U-M further expands research activity on all three campuses

Research and scholarship activity, which has been ramping up from previous COVID-19 restrictions, is safely expanding further across the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. As of Feb. 16, laboratories and research spaces may increase to an operational capacity of 75 percent density if teams can maintain social distancing on any given shift, Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham said in a message to U-M’s research community. The university has also expanded its human research by allowing a subset of observational studies to resume in-person activity. Observational studies categorized as Tier 2 were paused in November to protect researchers and study participants amid a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases. “COVID-19 has transformed how our research enterprise operates, but our shared commitment to public health practices has allowed us over time to gradually increase research and scholarship activity,” Cunningham said. Read Cunningham’s full statement.

U-M’s Economic Growth Institute awarded STEM grant

U-M’s Economic Growth Institute will use a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department to boost cybersecurity know-how among small manufacturers in southeastern Michigan. The EGI is one of seven awardees nationally to receive the STEM Talent Challenge Grant from the department’s Economic Development Administration aimed at tackling different needs related to science, technology, engineering and math in the workforce. The grant is worth about $600,000, which includes local matching dollars. The institute is creating a program — the Advanced Manufacturing Cybersecurity Work-and-Learn Program — focused on cybersecurity training that offers online learning and hands-on internships at manufacturers. Officials say it’s crucial to develop internal cybersecurity expertise within manufacturing settings, where it’s often lacking and reliant upon outside expertise to protect its most critical assets. The two-year program will begin accepting learners this summer. For more, visit the EGI website at economicgrowth.umich.edu.

Center for World Performance Studies Faculty Fellowship accepting applications

Applications are being accepted through 5 p.m. March 12 for Center for World Performance Studies Faculty Fellowship grant awards. Awards of $2,500 are available to individual faculty members to pursue research projects that can be carried out “in place” or domestically within guidelines of university travel restrictions. Successful proposals should align with the CWPS mission statement, demonstrate long-term scholarly impact, enhance the learning outcomes and experiences of U-M students and engage with communities. Funds may be requested for pilot projects or to supplement existing projects. However, priority will be given to applicants who have not previously received CWPS summer research funds. Previous faculty awardees should wait for a period of two years before reapplying. For more information, visit lsa.umich.edu/world-performance/faculty/faculty-fellows.html or contact Ingrid Racine, CWPS program specialist, at iracine@umich.edu.

Ride-sharing services linked to increase in binge drinking

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft might help decrease drunk driving accidents and deaths, but they also are associated with an increase in binge drinking, according to a new study. Until now, most of the research on this area has focused on how ride-hailing services may lead to a reduction in DWIs, accidents and deaths, researchers said. “There’s fairly strong evidence that this expanded supply of transportation is allowing people to do less driving while drunk,” said co-author Jeffrey McCullough, associate professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health. “But at the same time, we found that it is making it easier for people to engage in alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, which is the worst kind of drinking.” Researchers found no association between Uber’s entry into a market and the frequency with which people consumed modest amounts of alcohol generally, but found that binge drinking increased by 4 percent in high-density markets after Uber became available. Read the study at jmir.org/2021/1/e15402/.

New hope for treating chronic pain without opioids

According to some estimates, chronic pain affects up to 40 percent of Americans, and treating it frustrates both clinicians and patients — a frustration that’s often compounded by a hesitation to prescribe opioids for pain. A new study from the School of Dentistry confirms that a low dose of a drug called naltrexone is a good option for patients with orofacial and chronic pain, without the risk of addiction, said first author Elizabeth Hatfield, clinical lecturer in dentistry. Naltrexone is a semisynthetic opioid first developed in 1963 as an oral alternative to naloxone, the nasal spray used to reverse opioid drug overdoses. When prescribed at doses of 50 to 100 milligrams, naltrexone blocks the effects of alcohol and opioids. Low-dose naltrexone has been used off-label for years to treat chronic pain, but Hatfield said this is the first in-depth, systematic review of the literature to determine if the drug is indeed a good option for patients and deserving of more formal study. Read more about the study.

— Compiled by Jeff Bleiler, The University Record

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