WRITER: SETH COOMBS
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
UI researcher's work featured on PBS's "NOVA" Feb. 2
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The fight against AIDS has gained a powerful weapon.
Jose Assouline, Ph.D., University of Iowa neurovirologist in the department
of pharmacology, has developed a new 3-D software package to attack the
disease from its onset, through education and prevention. The software
will be showcased on the next episode of "NOVA," which airs Feb.
2 at 7 p.m. on PBS.
Created in collaboration with the UI Image Analysis Center, the computer
program uses interactive three-dimensional models to teach students --
junior high through medical school -- various aspects of the disease, such
as contraction methods, progression into and out of the cell and the variety
of treatment options available.
Prompted and encouraged by recent advances in computer technology and
long-distance communications, Assouline decided it was time for something
new. "The text-based, 2-D format is becoming outdated," he said.
Assouline's strategy behind the development of the software follows
two main thrusts: Incorporation into the medical school curriculum to make
retention of material easier and to produce a fun, game-like simulation
which will entice students even at an early age to get interested in the
science behind the disease.
Assouline stresses the need to inform kids about the dangers of the
disease. "If you look at the statistics today, the fastest rising
segment of the population at risk are teenagers and young adults,"
Assouline said. "Coincidentally, these are people who have grown up
with a Nintendo in their hands. They are very visually-oriented and quite
comfortable using computers."
Using the latest in computer technology, Assouline and his team created
a hands-on approach to learning about the virus. The program offers several
ways to explore the lifecycle of the disease and how the infection progresses.
Students can watch 3-D animation of cell infection, graphically construct
the viral infection and, after moving through the tutorial mode, take an
interactive, game-like quiz on the information presented.
Very little text is needed due to the detailed graphic support. "You
don't need words and retain more if you have animation," Assouline
said. As a bonus, the information can be updated at any time as AIDS discoveries
Assouline, research investigator and director of educational software
development and informatics at the UI College of Medicine, has been working
on the software for the past six years. A 17-year veteran of AIDS research,
Assouline's focus is the progression of neurotropic viruses, or viruses
which attack human brain cells. HIV works in this way, infecting human
cells' RNA then producing new viral particles which propagate the infection.
Assouline hopes the "NOVA" episode will lead to future exhibits
at science museums and interest from companies that develop digital technology.
With an increased base of technical and financial support, Assouline hopes
to create more interactive software devoted to the teaching of medical
An online version of the "NOVA" presentation featuring Assouline's
work can be found at http://www.pbs.org/nova/aids/.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Animation and graphics are available for reproduction
for print or television news. For more information, contact Assouline at