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Arizona Science explores the latest scientific research and technological innovations taking place in Southern Arizona and at the University of Arizona.More from Arizona Science »

Most Recent Episodes

Episode 106: Chasing Down an Asteroid

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to reach the 4.5 billion year old asteroid – Bennu – in November of 2018. As the team prepares for the approach, it's essential that team members know their functions and that communications between teams are well understood. Sara Knutson, Lead science Operations Engineer, has spent the year since launch with her team mapping out what actions the science payload instruments aboard the spacecraft will be performing when they arrive at the asteroid. This includes planning all the observations the science instruments will be performing while it orbits Bennu to survey the asteroid in preparation for selecting a sample site. Knutson communicates between the teams and works with them to make sure everything is within specs before any commands are sent to the craft. In this episode: Sara Knutson, Lead Science Operations Engineer for OSIRIS-REx; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 104: Conquering Pain

Many health disorders can cause devastating chronic pain. Raj Khanna and his colleagues study the biological mechanisms underlying pain, in an effort to develop new therapeutic approaches. A major focus of their current research is to determine the precise gene sequences that are linked to particular symptoms of the painful genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). NF1 is characterized by neurofibromas (small benign growths) on or under the skin, and occasionally, tumors may develop in the brain, on cranial nerves, or on the spinal cord. While NF tumors are generally not cancerous, pain and migraine are a frequent complication. Khanna's lab has recently been able to model the pain of NF1 in a rodent model and then to reverse the pain with non-opioid based drugs. In collaboration with Mohab Ibrahim, M.D., Ph.D., the Khanna lab is now starting to explore exposure to green light as a non-pharmacological treatment for managing pain in NF1 and in other pain syndromes. In this episode: Rajesh Khanna, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pharmacology; Leslie P. Tolbert, Ph.D., Regents' Professor in Neuroscience.

Episode 103: Arizona's Role in the World-Wide Shrimp Industry

You might think Arizona an odd location for a shrimp lab that the $40 Billion dollar world wide industry depends on but the UA is home to a world renowned lab that provides a safe food supply. The lab works with commercial shrimp farmers and research institutions around the world to diagnose infectious diseases. Clients pay for these services to maintain the biosecurity of their product and the financial security of the industry. The lab is the only one in North America certified to do the work on a domestic and international basis. The facility is located in the desert to limit the risk of contamination which would be much higher near coastal waters. One disease in particular – EMS or early mortality syndrome is big and killing a lot of shrimp on farms in Asia and Latin America and could potentially be devastating to the industry. In July, the disease was detected for the first time in Texas. The research work was carried out at the UA's Aquaculture Pathology Lab. In this episode: Arun Dhar, Director of the UA's Aquaculture Pathology Lab; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director and Head of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 102: The Detective Work Behind Authenticating a Stolen Artistic Masterpiece

Almost 30 years ago, a precious mid-20th-century painting by William de Kooning was stolen from UA's Museum of Art. Last summer, a painting purported to be the lost piece was returned to the museum. Nancy Odegaard, a leading expert in the analysis of archaeological materials, was invited to judge whether the painting that was brought in was, in fact, the painting that had been stolen. Like a forensic expert at a murder scene, she methodically examined the piece in question for telltale signs of the history of the stolen art. That piece was known to have traveled for display at particular exhibitions around the U.S., and – less well known to the public – to have been pierced, coated with varnish and touched up with acrylic at various times in its history. Nancy calmly and methodically determined that the painting in front of her indeed had signs of all the "trauma" that the authentic de Kooning painting had undergone. Only when she at last said, "Yes, this is it," did she realize that the Museum staff had been gathered around her with baited breath. In this episode: Nancy Odegaard, Ph.D., Head Conservator and Professor in the UA's Arizona State Museum; Leslie P. Tolbert, Ph.D., Regents' Professor in Neuroscience

Episode 102: The Detective Work Behind Authenticating a Stolen Artistic Masterpiece

