Human Health

Putting the Bite on Mosquitoes in Iowa and Around the Globe

Issue

Mosquitoes are known to carry and transmit a number of diseases that threaten human health.

 

So What?

Research in Iowa State University's Medical Entomology Laboratory is working to keep mosquito-borne diseases at bay in Iowa and around the world. In a cooperative project with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory, the ISU lab runs a mosquito surveillance program that monitors mosquito activity, human cases of mosquito-borne disease, virus activity in mosquito populations and viruses found in chicken flocks that serve as sentinels of mosquito-borne diseases.

 

Impact

Data from the program can be viewed for the current year and many years previous through a new website, http://mosquito.ent.iastate.edu/. Iowa State scientists also are part of an international team that has identified 350 genes in the immune system of a tropical disease-transmitting mosquito. The research is advancing knowledge on how the immune system evolved in insects, which can help scientists gain new insight into human response to infection. And it can potentially help scientists come up with new ways to control infection and the transmission of disease.

 

Contact: Lyric Bartholomay, Entomology, (515) 294-0594, lyricb@iastate.edu

 

Introducing the Porosome, a Cell's Secretory Machinery

Issue

Deciphering the structure and function of cell secretion at the molecular level is particularly relevant for understanding human diseases. The information can help identify where things go wrong in the cell that lead to diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

 

So What?

Iowa State University animal scientists discovered a new cellular structure called the porosome, which is the molecular machinery that all cells use for secretion. ISU research found that the porosome is the portal through which special chemicals inside the cell travel when their release is required. It works by responding to signals it receives from other cells asking for the release of specific molecules. These molecules sit neatly packaged inside the cell, encased within tiny sack-like structures called vesicles.

 

Impact

These revelations about the physical details of membrane-to-membrane interactions will help researchers figure out how viruses invade cells and how secretory defects come to pass. The research may lead to better drug design and delivery strategies to tackle both human and animal diseases that are based in secretory defects.

 

Contact: Lloyd Anderson, Animal Science, (515) 294-5540, llanders@iastate.edu

 

New Soybean Varieties Improve Production of Healthy Oils

Issue

Soybean farmers in 2007 were able to select from new Iowa State University soybean varieties that promote the production of healthy oils for consumers. The new varieties are part of Iowa State's ongoing program to continually improve the yield and other agronomic traits that are important to farmers.

 

So What?

The improved varieties, developed with support from the Iowa Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board, will increase the production of oils desirable for human health.

 

Impact

Three of the new varieties will enhance the production of an oil with 1 percent linolenic acid. Low levels of linolenic acid in soybean oil increase its shelf life. Production of low-saturated-fat soybean oil will get a yield boost with another of the new varieties. With only one gram of saturated fat per tablespoon, the oil matches the saturated fat content of canola oil and reduces by half the saturated fat found in traditional soybeans.

 

Contact: Walter Fehr, Agronomy, (515) 294-6865, wfehr@iastate.edu

 

Educating Workers to Prevent Food-borne Illnesses

Issue

Protecting the public against food-borne illnesses takes vigilance and education. Ongoing programs to train foodservice workers are a key part of the process.

 

So What?

Researchers wanted to learn the type and extent of conceptual understandings of scientific principles relevant to preventing food borne illnesses that trained and certified foodservice workers possess. The study confirmed that neither managers nor workers were able to convey an understanding of cooling beyond routine practices associated with on-the-job training. The results explained, in part, the poor uptake of conventional training.

 

Impact

Recommendations include increasing employees' motivation to learn scientific concepts by tapping their desire to be better cooks, plus increasing problem-solving abilities involving all employees in food safety educational experiences.

 

Contact: Nancy Grudens-Schuck, Agricultural Education and Studies, (515) 294-0894, ngs@iastate.edu