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UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
UW-Eau Claire Chemistry Professor Receives $218,150 NSF Award
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MAILED: March 24, 1997

EAU CLAIRE - This summer the chemistry department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will become home to the world's first stopped-flow circular dichroism spectrometer.

"It's about a $100,000 instrument and the first of its kind in the world," Dr. Scott Hartsel, associate professor of chemistry, said of the piece of equipment that is scheduled to arrive in June. "The bids are out now and once a company is selected it can be built. We're hoping to be using it this summer."

Purchasing the equipment was possible thanks to a $218,150 grant Hartsel received from the National Science Foundation. The grant was awarded for Hartsel's proposal titled "RUI: Dynamics, Structure and Formation of Polyene Channels."

Among the instrument's uses will be Hartsel's ongoing research in the area of amphotericin B, which for nearly 40 years has been the major antifungal drug for serious infections. Amphotericin B is the drug of choice for many serious system fungal infections, which because of AIDS and improved organ transplant immuno-suppression drugs are becoming even more frequent in immune-compromised people.

But amphotericin B is highly toxic to patients, often causing decreased renal function, anaphylaxis, chills, high fever, nausea, phlebitis, anorexia and a host of other unpleasant effects. These effects coupled with long therapeutic regimes nearly negates its usefulness in all but the most life-threatening systemic fungal infections, Hartsel said.

However, recent advances in lipid-associated or liposomal drug delivery formulations have drastically reduced the toxicity of this drug toward humans while retaining its powerful antifungal action. But the mechanisms for the reduced toxicity are not entirely clear from model system studies. Hartsel believes research using the new instrument will help advance scientists knowledge of polyene channels and membrane channels, or the changes that make it less toxic.

"There are new systems for reducing the toxicity of amphotericin B that have been very, very successful," Hartsel said. "We know they work. But we don't know what feature makes it less toxic. This new machine will allow us to look directly at what changes amphotericin B is undergoing. This will give us some insight into what makes it less toxic."

"We're unclear at a molecular level what's happening with the antifungal drug," Hartsel said. "This is important to AIDS and organ transplant patients as well as people who undergo chemotherapy for cancer. Anyone with a suppressed immune system is impacted by this drug. It's the last line of defense against severe fungal infection. But it's so toxic that doctors hesitate to use it or use it with extreme care. Some of these can be worse than the disease.

"This will allow it to be used sooner without doing things like damaging the kidneys and without making people really sick. My interest is in the molecular details."

Hartsel said he will hire three undergraduate students to assist with the research once the instrument arrives.

This will be an exciting opportunity for these students because the work is at the forefront of research and students will work with equipment that doesn't even currently exist, Hartsel said.

"Also, it will expand our collaborative opportunities with other scientists because they will want to come here to use the state-of-the-art equipment," he said. "That can only help our students to make connections that will help them do whatever it is they want to do after they graduate."

The grant provides monies for student stipends, Hartsel said, noting that he thought it was important to provide students with paid research opportunities so they can gain work experience that will assist them later in life.

In addition, he said, the grant provides him and students with travel dollars. As a result, three students will make poster presentations this summer regarding three projects at an international conference in San Francisco, Calif. Scientists from around the world attend the annual International Congress of Biochemists and Molecular Biologists conference.

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: April 8, 1997