Episode 101: Speaking, Reading and Writing – The Brain and Aphasia

People who suffer a stroke or brain injury due to car accidents, gunshots or other trauma have a wide range of aphasia symptoms in the areas of reading, writing and speaking. Pagie Beeson is a professor and head of the UA's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. She and her research group use a battery of tests on clients in order to personalize treatment based on symptoms and performance on the tests. The tests include reading words, writing words and speaking in addition to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The tests allow Beeson and her researchers to which areas of the brain have been damaged and they can then focus on rehabilitation. In this episode: Pelagie (Pagie) Beeson, Ph.D., and Head of the UA's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Head and Director of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 99: Early Life Experience Shapes Vulnerability to Asthma

Asthma affects 8.4% of children and can lead to life-long respiratory problems in adults. Fernando Martinez, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, is a physician-scientist who studies the causes of asthma as he aspires to find early interventions that may help prevent the disease. As a child, he decided that his life's goal would be to find a cure for asthma, and now he leads the longest-running longitudinal study of its causes. The study enrolled over 1200 babies at the time of their birth, and followed the lifestyles and health histories of the initial cohort now for over 35 years. Findings are striking: contrary to popular opinion, early exposure to microbes living in our environment induces a resistance to asthma. Based on these findings, Fernando is now moving toward the development of preventive treatment based on microbial products, which are currently being tested in at-risk children. In this episode: Fernando D. Martinez, MD, Regents' Professor in Pediatrics and Director of UA's Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center; Leslie Tolbert, Pd.D., Regents' Professor in Neuroscience

Episode 98: Beyond "Patient Zero"

Genes taken from decades old blood samples show that the U.S. AIDS epidemic began in New York in the early 1970's, disproving the long held belief that the virus was spread a decade later by a Canadian flight attendant who became known as "Patient Zero." Years of testing and researching blood samples by a team of researchers at the UA resulted in debunking the belief that a single person could be to blame for the spread of an infectious disease. The research team led by Dr. Michael Worobey, used blood samples from men diagnosed with HIV to study how the virus spread and mutated. They traced genetic changes in the virus samples taken from patients in New York and San Francisco. The researchers found that the HIV virus first jumped from the Caribbean to New York City around 1970, triggering the epidemic in North America. In this episode: Mike Worobey, Ph.D., UA Department Head Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director and Head of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 97: Where's Bennu?

The goal of the OSIRIS-Rex mission is to collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth. The asteroid Bennu has an Earth-like orbit and every six years, comes very close to planet Earth and these close encounters give Bennu a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd century. Mike Nolan and other members of the OSIRIS-Rex project team are using large telescopes and high-resolution imaging to track Bennu so they can better predict the asteroids path and hopefully provide information that will help the asteroid from a potential collision with the Earth. In this episode: Mike Nolan, Asteroid Geophysical Scientist with the OSIRIS-Rex Project Mission; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director and Head of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 95: The UA Home of Millions of Insect Specimens

Gene Hall manages the UA Insect Collection which is home to some 2 million insect specimens. About 20 thousand of those specimens are from Arizona alone. Currently, the Collection is in the process of digitizing the specimens along with all the discovery information so that researchers around the world can access the information without having to travel to Tucson. Hall explains how the collected is stored and the different types of research that takes place at the facility on almost a daily basis. In this episode: Gene Hall, Managing Director of the UA Insect Collection; Tim Swindle, Ph.D., Director of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab

Episode 94: How Life Experiences Shape Brain Circuitry

Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to change at any age, specifically during early life. Brain circuits are shaped by early experiences. Neural pathways allow us to learn new things and memorize new information. This flexibility is an important role in our brain development and after a certain age, this "critical period" ends. Dr. Bao uses the mouse auditory system to explore how plasticity occurs. The main goal of this research is to find different methods to artificially re-create high levels of plasticity that may help correct developmental brain disorders in adults. In this episode: Shaowen Bao, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology; Leslie P. Tolbert, Ph.D., Regents' Professor in Neuroscience

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