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Old Dominion recently honored two faculty members for patents they received in December - Karl Schoenbach, eminent scholar of electrical and computer engineering, and Daniel Sonenshine, eminent scholar of biological sciences.

According to Clovia Hamilton, director of intellectual property and research compliance, these are the latest patent awards to university researchers. Since 1981, she said, Old Dominion faculty and students have developed more than 50 patents, and nearly 150 invention disclosures have been filed since 1974.

Schoenbach, along with Dr. Stephen Beebe of Eastern Virginia Medical School, received a patent for their method in and apparatus for intracellular manipulation, an exciting advance in the field of bioelectrics that holds the possibility of a cure for cancer.

Bioelectrics refers to the use of pulsed power, or the application of high electric surges for extremely short periods of time. The researchers have determined that these pulses can be used to safely kill tumor cells, reduce the number of fat cells, and remodel bone and cartilage for medical and cosmetic purposes.

Schoenbach proved that high-intensity electric fields lasting only billionths of a second can bypass the outer cell membrane and target intracellular structures, such as the nuclear, mitochondrial and/or vesicular membranes. With this method, the researchers can selectively kill harmful cells without affecting surrounding healthy tissue.

Initial tests at EVMS by Schoenbach and Beebe on leukemia cells showed that the cells started to shrink within several hours and died after two days.

Schoenbach is now working toward determining the electric pulse parameters that promote cell growth and/or
prevent the degeneration of diseased or injured cells, tissues and organs.

Sonenshine, along with colleagues at the University of Florida, was awarded a patent for a fake female deer tick. Laced with pheromones to attract male deer ticks, it also contains a substance that kills the harmful insects, which carry Lyme disease.

Ticks pose a major problem to humans and agriculture. In addition to causing infection and the spread of disease, they are responsible for multimillion-dollar losses each year in the U.S. cattle industry.

Sonenshine is currently working on another decoy aimed at preventing the spread of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This plastic tick will include substances designed to change the biological blueprint of its male visitors to that of a dog tick, which does not infect humans with those diseases as do deer ticks.

Sonenshine and his co-inventors were first awarded a patent for a decoy female tick in 1989. This device, which was successful in attracting male ticks, greatly reduced the amount of poisonous chemicals required to kill them.

In 1992, the research group received a patent for another decoy to attract Ixodid hard ticks and disrupt the males' normal mating routines.

Sonenshine is the author of the comprehensive and acclaimed "Biology of Ticks," volumes 1 and 2, published in 1991 and 1993, respectively, by Oxford University Press. He is a co-editor of "Ecological Dynamics of Tick-borne Zoonoses" (1994), also published by Oxford.

This article was posted on: March 27, 2002

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