Detroit research in the news

News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Panel: With infrastructure funding available, communities need to ‘use it smartly’

Researchers from the University Research Corridor (URC) with local officials Monday to discuss ways to address the storm-related home flooding experienced in Detroit and other southeast Michigan cities, months after the second “500 year rain event” in seven years left thousands in the region with drowned basements and downed power lines. Experts from the University Research Corridor gathered on the Wayne State University campus to present research on updating outdated infrastructure to make communities more resilient in the face of extreme weather events that are exacerbated by climate change. “The problem is that we’re impoverishing people that are already at the edge of poverty in a series of Detroit communities,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State’s Center for Urban Studies. The URC works with industries like infrastructure, water, and mobility.  “We know that water always wins, as it has the time and energy to find the paths of least resistance, which are often our basements or other infrastructure,” said William Shuster, chair of the Wayne State University civil and environmental engineering department. “We need to respond to the way that water plays this game and give it other options.” The money for necessary large-scale infrastructure repair is available to Michigan and should be used to mitigate future impacts of severe weather, according to Britany Affolter-Caine, executive director of the URC. “We are in a unique time in where we’re getting a ton of money and communities are sort of staring down at an influx of infrastructure dollars and COVID dollars,” said Affolter-Caine. “…We have to use it smartly.”  

MI universities get funding to sequence COVID, other infectious disease

By Lily Bohlke  A new grant will increase the capacity for infectious-disease sequencing and research in Michigan to improve the state’s ability to respond to health crises. Four universities, including Wayne State, are receiving a total of $18.5 million for the work. Dr. Teena Chopra, co-director of Wayne State University’s Detroit-based Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases, said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of upping the ante on researching and preparing for this and future pandemics. “The work under the grant involves looking at emerging infections, not only SARS CoV 2 which causes COVID, but also other multi-drug-resistant organisms that have plagued the city of Detroit for years and now are even worse after the pandemic,” Chopra said. Dr. Marcus Zervos, who also co-directs WSU’s Center, said the collaboration between the universities is important. He emphasized efforts to understand the spread and reach of viruses such as COVID require national and international cooperation. “We weren’t able to rapidly respond to a pandemic because we didn’t have mechanisms for testing and contact tracing and outbreak investigation and control,” Zervos said. “If it’s COVID, or if it’s a new strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it’s critical to have the public health infrastructure in place.” 
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Archeologists dug up MOCAD site: Here's what they found

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit partnered with Wayne State University's anthropology department to conduct an excavation on the museum's grounds as part of an ongoing art exhibit entitled "All Monsters" by Chicago native Jan Tichy. Random household items, including pieces of a clay pot and an old medicine bottle, were unearthed by Wayne State students and will be transformed into works of art. The exhibit is located in artist Mike Kelley's "Mobile Homestead," a full-scale replica of Kelley's 1950's ranch-style home in Detroit, which sits on a plot adjacent to the archeological site that was once a women's prison and a place that housed homeless women and children. Wayne State University professor of anthropology Krysta Ryzewski said the team wanted to incorporate the land's history into the exhibit. "He (Tichy) though that archaeology might be a really interesting way to connect with the art that's on display in his part of the homestead," she said. "So we thought it might be a way to dig underground and bring up the stories of this property and the people who used to live here and utilize the space and many of those people are not known to Detroit's history...We are literally excavating other histories that have been rendered inaccessible because of the changes to the landscape and Detroit over time." 

