Even during the summer months, while many students are away from campus, Duke researchers continue their innovate work. From studying the impact of air pollution to developing tests for cancer, below are some of the many ways that research has recently been advanced on campus.

1. Brain-repair circuit

Duke neuroscientists published findings on June 1 about a previously unknown type of neurons capable of directing stem cells to generate new neurons. Chay Kuo, George W. Brumley Assistant Professor in Cell Biology, Pediatrics and Neurobiology and whose team made this discovery, conducted the study with mice and located these ChAT+ neurons to be within the subventricular zone of the adult brain. The new finding shed light on neurogenesis, the mechanism of which remains largely a myth. The uncovering of the neural circuit capable of neurogenesis by Kuo’s team suggests possibilities for regulating and utilizing neuron-generating abilities in medical issues.

2. New treatment for neuroblastoma

Researchers at Duke Medicine have reported a new strategy to tackle neuroblastoma—a malignant tumor occurring frequently in children younger than two years—in an article published June 17. The new treatment involves a derivative of heparin, an injectable drug currently in use to treat blood clots. The study, led by Gerard Blobe, professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, altered heparin and removed the drug’s blood-thinning properties. The altered version of heheparin was tested on mice, and Blobe’s group found that the derivative proved to suppress neuroblastoma tumor growth.

3. GPCRs

Nobel Prize winner Robert Lefkowitz, James B. Duke professor of Medicine, is a co-author of an article published June 22 that presented dynamic and structural information of G-protein coupled receptors—proteins that are crucial in the human body’s response to different stimuli. Lefkowitz received the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his groundbreaking work on G-protein coupled receptors, and his most recent publication details a strategy to visualize the architecture underlying the protein-receptor complex. This finding enables further understanding of the mechanisms of GPCR regulation by arrestins in action, and provides insights for pharmacological development.

4. Air pollution linked to lower death rates

A group of Duke scientists reported in an academic study June 23 that environmental policies regulating emission controls of the state of North Carolina could have led to the decrease in deaths from respiratory illness. Herbert Lyerly, professor of Surgery and lead author of the study, close examined the legislations passed in the state—including federal legislation Clean Air Act and state legislation 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act—and found that with the improvement of air quality over the years, the number of deaths caused by asthma and emphysema have decreased. The study also analyzes and correlates death rates with exposures to nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants that are intermediates or by-products of industrial.

5. Heart tests could raise risk for cancer

A recent study published June 9 co-authored by Duke researchers found that exposure to complex heart imaging tests could potentially increase the risk of cancer for children. The study was conducted by the group of Kevin Hill, pediatric heart specialist at Duke Medicine, in corporation with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital cardiologist Jason Johnson, and reported that children with previous experience of multiple heart surgeries and cumulative radiation exposure might lead to increase in cancer risk throughout their life. The study highlights the need for limiting radiation dose to decrease the risks brought by high-exposure to radioactivity.