to more expensive and time-consuming measurements — including some made by probes put directly into the water,” said Dr. Richard Becker, associate professor in the UToledo Department of Environmental Sciences.

The technology places a new weapon in the arsenal of water treatment plant managers protecting the drinking water supply and public health officials monitoring beaches.

Filling the short-range surveillance gap left by more expensive remote-sensing methods such as satellites and aircraft, the unmanned aerial systems offer increased algae awareness due to their ability to hover below cloud cover and to be deployed on short notice.

“Detecting the threat of toxic algae as early as possible is critical, but it can be foggy for satellites looking through different layers of the atmosphere,” Becker said. “These drones are focused and have the ability to assess the condition at the shoreline, which people care about for swimming.”

Determined to safeguard the community’s health, Becker built and tested an algae monitoring drone in summer 2017, costing roughly $2,000. The drone took off from either the UToledo research vessel or the shoreline and flew at an altitude of between 5 and 10 meters above the water’s surface.

“Since drones are inexpensive, quick to launch, and can fly under cloudy skies, they have a lot of advantages that make up for the practical limitations of satellite, aircraft or boat-based observations,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and professor of ecology, said.

The study published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research shows Becker’s team in collaboration with Michigan Tech Research Institute successfully demonstrated the utility of drones outfitted with hyperspectral spectroradiometers to measure water-quality parameters that include chlorophyll, suspended minerals, cyanobacteria index and surface scums.

The sensor is used to produce a cyanobacterial index, which is a measure of algal bloom intensity.

“Dr. Becker and his colleagues show that sophisticated optical measurements of harmful algal blooms collected by drone-based sensors are just as good as similar measurements made from a boat,” Bridgeman said.

Bridgeman’s research team aboard the UToledo Lake Erie Center’s research vessel collects water samples and tracks harmful algal blooms once a week every summer throughout algal bloom season to help sound the early warning for water treatment plant operators.

“This new research means that harmful algal blooms impacting a swimming beach, a reservoir used for drinking water, or the Maumee River could be scanned by someone standing on the shoreline piloting a drone,” Bridgeman said.

Making measurements with a higher spatial resolution, the drones bridge a gap and complement the measurements of satellites, Becker said, but they’re not the stand-alone solution.

“A drone is not always the right tool for the job. A satellite or airplane is a better choice when talking about wide swaths of Lake Erie, instead of a targeted area,” Becker said.

The research was supported by NASA’s Glenn Research Center and the National Science Foundation.

New Study Finds Large Rise in Suicide by African-American Adolescents

A large-scale study from The University of Toledo of young African Americans who have attempted or died by suicide suggests there is a greater need for mental health services in urban school districts, and that we need to do a better job in convincing parents and caregivers to safely secure firearms and ammunition in the home.

Taking those measures, Dr. James Price said, could save lives.

Price

Price, UToledo professor emeritus of health education and public health, recently authored the largest study to date that examines suicidal behaviors of African-American adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Community Health, found the rate of suicide deaths among young black males increased by 60 percent from 2001 through 2017. Researchers documented a 182 percent increase in the rate of suicide deaths of young black females during that same time period.

“There are far more African-American adolescents attempting suicide than has been recognized in the past, and their attempts are starting to be much more lethal,” Price said.

Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of death after homicide for African Americans between the ages of 13 and 19, and the rate continues to climb. Equally troubling is that the methods black youth are using in suicide attempts are among the most lethal.

Price and a co-researcher at Ball State University found 52 percent of the 560 males aged 13 to 19 who died by suicide from 2015 to 2017 used firearms — a method for which the fatality rate approaches 90 percent. Another 34 percent used strangulation or suffocation, which has a fatality rate of about 60 percent.

Among the 204 females who died by suicide over that time period, 56 percent used strangulation or suffocation and 21 percent used firearms.

“When we look at research with these adolescents, we find that they report their attempt to suicide is a cry for help. Two-thirds of the kids didn’t really want to die, but they’re using the most lethal form of attempting suicide,” Price said. “If you can have those lethal forms of suicide inaccessible to them, then that period of crisis and not seeing the irreversibility of this impulsive decision will pass. And with adequate mental health services available to young people, you may actually reduce the chance they’ll do that act again.”

Previous surveys have found that among inner-city elementary school students whose parents own a handgun, three-quarters knew where the gun was kept.

Keeping firearms locked away, unloaded and separate from ammunition unequivocally would reduce unintentional firearm injuries and impulsive suicide attempts, Price said.

The research also suggests a far greater need for mental health services in African-American communities. Public health researchers have repeatedly documented that black youth are less likely than the youth population as a whole to receive adequate mental health treatment, setting the stage for situations that contribute to self-harm.

“What needs to be done early on is to make sure that young people have adequate access to mental health-care services, and mental health-care services have always taken a backseat to other forms of health care,” Price said. “If you look at where young people in urban areas, especially adolescents, are getting mental health care, it’s in the schools.”

