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Assistant professor gets $10,000 New Investigator Award to help kickstart research

One assistant professor at The University of Toledo is a step closer to solving one of the mysteries of the human body with the help of an award and some seed grant money.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi, assistant professor in the UT Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, recently received the New Investigator Award from the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy. The award, worth $10,000, is given to faculty members in the early stages of their career.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi performed experiments on cells from mice and humans with polycystic kidney disease to confirm studies performed on patients.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi performed experiments on cells from mice and humans with polycystic kidney disease to confirm studies performed on patients.

“This is a very prestigious award,” AbouAlaiwi said. “Only 13 people received this award in the United States this year, and I was one of them. I feel very proud of this.”

The $10,000 will go toward funding his research on primary cilia, organelles that were originally thought to have no function, but that AbouAlaiwi and his colleagues believe play a role in cardiovascular and polycystic kidney diseases. They already have found that when the cilia are not present or not functioning, it can cause cardiovascular and developmental problems in the heart.

Though the amount of this particular award is not enough to fully fund his lab’s research, getting some data will open doors for AbouAlaiwi to earn larger grants such as those from the National Institutes of Health. He will present his initial findings at the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy’s annual meeting in July in Nashville, Tenn.

“This is a small study, but hopefully the data that we will generate will allow us to take this project and confirm our results in animal models and, in the future, humans,” AbouAlaiwi said.

UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is no stranger to the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy; each year, a group of deans, faculty, staff and students attend the organization’s annual meeting. AbouAlaiwi also is the second faculty member who has won this award; Dr. Isaac Schiefer, UT assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, received it in 2014.

“It’s very good for our university and college because it raises the level of presence of our university among other top colleges of pharmacy in the United States,” AbouAlaiwi said.

AbouAlaiwi gives much of the credit for his success to his college, his department and his students. He said that Dr. Johnnie Early, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, as well as his colleagues, have supported and encouraged him to be active in organizations like the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy.

He runs his lab with his students, whom he shares credit with for this success, saying that the research would not be possible without them.

Biomedical company created by UT faculty celebrates FDA clearance, first product launch

Two local bioengineers are officially in the business of back pain relief.

A new medical device developed by researchers at The University of Toledo to help reduce infections from spinal surgery is making its market debut.

Spinal Balance created Libra, a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room.

Spinal Balance created Libra, a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room.

Spinal Balance will celebrate the launch of its first locally grown product called the Libra Pedicle Screw System Wednesday, May 25, at 6 p.m. at the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex on UT’s Main Campus.

Libra is a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room as a result of contact with people, containers or surfaces. The product will help surgeons at hospitals worldwide improve patient care and reduce costs.

“Deep bone infections are a serious problem,” said Dr. Anand Agarwal, CEO of Spinal Balance and UT professor of bioengineering. “Keeping anything from touching or contacting the threads of a screw is very important. Our aim is to provide the surgeon with technically advanced implants that are easy to handle and can be implanted using improved aseptic technique.”

“We reduce the variables in the operating room that contribute to infections,” said Don Kennedy, director of sales and marketing for Spinal Balance. “No one ever has to touch the implant prior to it being placed into a patient.”

spinal balance logoThe Food and Drug Administration cleared the Libra system last year to be used for spine fusion and to treat back pain in cases of degeneration, trauma and deformity.

Agarwal and Dr. Vijay Goel, UT Distinguished University Professor and the McMaster-Gardner Endowed Chair of Orthopedic Bioengineering, launched Spinal Balance in 2013 and developed the Libra technology through support from the state of Ohio’s Third Frontier Program, Rocket Innovations and UT’s LaunchPad Incubation program.

“We value, foster and invest in the entrepreneurial spirit here at The University of Toledo,” said Jessica Sattler, UT director of economic engagement and business development programs. “Our LaunchPad Incubation program provides faculty members and community entrepreneurs intensive entrepreneurial assistance and state-of-the-art facilities for research, development, manufacturing and storage as they navigate the long road from concept to commercialization. The success of Drs. Agarwal and Goel also is a proud accomplishment for our program.”

