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UO grant for high-tech gear may help preemies.

Byline: Stefan Verbano The Register-Guard

The beneficiaries of a $400,000 grant awarded to the University of Oregon's Department of Human Physiology from the U.S. Department of Defense could include premature babies with lung disorders.

The grant will be put toward acquiring state-of-the-art cardiovascular and respiratory monitoring equipment. It is part of a $37.8 million Defense University Research Instrumentation Program package - divided into 165 awards and claimed by 83 academic institutions - to assist with the purchase of high-tech hardware.

UO scientists working in eight College of Arts and Sciences laboratories will use the money to bring to campus advanced ultrasound and near-infrared spectroscopy systems that are capable of measuring blood flow, oxygen levels and pulmonary pressure and of taking three-dimensional images of the heart.

"It's very high-tech monitoring equipment for this type of research," UO research spokesman Jim Barlow said.

Grant recipients include human physiology researchers Paul van Donkelaar, Li-Shan Chou, Hans Dreyer, John Halliwill, Andrew Karduna, Andrew Lovering and Christopher Minson, as well as Scott Frey from the UO's Department of Psychology.

With the grant, Lovering hopes to research lung function, specifically bronchopulmonary dysplasia - a chronic lung disorder characterized by lung inflammation and scarring that is most common in infants. "The research that I do with this equipment will be used to see how I can make lives better for kids who are born very premature," Lovering said.

Halliwill said he sees the department's selection for grant funds as a testament to the caliber of research at the school. "It says we are doing top-quality, human-translational research," he said.

The university received a similar grant from the same Department of Defense program in 2005, which went toward constructing an "environmental chamber" located inside its Evonuk Environmental Physiology Core. Within the 144-square-foot chamber, researchers can observe how the human body reacts to temperatures between 14 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity between 10 and 95 percent, and altitudes of up to 18,000 feet.

In the past half-decade, the facility has been used to develop climate-specific sweatsuits and ventilated helmets for the military and to acclimate a group of Olympic athletes for their trip to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Though the school is receiving the money with few strings attached, it will adhere to a policy dictating what types of Defense Department research it can conduct.

"We do not support weapons or any kind of military weaponry research," Barlow said. "The main thing with Defense Department money is that it is also easily translatable to public health."

"There is nothing that says we can't share the findings with the general medical community," Barlow added. "This is why we take it on."
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Title Annotation:Education; The Defense Department funds will go toward advanced ultrasound and near-infrared spectroscopy equipment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 26, 2011
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