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Health Sciences Initiative: A New Approach to Tomorrow's Health Problems

Health Sciences Initiative

The Berkeley Health Sciences Initiative, put simply, is a new way to do health science -- a new approach to the pursuit of discovery. Our aim is to expand the boundaries of teaching and research in the health sciences. And by doing so, we believe, we can lead the way toward breakthroughs that will enhance health and prolong life.

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Recent Health Science News

Targeting enzymes that immortalize cancer cells: if they can’t be turned off, try to round them up
Discovery of a clever trick that cancer cells use to make themselves immortal may lead to a way to stop their unchecked growth, according to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.
(press release, 30 August)

Molecular motor powerful enough to pack DNA into viruses at greater than champagne pressures, researchers report
The DNA inside some viruses is packed so tightly that the internal pressure reaches 10 times that in a champagne bottle, according to researchers here and at the University of Minnesota. The molecular motor responsible for this compression can pack DNA to a pressure of about 60 atmospheres. Researchers suspect that this helps the virus spurt its DNA into a cell once it has latched onto the surface.
(press release, 18 October)

Soy protein prevents skin tumors from developing in mice, UC Berkeley researchers find
New research may add yet another boost to the healthy reputation of the humble soybean. A study published Oct. 15 in the journal Cancer Research shows that mice with the soy protein lunasin applied to their skin had significantly lower rates of skin cancer than mice without the lunasin treatment.
(press release, 15 October)

New multi-drug resistant strain of E. coli emerges across country
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, UC Berkeley researchers found that a new strain of E. coli bacteria accounted for 38 to 50 percent of the drug-resistant forms of urinary tract infections in women from three distinct regions in the United States.
(press release, 3 October)

Iron-deficient children at risk for higher levels of lead in their blood
Iron deficiency can threaten the mental and physical development of young children. Now, a study by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the state health department adds new evidence that insufficient iron levels may also be putting children at higher risk for increased lead exposure.
(press release, 3 October)

Cancer-detecting microchip - a micromachined cantilever - is sensitive assay for prostate cancer and potentially other diseases, researchers report
A microscopic diving board the size of a human hair may prove to be an ideal detector of proteins or DNA, with potential application in disease diagnosis or drug discovery. The MEMS device, a microcantilever, bends when molecules bind to the surface. A team from UC Berkeley, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and USC report in Nature Biotechnology its successful use in detecting the blood markers doctors look for in prostate cancer. An array of cantilevers could be used to create a "cancer chip" for diagnosing or following the course of many cancers simultaneously. The technique has broader application, however, such as for detecting point mutations in single-stranded DNA.
(press release, 30 August)

Eye researchers study ways to predict retinal changes that lead to vision loss
Small, barely detectable, changes in the retina may predict the onset of vision loss in people with diabetes and allow early treatment, if a study beginning this summer at UC Berkeley's School of Optometry is successful. Preliminary tests have found a striking relationship between these small changes and existing eye damage. The school has now launched a $1.6 million research project to study these changes in people with diabetes.
(press release, 18 July)

Dennis Levi, a vision scientist from Houston to become dean of School of Optometry
An internationally known vision scientist from the University of Houston, Dennis M. Levi, will take the helm on August 15 as dean of the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley. "We are pleased to have an individual whose status in optometry and vision research is well recognized internationally," said the current dean of the school, Anthony Adams. He added that Levi's thoughtful approach and ability to listen to others will allow him to work well with the physical and biological scientists on campus who are involved with the Health Sciences Initiative.
(press release, June 27)

UC Berkeley releases draft EIR on state-of-the-art, seismically secure science and technology buildings
Construction noise and the loss of recreation areas were identified as the significant, unavoidable environmental impacts associated with building new health sciences and technology research facilities at the University of California, Berkeley, according to a draft environmental impact report released by the campus this week. The campus proposes to replace two outdated and seismically poor research buildings - Stanley Hall and old Davis Hall - with modern, safe structures in the northeast area of the campus. The proposed new buildings will house interdisciplinary research in the health sciences, bioengineering, and information technology. (press release, June 20)

AIDS in Africa has potential to affect human evolution, UC Berkeley scientists report
Three UC Berkeley biologists show in May issue of Nature that over a period of several generations, AIDS could alter the frequency of specific genetic mutations in African populations, delaying the average time between HIV infection and onset of disease. Though this genetic evolution probably won't impact health management in Africa - public health experts pray that drugs or vaccines will soon cut the high mortality and infection rates on the continent - it provides a rare example of how epidemic infectious diseases can exert selective pressure on the human genome. (press release, May 30)

UC Berkeley biochemist receives award for health research
UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames, a world leader in the study of nutrition and its relationship to aging, cancer and other health concerns, has been named the first recipient of the $50,000 Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research. The award was made in Portland, Ore., at the national symposium "Diet and Optimum Health," sponsored by Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute. This inaugural award is designed to recognize excellence in the field of nutrition research, especially the study of micronutrients, vitamins and phytochemicals in promoting optimum health and preventing disease. (May 21)

