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For People With Pre-Existing Liver Disease, Toxic Algae May Be More Dangerous

Toxins produced during harmful algal blooms may be more harmful to people than previously known.

Researchers at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences sought to examine how microcystin might affect individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a widespread condition that is frequently asymptomatic. They found the toxin can significantly amplify the disease at levels below what would harm a healthy liver.

Dr. David Kennedy, left, and Dr. Steven Haller

The study, published last month in the journal Toxins, follows earlier research from UToledo that found clear evidence that microcystin exposure worsens the severity of pre-existing colitis. Microcystin is a byproduct of the cyanobacteria found in what is commonly known as blue-green algae.

“The take-home message from our research is there are certain groups of people who need to pay extra attention and may be more susceptible to microcystin toxins. We may need to explore special preventative guidelines for those people in terms of how much microcystin they are exposed to through drinking water or other means,” said Dr. David Kennedy, UToledo assistant professor of medicine and one of the study’s lead authors.

Aided by nutrient runoff and warming waters, seasonal blooms of blue-green algae are flourishing across much of the United States. Not all algal blooms produce toxins, but many do.

Potentially dangerous concentrations of microcystin have been found this year in ponds in New York City’s Central Park, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, reservoirs in California, and a portion of Lake Erie’s coastline near Toledo.

While no human deaths have been linked to microcystin in the United States, deaths have been reported elsewhere — most notably among a group of kidney dialysis patients in Brazil. There also have been reports this year of pet dogs dying after exposure to blue-green algae in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

With annual blooms becoming more frequent and intense, researchers in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences wanted to better understand how the toxins might affect people already suffering from conditions that affect organ systems microcystin is known to attack, such as the liver.

“It’s a gray area in terms of what microcystin is really doing to you if you have a pre-existing disease state. Are you more susceptible? Are we going to have to go back and re-evaluate what we consider safe in a person with a pre-existing disease state? It’s important we start providing answers to these questions,” said Dr. Steven Haller, UToledo assistant professor of medicine.

In the liver study, researchers examined how chronic, low-level exposure of microcystin affected mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease compared to mice with healthy livers.

At microcystin ingestion levels below the No Observed Adverse Effect Level for healthy mice, analysis showed significant exacerbation of liver damage in mice with fatty liver disease. Researchers observed no liver damage in mice who started the experiment with healthy livers.

“Current exposure limits from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for humans are based off studies done in healthy animals,” Haller said. “The results of this study suggest there may be a need to review those guidelines for people with pre-existing conditions.”

They also noted major differences in how microcystin was processed by the kidneys in the two test groups.

In mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, elevated levels of microcystin were found in the blood plasma, but were not detectable in the plasma of healthy mice. Mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also excreted far less microcystin in their urine.

The differences seen in how microcystin was processed between the two test groups suggest that kidney function may play an important role in the increased susceptibility of the mice with pre-existing liver disease.

“This may be highly relevant to help us understand the deaths that occurred in kidney dialysis patients and point to the need to pay particular attention to at-risk patient populations as we design preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies,” Kennedy said.

The results from the liver study build on prior work from Kennedy and Haller looking at how microcystin exposure might affect individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, another common condition that impacts an estimated 1 million Americans.

In that study, published in June, the researchers demonstrated that exposure to microcystin-LR prolongs and worsens the severity of pre-existing colitis, contributing to significant weight loss, bleeding, and higher numbers of signaling molecules that cause inflammation.

“Based on this data, we’re coming up with insights into how we can potentially treat exposures if they do occur,” Kennedy said. “This is giving us a number of insights into how we might help patients, especially patients who are vulnerable or susceptible if there was an exposure.”

The lead author of the paper published in August was doctoral student Apurva Lad. Doctoral student Robin Su was the author on the paper about inflammatory bowel disease published in June.

Governor Appoints Two Trustees

A local attorney and dentist have been appointed to The University of Toledo Board of Trustees.

Richard S. Walinski, a lawyer who practices in the areas of contract, corporate and commercial litigation, was named by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to a full nine-year term ending July 1, 2028. He replaces Sharon Speyer, who concluded her term in June.

Walinski

Dr. Eleanore Awadalla, who leads Awadalla Dental, has been appointed to a term ending July 1, 2022. She will complete the remaining years of the term of Steve Cavanaugh, who resigned in June upon beginning his new role as ProMedica’s chief financial officer.

