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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 23, 2006

Development And Disease Is Subject Of Oct. 28 Lecture

How do the cells in a developing embryo "talk" to one another? And how do we use knowledge of this "developmental" communication in human disease studies?

Those questions and others will be addressed by Diane Slusarski, associate professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Department of Biological Sciences, when she speaks on "Development and Disease: Fishing for Answers," at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 in Room 40 of Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. The talk is free and open to the public.

The session, part of the CLAS 2006 Saturday Scholars lecture series, will outline how molecular-genetic tools used to study developing embryos have become valuable resources for identifying and characterizing genes involved in human disease. Scientists have long known that each animal originates from a single egg cell that, when fertilized, produces many cells which rearrange themselves to form adult tissues and organs. During the development of vertebrates, including humans, the many cells of the embryo communicate with each other by using "signaling molecules" to distinguish several important body axes: front from back, head from tail, and left from right.

"The signaling molecules that are important for embryonic developmental processes are also important in the adult for cell growth, regulation and maintenance," Slusarski said. "Misregulation of signaling molecules has been associated with numerous human disorders and cancers." She also will discuss how the zebra fish can be used as a model for studying embryonic development and disease. The common tropical fish are easy to manipulate genetically and have transparent embryos that develop rapidly outside of the mother, enabling researchers to observe their development.

In connection with her Saturday Scholars talk, Slusarski will be a guest on "Talk of Iowa," WSUI-AM 910 and WOI-AM 640, at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26.

Slusarski received her doctorate from Northwestern University, where she studied embryonic patterning in the laboratory of Robert Holmgren. Her postdoctoral work focused on calcium regulation that takes place during vertebrate body axis specification in the laboratory of Victor Corces at Johns Hopkins University. Currently, she investigates the role of signaling molecules in early vertebrate development and disease.

The final program in the 2006 Saturday Scholars series will be held on Saturday, Nov. 11, when David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science, speaks on "Politics: What's Emotion Got to Do With It?"

Saturday Scholars was developed by CLAS Dean Linda Maxson to give members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. Additional information is available at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 319-335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,