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Home > ARRA Stories > University of Iowa Basic and Clinical Scientists Contemplate Cigarette Smoking and the Aging Process
University of Iowa Basic and Clinical Scientists Contemplate Cigarette Smoking and the Aging Process

By Jenn Laskowski

April 27, 2010

Photo of Jackie Bickenbach and Toru Nyunoya

Have you ever noticed how some cigarette smokers develop deep wrinkles around their mouths as they age? Or how some older smokers become seriously ill with cancer or chronic pulmonary disease, while others don't?

Jackie Bickenbach, a professor in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Iowa (UI), has recently partnered with Assistant Professor Toru Nyunoya, from the Department of Internal Medicine, to consider these kind of questions. Specifically, they want to learn if and how cigarette smoking affects the aging process at the cellular level.

This partnership is the result of a Looking into Clinical Connections (LINCC) pilot grant award. LINCC is a faculty development program, piloted in the Carver College of Medicine, which links together pairs of basic and clinical scientists by funding them with $50,000 pilot grant awards. In addition to the five LINCC partnerships currently underway at the UI, the program intends to support five more collaborations. LINCC awards are an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-supported CTSA administrative supplement that was awarded to the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. Advertising for the second round of LINCC awards will begin at the end of spring semester with a summer due date.

Bickenbach's lab has been studying cellular aging of the skin for quite some time. When she learned of Nyunoya's desire to understand the different responses to smoking in lungs from older and younger patients, Bickenbach suggested using her lab's abundance of skin cell samples. These samples will allow the investigators to observe whether or not age has any effects at the basic cellular level on keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Bickenbach and Nyunoya would also like to determine if the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke differentially affect these two types of aged cells.

"I am really grateful for this opportunity to work with Jackie. I can get feedback from her and this is a great opportunity for me to learn more about cell biology from an expert in the field," Nyunoya said.

Bickenbach appreciates the broader application towards conducting basic science that LINCC has facilitated, "This has allowed me to expand my work so I can look at clinical aspects that might not necessarily affect skin, but could affect things at the cellular level."

The LINCC fellows started working on their project in mid-January, 2010. During the next four months, they hope to establish an effective partnership and collect enough preliminary data from this effort to apply for further research funding.

"I think the overall goal of the LINCC program is to get a basic scientist and a clinician talking, and I think that's been successful," said Bickenbach. Their collaborative group includes a postdoc from Nyunoya's lab and a research scientist from Bickenbach's lab. They have focused a lot on fostering effective communication and developing the best approaches towards integrating their labs on both intellectual and practical levels.

Learn more about the LINCC program.

This article originally appeared on the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Iowa website. Reposted with permission.

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