“We look forward to welcoming Mr. Walinski and Dr. Awadalla to the Board of Trustees,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “As well-respected professionals in our community, they know firsthand the value The University of Toledo brings to our city and our region. We look forward to working with them as we continue our positive momentum.”

Walinski’s family has practiced continuously in the Toledo area for more than a century. He served as chief counsel to two of Ohio’s attorneys general, as chairman of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Rules Advisory Committee, and as a member of the Ohio Constitution Modernization Commission.

Awadalla

Walinski received a law degree from UToledo, and he was the founding editor-in-chief of The University of Toledo Law Review. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UToledo.

Awadalla has 40 years of experience providing general, restorative and cosmetic dental services.

A graduate of Ohio State University’s College of Dentistry, Awadalla is a member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, the Toledo Dental Society, the Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Association of Dental Examiners.

NSF Invests Nearly $1 Million in New UToledo Program to Increase Access to Engineering Degree

The National Science Foundation awarded $999,984 to The University of Toledo to operate an innovative program that supports academically talented and low-income students who want to pursue an engineering degree.

The program known as GEARSET — which stands for Greater Equity, Access and Readiness for Success in Engineering and Technology — creates an alternative pathway to a bachelor’s degree in engineering for first-year students who did not meet the College of Engineering’s requirements and were admitted into University College’s Department of Exploratory Studies.

“This population is generally more diverse in terms of both ethnicity and socioeconomic status than the demographic trends for engineering colleges across the country,” said program leader Dr. Lesley Berhan, associate professor in the UToledo Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, and associate dean for diversity, inclusion and community engagement.

“GEARSET will ultimately increase diversity in the College of Engineering — a priority for both the University and employers who hire our graduates,” said Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the UToledo College of Engineering.

“Our pursuit of inclusive excellence is a key part of our strategic plan, our core values, and what we do on a daily basis. This grant will enable us to provide a new pathway to a degree in engineering for deserving students, further enabling us to provide a diverse pipeline of talented engineers to the region.”

Students who meet the program’s admission criteria, which include testing into trigonometry and a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, will meet regularly with engineering advisors and enroll in courses designed to introduce engineering principles, applications of mathematics and professional development, in addition to other classes needed to meet the College of Engineering’s transfer requirements.

“By building a sense of belonging, developing the students’ engineering identity, and shortening the time to transfer colleges, we will foster a more inclusive environment in the College of Engineering that is more reflective of the community we serve and the University as a whole,” Berhan said.

As part of the five-year grant, two cohorts of low-income students also will receive a scholarship for up to seven semesters once they transfer into the College of Engineering. The scholarships, based on need, would average $6,400 a year.

Berhan said GEARSET, which debuted as a pilot program with a total of 32 students at the start of the 2019-20 academic year, is designed to help students who may have had limited access to college and career counseling in high school.

“Some students may have an interest in being an engineer, but may not have had the exposure or opportunities that others have in high school,” Berhan said. “Those students can still be great engineers. We have to rethink how we define potential and recognize that talent comes in all forms.”

The NSF grant starts Jan. 1 and can support scholarships for approximately 40 students, as well as curriculum, advising and programming for an estimated 150 additional students. The program is accepting all students, but only low-income students will be eligible for scholarships.

“This award represents an important step forward in the effort to foster STEM education in our community,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “By creating a pipeline for more socioeconomic and ethnically diverse engineering students in our region, this funding provides a pathway for future minds to break into these important fields. The award is a model to ensure our students are at the table for the economic future of our community.”

Berhan leads many diversity initiatives aimed at encouraging more students to pursue engineering careers, such as the annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

“The long-term benefits to the college and the community are incredible,” Berhan said. “We are working on several different fronts to improve math and science preparedness, access, and student success.”

New Chemistry Lab to be Dedicated in Honor of Water Quality Leader, UToledo alum Sept. 19

The University of Toledo is honoring a successful alumna who inspired generations of students to pursue careers in chemistry and focused her life’s work on improving water quality and the preservation of safe drinking water around the globe.

A dedication ceremony for the new Dr. Nina McClelland Laboratory for Water Chemistry and Environmental Analysis in The University of Toledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will take place Thursday, Sept. 19, at 3:30 p.m. in Bowman-Oddy Laboratories Room 2059.

McClelland

The namesake of the new chemistry lab will attend the event.

“We are proud to recognize Dr. McClelland’s important contributions to science and to The University of Toledo,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Water quality is a critical area of research at our University, and this new lab will benefit our scientists and students in their search for solutions to protect public health and the environment.”

