University of Michigan

Top University of Michigan Discoveries:

Francis S. Collins, his UM colleagues, and researchers at 8 other collaborating institutions announced that they had identified the gene defect responsible for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, an untreatable degenerative nerve disorder. Lou Gehrig and physicist Stephen Hawking or two of the most famous ALS patients. Defect consists of repeating DNA sequence on chromosome 4. It took 10 years from determining the chromosome where the ALS gene resided to find the individual gene.
Jeffrey Chamberlain and coworkers inserted a copy of the dystrophin gene into mice embryos from a strain of mice that ordinarily developed muscular dystrophy. The gene insertion prevented the occurrence of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common childhood form of this fatal disease. Gene therapy for muscular dystrophy.
With John Kormendy, professor of astronomy at the University of Hawaii, Douglas O. Richstone discovered a supermassive black hole that appears to contain the mass of a billion suns in a galaxy 30 million light-years from Earth. In the center of the galaxy NGC 3115, the object is 100 times more massive than any previously discovered black hole.
In collaboration with scientists at the French National Atomic Energy Commission, UM scientists created the most powerful pulse of laser light to date (as of spring, 1992). A 55-terawatt pulse was produced at the Centre d’Etudes de Limeil-Valenton in Limeal, France. (One terawatt equals one trillion watts, or an equivalent energy output from 10 billion 100-watt light bulbs. 55 terawatts is 100 times the total electrical power generated in the United States.)
The first find of foot and hind leg bones of a whale were unearthed among 40 million-year-old fossils in a northern Egyptian desert, which was once a sea. Philip D. Gingerich led the team that found the fossils in the Zeuglodon Valley, about 95 miles southwest of Cairo. UM physical anthropologist B. Holly Smith was also part of the team. The limb bones were a surprise in a whale living in water, this late in time. It is evidence of a major evolutionary change.In 1994, announced discovery of intermediate form that demonstrated evolution from land- to water-dwellers
With colleagues at the University of Utah, Francis S. Collin’s research group discovered the genetic defect responsible for neurofibromatosis. This disfiguring ailment causes tumors to grow along peripheral nerves. The NF gene is very long, with several other genes embedded in it. Mutations in the NF gene give rise to the tumor growth.
With colleagues Lap-Chee Tsui and John Riordan at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Francis S. Collin’s research group discovered the defects in a gene responsible for cystic fibrosis.
In a 30 June 1989 paper in Science magazine, P.R Ervin, M.S. Kaminiski, R.L. Cody, and Max S. Wicha announced the discovery of a protein they named mammastatin, a naturally occurring growth inhibitor that in the laboratory stops the growth of breast cancer cells. It is produced by breast cells and is specific for breast cancer cells. It is a potential treatment for breast cancer and an aid in understanding the disease.
Arthur Rich and James Van House published the world’s first image taken by means of a transmission positron microscope in January 1988. In June 1988, they published the first image using a positron re-emission microscope. The positron microscopes are tools for probing atoms and molecules. In the transmission microscope, a beam of positrons passes through a thin section of material to be imaged. In the re-emission microscope, a positron beam is focused on sample, absorbed by the material and then re-emitted positrons converted into an image. Potential applications of the microscopes range from materials studies to biological imaging.
Alan Dressler, of the Mount Wilson and Las Campanas Observatories, and Douglas O. Richstone determined that massive dark objects, most likely black holes, lie at the centers of the two galaxies nearest our own, Andromeda (M31) and M32., which are about 2 million light years from Earth. This opened up the possibility that black holes lie at the center of all galaxies and lent support to the idea that black holes are the energy source of quasars.
Michael A. Marletta’s 1985 discovery was the first step in a new field of biochemistry and medicine that focuses on how nitric oxide functions as a wide-ranging chemical signal in the human body-destroying infectious organisms and transmitting messages between brain cells. In 1992, Marletta added more information, shedding light on how an enzyme helps produce nitric oxide.This discovery provided the scientific basis for the development of erectile dysfunction therapy.
William Ensminger developed and clinically applied a small pump about the size of a hockey puck that can be placed under the skin and which delivers cancer drugs through a catheter directly to the liver and some other localized cancer sites. The FDA approved this internal pump technology following clinical trials conducted at the UM and a few other medical centers.
Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation System (ECMO), a device similar to a heart-lung machine that can be used for extended periods of time; has been used with newborns with impaired respiratory systems and cardiac patients awaiting heart transplants. Robert H. Bartlett began development of it in 1965, and he first successfully used the device in 1975. Unlike mechanical ventilators, ECMO allows the lungs to rest and recuperate.
Lawrence S. Bartell and Charles Ritz built a holographic electron microscope that could delineate the electron clouds of atoms. Its magnifying power is 260,000,000 times.
With Juris Upatnieks, Emmett N. Leith developed three-dimensional holography of reflective objects. This sparked interest in holography among optical researchers. Earlier contributions include the technique of off-axis holography in 1955, and the demonstration of high quality reconstructions with simple transparencies.
Nearly forty years of research by Hunein F. Maassab has culminated in a strain of influenza virus that can be used for vaccines. These “”cold attenuated”” virus grows only at low temperatures such as nasal passages where it triggers immunity without causing illness or damage in the lungs associated with flu. The vaccine and can be easily updated each year to match new influenza strains. In public use this year (2003) as Flumistâ„¢
The liquid bubble chamber provides a way to track the paths of moving subatomic particles. Donald Glaser received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work in 1960.
Discovery that sickle cell anemia is caused by defective genes affecting hemoglobin production by James V. Nell
Since 1982, Robert E. Lewis directed the work to complete the Middle English Dictionary, a comprehensive record of English vocabulary for the period from 1100 to 1500, the century after the Norman conquest to roughly the invention of modern printing. The multi-volume dictionary encompasses spellings and definitions for some 70,000 words.