UI researcher named a Pew Scholar


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While many researchers spend time applying for grants to fund their studies, one University of Iowa researcher has received a funding assistance of a different kind.

Qi Wu, an assistant professor of pharmacology in the Carver College of Medicine, has been named as a 2013 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, an honor given to fewer than two dozen scientists across the country.

The Pew Scholars Program in Biomedical Sciences awards funding to young scientists who research the basis of perplexing health problems including diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer, according to a news release on the Pew Charitable Trusts website. Since the program’s start in 1985, according to the website, more than 500 scientists have been granted the award.

Focusing in on the regulation of appetite and energy metabolism by the central nervous system, Wu said his research specifically aims to better understand how the brain controls food intake and energy metabolism. Those controls, he said, are a response to abnormal levels of nutritional and hormonal signals that originate from the overconsumption of high fat and high sugar diets.

Pew says the big idea from the research gathered is simple but far-reaching.

It could potentially lead to improved treatments for eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and food addiction, in addition to metabolic disorders, such as Type II diabetes.

Overall, Wu said, he and his team hope to gain an understanding of the area of the brain that controls feeding behaviors and energy homeostasis.

His current studies will attempt to identify an important neural network that uses GABA, a neurotransmitter, to control appetite and body weight.

Professor Curt Sigmund, the head of the UI Pharmacology Department, said Wu’s research is important in learning about the mechanisms that control both diabetes and eating disorders.

“Dr. Wu is an exceptionally gifted and creative scientist who is very dedicated to understanding the fundamental mechanisms controlling appetite and energy metabolism in the brain,” Sigmund said.

Joining just 21 other scientists from across the nation in receiving the four-year, $240,000 award given by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Debra Schwinn, the dean of the UI medical school, said Wu’s award recognizes the high quality of research occurring at the college.

“The UI Carver College of Medicine is extremely proud of Qi Wu’s award,” she said. “He is an outstanding young scholar who has already demonstrated breakthrough work in understanding metabolism and appetite control.”

Wu joined the UI in 2012 after earning a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Georgia in 2005 and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington.

The last time a UI scientist was named a Pew Scholar came in 1985, when UI biology Professor Jim Jung-Ching Lin was given the honor for his work relating to cellular and molecular biology.

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