KIP Graduate Students Earn Top Honors at HRI Student Forum

PhD student Greg Miodonski was awarded First Place for the poster session at the Health Research Institute’s (HRI) Student Forum on February 24th. Greg, a student in Dr. Qinghui Chen’s (KIP) lab, presented his research project entitled “Exercise Training Upregulates SK Channel Function in the Hypothalamic Paraventricular Nucleus (PVN) of Sprague Dawley Rats.”

Greg Miodonski with his advisor Dr. Qinghui Chen.
Greg presenting his poster to judges at the HRI Student Forum.

PhD candidate Sherry Chen earned Third Place for her research project’s poster presentation entitled “The Role of Peripheral Orexin Systems and Brain-Derived Extracellular Vesicles in Salt Sensitive Hypertension.” Sherry’s advisor is Dr. Zhiying (Jenny) Shan.

“As a graduate student, it is a valuable experience to present my work in the HRI student forum as it facilitates networking with faculty and students outside of my department. During my poster presentation, I had the chance to meet with three judges, including Dr. Caryn Heldt, who is also working on extracellular vesicles. Dr. Heldt asked me questions about the characterizations of nanoparticles in hypertension and showed interest in collaborating in the future. Although our research interests differ – my project focuses on the biological function of the vesicles while Dr. Heldt’s team analyzes their features – we can still explore potential areas of overlap and collaborate based on what we study in common, the vesicles. Thanks for this great opportunity provided by HRI as it provides a platform for networking, exchanging ideas, and potentially new opportunities for research. I am happy to present my work and share new data in HRI next year.” —Sherry Chen on presenting at the HRI Student Forum.

Sherry’s Abstract:

Introduction- It has been reported that small extracellular vesicles (sEVs ≤ 200 nm) are implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple diseases including hypertension. However, the role of brain-derived sEVs in the development of salt sensitive hypertension (SSHTN) remains unclear.

Hypothesis- We hypothesized that brain-derived sEVs from high salt diet-treated rats can induce inflammation and oxidative stress in the central nervous system (CNS). To test this hypothesis, brain-derived sEVs of Dahl salt-sensitive rats with high salt (HS) diet (Dahl-HS-sEV) were used to treat primary brain neuronal cultures and microinjected into brain lateral ventricles, respectively, proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and oxidative stress markers were measured through real-time PCR or fluorescent probes. sEVs isolated from Sprague Dawley (SD) rats with normal salt (NS) diet (SD-NS-sEV) were used as a control.

Results– Data showed that Dahl-HS-sEV increased mRNA levels of inflammatory cytokines including TNFα (2.3-fold) and IL1β (3.7-fold), and chemokines including CCL2 (2.4-fold), CCL5 (2.1-fold), and CCL12 (4.2-fold), with significant difference (P<0.05). In addition, Dahl-HS-sEV treatment increased mRNA levels of transcription regulator, NF-κB (1.4-fold), and neuronal activation marker, c-FOS (1.3-fold), as well as CYBA (1.7-fold), in primary neurons, compared to SD-NS-sEV-treated cells (P<0.05). Confocal images showed that Dahl-HS-sEV significantly increased mitochondrial ROS levels, with total fluorescence intensity increased 1.6-fold relative to SD-NS-sEV treatment (P<0.01). SD-NS rats receiving intracerebroventricular injection of Dahl-HS-sEV had increased (P<0.05) PVN mRNA levels of IL1β (4.3-fold), CCL5 (2.6-fold), IL-6 (3.4-fold) and NOS2 (5.2-fold), compared to rats receiving SD-NS-sEV (5.5 μg/rat, n=4), 6h after injection.

Conclusion- These results suggested that in SSHTN, brain-derived sEVs may induce central inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn results in an elevation of arterial blood pressure.

For the complete list of winners and departments that were represented, please read the Tech Today story that was published on March 7, 2023.

Combating Childhood Obesity

As a part of the Public Health Minor offered through the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, students in the Introduction to Public Health class, taught by Dr. Kelly Kamm, were tasked with putting together a public service announcement. In this blog post, Ambarish Rao, an undergraduate student pursuing a major in Management Information Systems along with a minor in Public Health, describes the problems associated with childhood obesity.

According to the World Health Organization, ‘overweight’ and ‘obesity’ are described as ”abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health.” In the United States, obesity affects approximately 15 million children and adolescents. Childhood obesity increases the difficulty of daily living as it is linked to poor sleep, breathing problems, discomfort, low levels of physical activity, and reduced quality of life. There is also a clear link between childhood obesity and anxiety and depression and other mental health issues in children. Compared to children in the general population, children who are obese have a three-times higher chance of dying in their early 20s. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and osteoarthritis are other common diseases associated with obesity.

