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Release: Sept. 20, 2000

Welsh to deliver lecture at UI Levitt Center Sept. 26

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michael J. Welsh, M.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a University of Iowa professor of internal medicine and physiology and biophysics, will deliver a lecture at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the UI Levitt Center for University Advancement.

Welsh, the Roy J. Carver Chair in Internal Medicine and Physiology and Biophysics at the UI, will discuss "Pursuing a Genetic Disease, Cystic Fibrosis." The event is free and open to UI faculty, staff, students and the public.

The lecture is in honor of Welsh's election last May to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the nation's most distinguished scientific organization. Established in 1863, the NAS is comprised of scientists and engineers dedicated to the advancement of science. Welsh became the third current UI faculty member to be named to the NAS. He joined fellow faculty members Donald A. Gurnett, professor, and James A. Van Allen, emeritus professor, both in the UI department of physics and astronomy. Two other UI professors now deceased -- William O. Aydelotte and Joseph H. Bodine -- also have been elected to the NAS.

A UI faculty member since 1981, Welsh is known internationally for his breakthrough research into the genetic causes of cystic fibrosis and for his work in developing strategies to treat or possibly cure the disease.

Scientists know that cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic flaw; correcting this flaw could lead to a cure. One such approach is gene therapy, in which researchers try to insert a healthy gene into the patient's cells. Often this involves using a vector, such as a disabled cold virus, to carry the normal gene to the patient.

Welsh and his colleagues are working to develop gene therapy for cystic fibrosis and other genetic diseases. They also are focused on understanding why patients with cystic fibrosis develop lung infections. Their discoveries have shown that the bronchial passages in cystic fibrosis patients have an impaired ability to kill bacteria. This predisposes the patients to recurring lung infections. The work by Welsh's team is leading to methods that would correct this defect.

Welsh's other research interests include projects designed to understand the sense of touch and the perception of pain. These senses involve a new family of ion channels. The work may improve the understanding of control of blood pressure and may lead to the development of better drugs to treat pain.

Welsh received his medical degree at the UI in 1974. He is a recipient of numerous professional awards and a member of several leading scientific organizations, including the presidency of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the NAS.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the UI College of Medicine in advance at (319) 335-9839.

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