The lab features state-of-the-art equipment, including novel extraction and microextraction technology and high-resolution mass spectrometry, tandem mass spectrometry, and an advanced imaging system.

McClelland, UToledo dean emerita, retired from the University in 2011 after serving as dean of the UToledo College of Arts and Sciences, as well as working in the Provost’s Office. She began at UToledo in 2003 as an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry.

McClelland served as chair of the Board of Directors for the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific organization. She also served as chair, president and chief executive officer during her more than 30 years with NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to certifying products and writing standards for food, water and consumer goods.

She has served on several major committees, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Drinking Water Advisory Council in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Committee on Water Treatment Chemicals in the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council.

McClelland earned bachelor and master of science degrees from UToledo in 1951 and 1963, respectively. She received her doctoral degree in environmental chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1968. UToledo awarded her an honorary doctorate in science in 2003.

International Conference at UToledo Targeting Human Trafficking Grows to Record Level

In the wake of high-profile sex trafficking charges against financier Jeffrey Epstein and singer R. Kelly, this dark world of modern-day slavery is under an intense spotlight and garnering global attention.

Survivors, researchers and advocates around the world are coming together this week for the 16th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference at The University of Toledo.

This year marks the largest event since the conference began at UToledo in 2004 and for the first time features an art exhibit in collaboration with the UToledo Department of Art to raise critical consciousness for social justice.

“We are proud so many people want to learn about human trafficking,” said Dr. Celia Williamson, Distinguished University Professor and director of the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute. “Our conference brings sex and labor trafficking out of the shadows and helps end abuse. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to educate, collaborate and save lives.”

The conference, which — to date — has welcomed presenters from 42 states and 30 countries, is Thursday and Friday, Sept. 19 and 20, in the Thompson Student Union on Main Campus.

UToledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition host the conference.

Williamson recently published a new book titled “A Seat at the Table: The Courage to Care About Trafficking Victims,” which tells her life story and transition from at-risk for trafficking to a world-renown social worker and researcher, working directly with victims and revolutionizing global anti-trafficking efforts.

At this year’s conference, Williamson will unveil her new, free human trafficking risk assessment tool (HTRISK) that she developed with support from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, as well as release the findings from her study of 400 Ohio youth. That presentation will be Friday, Sept. 20, at 9 a.m. in the Thompson Student Union Ingman Room. Watch the livestream on the UToledo Alumni Association website.

“With limited time, money and resources, advocates need to know which youth are at the highest risk for sex trafficking and then do their best to prevent it,” Williamson said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 9 to 10 a.m., 475 high school students from the area will gather in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium for Human Trafficking 101, where they also will learn about dating violence and participate in a poetry slam.

For a full schedule of presentations, visit the conference website.

New this year, the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the College of Arts and Letters partnered together for an art exhibit titled “Faces of Trafficking,” which features people from the greater Toledo community who are leading the fight to end trafficking.

“It is an opportunity to bring to life the people impacted by human trafficking and to provide a path for the community to join the fight,” Barbara Miner, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Art, said.

The tall black-and-white photography installation called “The Pillars” features people on the front lines in the war against trafficking.

“These are warriors holding up the ceiling of hope,” Miner said. “Using an arresting, striking style, we’re showcasing people like Celia Williamson as well as medical and law enforcement professionals among others who work under the radar and often go unnoticed, but who are working tirelessly to protect people suffering through contemporary slavery.”

Artwork created by current and former art students in response to trafficking stories and the global issue also will be on display.

The free, public exhibit can be see from Thursday, Sept. 19, through Friday, Dec. 6, at the UToledo Center for the Visual Arts on the University’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The UToledo Center for the Visual Arts also is featuring a special project, “A Thousand Hands, A Million Stars,” a collaboration uniting visual art, poetry, music and dance produced by former UToledo faculty member Denise Ritter Bernardini.

Rockets Speed Past Racers, 45-0

Senior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni threw for a career-high 266 yards and three touchdowns as the Rockets cruised to a 45-0 victory over Murray State before a home-opening crowd of 25,361 at the Glass Bowl Saturday night.

The victory was the first shutout for the Rockets in 19 years, a span of 228 games going back to a 42-0 Toledo win over Marshall Oct. 14, 2000. It also was the first time Murray State had been shut out since 2005.

Quarterback Mitchell Guadagni threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns in Toledo’s win in the home opener.