Previous studies have found increasing mental health access in urban public schools could reduce suicide attempts by as much as 15 percent, Price said.

“While that doesn’t solve all the problems, it’s a good first step toward reducing the problem toward severe self-violence,” he said.

If you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for additional resources.

UToledo Research Links Fracking to Higher Radon Levels in Ohio Homes

A new study at The University of Toledo connects the proximity of fracking to higher household concentrations of radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Measuring and geocoding data from 118,421 homes across all 88 counties in Ohio between 2007 and 2014, scientists found that closer distance to the fracking wells is linked to higher indoor radon concentrations.

Dr. Ashok Kumar, left, and Dr. Yanqing Xu published a study showing homes located near fracking wells in Ohio are linked to higher indoor radon concentration.

“The shorter the distance a home is from a fracking well, the higher the radon concentration. The larger the distance, the lower the radon concentration,” Dr. Ashok Kumar, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said.

The study also found the average radon concentrations among all tested homes across the state are higher than safe levels outlined by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and World Health Organization standards. The average is 5.76 pCi/l, while the EPA threshold is 4.0 pCi/l. The postal code 43557 in the city of Stryker has the highest radon concentration at 141.85 pCi/l for this data set.

“We care about air quality,” Dr. Yanqing Xu, assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning, said. “Our motivation is to save the lives of Ohioans. I hope this eye-opening research inspires families across the state to take action and have their homes tested for radon and, if needed, install mitigation systems to protect their loved ones.”

The results of the study were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. The research is a collaboration between UToledo’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Geography and Planning. The radon data collection was supported by grants from the Ohio Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Following the publication in the journal, UToledo is working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to examine the terminology used in this study related to fracking wells to address discrepancies related to the number of wells in Ohio.

Radon, which cannot be smelled or seen, begins as uranium found naturally in soil, water and rocks, but transforms into gas as it decays.

Fracking, or drilling the rock formation via hydraulic fracturing, stimulates the flow of natural gas. In Ohio, natural gas is available in deposits of the ancient Marcellus and Utica shales.

Most fracking wells are located in eastern Ohio, while Athens County has the highest number of fracking wells with 108. Fulton County is the only county with more than 20 fracking wells in western Ohio.

The researchers used data from the publicly accessible Ohio Radon Information System, which the UToledo Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering started developing more than 25 years ago and maintains to improve public knowledge about indoor radon concentration. Licensed testers collect data each year in basements and first floors of homes in Ohio’s 1,496 ZIP codes.

“You can find the average radon concentration in your ZIP code on the website,” Kumar said.

Xu, a health geographer who previously studied obesity, installed a radon mitigation system after testing her home with a $10 kit.

“Shale is not in Toledo, but radon can get into homes because of uranium concentration in the soil, unrelated to fracking,” Xu said. “My 2-year-old son likes to play in the basement, but radon concentration is higher in the basement. I did not hesitate even though the system cost around $1,000.”

The data in the study are from self-reported devices and not distributed equally throughout Ohio.

Medical Student Earns Fellowship to Study Blood Clotting in Cancer Patients

Innovative research that may explain the precarious connection between lung cancer and serious blood clotting disorders has earned a University of Toledo medical student a fellowship with the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis.

Adam Meisler, who will be entering his second year of medical school, was one of only three students in the country to receive the 2019 award. The fellowship includes a $5,000 stipend and a $1,000 award to the lab.

Medical student Adam Meisler took a blood sample for his research focusing on the connection between lung cancer and blood clotting disorders. Meisler is one of three students in the country to receive a fellowship with the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis for his research.

“This is a huge honor for him,” said Dr. Randall Worth, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and assistant dean for student affairs in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “You don’t often have students who have a fellowship on their resumé when it comes time to apply for residency. Adam is an outstanding student. If he maintains that, it’s going to put him at the top of the national competitive scale.”

Lung cancer patients have an elevated risk of strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms. Approximately one-fifth of the 150,000 annual deaths tied to lung cancer in the United States are the result of large blood clots.

Meisler’s project is focused on whether cancer-fighting T-cells bonding with blood platelets in those patients might explain why.

“We suspect that the interaction between platelets and T-cells is largely contributing to that phenomenon,” Meisler said. “If we can find a way to break up those aggregates, I think that would be huge.”

In healthy individuals, a relatively small portion of T-cells are attached to blood platelets — somewhere around 15 percent. However, in lung cancer patients, Meisler and Worth have found as many as 65 percent of their T-cells are bonded with platelets.

Worth said science has already shown that a portion of lung cancer patients who have had a stroke or heart attack don’t respond to the normal anti-coagulants that would be prescribed to prevent a second event.
“There’s a big push from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood trying to understand why that is,” Worth said. “I think with these platelet T-cell aggregates, we may have discovered the time bomb.”

With the fellowship, Meisler will continue his research and present his findings at the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis conference next spring.

“To apply my research to something as high impact as lung cancer is really special,” Meisler said. “This project and the fellowship is definitely making me lean toward a future specializing in hematology-oncology.”