New type of nerve cell discovered in the retina

Scientists at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah have discovered a new type of nerve cell, or neuron, in the retina. The discovery marks a notable development for the field as scientists work toward a better understanding of the central nervous system by identifying all classes of neurons and their connections. The research team named their discovery the Campana cell after its shape, which resembles a hand bell. The published research study, “An uncommon neuronal class conveys visual signals from rods and cones to retinal ganglion cells,” was authored by Tushar Ganjawala, a Ph.D. student in the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and co-authors Brent K Young, Charu Ramakrishnan, Ping Wang, Karl Deisseroth, and Ning Tian. The work was supported by an NIH Core Grant, and an Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY, to the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Utah, and the Department of Ophthalmology of Wayne State University School of Medicine; additional support was provided by the Ligon Research Center of Vision, Kresge Eye Institute, and the Dryer Foundation. 
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

Crain's Saturday Extra: Health care needs help, how to spend $6B and some Lewis College of Business backstory

Health care disparities in Black, Brown and impoverished populations are well documented, but the outcomes have never been as obvious as during the pandemic. For instance, in 2020, Black people were 2.1 times more likely than white people to die from COVID-19 in the U.S. In Michigan last year, roughly 30 out of every 1,000 Black people living in Michigan could expect to die from COVID-19, according to data published by Brookings Institution last March. To improve access to health care, the system must go mobile, said Dr. Philip Levy, professor of emergency medicine at Wayne State University and chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. Levy's practice is attempting to reinvent the model by putting primary preventive care on wheels and meeting patients where they live in an attempt to overcome systemic problems by treating chronic conditions like high blood pressure. The pandemic has also led to the most critical staffing crisis the industry has ever faced. Nationally, roughly 30 percent of nurses have either quit or been terminated during the pandemic. 
News outlet logo for favicons/dbusiness.com.png

Wayne State University publishes new findings of potentially deadly bacterial infection linked to COVID-19 in older patients

A doctor at Detroit’s Wayne State University School of Medicine has published new findings of a trend in older patients who are severely ill with COVID-19 and also test positive for Clostridioides difficile — a bacteria sometimes referred to C. diff or CDI. The CDI bacteria causes life-threatening diarrhea and is usually a side effect of taking antibiotics, according to the CDC. Wayne State’s observations offer the inaugural CDC journal report of CDI infections in COVID-19 patients. “This is the first report highlighting COVID-19 patients who presented with diarrhea and were found to have both C. diff and diarrhea as a co-infection,” says Dr. Teena Chopra, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the WSU School of Medicine and corporate medical director of infection prevention hospital epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship at WSU and the Detroit Medical Center. “Most of these patients were very sick and had a higher mortality. COVID-19 can present as diarrhea, and a lot of these patients are getting unnecessary antibiotics. We always think of C. diff when we have patients who have diarrhea, and now we have to think of COVID-19 in these patients, too.”
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

To protect crime victims, support jail reform | Opinion

Sheryl Kubiak, School of Social Work dean, wrote an op-ed supporting jail reform. “Before the Michigan Jails Task Force released its report earlier this year, it wasn’t well known that tens of thousands of people were jailed in our state for driving on a suspended license or for unpaid tickets, fees, and child support. It wasn’t well known that rural counties in our state were outpacing Wayne and Kent Counties in jail population and seeing extremely high rates of serious mental illness among those jailed. Somewhere along the way, as Michigan’s jails tripled in size, their purpose got muddled. They became a tool for debt collection. A tool for responding to homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. To address this problem, we have to sharpen our focus on public safety. At each point in our justice system — from issuing warrants, to making arrests, to deciding who should be released pending trial, and how those found guilty should be punished — our laws should focus police, judges, and other decision-makers on immediate safety threats rather than money, addiction, and nuisances.”
News outlet logo for favicons/chalkbeat.org.png

Report: Detroit faces the most challenges to keeping kids in school

How bad is Detroit’s student chronic absenteeism problem? Wayne State University researchers have identified eight conditions — such as poverty, unemployment, and even cold temperatures — that are strongly correlated to chronic absence, and the city leads all other large metropolitan areas in having the worst outcomes for almost all of those conditions. The findings come with a key takeaway the researchers hope will prompt action: Schools alone can’t solve the problem of getting students to school every day, said Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor in the college of education at Wayne State University. And, the findings come during a critical time as the Detroit school district invests heavily in a number of efforts designed to get students in school. Citywide, across district and charter schools, about half of the students are chronically absent — meaning they’re missing 18 or more days during the school year. Lenhoff said what’s needed is a more coordinated effort that brings together policymakers, school district officials, charter school officials, community organizations, and community members. Without it, the work being done by schools is “unlikely to make the huge difference we need to make,” Lenhoff said.
News outlet logo for favicons/sciencenews.org.png

