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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 29, 2007

CHEEC Announces Seed Grant Recipients

Three researchers have received funding through the University of Iowa Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) Seed Grant Program for the upcoming calendar year.

Jonathan Doorn, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicinal and natural products chemistry in the UI College of Pharmacy, was awarded $29,980; Richard Valentine, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering, received $30,000; and Donald Simmons, Ph.D., program manager of environmental health and biomonitoring at the University Hygienic Laboratory, was awarded $28,145.

Doorn's research seeks to establish a mechanistic link between exposure to paraquat, an herbicide that is a known risk factor in Parkinson's disease, and aberrant levels of neurotoxic dopamine oxidation products. A potential mechanism may involve dopamine-derived endogenous neurotoxins, which would be found in dopamine regions of the brain. Recent evidence suggests oxidative stress is involved, but it is not known how chemicals produce specific death of dopamine neurons as observed in Parkinson's disease.

Valentine hypothesizes that metal oxides exist in some drinking water distribution systems and are capable of oxidizing iodide- and possibly bromide-producing species that can react with natural organic compounds to form halo-organic compounds. His research objectives are to demonstrate proof of concept of this novel reaction pathway, and to investigate factors that influence the extent and rates of the reactions. If iodide is found reactive, then oxidation of bromide will also be evaluated to determine if formation of bromo-organic compounds is also possible at environmentally relevant conditions.

Simmons seeks to establish an arsenic speciation methodology by coupling Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) with a liquid chromatographic separation. Arsenic is a highly regulated trace element due to its adverse health effects. Inorganic and organoarsenic species have different toxicities and bioavailabilities. Water chemistry parameters and their influence on arsenic speciation will also be investigated. Joining with the Iowa Statewide Rural Well Water Survey Phase II (SWRL 2), it is expected that this study will lead to a more comprehensive arsenic environmental chemistry study in the rural environment.

The CHEEC seed grant program supports research across a range of innovative environmental health research topics. Results of these pilot-scale studies support the investigators' efforts to acquire additional federal or private grant funding.

For more information on these projects or CHEEC seed grants, call 319-335-4550 or visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032, Writer: David Riley