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Reminder: Open Enrollment continues through 5 p.m. Oct. 29

Faculty, staff, retirees and benefits-eligible graduate students can change their benefits during Open Enrollment, which continues through 5 p.m. Oct. 29. Changes can be made to health, dental, vision and legal plan enrollments. Faculty and staff may also add eligible dependents and enroll in a flexible spending account. In addition to making changes to benefits plans, eligible faculty and staff have a one-time opportunity to enroll in the university’s Optional Life Insurance plan or increase their coverage level without having to provide a health statement of insurability for limited coverage increases. No action is required to keep current benefits as long as eligibility is maintained, with the exception of flexible spending accounts. FSA plans require active enrollment annually. Changes and new rates go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. Complete benefits plan and enrollment information is available at hr.umich.edu/open-enrollment. For questions, call the SSC Contact Center at (734) 615-2000 or (866) 647-7657.

Academic Innovation seeks proposals to address global challenges

The Center for Academic Innovation is accepting proposals for online courses and series that address the fundamental global challenges facing an increasingly interconnected world. Faculty members are encouraged to submit proposals on a wide range of global challenges, and work with the center to develop a massive open online course or course series. Proposals will be accepted until Nov. 19 with decisions made in mid-December. Approved proposals feature a faculty stipend, in-kind support from the center, including instructional design, project management, media production and marketing support. There is also funding for course development assistance and opportunities for shared revenue from course enrollments. Proposals are encouraged in any topic that addresses the grand challenges of an interconnected world, with some high-interest categories including climate change and sustainability, financial technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, technology and policy related to mobility, the ethics and economics of social media, mental health issues, and humanities. Learn more or submit a proposal.

Counties with intervention measures, more hospitals saw fewer COVID deaths

Counties that banned in-person religious gatherings and those with a greater number of hospitals per capita were associated with a decreased case-fatality rate of COVID-19 during the pandemic’s first wave, according to a new U-M study. On the other hand, counties with high prevalence of asthma and a greater concentration of people over 65 were linked to higher fatality rates, the analysis showed. This study, published in PLOS ONE, was completed as part of the COVID-19 Dispersed Volunteer Research Network and was presented earlier this year at the World Microbe Forum. The study looked at public data from 3,000 counties to do the risk factor analysis of demographic, socioeconomic and health-related variables during the first wave of the pandemic (March 28-June 12, 2020). The case-fatality rate was defined as the number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Read more about this study.

Study suggests targeting a protein channel in cancer cell’s lysosome

Cancer treatments necessarily target unchecked cell growth, and selectively kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells and avoiding general toxicity in the human body. To develop new treatments for cancer, scientists are focused on finding the malfunctioning machinery within cancer cells that can be targeted using small molecule pharmaceuticals. Now, U-M researchers have identified one of these targets: a zinc and calcium ion permeable channel within a cell’s lysosome, the organelle responsible for recycling cellular waste, nutrient sensing and cell metabolism. The researchers discovered that this channel is upregulated — meaning both its protein expression and channel activity were substantially increased — in metastatic melanoma cells compared with healthy melanocytes. They found that targeting this channel protein with small pharmaceutical compounds triggers the rapid and selective death of cancer cells while completely sparing normal cells. Their research is published in the journal Cell Reports. Read more about the research.

Nearly 38,000 households in Detroit estimated to be living in inadequate housing

The scale of Detroit’s home repair need is even greater than previously estimated, according to new findings from U-M, which underscores residents’ desire to make home repair a top priority for spending the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. Nearly 38,000 households in Detroit — which equates to more than one in seven occupied homes — have faced major issues with exposed wires or electrical problems, broken furnace or heating problems, or lack of hot or running water in their homes in the past year, according to the representative survey of Detroiters conducted by U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. Notably, significant home repair needs were not confined to residents with low incomes, but were a major issue for both low- and middle-income Detroiters. Sixteen percent of residents making under $30,000 per year and 15 percent of those earning between $30,000 and $60,000 per year were living in inadequate housing. While the city of Detroit recently announced a home repair program, Renew Detroit, that will distribute $30 million in American Rescue Plan funds as home repair grants to seniors with low incomes and homeowners with disabilities, gaps in home repair resources remain. Read more about the survey.

Compiled by James Iseler and Jeff Bleiler, The University Record

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