University of Arizona researchers led a team that has discovered that venom of spiders in the genus Loxosceles, which contains about 100 spider species including the brown recluse, produces a different chemical product in the human body than scientists believed.
The finding has implications for understanding how these spider bites affect humans and for the development of possible treatments for the bites.
One of few common spiders whose bites can have a seriously harmful effect on humans, the brown recluse has venom that contains a rare protein that can cause a blackened lesion at the site of a bite, or a much less common, but more dangerous, systemic reaction in humans.
"This is not a protein that is usually found in the venom of poisonous animals," said Matthew Cordes, an associate professor in the UA's department of chemistry and biochemistry and member of the UA BIO5 Institute who led the study, published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
The protein, once injected into a bite wound, attacks phospholipid molecules that are the major component of cell membranes. The protein acts to cleave off the head portion of the lipids, leaving behind, scientists long have assumed, a simple, linear, headless lipid molecule.
The research team has discovered that in the test tube, the venom protein causes lipids to bend into a ring structure upon the loss of the head portion, generating a cyclical chemical product that is very different than the linear molecule it was assumed to produce.
"The very first step of this whole process that leads to skin and tissue damage or systemic effects is not what we all thought it was," Cordes said.
The lipid knocks off its own head by making a ring within itself, prompted by the protein from the spider venom, Cordes explained. "Part of the outcome of the reaction, the release of the head group, is the same. So initially scientists believed that this was all that was happening, then that became established in the literature."
The research team includes Cordes; Vahe Bandarian, an associate professor also in the UA's department of chemistry and biochemistry; and Greta Binford, an associate professor of biology at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. who, completed her doctorate and a postdoc at the UA.
Cordes, Bandarian and Daniel Lajoie, a PhD candidate in Cordes's lab, tested venom from three species of brown recluse spiders from North and South America. Binford, an arachnologist who has traveled the world in search of the eight-legged creatures, collected the spiders, isolated their DNA and milked their venom, which was then frozen and shipped to the UA labs for analysis.
"We didn't find what we thought we were going to find," Cordes added. "We found something more interesting."
The cyclical shape of the headless molecule means that it has different chemical properties than the linear headless lipid believed to be generated by the protein, Cordes explained. The biological effects of either molecule in human membranes or insects aren't completely known, he said, but they are likely to be very different.
"We think it's something about that ring product generated by this protein that activates the immune system," Binford said.
"The properties of this cyclic molecule aren't well-known yet, but knowing that it's being produced by toxins in venoms might heighten interest," Cordes said. "Knowing how the protein is actually working and making this cyclic molecule could also lead to better insights on how to inhibit that protein."
For those who do have a reaction to the venom, the most common response is inflammation that after one to two days can develop into a dark lesion surrounding the bite site. The blackening, or necrosis, of the skin is dead skin cells, evidence of the immune system's efforts to prevent spread of the toxin by preventing blood flow to the affected area.
"Our bodies are basically committing tissue suicide," Binford said. "That can be very minor to pretty major, like losing a big chunk of skin. The only treatment in that case is usually to have a skin graft done by a plastic surgeon."
About once every five years, Binford said, someone develops a serious systemic reaction to a brown recluse bite, which can be fatal.
"If it goes systemic, then it can cause destruction of blood cells and various other effects that can in extreme cases lead to death by kidney failure or renal failure," Cordes said.
However, it is believed that the vast majority of brown recluse bites are so minor that they go unnoticed by those who were bitten.
It's not known what determines the type or severity of reaction a person is likely to get when bitten by a brown recluse, Cordes said, "but what is known is that this protein is the main cause of it."
"I think if we know how the toxin works, it opens a new door to understanding how the syndrome is initiated as well as the possibility of blocking that process."
"The discovery of this product may be crucial in understanding what exactly is going on in the human reaction," Binford said.
For the spider biologists and chemists, the work has just begun.
"These spiders have been around with this toxin for over 120 million years," Binford said. "I want to understand the full set of variation present in a single spider and across the entire genus and the activity of this compound."
"People think about the brown recluse with fear," she added. "When I think about a brown recluse or any other spider, I think about how a single spider can have 1,000 chemicals in its venom and there are about 44,000 species, so tens of millions of unique compounds in spider venom that we're in the process of discovering. We have a lot to learn about how these venom toxins work and potential for understanding new chemistry and developing new drugs or treatments."
Understanding how brown recluse venom produces harmful effects in humans is particularly relevant in Arizona, a hotbed for these spiders, Cordes said: "There are more variant species of Loxosceles here than anywhere else in the United States."
