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Discoveries be restored, but we lack the basic ecological data needed to do it.” Though the rest of the world may miss them, Walck and Hidayati’s return to middle Tennessee comes just in time for the cedar glades. To learn more about MTSU’s educational efforts to preserve cedar glades, visit http://frank.mtsu.edu/ ~mtsucee/Cedar_Glades.htm.

A Fine Grasp

by Drew Ruble

Daniel Erenso tackles sickle cell diseases one cell at a time Dr. Daniel Erenso, associate professor of physics and astronomy, must have been hard to beat when playing the game Operation as a kid. (Remember the game where players use tweezers to extract parts from small slits in a cartoon body without touching the edges of the cavity for fear of being electronically “buzzed” out of the game?) That’s because Erenso uses an experimental technique that enables him to “grasp” individual cells with a laser beam to study the morphology and elasticity of red blood cells (RBCs) by measuring their responses to linear and rotational deformations. What’s the upside? Abnormalities in RBC shape or flexibility, which are caused by genetic mutation, can result in sickle cell (SC) diseases. The prevalence of these diseases in the United States is approximately one in 5,000. Worldwide, an estimated 300,000 affected individuals are born each year. SC affects mostly people (or their descendants) from parts of tropical and subtropical regions since the gene mutation is caused by frequent exposure to malaria, which is common there. Though several treatments have been developed to treat these diseases, the most promising technique is stem cell–targeted gene therapy. Recently, a clinical trial conducted in mouse models by a group led by Dr. Derek Persons at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis corrected two common types of sickle cell diseases: sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia. Future human clinical trials of such stem cell– targeted gene therapy will require a different

approach to measure the efficacy of the treatment in mice. One method is to conduct a comparative study on the elasto-mechanical properties of the normal, the sickle, and the genetically corrected RBCs of the mouse model using laser tweezers. Last summer, Erenso teamed up with St. Jude’s Persons to conduct this study. Erenso and coworkers found that the new blood cells generated through the gene therapy technique have properties resembling those of healthy cells, a breakthrough for the scientists and good news for those with sickle cell diseases.

A RetroFit Future

by Randy Weiler

Dr. Charles Perry invents a way to make every car a hybrid

Erenso uses an experimental

technique that enables him to“grasp”

individual

cells with a laser beam to study the morphology and elasticity of red blood cells.

Prolific patent recipient Dr. Charles Perry’s latest invention, the Plug-In Hybrid RetroFit Kit, could save America 120 million gallons of fuel daily. Perry (B.S. ’66 and M.S. ’69) is the holder of the Robert E. and Georgianna West Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence in the Department of Engineering Technology. He is spearheading an eight-member team collaborating on this patent-pending, wheel-hub motor project. Perry says that 80% of U.S. drivers make daily trips of 30 miles or less driving 40 mph or less. Those trips can be made with his 10to 15-horsepower electric motors that would be powered by extra batteries installed in the car’s trunk. (The hybrid retrofit kit is installed in the space between the brake mechanism and the hub.) Perry, a former IBM electrical engineer who was awarded 40 patents during his career there, says he believes the kits could be developed into a product selling for between $3,000 and $5,000.

(The hybrid retrofit kit is installed in the space between the brake mechanism and the hub.)

continued on page 39

Spring 2011 | 9 |

MTSU Magazine April 2011  

MTSU Magazine is the premier print publication for Middle Tennessee State University. Published by the Office of Marketing and Communication...

MTSU Magazine April 2011  

MTSU Magazine is the premier print publication for Middle Tennessee State University. Published by the Office of Marketing and Communication...

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