The celebration of the Libra product launch will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by presentations at 6:15 p.m. and a dinner at 7:15 p.m.

Spinal Balance is one of three private companies Agarwal has located in the LaunchPad Incubation program with other UT research faculty members.

Agarwal’s company called IntelliSenze recently received $150,000 in state funds to help commercialize microprocessor chips under development that can detect the presence of bacteria and viruses.

UT grad student travels to Guatemala for vaccination research before graduation [video]

“This has been my first official full day in Guatemala,” said Jessica Schulte in a cell phone selfie video while resting on the front steps of a medical clinic in a remote village of Central America.

The master of public health student, who will graduate May 27 from The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, recently journeyed 3,000 miles to Petén for a research project to earn her global health certificate.

Jessica Schulte held a child she met during a weeklong trip to conduct research at an OB/GYN clinic in Petén, Guatemala.

Jessica Schulte held a child she met during a weeklong trip to conduct research at an OB/GYN clinic in Petén, Guatemala.

The 24-year-old set up shop for about a week in Petén at an OB/GYN clinic founded by Toledo doctors and UT alumni Anne and Dr. Randy Ruch.

Randy, an associate professor of biochemistry and cancer biology, is Schulte’s faculty advisor at UT.

“They asked if I wanted to go down to Guatemala and actually gather data for my project instead of just reading other studies,” Schulte said.

“We’ve brought many types of students, from undergraduate students to medical students to physician assistant students and physical therapy students,” Randy said.

“I’m sure we’ve seen at least 20,000 patients over the years,” said Anne Ruch, a gynecologist who first visited Petén during a mission trip nearly 20 years ago. “We saw these people living in a garbage dump in the middle of the city and it was so overwhelming to me. The women will often come four or five hours to get to the clinic in a morning. They’ll leave their house at three or four o’clock in the morning.”

Schulte, an epidemiology major who studies the distribution of disease in large groups, surveyed mothers to learn firsthand the barriers to vaccinations for women and children living in poverty in Third-World countries.

Jessica Schulte interviewed a patient, left, with the help of her translator in Petén, Guatemala. The master of public health student conducted research at an OB/GYN clinic during a recent trip.

Jessica Schulte interviewed a patient, left, with the help of her translator in Petén, Guatemala. The master of public health student conducted research at an OB/GYN clinic during a recent trip.

“Before they went to the doctor to get a pap smear or other exam, I was at a table interviewing them,” Schulte said.

Schulte has participated in several medical mission trips as a UT college student.

“The University of Toledo is very diverse,” Schulte said. “Seeing the diversity on campus has opened my eyes into the rest of the world. We’re in this bubble of Toledo, Ohio, and the United States, but what is happening outside of the United States, especially in Third-World countries?”

Every year UT awards more than $100,000 in travel grants to students who study abroad, whether it be for a semester in major cities or a few weeks in remote villages like Petén.

“Meeting everyone has been wonderful,” Schulte narrated in her cell phone video from the clinic steps. “The people are so willing to take part in my survey. They line up before we even get to the clinic. They wait hours if there are tons of people, and they don’t complain.”

“I hope not only that students see what the rest of the world looks like, and they understand that being an American has tremendous privilege and therefore they need to give back,” Randy said.

“Every person that comes on a trip, I say, ‘You know why I brought you here … because I’m counting on you guys to change the world,’” Anne said.

“I have this passion for global health,” Schulte said. “I have this passion to bring back my knowledge to the underserved in the Toledo area. It’s a passion I’m going to have for the rest of my life.”

The College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement ceremony will be held Friday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater.

After graduation, Schulte plans to go back to school in UT’s physician assistant graduate program to earn a master of science in biomedical sciences.

UT engineer’s catalysis research published in Science

New research published in the journal Science could provide an economic solution to technologies that require scarce and expensive precious metals.

Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, was part of a research team that proved that it is possible to get the same chemical reaction with much less of the precious metal when using it as a thin coating over a transition metal carbide. Technologies such as fuel cells and catalytic converters require these types of precious metals.

