New TV ads feature life transforming research

Washington State University recently began a new series of television ads that feature the far-reaching impact of the university’s research. The ads are being aired on cable and major stations in Seattle and Spokane. The spots will run during prime-time viewing hours in three-week segments throughout the spring.

The topics of the new ads include research developments in:

• Taxol cancer treatment
• Bone replacement
• Biomediation of water resources
• Economies of developing countries

In addition, the College of Veterinary Medicine has produced a new television commercial on cutting-edge research benefits animals.

You can preview the ads ONLINE @ For additional information on the ad series, see a longer related article ONLINE @

The four new spots were produced by Copacino-Fujikado in Seattle, in conjunction with North by Northwest production in Spokane. Research examples presented in the campaign segments include: 

* Fighting cancer with taxol.
Professor Rodney Croteau, a fellow in WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and member of the National Academy of Sciences, and his research team, have developed and licensed plant cell cultures for the biosynthesis of taxol, which is used in cancer treatments. This work stands to impact the health of millions of women worldwide by ensuring an ongoing supply of the drug, which currently is produced by harvesting the slow-growing Yew tree.

The woman featured in the spot is a cancer survivor Margaretha Ellersick of Spokane, who benefited from taxol during her treatments.

* Advancing artificial bone to improve hip replacements.
Musculoskeletal disorders are recognized as among the most significant human health problems that exist today, costing society an estimated $254 billion every year, and afflicting one out of seven Americans. It is expected that the number of individuals with musculoskeletal disorders will increase over the coming years, as our population ages.

In spite of the enormous magnitude of this problem, there is still a lack of bone replacement material that is appropriate for restoring lost structure and function, particularly for load-bearing applications. A significant example is total hip replacements in which a dense metal is used that has significantly higher density, stiffness and strength than natural bone, which is a porous material.

The typical lifetime of a total hip replacement is only seven to 12 years, and this lifetime has remained constant over the past 50 years.

In order to overcome these long-standing problems, WSU researchers, led by professors Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose in the College of Engineering and Architecture — funded by the Office of Naval Research and the W. M. Keck Foundation — are designing and manufacturing low-stiffness and low-density porous materials for load bearing implants. Recent results on titanium hip-stems indicate that both stiffness and density can be reduced up to 60 percent using novel design concepts using closed pores. Since these implant properties are significantly closer to natural bone, it is anticipated that such implants will increase lifetime of hip replacements or other load-bearing implants significantly.

* Cleaning our waterways.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working to clean up contaminated sediments at 150 sites in the U.S., and about 10 percent of the country’s waterways are thought to contain contaminated sediments that are harmful to people’s health. Traditionally, to clean up the sediments, engineers have either dredged them or capped them with fairly impermeable clay. Dredging can be expensive and can actually increase exposure to contaminants when sediments are stirred up. Capping the contaminants can also be problematic when the cap is disturbed and contaminants are released.

A multi-disciplinary group of researchers, led by Jeff Ullman, Jeremy Rentz and Haluk Beyenal in the College of Engineering and Architecture is working on better ways to clean up contaminated sediments in lakes, rivers and estuaries. In particular, the researchers are looking to improve the capability of bacteria to degrade contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments. Bacteria are an environmentally friendly way to clean up many contaminants in the environment, such as in oil spills, but below the surface, the lack of oxygen limits the bacteria’s ability to degrade certain compounds. The researchers are looking at innovative ways to get more oxygen to bacteria below the surface. They test their ideas in the laboratory and then measure the ability of the bacteria to metabolize the contaminants.

In a related project, the group received a grant from the Water Research Center to assess impacts on rainbow trout imparted by contaminated sediments following embryonic exposure. In particular, the researchers will look at the potential impacts when trout are exposed to PAHs and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used in flame retardants, as eggs and larvae lie and hatch in contaminated sediments. The researchers will subject the eggs to contaminated sediments, raise them to adults, and assess the impact on development. The project will also allow the researchers to get a better sense of the behavior of the contaminants in the sediments and develop remediation techniques to clean them up.

Also related to this work is that of Dr. David Yonge, professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  Dr. Yonge studies physical and chemical wastewater treatment processes. In particular, he has studied how chemicals, such as chromium, interact with soils and water and how to best remove them from industrial waste streams and contaminated environments.

Yonge was one of a group of Washington State University researchers to receive a $900,000 grant from the Department of Energy in a multi-disciplinary project to work on the bioremediation of chromium. For years, people have been concerned about the movement of contaminated groundwater near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation that someday may make its way to the Columbia River. In collaboration with faculty from the College of Sciences, the researchers are studying how commonly found bacteria precipitate chromium and other heavy metals out of groundwater to lock them up more safely as solids in the soil.

In another project, Yonge has also worked to develop sand particles, so that researchers can better understand how near molecular-sized, intraparticle pores in soil impact contaminant clean-up.

For years, researchers have found that contamination clean-up always takes significantly longer than their predicted estimates. A clean-up that should take months always seems to take years. Yonge has surmised that these intraparticle pore spaces in soils trap the contaminant, and that models for clean-up don’t take this into account.

The researchers developed their own sand particle with specific pore diameters to study the phenomenon.

They have been working to contaminate samples with carbon tetrachloride and simulate a clean-up, so that models for such work can be improved.

* Supporting Economic Progress in Developing Countries like Rwanda

Washington State University students participating in the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide Last Mile eLearning course are helping Rwandans better market their coffee products to the world while learning the management, computer, and business skills required to make telecenters successful. 

Last Mile Initative connectivity promises to bring many improvements and opportunities to the lives of farmers who are members of Rwandan coffee co-operatives.  Although some co-operatives are ne
ar urban areas, many are in remote regions of the country lacking electricity and basic services. Consequently, communication between members is primitive at best.

As these cooperatives succeed in marketing their product to the world, they are limited by existing communication tools. Internet access through LMI can change all of this for the better, but cooperatives need a plan to recover costs that may approach $200 USD a month, nearly a year’s income for many Rwandans.

Experiments in Rwanda with providing Internet access in remote regions have been very successful, prompting LMI sites to plan for telecenter businesses as a way to sustain their connectivity. In addition to providing a sustainable business model for co-operatives, telecenters and Internet Cafés have the potential to become powerful community centers in remote regions.

After extensive training and planning, a team of WSU students spent six-weeks in Kigali, Rwanda training and mentoring employees and introducing plans and systems for using digital tools for business planning, communication and marketing.   In addition to support from WSU students, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) have service-learning programs for students who are interested in community driven projects. These students collaborate with their American peers and provide sustainable support after the WSU students have returned home.

Many of the challenges in Rwanda are similar to those faced by LMI sites all over the world.  Materials developed and lessons learned in Rwanda are being made available to all LMI sites.

Lessons learned from the on-site experience will contribute additional content to an eLearning course that the CBDD will develop to support LMI entrepreneurs. The course will include an ICT component, a maintenance component, a small business management component and a community development component.

The course will be hosted on KEWL Next Gen and will be available globally.