The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 3, 2005

Spitz Receives DOE Grant

University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine researchers in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a three-year, $1 million grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to study how certain genetic mutations affect the sensitivity of cells to low-dose ionizing radiation. The grant is part of a larger DOE-funded research program aimed at understanding the health risks from exposures to low levels of radiation.

Douglas R. Spitz, Ph.D., associate professor of radiation oncology in the Free Radical and Radiation Biology Graduate Program, and co-director of the Radiation and Free Radical Research Core in the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, will lead the UI study. His team will determine if mutations in mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) proteins, which increase cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), influence the amount of cellular and genetic damage caused by low-dose ionizing radiation.

Mitochondria are a major metabolic source of ROS in living cells. ROS are believed to contribute to aging and carcinogenesis. Exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation could disrupt mitochondrial metabolic processes, increasing the production of ROS. Increases in the levels of ROS may contribute to the cellular and genetic damage caused by ionizing radiation, leading to increases in genomic instability and increased cancer incidence.

Spitz's research will use new cell lines with specific mutations in the gene coding for a mitochondrial ETC protein called succinate dehydrogenase complex C (SDHC). Cells with this genetic mutation have increased levels of ROS. By exposing these cells to low-dose ionizing radiation, the researchers will be able to examine the potential involvement of mitochondrial ROS production in the damaging effects of low-dose ionizing radiation, as well as test antioxidant enzyme manipulations targeted at protecting against these effects in human cells.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, (319) 335-9917

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: A photo of DR. Spitz is available from Jennifer Brown