Guadagni, who suffered a concussion in Toledo’s 38-24 loss at Kentucky two weeks ago, completed passes to nine different players and threw for touchdowns of 8, 11 and 43 yards. Guadagni’s favorite target was junior tight end Drew Rosi, who caught a career-best five passes for 84 yards and one touchdown. Toledo’s offense racked up 538 yards, 348 in the air and 190 on the ground.

Toledo’s defense kept the Racers in check all night, forcing two turnovers and holding them to 331 total yards, just 93 of which came in the second half. The Rockets’ defense came up big when it counted, too, holding Murray State to 4 of 15 on third down and 0 of 3 on fourth down.

The Rocket defense shut out its first opponent in 19 years.

In the first quarter, Murray State drove down to the Toledo 28-yard line on its first possession, but was stopped on downs when Jordan Fisher halted a short pass for no gain on a fourth and six. Moments later, MSU had a chance to get on the scoreboard, but Zaden Webber’s 45-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright.

The Rockets got on the board first when freshman Evan Davis nailed a 40-yard field goal with 3:21 left in the first quarter.

Devin Maddox celebrated after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter to put the Rockets up 10-0.

Toledo struck on the first play of the second quarter on an eight-yard pass from Guadagni to redshirt freshman Devin Maddox to give Toledo a 10-0 lead. Moments later, Guadagni hit Rosi for an 11-yard strike to increase the lead to 17-0. The drive was set up by a 66-yard bomb from Guadagni to Bryce Mitchell to the MSU 11-yard line.

In the third quarter, Toledo took advantage of a Samuel Womack interception, extending the lead to 24-0 on a 43-yard TD pass from Guadagni to Desmond Phillips.

Murray State missed another chance to score when a 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked by David Hood.

On the very next play, the Rockets made it 38-0 on a 55-yard bomb from Carter Bradley to Danzel McKinley-Lewis.

Toledo added to its lead with a 42-yard TD run by freshman Micah Kelly to make it a 45-0 game in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets travel to Colorado State Saturday, Sept. 21. The game is slated to start at 10:15 Eastern Time and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Naturalization Ceremony to Take Place Sept. 17 at UToledo

More than 70 people will become U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m. in the Law Center McQuade Auditorium on The University of Toledo’s Main Campus.

Judge Mary Ann Whipple of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio will preside over the ceremony, which will celebrate Constitution Day at the University.

UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber will give welcome remarks at the event, which will feature alumna Grisoranyel Barrios as this year’s guest speaker.

Barrios moved from Venezuela to Toledo when she was 7 years old. She attended Springfield Local Schools before coming to The University of Toledo, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a bachelor of social work degree in 2018.

She is pursuing a master’s degree in social work specializing in policy at Washington University in St. Louis and plans to graduate in December.

Barrios attended the 2017 naturalization ceremony, where she opened the court, and became a U.S. citizen in March 2019.

“I look forward to participating in the ceremony yet again, but this time as a UToledo alumna and a U.S. citizen,” Barrios said.

“Hosting this naturalization ceremony on campus is a wonderful way to celebrate Constitution Day and to honor our country’s history,” Diane Miller, chief of staff and associate vice president for government relations, said. “It is so moving to watch individuals achieve their dreams of becoming U.S. citizens.”

Constitution Day is annually observed in America to commemorate the formation and signing of the Constitution of the United States on Sept. 17, 1787.

The free, public event is sponsored by the Office of Government Relations and the Center for International Studies and Programs.

For more information on the naturalization ceremony, contact Lisa Byers, executive assistant in the Office of Government Relations, at lisa.byers@utoledo.edu.

Interim Women’s Swimming Coach Named

The University of Toledo named Brie Globig as the Rockets’ interim women’s swimming and diving coach Thursday.

Globig takes over the reins of the program following the resignation of Jonas Persson, who has accepted a position at the University of Utah as the associate head coach for the swimming and diving program.

“We are excited for the upcoming season and look forward to the accomplishments of our swimming and diving student athletes” said Senior Associate Athletic Director Kelly Andrews. “We know that Brie and Gabby Agostino, our diving coach, are going to provide our student-athletes with outstanding leadership.”

Globig is entering her first season with the Rockets and fifth season overall as a head coach. Prior to her newly appointed role as interim head coach, she was hired as the assistant coach in July.

“I look forward to helping guide the Rockets to a successful 2019-20 season, both in the pool and the classroom,” Globig said. “The culture and values instilled in the program will ensure the continued success of each athlete and the team as a whole.”