The major risk factors for childhood obesity include a lack of physical activity, high calorie diet with low nutrients, inadequate amounts of high-quality sleep, high amounts of screen time, and adverse amounts of stress. So what guidance is there for a child that is obese and how can they be helped? The first is encourage and help them work towards achieving the recommended amount of 60 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be promoted through activities that are “fun” and enjoyable for the child. Some activities could be walking, biking, or scootering to and from school, playing with a pet, dancing to music, and organized sports activities. Promoting healthy eating behaviors to the child, which include high-nutrient meals with balanced macronutrients is also important. Some other habits that can be adopted are setting consistent family mealtimes, involving the child in meal planning by taking them to the grocery store, educating them about nutrition labels, and setting limits on snacks. Consulting a dietician for the child can be helpful as well. Good quality sleep has also shown to combat obesity. Children 6 to 12 years of age should receive 9-12 hours of sleep and teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should receive 8-10 hours of sleep. Two of the lesser-known causes of obesity are stressful environments and increased screen time.

Obesity in childhood can give rise to several major health issues, some of which can be fatal. Importantly, childhood obesity can be prevented and treated through various methods and resources. With the combined efforts from parents, family members, teachers, and clinicians all working together to provide a supportive environment for children, the obesity epidemic can be better controlled.

Congratulations to all of KIP’s Midyear Graduates!

Congratulations to the class of 2022!
Lily Hart, an Exercise Science graduate and KIP student office assistant, celebrates with a post-graduation ski at Mont Ripley.

Graduate Program Class of 2022

Jessica Bruning, PhD, Integrative Physiology

Gwyn Hamlin, MS, Kinesiology

Greg Miodonski, MS, Kinesiology

Undergraduate Class of 2022

Michael Bates, BS, Exercise Science

Kiley Farrey, BS, Sports & Fitness Management

Lily Hart, BS, Exercise Science

Ryan Jones, BS, Sports & Fitness Management

Meg Keranen, BS, Exercise Science

Jacob Rivard, BS, Exercise Science

Brandon Thompson, BS, Sports & Fitness Management

Matt Winter, BS, Exercise Science

KIP December Health Brief: How to have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

As students, staff, and faculty gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and take a much-deserved break, it is important to protect those individuals around us. Stay away from others if you are sick, wash your hands, stay physically active, get enough sleep, and enjoy healthy foods (along with some of those holiday indulgences!). 

The KIP December Health Brief provides a snapshot of COVID-19 trends, notion of the “tripledemic” this winter, health and well-being tips, vaccine and booster guidance, and resources.

The current COVID-19 community transmission level for Houghton County is low (note this does not include results from rapid at-home tests). This is good news as hospitalizations right now are also low. However, the combination of respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are on the rise across the country which is leading to an increase in medical visits and hospitalizations. The threat of a possible “tripledemic” is a current concern of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Accordingly, it is important that we continue to do our part by following the recommended public health guidelines. If you are sick, get tested as soon as possible. Finding out what you have will provide you with the best options for treatment and will provide crucial information to those around you so they can protect themselves too. As you travel over the winter break be sure to check community transmission levels at your destination as well. 

Also, some helpful resources for information on where and when to get COVID-19 booster and flu shots are Vaccines.gov and this CDC website, which will calculate when an individual is due for a booster. The U.S. Federal Government is also offering free COVID-19 tests by mail, and most pharmacies can help you use your health insurance benefits to reduce the price of tests.

Our public health messaging would not be complete without including physical activity promotion as a key mitigation component. As an effort to help keep everyone active over the winter break, the UP and Moving team will be delivering live workouts on Thursdays at 9:30am (12/22, 1/5) and Saturdays at 10:00am ET (12/24, 1/7). All ages and abilities are welcome, no specialized equipment needed, and join us through Zoom or Facebook live. 

Here are some additional resources

Upper Peninsula Community Health Town Hall Highlights Mental Health

During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health conditions including anxiety and depression have increased approximately 25% according to the World Health Organization. In rural areas, like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, mental health needs for both kids and adults are often difficult to address due to a shortage of mental health practitioners and stigma around mental illness.

To help deliver health information and resources to Upper Peninsula community members, Michigan Tech University and Northern Michigan University have partnered to offer the Upper Peninsula Community Health Town Halls Series. Organized by the Health Research Institute and Center for Rural Health, the 60-minute virtual town halls are broadcasted live on Zoom, Facebook Live, and several radio stations including 97.7 The Wolf (WOLV-FM), 98.7 Rockn’ Eagle (WGLI-FM), 105.7 Eagle Country (WCUP-FM), and Q107 (WMQT-FM). The goal of the series is to increase awareness about community and preventative health issues and how they impact individuals, families, and the Upper Peninsula Region. 

