sealPurdue News

December 4, 2002

Purdue, Indiana universities collaborate for better medicine

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine researchers have launched a collaboration to increase knowledge of diseases and develop better treatments for humans and animals.

Scientists from Purdue's schools of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine and the IU School of Medicine are initiating the Program of Comparative Medicine through a $2 million, two year start-up grant from the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. The program has a total of $4.5 million in initial funding due to contributions from the Purdue schools of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, the IU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and the Indiana Genomics Initiative.

"Much of the work we do at Purdue in both the Department of Animal Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine impacts both animal and human health," said Randy Woodson, director of agricultural research and co-author of the proposal that netted the state funding. "Purdue's role is to develop animal models for human diseases that also will provide benefits for improved pet and livestock health and productivity."

IU scientists bring to the program expertise in understanding disease development and treatment, said Dr. Mervin Yoder, an professor of pediatrics, biochemistry and molecular biology at IU.

The researchers believe the best way to understand human disease is to understand similar diseases in other animals, said Yoder, who co-wrote the grant proposal with Woodson.

"By studying multiple species, we'll learn more about diseases and ways to treat them," he said.

The research at Purdue will involve a number of current animal sciences and veterinary medicine faculty members and also researchers in two new positions for which the Department of Animal Sciences is recruiting, said department head Alan Grant.

"This draws on our existing facilities and faculties at both universities and also calls for some renovation of laboratory space for the new researchers we will be adding," Grant said. "Researchers at both Purdue and IU medical school are already studying scientific areas that apply to diseases such as muscle wasting, obesity, diabetes and cancer."

IU medical school also is recruiting two additional researchers and renovating laboratory space for the Program of Comparative Medicine. The program already has two laboratories devoted to animal stem cell research in rodents and zebrafish.

Yoder and his team of IU School of Medicine researchers focus on devastating diseases that affect children. Currently they use mouse models of a number of these illnesses.

Harm HogenEsch, head of the Purdue veterinary school's Department of Pathobiology and an immunopathology professor, said the Program of Comparative Medicine will focus on developing and using animal models of human diseases and on the comparative analysis of stem cells. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into different types of cells. For instance, under special circumstances muscle stem cells will differentiate into fat cells, bone-forming cells, blood cells and endothelial cells – the cells that form the lining in blood vessels, the heart and some other organs.

"This collaboration will allow us to be more competitive for federal grants from such sources as the National Institutes of Health," said HogenEsch, who co-directs the program with Yoder.

"Purdue is conducting really excellent, important research that links not just to animal health but also to human diseases," he said. "We've been doing this work for a long time, but it hasn't always been obvious. This program gives our research higher profile."

Other researchers involved in the Program of Comparative Medicine are:

From Purdue: Kevin Hannon, associate professor of basic medical sciences; Suresh Mittal, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology; Dina Andrews, assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology; John Christian, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology; Steve Hooser, assistant director of Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories and associate professor of veterinary pathology; Michael Spurlock, associate professor of animals sciences; Rebecca Krisher, assistant professor of animal sciences; and Paul Collodi, professor of animal sciences. From IU School of Medicine: Dr. David Ingram, assistant professor of pediatrics; Dr. Wade Clapp, associate professor pediatrics, microbiology and immunology; and Dr. Laura Haneline, assistant professor of pediatrics.

Writer: Susan A. Steeves, (765) 496-7481,

Sources: Randy Woodson, (765) 494-8362,

Mervin Yoder, (317) 274-4719,

Harm HogenEsch, (765) 494-0596,

Alan Grant, (765) 494-4809,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

Related Web sites:
The Program of Comparative Medicine Program
Purdue School of Agriculture
Purdue Department of Veterinary Pathology

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