In their continued push to neuter the University of Wisconsin system and particularly the flagship campus in Madison, the GOP and their adherents are finding fault with a recent research grant given to the university:
Two researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison have been awarded a five-year, multi-million dollar federal grant to study the brain activity of fruit flies and mice during sleep.
The researchers, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, who direct UW’s Center for Sleep and Consciousness, will be collaborating on the project with M. Felice Ghilardi, of the City College of New York. Their grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is $1.6 million in the first year and a recommended total of $7.7 million over the five years.
The scientists are examining a phenomenon called local sleep, in which one part of the brain sleeps while the rest remains awake. Dolphins do this and researchers think humans may also.
Now admittedly on the face of it, one would wonder what this type of research would garner…but after years of watching basic research yield miraculous economic activity…you kinda have to give the researchers their due.
But that isn’t necessarily the case in Wisconsin. Despite the vocal support given to research in Madison and its serious contributions to Wisconsin’s economy, the GOP continues to find ways to whittle away at the university. And the award of this grant proved to be no exception:
The recent announcement of a multimillion-dollar federal grant to study the sleep habits of mice and fruit flies has Darold Treffert aroused.
Treffert, from Fond du Lac, responded to this news the way many people might, especially those of us who squeaked by in high school biology class. But he is a man of science, a longtime psychiatrist.
“Where is Bill Proxmire when we need him?” Treffert said in an email, referring to the former Wisconsin senator’s Golden Fleece Award for the use of taxpayer dollars to study, for instance, why people fall in love or why prisoners want to get out of jail.
“It seems to me the mice in my garage never sleep, and I have never seen a dozing fruit fly,” he said. “Since I can only rely on warfarin to rid the mice, my question is if I mix that with some Ambien, will they have more of a death with dignity?”
There is an interesting little nugget buried in this quote: warfarin! For those of you with a pharmaceutical or agricultural background, you may recognize warfarin. I learned about it while a pharmacy technician at the University of Illinois Hospital at the Chicago Medical Center many many years ago. It’s pharmaceutical version which was first approved in the 1950s is Coumadin…widely used as a safe and effective blood thinner and anticoagulant. It was also developed earlier in the 20th century as a rodenticide. It’s aggressive anticoagulant properties caused rats who ingested it to essentially bleed to death.
Where did warfarin come from? Well that’s kinda funny considering the context shown above. It was developed in basic research at the University Of Wisconsin Madison while trying to determine why healthy livestock were bleeding to death after surgical procedures. It seems spoiled clover silage developed the anticoagulant chemical causing the animals’ deaths. So basic research at UW turned something that on the face of it didn’t seem all that urgent, into a powerful and effective rat poison AND an anticoagulant that has saved hundreds of human lives. How can we say where the sleep studies might lead?
BTW, why is it named warfarin: Well Warf stands for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation who garner the profits and redirect them into other research in Madison. Go figure.
So congratulations to the anti-science no nothing naysayers who oppose basic research in the UW system because, well, it just doesn’t make much sense to them and in the same breath providing an example of successful home grown research.