A sample of a core-shell nanoparticle made by the researchers is shown in images made using scanning tunneling electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. Color images show where the different elements are located in the particle, with the precious metals platinum and ruthenium concentrated in the shell, and the other constituents, tungsten, and titanium, concentrated in the core.

A catalyst made by the researchers is shown here with images from a scanning tunneling electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy showing the different elements platinum, ruthenium, tungsten and titanium.

“One of the primarily materials used for these types of chemical reactions called catalysts is platinum, which is very expensive and not widely available,” Alba-Rubio said. “Research has been underway for some time for alternatives, but there had been a lot of trial and error in the process to find something that works.”

One of the challenges in combining a precious metal with another material is that it can be difficult to bond and also can mix with other metals and become unstable over time. The researchers succeeded with the use of carbides, which are resistant to corrosion, possess electrical conductivity, and cannot alloy with the precious metals. The developed synthesis method also prevents the catalysts from sintering and coking, which are two modes of deactivation.

Alba-Rubio’s role in the research was the characterization of the materials with a high-resolution electron microscope.

“With the microscope, we were able to see what was happening,” she said. “It helped us to not only study the synthesis progress, but also the stability of the materials.”

The project was a collaboration with Dr. Sean T. Hunt, Dr. Maria Milina, Dr. Christopher H. Hendon and Dr. Yuriy Román-Leshkov at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Alba-Rubio was part of the research team while conducting her postdoctoral research with Dr. James A. Dumesic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining UT in August 2015.

Read the article online at science.sciencemag.org.

Major mathematics conference comes to UT May 13-15

More than 70 mathematicians will bring their beautiful minds from around the globe to The University of Toledo’s Main Campus for the Midwest Several Complex Variables Conference Friday through Sunday, May 13-15.

“This is the first time this major conference in the field will be here at The University of Toledo,” said Dr. Sonmez Sahutoglu, UT associate professor of mathematics. “We received a grant from the National Science Foundation to make it happen and support the participants.”

Business Hlogo 1c BlackRandom polynomials, extrapolation, Hartogs triangles, sphere maps and more will be discussed by math researchers.

“The Midwest Several Complex Variables Conference has been held at Indiana University, Purdue University, Syracuse University, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Western Ontario and Washington University at St. Louis,” Sahutoglu said. “It is so exciting that UT and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics are hosting this prestigious event.”

The conference will begin at 9 a.m. Friday and conclude at noon Sunday. Talks will take place in Health and Human Services Building Room 1500.

For details, click here.

EPA awards UT nearly $500,000 for invasive species prevention in Great Lakes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded The University of Toledo nearly $500,000 to prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes through bait shops, outdoor outfitters, pond suppliers and pet stores.

The project funding is part of $12.5 million in 2016 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants announced May 4 by the U.S. EPA and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

Stepien

Stepien

“We want to block potential pathways for invasive fish and mollusk species that can cause billions of dollars in economic damage,” said Dr. Carol Stepien, director of the UT Lake Erie Center and leader of the two-year project. “Retailers, customers and even taxonomic experts are often unable to distinguish these non-native species from native species at early life stages — as eggs, larvae or fry. Many minnows in a bait store may appear alike, including invasive Asian carp. Plus, buyers sometimes release non-native pets, bait and other organisms into waterways, which can have unpredictable and widespread effects.”

Stepien is working with Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, UT professor of geography and planning, and director of the UT Center for Geographic Information Sciences and Applied Geographics, and Dr. Andrew Solocha, UT associate professor of finance. 

The team will use UT’s newly developed DNA diagnostic tests to analyze fish and mollusks purchased from retailers.

Researchers will detect invasive species, diagnose supply chain sources, and pilot a voluntary “Invasive Free” certification program for retailers.

“We also will survey hundreds of fishermen and businesses to help close the ‘door’ to this avenue into the Great Lakes,” Stepien said. “Accurate detection within the marketplace is critical to maintaining long-term ecological health. Within two years, we plan to launch a public education campaign.”

The EPA has awarded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants to UT researchers for several projects over the last few years, including development of the early detection DNA technology for high-risk invasive species, as well as wetland restoration that helps prevent bacteria from entering Maumee Bay.

