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Research

Summer 2002

An English import invades Puget Sound

A classic case of good intention gone bad, English cordgrass (Spartina anglica) was introduced to Washington around 1962 to stabilize dikes and provide forage for cattle. The U.S. Department of Agriculture imported seeds from England, and a WSU extension agent planted the seeds near Stanwood in the Stillaguamish Estuary.

English cordgrass has since infested large areas around Stanwood, particularly Port Susan Bay, Skagit Bay, Admiralty Inlet, and Saratoga Passage. It has also spread, with disastrous environmental effect, to other parts of Puget Sound, including Camano Island, Whidbey Island, and the San Juan Islands.

Due to its tenacity, its rapid growth rate, and its ability to … » More …

Summer 2002

What does Pim-1 really do?

Although science has made much progress in understanding why cancer occurs—smoking, diet, environmental pollutants, viruses—the mechanisms of cancer are still elusive. Nancy Magnuson, of the School of Molecular Biosciences, has been studying an enigmatic gene called Pim-1 since 1988.

The questions I would most like to know the answers to are, “What is the normal function of the proto-oncogene called Pim-1, and how does Pim-1’s function contribute to the production of cancer?”

Although Pim-1 has long been known to be involved in cancer production, it has never been demonstrated how this occurs. Importantly, Pim-1 is only found in certain types of cells, and these are … » More …

Summer 2002

Sex, food, and death

Remember that notorious scene from Alien? You know the one. But instead of just one alien organism bursting out of its host, picture hundreds, even thousands. That’s what happens when Copidosoma floridanum wasps mature, says Laura Corley, assistant professor of entomology. Admittedly, the bursting out is a bit less dramatic than in the movie, for the wasps’ caterpillar host is nothing but a dried out husk when they exit.

Corley studies C. floridanum because of its “fascinating biology.” Female C. floridanum lay up to 40 individual eggs, and each of those eggs develops into between 900 and 3,000 offspring. The offspring of any one egg … » More …

Summer 2002

Sure pigs play. But what does it mean?

“They spin around, twirl, and take a big leap in the air . . . ,” says Ruth Newberry. “They zigzag a bit . . . jump up and down, and then flop.”

A dramatic new figure skating routine? No. Newberry is an animal scientist at Washington State University commenting on the behavior that she and colleagues observed in a study designed to learn the effects that early play experience has on the behavior of piglets after they are weaned from their mothers. In broader context, the study is part of a worldwide effort to figure out the function of play in mammals.

One hypothesis, … » More …

Spring 2002

Treatments for congestive heart failure focus of study

For this alum, age is no obstacle

“I asked what would happen if I die before the research is over. They said, ‘We’ll try to find out where you are and sue you.’ ”—Dr. Gordon Maurice

With some amusement, Dr. Gordon L. Maurice (’40, Chem) describes the call he received last year from the Canadian National Heart Institute. Canadian health officials wanted him—at age 83—to be a primary investigator in a four-year international study on congestive heart failure treatments.

No matter that he retired from his cardiology practice 17 years ago and works in clinical research only three days a week. The Canadians knew Maurice … » More …

Spring 2002

A salon of their own

Good conversation should bring about a transcendental melding of minds and dissolve class and ideological differences.

The funniest things Washington State University historian Steve Kale ran across in researching his latest book were the accounts of how much early 19th-century French women hated going to England. For England was much like the provinces. In other words, it was not Paris.

On social occasions, English men and women would eat dinner together, but not talk much. Afterwards, the men would retire to the salon, where they would smoke cigars and talk politics. English women would drink tea and chat. “The French women,” says Kale, “found it … » More …

Spring 2002

It came from outer space

The dust on your mantelpiece may be more interesting than it appears at first swipe. Some of it may be from outer space. While that may not make much difference to your dust rag, some feel that extraterrestrial dust might help explain the cyclical nature of the Earth’s climate, says Ed Brook, assistant professor of geology and environmental science at Washington State University’s Vancouver campus.

Brook and his collaborators have developed a method to measure the extraterrestrial dust found in the ice cores taken at Vostok, Antarctica. It involves filtering the dust out of the ice core, a process that takes four days per sample, … » More …

Spring 2002

What's killing Lassie?

For years, veterinarians and dog owners have known that some collies can die when given Ivermectin, a drug commonly used against parasites in animals and humans. But no one knew why.

That is until Katrina Mealey, a researcher in the Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, suspected P-glycoprotein was involved. P-glycoprotein is thought to have developed to protect the body from environmental toxins.

To test her theory she needed blood samples from collies. Enter Dot Newkirk, a microbiologist with an office a few doors down from Mealey’s. Newkirk, a collie owner, enlisted the help of the Inland Empire Collie Club in Spokane.

“I expected … » More …

Spring 2002

Better chow

As anyone who has stir-fried vegetables knows, quickly cooking foods at high temperatures makes for crisper, fresher-tasting foods than using slow-cooking methods.

So it is that over the past six years, associate professor of biological systems engineering Juming Tang and his associates have been working on new technologies to produce high-quality, ready-to-eat military rations (MREs) and “humanitarian daily rations” like those recently air-dropped in Afghanistan.

With conventional methods, lengthy processing times are necessary to kill harmful bacteria that can thrive even in hermetically sealed packages. Depending on package size and type of food, traditional  processing can take anywhere from one to two hours. By the … » More …