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Release: Immediate

UI's David Soll and associates win $2.5 million in grants

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa research team led by Biology Professor David Soll has received $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue its leading research into how cells move, a field of knowledge with important implications for cancer and AIDS research.

Co-investigators include Dr. C.-F. Wu and Dr. Jim Lin.

In February the team received $1 million from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, and in 1996 it won grants for AIDS research from the NIH Institute on Allergies and Infectious Disease, the NIH Dental Institute and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust of Muscatine totaling more than $2 million, bringing its total research funding to $5.5 million in the past year alone.

Soll, who serves as Carver/Emil Witschi Professor in the Biological Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts, noted that the UI proposal for grant renewal of its cell motility project, which began in 1984, was extremely competitive, with the UI ranking first of some 80 grant proposals.

"This grant will help us to continue our motility studies, including such things as the destruction of T cells -- the body's disease-fighting cells -- by HIV," Soll says.

He notes that in the case of HIV infection, "syncytia" (sin-SISH-uh), or large groups of fused T cells, act as vacuum cleaners, fusing and destroying all other T cells in their path. Also, Soll and his group learned that syncytia move about, releasing a viral protein that lures other T cells to their death. He hopes to learn how HIV causes large numbers of T cells to fuse, with the goal of preventing syncytia formation.

In addition to AIDS research, Soll's research group is involved in two other basic research projects, the continued development of a core research facility for computer-assisted motion analysis studies, a cell motility symposium to attract outside speakers, and a junior motility symposium to include graduate students and post-doctoral candidates.

Soll's laboratory is composed of 32 researchers who currently hold 12 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 its nearly quarter-century of research, Soll's laboratory has attracted more than $20 million in research funding.