Mom’s immune system and microbiome may help predict premature birth

Roughly 10 percent of children worldwide — an estimated 15 million babies — are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks gestation, each year. In developed countries, surviving an early birth has become more likely, thanks to the availability of intensive medical care. More than 98 percent of U.S. preemies survive infancy, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2016, though as many as 44 percent of the youngest preemies don’t make it. Survival is least likely in nations with the fewest resources. Worldwide, complications associated with preterm birth are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 years old. Some of the signs of inflammation linked to preterm birth differ from those found during full-term birth, says Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, a reproductive immunologist at Wayne State University. For example, in 2017, she and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology that some proteins involved in inflammation, called cytokines, were present at higher than normal levels in amniotic fluid from a subset of women who delivered preterm. The earlier the women delivered their babies, the higher the cytokine levels. Infections, which are present in at least a quarter of preterm births, could be the cause, but inflammation and cytokine levels were also elevated when no infection was found. Part of the problem with developing a predictive test is that preterm labor isn’t just one condition. Thirty years ago, preterm labor was viewed simply as regular labor that happened early, says perinatologist Roberto Romero at Wayne State, who directs the perinatology research branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Although scientists now recognize that the biology of preterm labor is distinct, they still have to grapple with the reality that it varies depending on the underlying cause. Wayne State and NICHD recently released gene activity data from the whole blood of 150 Detroit women, 71 of whom delivered preterm, and encouraged researchers to use the data to find predictors of preterm labor, as part of a crowdsourcing collaboration called the DREAM challenge. The challenge is expected to be completed in January 2020. “We are at the beginning of an exciting period,” says Romero at Wayne State. The field is now equipped to start studying preterm birth as a collection of several different syndromes and seek out treatments to address each one, he says.
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

Wayne State University pediatrician and professor helps develop policy recognizing racism as a health factor

A Wayne State University pediatrician played a critical role in developing a national policy statement that recognizes for the first time the impact racism has on the health of American children and teens. Lynn Smitherman, M.D., FAAP, assistant professor of WSU Pediatrics, is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Task Force Addressing Bias and Discrimination. The task force’s work contributed to the policy statement, “The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health,” issued by the AAP on July 30. The statement is a call for action by the nation’s pediatricians to reduce the impact of racism and improve the health of American children. The AAP believes that racism has a significant impact on children’s health. The academy says that pediatricians must play a part in improving the health condition of children through listening to families, creating “culturally safe medical homes” and by becoming advocates for social justice in their communities. “Eliminating discrimination, racism and bias in the care of our most valuable resource, our children, is a basic tenet to any civil society. Participating in the AAP’s Task Force on Addressing Bias and Discrimination in the care of children was one of the many highlights of my professional career,” said Smitherman, who also chairs the National Medical Association’s Pediatric Section and is the vice chair of Medical Education for the WSU Department of Pediatrics. “Any activity to bring people together and heal the divides of this country are critically important to the well-being and health of the society in general. I was very proud that the AAP took this important position and that I, as a WSU faculty member, was able to contribute.”
News outlet logo for favicons/michiganchronicle.com.png

