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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 11, 2004

Lecture To Discuss Link Between Brain Disease, Prions Nov. 18

Prions are misshapen proteins suspected of causing rare, fatal brain diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. On Thursday, Nov. 18, James Torner, Ph.D., University of Iowa professor and head of epidemiology, will discuss these mysterious proteins in his presentation, "Prions: A Public Health Threat?"

The program, to be held from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 20 of the Nursing Building on the UI campus, is free and open to the public. It also will be broadcast live over the Iowa Communications Network and via streaming video on the web.

In his talk, Torner will describe what prions are; examine the role of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in public health; and discuss the history, epidemiology and pathology of prions and how they affect human health.

Torner graduated from the University of Iowa in 1984 with a Ph.D. in epidemiology and is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and the American Heart Association Stroke Council. His professional memberships include the American Academy of Neurology, American College of Epidemiology, Society for Clinical Trials and Society for Epidemiologic Research. He has published extensively in his areas of research interest, which include the design and analysis of clinical trials, neuroepidemiology, cerebrovascular disease epidemiology, cardiovascular epidemiology, injury epidemiology and prostate cancer.

The program is part of the fall 2004 Grand Rounds series sponsored by the Upper Midwest Center for Public Health Preparedness (UMCPHP). Advanced registration is requested and may be completed online at Links to the live web broadcast, as well as archives of past presentations, are available on the center's site. In addition, UI Television (UITV) will also be showing the archived presentation. More information about the UITV service area and program schedule can be found on the UITV Web site.

The presentation is sponsored by the Upper Midwest Center for Public Health Preparedness, based in the UI College of Public Health, and the Iowa Association of Local Public Health Agencies. UMCPHP is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a cooperative agreement with the Association of Schools of Public Health.

For more information about the Grand Rounds series, contact Angela Harding, program assistant in the Upper Midwest Center for Public Health Preparedness, at 319-335-8451 or by e-mail at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Debra Venzke, 319-335-9647,