Drive for managed health care has lost the war; proponents in full-scale retreat, says UC Berkeley authority
Proponents of managed health care are in full-scale retreat from the effort to control medical costs, while financial responsibility and treatment choices are shifting from employers and governmental programs to individual consumers, according to health economist James C. Robinson at UC Berkeley. These developments are likely to result in rising health care costs, along with greater consumer control of medical treatments, says Robinson, an authority on managed care systems in the nation and a UC Berkeley professor of public health. (press release, May 22)

Digital Feature: Berkeley researchers unravel mysteries of the mind
A University of California Science Today video news feature shows how Berkeley researchers use a powerful new brain imaging machine to better understand the human mind.
(UC Science Today Video, 10 May)

March of Dimes Prize goes to Berkeley's Corey Goodman and co-winner
Neuroscientist Corey S. Goodman, professor of molecular and cell biology and director of Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, has been named co-recipient of this year's March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology. Goodman and co-winner Thomas M. Jessell, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University in New York, will receive the $100,000 cash prize April 30 for their work revealing how brain wiring goes awry in birth defects and adult diseases.
(press release, 27 Apr)

Other Berkeley Health Sciences Initiative news of interest:
1. Researchers have discovered that a potent chemical signal known to guide the wiring of neurons in the developing nervous system also directs migrating muscle fibers to their proper connections.
By applying precise, mechanical forces to the ends of individual RNA molecules, researchers have unfolded and refolded the molecules.
(press releases, 27 Apr)

Berkeley protein discovery offers hope for cancer vaccine
Berkeley researchers have found a protein on prostate cancer cells that tips off the immune system to the tumor's presence and brings in an armada of immune cells to destroy it. If the protein, called an antigen, is truly unique to prostate cancer cells, it could lead to diagnostics for prostate cancer and a potential vaccine therapy against the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, after lung cancer. This is the first prostate cancer antigen found.
(press release, 3 Apr)

Berkeley Health Sciences Initiative research shows what the brain really sees
The eye as a camera has been a powerful metaphor for poets and scientists alike
. Recent Berkeley studies show, however, that what the eye sends to the brain are mere outlines and sketchy impressions of the visual world. See what the brain really sees by visiting Berkeley's first digital feature story, which reports on Health Sciences Initiative research published in Nature.
(press release, 28 Mar 2001)

Male infertility linked to diet, say Berkeley scientists, co-authors
Low levels of folic acid, a key component for DNA synthesis, are associated with decreased sperm count and decreased sperm density in men, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis.
(press release, 26 Feb)

Nation's most powerful brain scanner devoted solely to research inaugurates new era of brain research at UC Berkeley
(press release, 20 Nov 2000)

Listeria bacteria yield clues to workings of other deadly intracellular pathogens, UC Berkeley scientists report
(press release, 02 Nov 2000)

NSF, NIH give $5.2 million to UC Berkeley to train scientists for the post-genome world
(press release, 30 Aug 2000)

Field Studies: Effort addresses health effects of pesticides and allergens on rural mothers and babies
(Berkeleyan, 23 Aug 2000)

More than bricks and mortar: Proposed facilities unite disciplines to solve nation's health problems
(Berkeleyan Special Issue, Fall 2000)

UC Berkeley faculty receive big honors: five elected to National Academy of Sciences; three appointed HHMI investigators
(11 May 2000)

Whitaker Foundation grants $15 million to bioengineering, UC Berkeley's newest department
(03 May 2000)

UC Berkeley psychologist finds evidence that male hormones in the womb affect sexual orientation
(29 Mar 2000)

UC Berkeley collaboration with Celera Genomics concludes with publication of nearly complete sequence of the genome of the fruit fly
(24 Mar 2000)

Symposium Sat., March 25, to honor Professor Daniel Koshland Jr.: biochemist, visionary and UC Berkeley benefactor
(23 Mar 2000)

Infamous "van Gogh" beverage contains potent toxin with curious brain effects, UC Berkeley scientists discover
(22 Mar 2000)

New UC Berkeley "bionic chip" features living biological cell successfully merged with electronic circuitry
(25 Feb 2000)

Revised model of protein-drug interactions could make job of drug designers a little easier
(14 Feb 2000)

Interview: Public Health Dean Edward Penhoet Emphasizes Collaboration at Campus's 'Gateway to Health'
(16 Feb 2000)

Snapping 3-D picture of the "heart" of the transcription machine
(09 Dec 1999)

Rare disease is dramatic demonstration of critical role of "immortality" enzyme
(01 Dec 1999)

Mutant gene can protect against leukemia
(25 Oct 1999)

Announcement of Health Sciences Initiative
(06 Oct 1999)

Promising new therapy for prostate cancer, melanoma
(08 Sep 1999)