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Release: July 2, 2001

UI biologist receives $1.4 million in research grants

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Biologist David R. Soll has received $1.4 million in grants for two research projects, one aimed at better understanding the behavior of an infectious yeast responsible for a variety of health problems and the other at advancing scientists' knowledge of how cancer cells spread.

A $1,286,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases will enable Soll and his colleagues to further their study of Candida albicans. Candida is an infectious yeast sometimes responsible for vaginal irritation as well as a variety of pathological conditions, including death in some individuals whose immune systems have been weakened by other diseases. Soll notes that in 1985, Bernice Slutsky, a researcher in the Soll lab, discovered that Candida was in fact a "Dr. Jekyl with many Mr. Hydes," switching between different forms that could potentially cause different forms of the disease. Each form expresses different virulence genes, allowing Candida to adapt to different challenges, such as drug therapy and the human immune system. Soll and his colleagues have now identified genes that regulate switching. This grant funds further characterization of these genes.

A $118,000 grant from the American Cancer Society will enable Paul J. Heid, a post-doctoral fellow in the Soll lab, to explore how changes in cell motility are linked to the spread of cancerous cells throughout the body. By understanding how cells respond to their environment and become invasive, researchers could one day develop new, less destructive ways to lessen the spread of cancers. The study will make use of Soll's dynamic image analysis system that currently allows researchers to track the motion of cells in 3D and ultimately will enable investigators to enter the interior of individual cells through a virtual reality system.

Soll, a UI faculty member since1972, is internationally known for his work on Candida albicans, cell motility, and a variety of other research fields.