CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSON
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: May 3, 2000
Welsh elected to National Academy of Sciences
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michael J. Welsh, M.D., University
of Iowa professor of internal medicine, and physiology and biophysics, and
a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has been elected a member
of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Welsh is only the third UI faculty member named to the
nation's most distinguished scientific organization. He joins Donald A. Gurnett,
professor, and James A. Van Allen, emeritus professor, both in the UI department
of physics and astonomy, as a member of the academy.
The organization announced on May 2 the election of 60
new members and 15 foreign associates from nine countries in recognition of
their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The
election was held during the business session of the 137th annual
meeting of the academy in Washington, D.C. Those elected this year bring the
total number of active members to 1,843.
Welsh, who joined the UI faculty in 1981, is internationally
known for his breakthrough research into the genetic causes of cystic fibrosis,
and for his work in developing strategies to treat or possibly cure the disease.
Researchers know that cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic flaw; correcting
this flaw may cure the disease. One such approach is gene therapy, in which
scientists try to insert a healthy gene into the patient's cells. Often this
involves using a vector, such as a disabled cold virus, to carry the normal
gene to the patient.
Welsh and his colleagues also are focused on understanding
why patients with cystic fibrosis develop lung infections. Their discoveries
have shown that the cystic fibrosis bronchial passages have an impaired ability
to kill bacteria. This predisposes patients to recurring lung infections.
The work by Welsh's team is leading to methods that correct the defect in
Welsh and his colleagues are working to develop gene therapy
for cystic fibrosis and other genetic diseases. Last year, he and his research
team received a five-year, $7.1 million grant from the National Institutes
of Health to continue their studies.
Welsh's other research interests include projects designed
to understand the sense of touch and the perception of pain. These senses
involve a new family of ion channels. The work will improve the understanding
of control of blood pressure and may lead to the development of better drugs
to treat pain.
Welsh received his medical degree at the UI in 1974. He
is a recipient of numerous scientific awards and a member of several professional
organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the
Institute of Medicine of the NAS.
Established in 1863, the NAS is a private organization
of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its
use for the general welfare. One of its key missions is to advise the government
on science and technology.
Additional information about the NAS is available online
A full directory of NAS members can be found at http://national-academies.org/nas.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership
between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the
patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.