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Research briefs

For immediate use

May 23, 2007

Local angles: Alamance and Wilson counties

New study will help parents and children manage weight

Helping parents and children manage their weight is the focus of a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Adults who are obese or overweight are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease said Diane Berry, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing and the study’s principal investigator. Children who are overweight are at increased risk of becoming obese as young adults, and developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Berry and her colleagues will test a 12-week intervention designed to improve nutrition and exercise patterns by teaching parents and children how to make small lifestyle changes. Through classroom instruction at four schools in Alamance and Wilson counties, parents and children will learn how to use coping skills such as problem solving and conflict resolution, to manage their weight.

The $2.6 million study is funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Note: Diane Berry can be reached at (919) 843-8561 or dberry@email.unc.edu

School of Nursing contact: Amanda Meyers, (919) 966-4619, amanda_meyers@unc.edu

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Photo: For a photo of Lieb, click on: http://www.bio.unc.edu/faculty/lieb/labpages/images/Lieb_Web_Photo2.jpg

Biologist receives $7.3 million NIH award for genome research

A UNC-Chapel Hill biologist will be among the first group of scientists to identify all the functional DNA elements in the genome of C. elegans, a roundworm commonly used as a model system in biomedical research, with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Jason Lieb, an assistant professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences with a joint appointment at the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, has received a $7.3 million, four-year grant from the National Human Genome Institute, part of the NIH.

The grant – one of 10 given to researchers across the country, totaling $57 million – is part of a new program called model organism Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE), which allows scientists to use C. elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster  to complement and expand upon the initial ENCODE program focused on identifying functional elements in the human genome.

“In our project, we aim to identify specific stretches of DNA and DNA-associated proteins that together control how genes are turned on and off at the right place and time, and how chromosomes are replicated and segregated during cell divisions,” he said.

Lieb will lead a UNC team that also includes researchers at the University of Cambridge; the University of California at Berkeley; the University of California at San Diego; NimbleGen Systems Inc., Madison, Wis.; the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel; and Indiana University.

Web sites: Carolina Center for Genome Sciences: http://genomics.unc.edu
National Human Genome Research Institute: http://www.genome.gov

Note: Contact Lieb at (919) 843-3228, jlieb@bio.unc.edu

College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093, spurrk@email.unc.edu

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NSF awards more than half-million dollars to Morehead Planetarium

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $570,487 grant to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The grant will support the center’s Science 360 educational program.

Science 360 presents current science news in a theater setting, including sound and video clips, animations, projections and audience participation. The center tested its prototype Science 360 show “Hurricanes Unleashed!” in fall 2006.  This summer, the center will launch two new Science 360 shows, “What Happened to Pluto?” and “Tomorrow’s Buildings Today.”

Each Science 360 show is created by a team that includes scientists (usually Carolina faculty members), students and instructional design specialists. This team researches and creates the show – choosing content, writing scripts, developing graphics, delivering the show to live audiences and creating podcasts that can be delivered to a global audience through the center’s Web site at www.moreheadplanetarium.org.

The center will use the grant to involve more UNC undergraduate and graduate students in Science 360 show development over the next three years. Grant funds will also support technical enhancements for Science 360’s multimedia systems.

Science 360 shows are designed for school-age children and their families. The newest Science 360 shows on June 10.

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center contact: Karen Kornegay,
(919) 843-7952, kck@unc.edu