“With support from a strong alliance of bipartisan senators, representatives, states, tribes, municipalities, conservation organizations and businesses, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will keep making strong investments to resuscitate the lakes,” said Cameron Davis, senior advisor to the U.S. EPA administrator.

Business professor named Fulbright Scholar, will teach, conduct research in India

Dr. Paul Hong, professor in the Department Information Operations and Technology Management in the College of Business and Innovation, has been named a recipient of the J. William Fulbright Scholarship award to India.

“I was very delighted and very fortunate to be accepted for this program, which leads with a global perspective. I’m very grateful for the college’s strategic engagement in India, and the college’s relationship with PSG Institute of Management. The UT College of Business and Innovation’s reputation made the difference,” he said.

Hong

Hong

Based on previous international work, Hong said he chose India for three reasons:

• For the dynamic growth possibilities. “With vast youth populations, innovative and entrepreneurial capabilities, and slow but steady infrastructure developments, I believe that the world will pay attention to India just as we did for China for the past 30 years,” Hong said. “India would be a linkage nation between advanced economies (North America and European Union) and Africa, Middle East and Latin America.”

• For the rich research network relationships. “I have visited India twice already,” Hong said. “This summer I will be visiting India again for a month before I start the Fulbright projects next January.”

• Because India is a growing strategic partner with the United States in multiple arenas: economic, political, educational and cultural. “Increasing interactions between the United States and India will bring tremendous opportunities for innovative growth,” he said.

“My base will be Christ University at Bangalore, and I will work with scholars at PSG Institute of Management in Coimbatore and J. Nehru University in New Delhi,” Hong said. “I will be conducting research workshops for faculty members from these institutions who like to build research agendas with effective results in terms of quality publication and real-world impacts.”

He added that two UT doctoral students, Nitya Singh and Blaine Stout, will join the team of international researchers.

“In Christ University, there will be entrepreneurial leadership training sessions for graduate and undergraduate honor students. This would be somewhat similar to what Dr. Clint Longenecker [Stranahan Distinguished University Professor] has already been doing with the Klar Leadership Academy at UT. I am grateful for this Fulbright scholarship grant, which provides necessary funds, scholarly credibility to engage in reputable work, and collaborative research network formation.”

The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, and is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. As a Fulbright Scholar, Hong will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners in educational, political, cultural, economic and scientific fields.

“The key is a global perspective,” Hong explained. “What I emphasize to students here is to go beyond a tri-state perspective; our students can work with companies from around the world because their technical and communication and relationship skills are very good. They are prepared to go anywhere.

“Through my work as a Fulbright Scholar, I can help our students engage with those students and companies, and this provides a great opportunity to further understand their growing market potential. Growth through global engagement and a lot of businesses will benefit. This increasing strategic initiative will continue a lot of opportunity and will benefit students who work in the the United States.”

Hong added, “Fulbright is very service-minded, and I view this as a service opportunity.”

Budding conservation biologists go birding at Warbler Capital of the World

As songbirds begin to stop, rest and refuel along Lake Erie marshes before finishing the last leg of their spring migration to Canada, a class of environmental science students at The University of Toledo learned firsthand how researchers collect data and what the long-term patterns teach about climate change.

“I had zero experience with birding,” UT senior Alexa Seaman said. “I heard this area is called the Warbler Capital of the World. Now I know why.”

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Research Director Mark Shieldcastle showed an American goldfinch to UT students before it was banded.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Research Director Mark Shieldcastle showed an American goldfinch to UT students before it was banded.

“This is a remarkable natural phenomenon,” said Dr. Hans Gottgens, UT professor of environmental sciences and editor-in-chief of Wetlands Ecology Management. “These songbirds are the size and weight of a pingpong ball. It’s fascinating they are so light and somehow manage to migrate from South America to Canada. They’re magnificent animals.”

A group of 17 students boarded a bus last week on Main Campus for a 40-minute drive to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory at Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area in Ottawa County, which is preparing for the Biggest Week in American Birding, May 6-15. Tens of thousands of avid birders across the world flock to the 10-day festival timed to coincide with the peak of spring songbird migration.

