CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: March 16, 2000
UI researcher receives grant to study how bacteria break down pollutants
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care researcher has received
a five-year, $1.08 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to
study how bacteria can break down environmental pollutants.
David T. Gibson, Ph.D., UI professor of microbiology, is researching "Mechanisms
of Enzymatic Oxygen Fixation."
Gibson and researchers in his laboratory are focusing on a family of environmental
pollutants known as aromatic hydrocarbons, which are formed by the incomplete
burning of substances such as gasoline, cigarettes, forest fires and even
barbecued meats. Most aromatic hydrocarbons are toxic, and some are known
to cause cancer.
"Through our studies, we have identified the pathways that bacteria
use to degrade these pollutants and specific enzymes that can convert these
compounds to non-toxic, useful products," Gibson said.
Gibson eventually wants to understand the molecular mechanisms of the enzymes
that add atmospheric oxygen to the aromatic nucleus of hydrocarbons.
"The results of our work will lead to a better understanding of the
use of microorganisms to remove specific pollutants from contaminated environments,"
Gibson said. "In addition, our studies will lead to the conversion of
aromatic hydrocarbons into compounds that are useful to society. Examples
to date include indigo dyes, hormones, antibiotics and antiviral compounds."
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the
UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care,
medical education and research programs and services they provide.