Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
July 17, 1998

Ames Lab/ISU team claims 19th R&D 100 award

by Anita Rollins and Skip Derra

An Iowa State-Ames Laboratory technology, used to study how cancer-producing compounds damage cellular DNA, has been combined with a separation technique to form a powerful laboratory tool. The new technique has been cited as one of the 100 best new products by R&D Magazine.

The R&D 100 Awards program, now in its 36th year, honors the top 100 products of technological significance that were marketed or licensed during the previous calendar year. The 100 award winners will be honored at a banquet in Chicago in September. Iowa State technologies have received 19 R&D 100 Awards since 1984.

Ames Laboratory researchers Ryszard Jankowiak and Gerald Small, who also is a distinguished professor of chemistry, joined their fluorescence line-narrowing spectroscopy (FLNS) technique with capillary electrophoresis (CE), a widely used analytical chemistry method. The new technique was developed with Peter Shields of Janis Research Co. Inc., Wilmington, Mass.

While CE and FLNS are powerful techniques for distinguishing between and characterizing molecules, each has certain limitations when used to study complex biological mixtures. Together, the limitations are eliminated, providing a powerful tool for chemical structural characterization.

The CE-FLNS technique has been used to identify byproducts in urine that result from the reaction between cancer-producing pollutants, such as those found in cigarette smoke, and cellular DNA. The identification of these byproducts is important to understanding the first step of a cancer -- the chemical attack of carcinogens on DNA.

The key to combining the two techniques was the construction of a cryostat, a compact cooling device that, in less than a minute, can cool compounds from room temperature to -450 F, which is necessary for use of FLNS.

The power of FLNS was demonstrated in work with the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It led to the discovery of a new pathway to DNA damage by chemical carcinogens.

While the CE-FLNS technique has only been used to study cancer from chemicals so far, Jankowiak and Small expect it will be used in other areas of biological research, as well as forensic science. The patent-pending technology is available for licensing and is being investigated by several companies.

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