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Release: Feb. 10, 2000

UI medical student receives Experimental Pathologist-In-Training Award

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa medical student Aaron Bossler has received the Experimental Pathologist-In-Training Award from the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP).

Bossler was one of three medical students nationwide to win the pre-doctoral award. He will receive the award and a $500 prize in April at the ASIP national meeting in San Diego.

Bossler's research focused on identifying the components within cells that help to activate human papillomavirus (HPV) -16.

HPVs are small DNA tumor viruses that infect cutaneous and mucosal epithelial cells (also called keratinocytes) of the skin and cervix. In the virus' efforts to grow and reproduce, HPVs use the infected cells as hosts. There are many types of HPV, and some HPVs only cause benign skin or genital warts. Other, more aggressive HPV types, including HPV-16, alter the growth of the infected cells. These high-risk HPVs stimulate the infected cells to grow abnormally and uncontrollably, leading to cancer, particularly of the cervix.

HPV-16 depends on the infected cells to start its cancer-causing campaign. Along with other UI investigators, Bossler has identified two host cell components -- transcription factors AP-2 and TEF-1 -- that activate the expression of viral E6 and E7 genes that then initiate HPV-16's battle plan for causing cancer. The UI researchers found that these transcription factors also activate the expression of other HPV genes that the virus needs to establish an infection within the cell.

"I hope that this information will help in developing strategies to specifically block the activation of viral gene expression and to prevent the establishment of the viral infection," Bossler said.

Bossler, a fifth-year medical student, has just finished the requirements for his Ph.D., and will return in March to the UI Hospitals and Clinics to complete his M.D. training. Bossler received

his bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Columbia University in New York. For the future, Bossler is considering a residency in pathology. Bossler noted that one of the advantages of a pathology residency is that it would allow him to continue doing research, which is his primary interest, while maintaining a clinical connection with patients.

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