Briefly

Crypopyrin, an altered immune system protein, was identified as the cause of two rare disorders by Hal M. Hoffman, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, along with other UCSD colleagues.

One fever syndrome caused by crypopyrin, familial cold autoinflamatory syndrome, causes rashes and other symptoms when exposed to cold air. Muckle-Wells syndrome results in deafness and periodic fevers.

Crypopyrin’s role in causing these disorders was based on analysis of four families who have either FCAS or MWS. Each affected person had one of four possible mutations in the gene for crypopyrin, while none were found in unaffected family members.

However, the exact means through which crypopyrin influences inflammatory reactions throughout the body is still unknown, Hoffman said.

The identification of crypopyrin will help researchers understand the origin of these rare conditions as well as provide direction in the search for causes of more common disorders.

Research on fan blades may make airplanes safer

New carbon-composite turbine fan blades for commercial and military planes are being engineered by UCSD structural engineers in conjunction with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

John Kosmatika, a structural engineering professor at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, is leading the project and notes that turbine fan blades are responsible for 80 percent of a plane’s thrust.

Turbine fan blades are less likely to break because they are lighter and tougher than metallic blades and have better fatigue characteristics. The reduction in blade weight also makes them more resilient.

The new blades will also be safer because they disintegrate once they break. Older titanium blades fail at the blade root and can tear through parts of the plane at extreme risk to the aircraft and its passengers.

In addition, the composite blades will conserve energy and reduce noise because the hollow internal rib structure controls airflow more effectively. Composite material will also reduce production costs.

The new blades will be tested next year and could be installed in airplanes as early as 2004.

UCSD sponsors contest for Native American Heritage Month

An essay and art contest in honor of Native American Heritage Month, which is observed in November, will be sponsored by UCSD to encourage the discovery and celebration of Native American culture and history.

The contest, which is presented by the Early Academic Outreach Program’s American Indian Outreach Program and the University Events Office, is open to all San Diego County students in grades seven through 12.

There are two categories, essay and art, and students may submit one entry to each. The author of the winning essay will receive $500, with second and third places receiving $250 and $100, respectively.

Art submissions must contain images of Native American culture and history. First place will be awarded $250, second place will receive $125 and third place will receive $50.

All entries must be postmarked by Nov. 9.

Researchers discover cause of liver cirrhosis, develop treatment

A mutated protein that stops excessive fibrous tissue growth was developed by researchers in San Diego and the United Kingdom after discovering the cause of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Dr. Martina Buck, UCSD and visual arts research scientist and lead author of the study, was among four scientists to discover that regulatory protein C/EBP beta is responsible for excessive scar tissue following an injury or chronic illness.

Excessive buildup of fibrous tissue can cause disfiguring scars externally or clog vital internal organs.

The focus of the team’s study was KAVD, an amino acid sequence that blocks another group of enzymes called caspases, which prevent the overproduction of fibrous tissue. When KAVD is mutated, test mice respond normally to liver injury and damage, without excessive scar tissue buildup.

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