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Release: Sept. 3, 2002

Biological sciences researchers receive $30,000 grant to study rare disease

David Soll, Carver/Emil Witschi Professor in the Biological Sciences in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and colleague Dr. Frederick Goldman, UI associate professor of pediatrics, have received a one-year, renewable $30,000 grant from the Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome International (SDSI) organization to continue studying a rare disease affecting mostly children.

Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS) mainly involves the pancreas, bone marrow and skeleton, but other organs may also be affected. Next to Cystic Fibrosis, it is the most common cause of pancreatic insufficiency in children, resulting in a decreased ability to properly digest food. In addition, patients often develop bone marrow failure, including lowering of their neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infections. Also, Soll and Goldman have recently reported on the inability of these neutrophils to properly move. Soll says his research will continue to use 2D and 3D motion analysis systems developed in the W.M. Keck Dynamic Image Analysis Facility at the University of Iowa to study neutrophil motility and how certain cells move in response to chemical stimuli.

"First, our studies hope to shed light on this disorder and may lead to predictions as to the underlying molecular basis of SDS," Goldman says. "Second, information gained from these studies may help explain certain clinical circumstances, such as the increased risk of developing infections, and offer the potential for developing strategies to correct this defect. Last, if these studies demonstrate a very specific defect in neutrophil chemotaxis that is reproducible, this test may prove useful in confirming the disease in patients, including very young children, that do not fit all the clinical criteria for this diagnosis."

During the past five years, Soll and his colleagues have continued to investigate the molecular mechanisms that regulate animal cell locomotion, including nerve cell growth, the effects of HIV on white blood cell behavior, the basis for Schwachman-Diamond Syndrome, cancer cell metastasis and neural tissue development. Soll's laboratory is composed of 32 researchers who currently hold 7 grants and contracts. Their research interests range from the effects of ultra sound on cancer cells, infectious organisms and agricultural pests to investigating Candida albicans, an infectious yeast responsible for a variety of pathological conditions. During nearly two decades, Soll's cell motility studies have attracted more than $16 million in research funding.