Kate Zimmerman, the education director for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, left, and UT student Jeanna Meisner released a banded American tree sparrow.

Kate Zimmerman, the education director for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, left, and UT student Jeanna Meisner released a banded American tree sparrow.

“The Black Swamp Bird Observatory has been monitoring songbird migration for nearly 25 years on the southwestern shoreline of Lake Erie,” Gottgens said. “There is little habitat left along the lake for these birds, so they all pile up in the same area for food and sleep.”

UT undergraduate students watched as conservation biologists at the observatory used mist-nets to carefully capture and care for the birds. Researchers demonstrated how to safely hold the birds, identify the species, and assess them for weight and condition.

“We were looking for the wing length, if it was male or female, and the amount of fat on the body,” Seaman said. “Before we released the birds, we also watched the banding process.”

According to Gottgens, researchers put a miniscule aluminum band around the leg of a bird to help track its travel.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Education Director Kate Zimmerman spoke to students from Dr. Hans Gottgens' upper-level conservation biology course.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Education Director Kate Zimmerman spoke to students from Dr. Hans Gottgens’ upper-level conservation biology course.

“Some of these bands are so tiny, you could hardly see them with the naked eye,” Gottgens said. “Birds banded in northwest Ohio have shown up in Columbia, South America, later in the year. Over time, you keep track of the status of the birds. Are they in danger of going extinct? Are they growing more abundant?”

The database on the conservation status of songbirds also provides information related to changes in the environment.

“By following the birds and relating it to climate conditions, you get an idea of how climate change affects bird migration,” Gottgens said. “Some birds might show up much later than they did 25 years ago partly because of change in the weather and climate conditions.”

Seaman had the opportunity to touch and release a warbler after a conservation biologist finished banding it.

“She placed the little bird on my hand, and the bird just flew away in a matter of seconds,” Seaman said. “It was an awesome, amazing experience.”

UT astronomers, student discover free-floating planetary-mass object in family of stars

Astronomers at The University of Toledo have identified a new object in space approximately 100 light years away from Earth estimated to be roughly five to 10 times the mass of Jupiter and 10 million years old.

The free-floating planetary mass object identified by researchers as a brown dwarf is called WISEA J114724.10-204021.3, or just WISEA 1147 for short. A brown dwarf is a lightweight star that lacks enough mass to fuse hydrogen into helium, the process that makes stars like the sun shine.

A young, free-floating world sits alone in space in this illustration from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. The object, called WISEA J114724.10-204021.3, is thought to be an exceptionally low-mass brown dwarf, which is a star that lacks enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow.

A young, free-floating world sits alone in space in this illustration from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. The object, called WISEA J114724.10-204021.3, is thought to be an exceptionally low-mass brown dwarf, which is a star that lacks enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow.

The new object is a member of the TW Hydrae family of stars and is located in the Crater constellation.

“We estimate it is one of the youngest and lowest-mass free-floating objects yet discovered in the solar neighborhood, which is within 300 light years,” said Dr. Adam Schneider, UT postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and lead author of the new study to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. “This is not orbiting a star, so it is not a planet. It likely formed on its own in isolation like stars. We can use this to help us inform our understanding of chemistry and cloud structure of exoplanets, which are planets that orbit stars other than the sun.”

According to NASA, this discovery provides new clues in a mystery of galactic proportions regarding possibly billions of lonely worlds that sit quietly in the darkness of space without any companion planets or even a host sun. Where do the objects come from? Are they planets that were ejected from solar systems, or are they brown dwarfs?

This map from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology shows the location of the TW Hydrae family of stars where UT astronomers found the lone planetary-mass.

This map from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology shows the location of the TW Hydrae family of stars where UT astronomers found the lone planetary-mass.

“We are at the beginning of what will become a hot field – trying to determine the nature of the free-floating population and how many are planets versus brown dwarfs,” said co-author Dr. Davy Kirkpatrick of NASA’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

UT undergraduate student James Windsor, a sophomore studying astrophysics, is listed as one of the study’s co-authors.