For the most recent town hall, moderators Steven Elmer and Kelly Kamm from the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology at Michigan Tech were joined by several community experts who discussed a range mental health and wellbeing topics and answered questions from the community.

As described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental health illness in a given year and more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. This serves as important wake-up call for the need to step up mental health services and support. Town Hall speaker Kristie Hechtman from Upper Peninsula Health Care Solutions described several collaborative programs to improve resources and access to mental health services for community members across the Upper Peninsula. Likewise, Greg Nyen, Superintendent of Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, summarized the strategic efforts being done to integrate mental health navigation coordinators and advocates within the school systems.

Abigail Wyche, Head of the Social Work Department at Northern Michigan University, described the efforts to strengthen the mental health workforce through their recently added Master of Social Work degree program. Over the past two years, more than 40 students have graduated and many have gone on to provide therapeutic services in the Upper Peninsula. As special advisor for campus wellbeing, Wyche also discussed a campus commitment to enhancing wellbeing which is described as a holistic concept encompassing biological, psychological, social, ecological and spiritual dimensions of health. Meredith Raasio, an undergraduate student and peer health ambassador at the Michigan Tech Center for Student Mental Health and Well Being, offered suggestions for maintaining wellbeing over the holidays including engaging in physical activity, spending time outside, connecting with family and friends, taking breaks from work and schoolwork, and making time for volunteering.

Since starting the Upper Peninsula Community Health Town Hall Series in September of 2020, over 125 trusted experts across the region and state have participated in 28 Town Halls. All town halls are recorded, archived, and can be viewed on the Michigan Tech Health Research Institute website and YouTube Channel. Each town hall is also re-broadcasted the Sunday after each live broadcast on ABC 10 (WBUP) at 12pm ET.

The continuation of the Town Hall series is in response in part to the 2021 Upper Peninsula Community Health Needs Assessment Report which includes survey data from more than 3,500 Upper Peninsula residents relating to general health status, prevalence of chronic diseases, health behaviors like diet, physical activity, and alcohol, tobacco and drug use, and rates for accessing preventive care like checkups, dental visits, immunizations, and cancer screenings. This report serves as an important guide for developing strategies to address the health needs of people across the region.

The Upper Peninsula Community Health Town Hall Series has been made possible through support from several health organizations including U.P. Health System-Portage, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

KIP Students Visit Local Schools to Promote Health Science and Public Health

A team of Michigan Tech students visited local elementary, middle, and high school classrooms as part of state and national outreach efforts to increase awareness about health science and public health. Steven Elmer, Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, organized the visits to coincide with the Michigan-Indiana Physiology Understanding Week and National Rural Health Day. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students engaged local students in hands-on activities focused on learning about how the human body works, healthy living behaviors, noninfectious and infectious diseases, and community health.

Kate Meister, a senior pre-health and human biology student, visited 4th grade students at Houghton Elementary School where she taught students about their own heartbeat. Students were led through an activity where they partnered up and crafted a do-it-yourself stethoscope from plastic funnels, balloons, and rubber tubing. The students were able to listen to their partner’s heartbeat through the stethoscope they created and learned more about the impact that exercise has on heart rate.

Kyle Wehmanen and Gwyn Hamlin, graduate students in kinesiology, used a slightly different approach involving the popular game Jenga to engage students at the local middle and high schools. That is, Wehmanen and Hamlin taught students about the importance of healthy living behaviors (physical activity, good nutrition, healthy body weight, not smoking) and impact of both noninfectious (heart disease, obesity, diabetes) and infectious (influenza, COVID-19) diseases on community health. By adding blocks that represented healthy living behaviors, the Jenga towers became stronger and were more resilient when blocks were removed that represented various diseases. Hamlin also talked about her journey from a Houghton High School student to Michigan Tech graduate student who will earn her degree in a few weeks to working in the Cardiac Rehabilitation unit at UP Health System Portage.

Felix Cottet-Puinel, a graduate student in kinesiology from Morzine, France, also assisted with the outreach activities and said that communicating health science and public health related concepts to different age ranges required creativity, presented some challenges, and was very rewarding. Several other students including Tyler Hampton, Isaac Wedig, and Noelle St. Pierre also participated in the outreach activities.

Together, the outreach team visited Houghton, Lake Linden, Dollar Bay, and Chassell schools and connected with over 225 students ranging from 4th to 12th grade. “These outreach events are critical to generating student interest in health science and public health focused careers as there is a major shortage of health professionals in rural areas like the Upper Peninsula”, explained Kelly Kamm, Portage Health Endowed Assistant Professor and Epidemiologist in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology.

