Lee Siegel—science writer for University of Utah Public Relations—lists five of the U’s noteworthy scientific accomplishments in 2007.
Mario’s Nobel and other awards
The year’s scientific knockout: the Nobel Prize awarded to geneticist Mario Capecchi and two colleagues elsewhere for discovering how to disable any gene in mice—a method helping scientists worldwide understand and treat human diseases. And physicists Pierre Sokolsky and George Cassiday won a big award, the Panofsky Prize, for developing a new way to study the universe’s most energetic particles: ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays.
Reality check for mine owner
The owner of Utah’s Crandall Canyon coal mine blamed an earthquake for a deadly collapse. But University of Utah seismograph stations director Walter Arabasz and his staff determined the mine collapse itself registered as a quake. That squelched the owner’s effort to deflect blame, leading to greater scrutiny of safety and regulation.
Small dogs, big diseases
Biologists Gordon Lark, Kevin Chase and others discovered small dogs are small because they have a piece of DNA that reduces growth-gene activity. The method they used is a model for tracking down the influence of various genes in multigene diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
A promising new way to treat cancer was developed in the College of Engineering by bioengineer Natalya Rapoport. Tiny “nanobubbles” filled with a chemotherapy drug were injected into mice and accumulated in tumors. Rapoport used ultrasound to image the tumors and pop the bubbles so the drug was released into the tumors.
Psychiatrists William McMahon and Judith Zimmerman led the U’s portion of a 14-state study that found autism disorders in one-of-150 children nationwide and one-of-133 Utah kids. They concluded the unexpected high rates constitute an “urgent public-health concern.”