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German research organization honors UTHSC researchers

San Antonio (July 23, 2003) — James D. Lechleiter, Ph.D., and Patricia Camacho, Ph.D., of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), have won the 2003 Erwin Schrödinger Prize in Germany. The Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, the largest research organization in Germany, singled out the UTHSC researchers and their collaborator, physicist Dr. Martin Falcke of the Hahn-Meitner Institute in Berlin. They will receive the award and 50,000 Euros at the association's annual conference Oct. 16 in Hamburg.

Dr. Lechleiter, associate professor of cellular and structural biology, and Dr. Camacho, associate professor of physiology, have studied the complex patterns of calcium waves in living cells for a number of years. Abnormalities in calcium channels may underlie a variety of human diseases. Calcium, one of the most important intracellular messengers, also appears to drive processes at the beginning and the end of life. Fertilization is one. Cell death is another. Calcium oscillations also play a role in many physiological processes, including muscle contractions in the heart.

The new research provides a mathematical framework for understanding the origin and propagation of calcium waves. "This is a very prestigious award that is designed to recognize outstanding interdisciplinary work between the fields of physics and biology," said Brian A. Herman, Ph.D., professor and chair of cellular and structural biology at UTHSC and chair of its Executive Research Committee. "The focus of this year's award, the dynamics of intracellular calcium signaling, is fundamental to the processes concerning cell survival and cell death, which, in turn, are at the heart of two of the Health Science Center's research strengths, cancer and aging."

Contact: Will Sansom