Make Your Date Detroit delivers results

Detroit has one of the worst (highest) preterm birth and infant mortality rates in the country, equal to that of some third world countries. With a preterm birth rate of 14.5 percent, Detroit earned an “F” among major U.S. cities for premature births according to the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card from the March of Dimes, the nation’s leading maternal and infant health nonprofit organization. Research has shown that disparities such as racial inequity, poverty, stress, food insecurity, lack of education, and limited access to transportation or health care can contribute to poor health outcomes for mothers and babies. In efforts to quell this epidemic, the city of Detroit has welcomed several initiatives geared towards reducing the city’s infant mortality rate. One such initiative is the Make Your Date Detroit program. Make Your Date Detroit is a Wayne State University organization that is fighting to turn the tide against premature births in Detroit. “African American infants are at a 50 percent greater risk of preterm birth compared to white infants. As a result, African American infants are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants,” says Marisa Rodriquez, director of strategic operations of the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. “African American women are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white mothers. Hispanic mothers and infants are also at greater risk when compared to white women. There are tests and treatments that exist to reduce preterm birth, but many pregnant women do not have access to them. Our program works to make these lifesaving approaches available. What our program and others provide is important in the fight to reduce the very substantial racial and ethnic health disparities that are seen in pregnancy.” Rodriquez says that the Make Your Date program has already begun saving infant lives in a short period. “Make Your Date has been so successful that participating mothers are 37 percent less likely to deliver at under 32 weeks and 28 percent are less likely to deliver at under 34 weeks,” she said. “In a city with such high rates of preterm birth and infant mortality, these results are remarkable. We are very proud that women are delivering healthy babies as a result of this program.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Using Detroiters' ZIP codes to predict stroke risk

Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Governors chair, wrote a piece about stroke risk and current research involving our region. “Wayne State University researcher and Detroit Medical Center emergency room doctor Phillip Levy told policymakers attending the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference he hopes data he gleaned from emergency room visits to the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital can be used to inform smarter approaches to the cardiovascular risks facing Detroiters. A typical resident of the 48236 ZIP code in Grosse Pointe can expect to live to age 82. But a person who lives less than 10 miles away in Detroit’s 48201 ZIP code has a life expectancy of only 69 years. Michigan ranks 42nd out of the 50 states in cardiovascular health, with 298 stroke or heart disease related deaths per 100,000 residents each year. The national average is 257 cardiovascular-related deaths per 100,000 residents. Levy is optimistic that gathering information like this on a data platform will allow researchers, public health experts, and physicians to explore links between health outcomes and factors such as employment, environment, race, income and education. Levy thinks data platforms like the one he touted on Mackinac Island may help us better understand the role that factors like racism play in the development of hypertension and other medical conditions. “Every time I put those maps up,  I hear that gasp in the audience and  people are just astonished that that’s such a problem,” said the physician. “You want to take it to another level," he says. “You have all the things that an individual can do, but [the question is] how can we from a policy or community health perspective change some of the structural things that are involved?”
News outlet logo for favicons/nytimes.com.png

Exhibit looks at history of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now ,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgemi.com.png

Will Michigan 3rd-grade reading law hurt poor?

Children from low-income and minority families will be more likely to flunk than wealthier white classmates with similarly low test scores under Michigan’s third-grade reading law, if the experience of Florida is repeated here. Research and Northwestern University found that Florida third-graders with similarly low reading scores were held back at different rates, depending on the socioeconomic status of their families. While the long-term impact of holding children back a grade is mixed, the socioeconomic and racial disparity found in Florida should be a flashing yellow caution light for Michigan, said Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of education at Wayne State University. “This study is an important warning for Michigan lawmakers and educators as our state implements this new law,” Lenhoff said. “If children are given differential opportunities to use exemptions from retention, this policy could lead to greater inequity in educational opportunity between low-income children and their wealthier peers.”
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgemi.com.png

Opinion: Schools and researchers must collaborate to help Detroit students

Wayne State University College of Education professors Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, Ben Pogodzinski and Erica Edwards wrote an opinion piece exploring approaches to improving lives of Detroit students, focusing on issues of student enrollment and attendance. “Researching the challenges most cited by school leaders and community advocates, we found that roughly a quarter of students who lived in Detroit in the 2017-18 school year attended a school in the suburbs, taking their talents and state school funding out of the city’s schools. We also found that nearly one-fifth of Detroit students switched schools between school years, which can negatively impact achievement and destabilize the schools they left. Additionally, over half of the students who attended school in Detroit missed 10 percent or more of the year, contributing to lower academic achievement and greatly increasing their risk of high school dropout. Findings like these can play a pivotal role in educational policy decision-making, but the policymakers and advocates who could benefit from such information rarely have access to the journals where academics like us typically publish our research…Our research joins a growing body of scholarship that suggests that a collaborative approach to school improvement, with community, school, city, and university partners, could help overcome challenges facing Detroit schools.
News outlet logo for favicons/dbusiness.com.png

