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Published 6/28/2004

Owens Graduate Forecasts the Future of Muscle Atrophy

Sweet potatoes just might find their way to the moon, according to one Owens Community College student's research. Sandy Moening, an Owens alumnus, recently explored the notion that genetically altered plants, such as sweet potatoes, could help to combat muscle atrophy in astronauts - and even the elderly.

The research, which was part of a scholarship program through the Ohio Space Grant Consortium, explored the possibility of preventing muscle atrophy in astronauts on long-term space missions through the use of nutritional supplements. Muscle atrophy, which is the diminishing of muscles, is common among astronauts because of the gravity-free environment in space.

Moening's study suggests that plants, such as sweet potatoes, could be genetically altered with an increased number of protein and carbohydrates. "Consuming genetically altered plant foods would be very beneficial to an astronaut's diet and physical health," Moening said. "The potential also exists that the earthbound elderly, who suffer from muscle atrophy, could benefit from nutritionally fortified plants."

While scientific research has yet to combat muscle atrophy with a space-bound sweet potato, Sandy Moening remains positive. "The research currently underway is certainly on the right track. And with a continuation of educational advancements in dietetic technologies, the future of muscle atrophy may be a problem of the past," Moening said.

"Sandy's dedication and professionalism during her research is a beneficial addition to the dietetic field," said Tekla Madaras, Owens Chair of Dietetic/HRI Technologies. "This real life experience has helped to shape a future leader within the field of dietetic technologies."

Moening is a 1993 graduate of Ottawa-Glandorf High School. She later obtained her bachelor's degree in mathematics from Bluffton College, and became a Data Processing Project Director at National Family Opinion in Northwood before deciding to change careers and attend Owens in 2002. The Findlay resident is an honors graduate and received an associate degree in dietetic technology this past spring. She will soon begin work as a Dietetic Technician for the Franklin County Health Department in the Women, Infants and Children's Office, located in Columbus.

The College's Dietetic Technician Program is designed to prepare students for employment in the areas of nutrition care and food service management. As an integral part of a health-care team, a registered dietetic technician is qualified to work in a variety of settings, including acute and long-term care facilities, health departments, schools, community nutrition programs, business and industry, and food service management. For more information about the program, call (567) 661- 7214 or 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext. 7214.

Owens Community College is the fastest-growing higher educational institution in Ohio with 28 consecutive semesters of enrollment increases. On the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses, Owens serves more than 44,000 credit and non-credit students making it the number one choice for Northwest Ohio college students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers over 130 program areas in Agriculture, Business, Fine and Performing Arts, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.


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