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Release: June 25, 2002

UI engineer receives $1.25 million NIH grant

Michael Mackey, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering, has received a $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a computer-controlled microscope and analysis system. Named the Large Scale Digital Cell Analysis System (LSDCAS), it is a tool for the quantitative analysis of a variety of cell biological systems.

"What distinguishes LSDCAS from other similar programs is that we developed the code for the program ourselves," Mackey said. "This means that we're able to do just about anything we can dream of, and that's the fun part."

Using LSDCAS, researchers can analyze the behavior of thousands of cells growing in culture under controlled laboratory conditions, says Mackey, who, along with Fiorenza Ianzini, research scientist in the UI department of radiology, developed the LSDCAS prototype when the two were at Washington University in St. Louis. The further development of LSDCAS as a general tool for UI biomedical research is a multidisciplinary effort involving the talents of researchers in the colleges of Engineering, Medicine, and Liberal Arts.

Mackey's UI colleagues include: Ianzini, who will direct data acquisition systems in the College of Medicine and analyze cell death patterns; and Milan Sonka, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his students, who will study the detection of individual cell boundaries. Also, Richard Seftor, research scientist in the laboratory of Mary J. C. Hendrix in the department of anatomy and cell biology, will work on a quantitative analysis of the role of the serine-protease inhibitor maspin on cell motility; and Douglas Spitz, associate professor of radiation oncology, who will use LSDCAS to determine increases in intracellular pro-oxidant production in a glucose-deprivation culture model system.

Another component of LSDCAS research is the development of new mathematical models of biological phenomena using the data obtained from LSDCAS. Mackey notes that further development of his thermodynamic theories will be greatly aided through collaboration with Yi Li, UI professor of mathematics. Mackey says he hopes that further collaborations with other UI researchers will stimulate additional studies.