Researchers at Detroit’s Wayne State Find Link Between Zika Virus, Glaucoma

Researchers in Wayne State University’s department of ophthalmology, visual, and anatomical sciences have discovered in experimental models that the Zika virus can cause glaucoma. The study was published in mSphere, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Microbiology. Zika virus, or ZIKV poses challenges in reproductive health and has been shown to cause neurological disorders, primarily microcephaly, or the abnormal shrinking of the head circumference. Several clinical studies have also linked ZIKV to ocular deformities. “The eye is protected from systemic infection due the presence of a protective barrier called the blood retinal barrier,” says Ashok Kumar, associate professor and lead author of the study. “Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that ZIKV has the ability to infect and replicate in cells making the blood retinal barrier, hence potentially allowing the entry of ZIKV into the eye."
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

Are controversial programs in Detroit actually reducing crime?

Detroit’s Project Green Light now has 500 businesses signed up around the city. Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James Craig and other officials say there’s no question the program is helping businesses keep crime away. But is that backed up by data? A new study from researchers at Wayne State University’s Department of Criminal Justice shows blight demolition in Detroit neighborhoods has reduced crime. Charles Klahm and Matthew Larson are the Wayne State researchers who conducted the study. They discussed their findings on Detroit Today.
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

Michigan health fund grants $500,000 for LGBT senior support

Corktown Health Center got $500,000 from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to offer care and support for older LGBT adults. The Detroit health center is the first focused on LGBT health in Michigan, according to its website. The two-year grant will fund its Silver Rainbow Health Initiative, according to a news release. The program will be a collaborative effort between Corktown Health, SAGE Metro Detroit and the Wayne State University School of Medicine. SAGE Metro Detroit grew out of the LGBT Older Adult Coalition. It works to build awareness and change for elderly members of the LGBT community. The Corktown Health Center opened in 2017 in a renovated 24,000-square-foot facility at 1726 Howard St., aiming to alleviate a lack of LGBT-focused care in the area. It partnered with Wayne State University and the Wayne State University Physician Group late that year to increase its capacity and expand its resources. The health center's services include primary care, health insurance help, behavioral health, and comprehensive HIV care and treatment. Pharmacy services are coming soon, according to its website.
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgemi.com.png

Lead levels drop in Michigan kids after Flint spike. But so does testing.

“Lead is still in all these older homes in Michigan, and until it is substantially abated or these homes are removed from the housing stock, there is still a hazard to kids,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Housing. In Detroit, at least 10 percent of kids in eight of 27 city ZIP Codes tested positive for elevated lead levels. Many are in some of the city’s oldest and most blighted neighborhoods, such as the Virginia Park neighborhood in the city’s 48206 ZIP Code, where 19 percent of tested children had elevated levels last year. Thompson has led efforts to test children in that Detroit ZIP Code and another, 48214, where 16 percent of children had elevated lead levels last year. He said 85 percent of the 1,000 homes he’s tested in that neighborhood were positive for lead. It’s one of several initiatives in cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids, but remediation efforts are expensive.
News outlet logo for favicons/benzinga.com.png

Expert views on Michigan's recreational marijuana proposal

At the event hosted by the Wayne State University College of Pharmacy and Health Studies, Christine Rabinak, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at the college, detailed the history of marijuana in the U.S. and the effects and characteristics of different strains. Randall Commissaris, an associate professor at Wayne State, has studied the effects of marijuana on driving ability. He told the audience Tuesday that a "yes" vote on Prop 1 will make Michigan either the ninth or tenth state to legalize recreational pot.