Globig comes to Toledo after serving as head coach for four years at East Stroudsburg University. Prior to her four seasons there, Globig worked as a graduate assistant swimming and diving coach at California University (Pa.) in 2013-14.

She swam collegiately at Bloomsburg (Pa.) University from 2008 to 2012.

At ESU, Globig coached eight individuals who qualified for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships in the 2018-19 season; this included a fifth-place finish in the 100 freestyle. The Warriors set 14 school records and two pool records during her time at ESU. Globig led the Warriors to their best finish at the PSAC Championships in 16 years during the 2017-18 season: Seven Warriors combined for 27 scoring performances at the conference meet. ESU saw two individuals qualify for “A” finals for the first time in five years, with two swimmers earning top-10 finishes. The Warriors also notched a fifth-place finish in the 400 free relay, their best relay finish since 2004.

ESU also had a strong showing in the classroom last season, earning College Swimming Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America team honors by registering a 3.34 team grade-point average.

As a four-year swimmer at Bloomsburg, Globig qualified for the PSAC Championships in three freestyle events during her last three seasons with the Huskies. Globig also earned NCAA “B” standard times in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in two different events.

Globig graduated from Bloomsburg in 2012 with a degree in pre-physical therapy and health science. In 2014, she earned her master’s degree in sport management with a concentration in intercollegiate athletic administration from California University (Pa.).

Andrews added a national search for a permanent head coach will begin immediately.

Toledo Football to Host Murray State in Home Opener Sept. 14

Toledo will make its 2019 debut at the Glass Bowl with a matchup vs. Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent Murray State Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m.

The Rockets opened the season with a loss at Kentucky Aug. 31 and a bye week Sept. 7.

Bryant Koback rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown vs. Kentucky Aug. 31.

Toledo started strong against the Wildcats, moving out to a 14-7 lead thanks to rushing touchdowns from sophomore running back Bryant Koback and senior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni. But Kentucky outscored the Rockets 31-10 the rest of the way, denying Toledo the chance for its second-ever win against an SEC school.

Guadagni completed 7 of 12 passes for 122 yards before leaving the game due to injury late in the third quarter. He also tied Koback for the team lead with 73 rushing yards. Juniors Danzel McKinley-Lewis and Bryce Mitchell topped the Rockets with three receptions apiece.

Sophomore Saeed Holt led Toledo’s defensive efforts with a career-high 10 tackles to go with a tackle for loss and forced fumble, while junior Tycen Anderson registered a career-best eight stops.

The Racers are 1-1 and coming off a 63-17 loss at No. 3 Georgia Sept. 7. In its opener Aug. 31, Murray State dumped National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics opponent Pikeville, 59-20.

This will be the first meeting between Toledo and Murray State on the gridiron. The Rockets are 24-2 vs. FCS opponents since the NCAA split up Division I in 1978.

Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. The game will be carried by ESPN3.

To ensure a positive game-day experience, fans are advised to arrive early in order to give themselves plenty of time to find suitable parking.

Tickets are still available. Go to the Toledo Football Central website, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or go to the Athletic Ticket Office at Savage Arena. The office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Students are admitted free with their Rocket ID; faculty and staff can buy tickets half price with ID.

UToledo Hires Title IX Director

Vicky Kulicke brought more than 25 years of combined experience in higher education and the public sector when she started her job as director of Title IX and compliance at The University of Toledo.

She joined the UToledo staff Sept. 9.

Kulicke

Most recently, Kulicke was an equity officer and Title IX deputy coordinator for seven years at Bowling Green State University.

An advocate for social justice, Kulicke introduced Bowling Green to the national grass roots campaign, Not in Our Town, which addresses bullying and discrimination, and builds safe, inclusive communities.

“We welcome Vicky and her wealth of experience she brings to her new role at the University,” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “We are confident Vicky will help ensure a safe, inclusive and diverse learning environment at UToledo.”

Kulicke also has worked as an equal opportunity compliance specialist and human resources compliance administrator. At Insperity (formerly known as Administaff Inc.) in Phoenix, she made sure the company followed federal, state and local laws, regulations, policies and guidelines that prohibited discrimination in the workplace.

“I am honored and excited to join The University of Toledo to lead our prevention, education and response efforts regarding Title IX and compliance,” Kulicke said.

She received a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Illinois State University and became a certified affirmative action professional from the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity in 2017.

In addition, Kulicke was an adjunct faculty member in criminal justice at Mohave Community College in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; was a human relations associate for the city of Bloomington, Ill.; and worked as a victim/witness coordinator in the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office in Bloomington.