UI professor to be featured on Big Ten Network


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Beverly Davidson has always been fascinated with the brain.

"I've been interested in diseases that affect the brain since my graduate days," she said. "Something about the brain has always intrigued me."

The University of Iowa internal-medicine professor has been researching the development of therapies for child brain disorders, with a focus on Batten disease, a rare disorder caused by a lack of enzymes in the brain. The deficiencies can cause waste in the brain cells to build up, killing healthy cells. This can lead to loss of motor skills and sight; it is always fatal.

Davidson's work will be a part of a new series, "Impact the World," on the Big Ten Network. The episodes highlight work from researchers across the Big Ten, with Davidson's report airing tonight.

The Big Ten Network has worked closely with universities in the conference for almost a year to demonstrate how research can reach beyond higher education.

Scott Ketelsen, the director of the UI's University Marketing and Media Production, said Davidson was chosen because she was considered an expert in the subject.

Batten disease occurs in roughly two to four of every 100,000 births in the United States, Davidson said, with around 450 children currently diagnosed nationwide.

Two such children include Noah and Laine VanHoutan, members of a Chicago family who will be profiled during the show.

"They are representative of the many families who come in and pour their heart and soul into helping our labs," Davidson said.

Elizabeth Conslick, the vice president of communications and university relations for the Big Ten Network, said the personal stories hammer home the importance of the research.

"We were looking for stories that have a clear impact on people's lives, and we were looking for stories that could be told through individuals," Conslick said.

Davidson said she has always had a strong belief in medical research.

"I loved the strong sense of collaboration that I got from the various professors here [at the UI]" she said. "The spirit and enthusiasm for scientific discovery was impalpable."

Big Ten Network representatives said they wanted to focus on showcasing the talent of conference schools outside of the sports arena.

"As a network, we are thrilled to tell these stories and provide our audience with a more expansive view besides sports," Conslick said. "We want viewers to see and understand that this kind of research is being done all over the Big Ten and that the research being done is affecting the lives of millions of people in a positive way."

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