UGA research tackles grand challenge

Today, a wealth of intellectual capital across all of UGA’s campuses and colleges is focused on research that contributes to the understanding of health; diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease and disabling conditions; public health; and health and well-being of families.

In fiscal year 2014, more than 40 percent of UGA’s sponsored research funding-$51 million-was from grants and contracts from the federal Department of Health and Human Services for scientific research to improve health. Private organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Foundation, and increasingly, industry, also provide major funding for health research at UGA.

Recent major research efforts underway at UGA that impact health in Georgia and around the world include:

Fighting influenza: A partnership between Emory University and the University of Georgia is investigating the natural history of influenza virus in swine, and its risk to humans. Studies could aid in the development of influenza vaccines that confer long-lasting immunity to multiple strains of flu. 

Fight against schistosomiasis: With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UGA researchers are working to control and eliminate schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease affecting millions of people throughout most of Africa and some of Asia, the Middle East and the Americas. Their work recently expanded to include studies on control and elimination of intestinal worms that infect almost 2 billion people globally. 

New cancer target: Researchers at UGA’s Cancer Center and Complex Carbohydrate Research Center have discovered that a specific sugar molecule plays a major role in the development of colon cancer, opening the doors for the possibility of new therapeutic treatments that may help reduce chances of disease recurrence. 

Dementia detection: Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a unique method of diagnosing the earliest stages of dementia by applying tasks commonly used to gauge levels of impulsive or risky behaviors related to financial decisions.

Organs from cells: A team of scientists, including UGA developmental biologists, has grown a fully functional organ from scratch in a living animal for the first time. The advance could one day aid in the development of laboratory-grown replacement organs. 

Protecting Georgia’s youth: A team of UGA scientists is laying the foundation for prevention programs to improve the health and well-being of young rural African-Americans in Georgia.