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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 26, 2009

UI environmental health research projects funded

Four University of Iowa research projects -- related to lung function, neurodevelopment, bioremediation and neurodegeneration -- have received funding through the UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) Seed Grant Program for 2009.

The projects involve six investigators from the UI College of Pharmacy, UI College of Engineering, and the UI College of Public Health.

--Jennifer Fiegel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutics and in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, was awarded $30,000 to investigate the mechanisms by which inhaled nanoparticles alter the function of complex lung fluid interfaces. The research aims to predict loss of surfactant function based on nanoparticle physicochemical properties such as size, surface area, surface charge, relative hydrophobicity (the quality of being repelled by water) and composition.

--Izabela Kania-Korwel, Ph.D., postdoctoral research scholar and principal investigator, and Hans-Joachim Lehmler research scientist and co-principal investigator, Ph.D., both in the UI Department of Occupational and Environmental Health received $30,000. The team will study PCB 136, a persistent industrial chemical linked to adverse neurodevelopment effects in laboratory animals and in humans. The researchers will investigate differences between PCB enantiomers, which are mirror images of each other but not identical.

--Tonya Peeples, Ph.D., associate professor, and Julie Jessop, Ph.D., assistant professor, both in the UI Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, were awarded $30,000 for a project with the overall aim of improving bioremediation technologies that can reduce environmental contamination and decrease the associated risk to human health. Specifically, they will integrate biofilm flow devices with a technique called Raman scattering for bioanalysis and separation to investigate complex mixtures of microbes. The approach will help identify and quantify biofilm communities and determine if biofilm formation leads to enhanced levels of atrazine degradation.

--David Roman, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry, received $29,376 to investigate RGS4, a member of a protein family that helps control important cellular processes, including G protein-coupled receptor signaling cascades. Alterations in this signaling and RGS protein function are evident in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Roman will study how oxidative stress inhibits RGS activity and how that, in turn, affects cellular signaling processes.

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 Care Media Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660,; Writer: David Riley