As society continues to build forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, health focused outreach with local schools is key to generating more interest in health, science, technology, engineering, and math (H-STEM). Looking ahead, Michigan Tech’s new H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in early 2024. The new building will provide state-of-the-art teaching and research labs to advance learning, develop new technologies, and prepare a skilled workforce for tomorrow.

For more information about scheduling a health science and public health outreach visit to your classroom contact Tayler Haapapuro, Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology Academic Advisor and Outreach Coordinator via phone (906-487-3169) or email (tmhaapap@mtu.edu).

H-STEM Construction Update: Topping Off Ceremony

On November 22, 2022, Michigan Tech President Richard Koubek gave the signal for the last beam to be placed for the new H-STEM Engineering and Health Technologies Complex, which will be KIP’s new home.

Keeping with an age-old tradition in the United States, an American flag and a small evergreen were attached to the last beam, symbolizing good luck during construction and best wishes for the future building.

The H-STEM building will be the newest addition to Tech and will be a place for state-of-the-art teaching and research labs for health-related STEM studies. This building will provide a place for both students and faculty to collaborate and work towards creating innovations focused on improving human health and quality of life. 

In the Spirit of #GivingTuesday and Beyond…

The KIP Department would like to highlight some wonderful local, non-profit organizations in our efforts to support our community’s health and well-being. Through The Portage Health Foundation‘s partnerships, there are many ways to give back as the holiday season begins.

All donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by PHF on #GivingTuesday. But in KIP’s ongoing mission to create a healthier community, we encourage year-round support of these organizations.

Please visit the Portage Health Foundation’s website for #GivingTuesday for more information and a complete list of its partnerships.

December KIP Seminar

Join us for the last seminar of the semester to close out the “Women in Health Science, Medicine, and Physiology” series.

Dr. Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez and Dr. Erica Twardzik will be presenting their research and work. To learn more about the speakers, find their abstracts and biographies below.

Dr. Karvonen-Gutierrez’s Abstract: Among older adults (age 65+ years), declines in physical functioning, increases in disability and the relationship of falls with adverse outcomes including hospitalizations and death are well documented. However, evidence suggests that the mid-life period (40-64 years of age) is a critical window for the onset of poor physical functioning and falls, particularly in women. Women experience greater disability, more rapid declines in physical functioning, and more falls than do age-matched men. This presentation will overview the burden of physical functioning limitations, disability and falls among mid-life women and identify important correlates of these health outcomes. Key findings from the ongoing Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a prospective, multi-ethnic study of midlife women will be included to demonstrate important differences in the burden of physical functioning by key demographic measures.

Dr. Twardzik’s Abstract: Older adults with disabilities are a growing demographic group. People with disabilities represent 26.8% of the general population, and the prevalence of disability increases with age. People with disabilities, compared to non-disabled peers, are less likely to engage in physical activity and social participation, key components of healthy aging. Observed disparities are driven by a multifactorial set of environmental barriers and facilitators. This presentation will describe socio-environmental drivers of mobility among older adults and people with disabilities. Examples from recent work empirically testing relationships between built environment and mobility will be used to illustrate how environments shape mobility among people with disabilities. Environmental modification is needed to achieve societal inclusion and optimize individual participation among those aging with and into disability.

Free Falling: Dr. Carolyn Duncan to be featured on “Husky Bites”

Dr. Carolyn Duncan
Assistant Professor, KIP
Sarah Aslani
PhD Student, CLS

On Monday, November 14th, at 6:00 pm KIP’s Dr. Carolyn Duncan will be the latest guest on Husky Bites, a free and interactive Zoom webinar hosted by Dean Janet Callahan of the College of Engineering. Also joining in will be Cognitive and Learning Sciences PhD student Sarah Aslani, who is a member of Dr. Duncan’s Balance and Functional Mobility Lab.

During the 30-minute webinar, they will explore balance and fall prevention and discuss Dr. Duncan’s ongoing research on both topics. “We need greater understanding of exactly what affects our ability to regain our balance when we lose it. Not all risk factors affect balance in the same way. There are many unanswered questions, and that’s where our research comes in,” she explains in an interview she did for the College of Engineering Blog that highlights its Husky Bites guests.

To read the complete interview with Dr. Duncan and Sarah, go to the COE Blog. To tune in for their Husky Bites event, registration is required but free. All of the details can be found on the Husky Bites website.

Students conducting research in Dr. Duncan’s Balance and Functional Mobility Lab