“James played a vital role at the outset of the study by identifying WISEA 1147 from a candidate list of several thousand,” said Dr. Mike Cushing, associate professor of astronomy and director of UT’s Ritter Planetarium. “Exposing undergraduates to cutting-edge research plays an important role in their education, and I am happy that in this case it resulted in a pretty amazing discovery.”

UT sophomore James Windsor is an astrophysics major who helped astronomers identify the new object in space.

UT sophomore James Windsor is an astrophysics major who helped astronomers identify the new object in space.

“To make the discovery and have a student be involved is just awesome,” Schneider said.

“The ability to do research like this as an undergraduate student is one reason I chose to attend UT,” Windsor said. “This whole experience is mind-blowing. I’m a kid who grew up in the village of Paulding, Ohio, dreaming of becoming an astronomer.”

For more information, click here.

UT Health cardiologists give pioneering heart exam to gorilla at Toledo Zoo

The largest of all primates at the Toledo Zoo turned out to be the perfect patient, only hairier.

“Working with a gorilla was a scary and exciting experience,” said Dr. Samer Khouri, UT Health cardiologist and director of cardiac imaging. “We were in a controlled environment, but Kwisha is a 470-pound, muscular creature. He is so powerful that his hand has the ability to crush all the bones in my hand with one squeeze.”

Amy Lather, an ultrasound technician at UT Medical Center, conducted an ultrasound on Kwisha the gorilla at the Toledo Zoo as Dr. Qaiser Shafiq, a cardiology fellow in the University training program, center, watched.  

Amy Lather, an ultrasound technician at UT Medical Center, conducted an ultrasound on Kwisha the gorilla at the Toledo Zoo as Dr. Qaiser Shafiq, a cardiology fellow in the University training program, center, watched.  

Several cardiologists, anesthesiologist Dr. Andrew Casabianca, and ultrasound technician Amy Lather from The University of Toledo Medical Center recently volunteered their human health-care expertise for the 27-year-old male western lowland gorilla.

“Heart disease is a global problem facing great apes,” Dr. Kirsten Thomas, Toledo Zoo associate veterinarian, said. “The UTMC team was brought in to provide a new and unique measurement of cardiac health in great apes.”

“We take pride in the high-quality care we provide our animals here at the Toledo Zoo,” Jeff Sailer, Toledo Zoo executive director, said. “This collaboration with UTMC offered an additional level of imaging and cardiac expertise helping us to provide the best possible care for Kwisha.”

Under the oversight of zoo veterinarians, the UT team conducted a comprehensive heart exam while Kwisha was under anesthesia. The specialists gave the gorilla a clean bill of health with no immediate issues that need to be addressed.

Kwisha in 2013 in this photo courtesy of Andi Norman/Toledo Zoo

Kwisha in 2013 in this photo courtesy of Andi Norman/Toledo Zoo

“Kwisha’s pictures look good,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We were happy to help. This also was a terrific opportunity for us to learn more from a highly related, yet nonhuman primate about cardiac performance.”

“A gorilla’s heart is almost the same as a human heart — only bigger,” Khouri said. “We followed the same principles, but this checkup was anything but routine. What’s amazing to me is how similar gorillas are to us physically.”

The silverback gorilla’s screening included an echocardiogram and a strain test, which is believed to have been the first strain analysis ever done on an ape.

“It’s a more sensitive and more accurate test,” Khouri said. “The process takes a detailed look at the contraction of heart muscle. We can detect any problem in the heart before it’s apparent in a regular echo.”

“To the best of our knowledge, the strain test has not previously been performed in great apes, and is a novel approach to measuring cardiac function in these animals,” Thomas said. “The collective efforts of the UTMC cardiac team and Toledo Zoo veterinary staff has provided us the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of great ape research.”

Khouri plans to publish the new data soon and hopes to expand the work to include more apes to advance knowledge about heart function.

“This is an important first step for research to compare a gorilla to human heart contraction and function,” Khouri said. “Doing this special analysis makes us proud. Taking care of this kind of animal shows that every life on the planet deserves respect and highlights how similar we are to all creatures on earth.”