The UA-led study of brown recluse venom was supported initially by a pilot project award from the UA BIO5 Institute. Binford's venom collections were supported by a National Science Foundation Career Award.Editor: Alexis BlueWriter: Shelley LittinByline: Shelley LittinByline Affiliation: University CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Venom of the brown recluse spider causes a reaction in the body that is different from what researchers previously thought, a discovery that could lead to development of new treatments for spider bites.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
Scientists at the UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab are casting the third mirror in a series of seven that will be used to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope. Once completed, the telescope will be the largest in the world and have a resolution 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope. The mirror will spend the next few months spinning inside a large furnace, which will heat the glass enough to melt it and then slowly cool it down.Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyRelated Story Link: UA Solar Lab Generates Power, Melts SteelUA Makes Mirrors for World’s Largest TelescopeYouTube Video: UA Mirror Lab Casts Third Mirror for World's Largest Telescope Video of UA Mirror Lab Casts Third Mirror for World's Largest Telescope Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Scientists at the UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab are casting the third mirror in a series of seven that will be used to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope. Once completed, the telescope will be the largest in the world and have a resolution 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope. The mirror will spend the next few months spinning inside a large furnace, which will heat the glass enough to melt it and then slowly cool it down.Long Summary: Scientists at the UA's Steward Observatory Mirror Lab are casting the third mirror in a series of seven that will be used to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope. Once completed, the telescope will be the largest in the world and have a resolution 10 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope. The mirror will spend the next few months spinning inside a large furnace, which will heat the glass enough to melt it and then slowly cool it down.UANow Image: Include in Olympic coverage: noInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Arizona Wildcats will take on the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks in Friday night's football season opener at Arizona Stadium.
The Aug. 30 game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be the first-ever weekday opener at Arizona Stadium, which has a new look this fall following an 18-month makeover.
The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility opened its doors in July to Wildcat football operations, and Friday's crowd will be the first to test the acoustics of the stadium's new 360-degree bowl effect.
Going into Friday's game, Arizona has the all-time lead over NAU at 11-1, with 10 straight wins against the Lumberjacks.
While it's uncommon for the Wildcats to start their season as early as August, the team has done very well in games held during that month. In fact, Arizona is unbeaten this century in all games held in August. Coach Rich Rodriguez will look to keep the streak perfect as he coaches his first August game.
Also of note for Arizona football this year:
- The Arizona Stadium's natural grass was replaced by FieldTurf CoolPlay over the summer.
- The Wildcats will take to the field in redesigned uniforms.
- Head coach Rich Rodriguez closed his second training camp without publically naming a starting quarterback, but no matter who gets the nod, it will be a newbie to take the full-time controls.
- Rodriguez is once again hosting weekly radio shows, during which fans will have a chance to win game tickets and an autographed football. Fans can attend in person or listen live in Tucson on KCUB 1290-AM and in Phoenix on Fox Sports 910-AM.
The next game will be against the University of Las Vegas Rebels in Las Vegas on Sept. 7. The next home game, on Sept. 14, will be against University of Texas at Austin Roadrunners.Editor: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: Arizona AthleticsWhat: Arizona Wildcats vs. NAU LumberjacksWhere: Arizona StadiumWhen: Aug. 30, 7 p.m. (MST)Extra Info:
The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks with radio coverage on Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson; 990 AM; and SIRIUS 94, XM 192. For statistics and additional information, visit the Arizona Athletics site. And for continued coverage of Arizona football, follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/ArizonaFootball and on Twitter @ArizonaFBall.Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The Wildcats, who have 10 straight wins against NAU, will take on the Lumberjacks in the Aug. 30 football season opener. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
Thousands of degree-seeking students returned to the University of Arizona this week, but they aren't the only ones who will be setting foot in UA classrooms this semester.
This fall, the UA Outreach College is offering more than 150 new noncredit continuing education courses for adults in the general community. The courses will be offered through the college's new division of continuing education.
"We see learning as lifelong, and know that adults want to explore the humanities, arts, sciences, social sciences and other areas of interest in flexible and accessible formats," said Rita Martinez-Purson, assistant dean of the Outreach College.
"Our new division of continuing education respects the broader interests of adult learners. We seek to provide relevant, quality, affordable offerings that fit into the schedules of adults who love to learn," she said.
The noncredit courses cover a variety of personal enrichment and professional development topics, ranging from the practical – like entry-level language courses and technology classes – to the inventive – like a class on artisan bread and one on mountain biking.
The new offerings are part of the Outreach College's ongoing efforts to engage the broader community with the University.
"We recognize that universities need to be engaged with the community, and the Outreach College's mission is to create a bridge between the campus and the community," Martinez-Purson said.
While the Outreach College has maintained active programs for children through its Arizona Youth University and for older adults through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the new courses are designed to reach a larger and more diverse adult population, Martinez-Purson said.
Many courses meet for only one session – like "Break Bread With a Professor" classes, in which participants can sit down for an ethnic dinner and discussion with a UA faculty member from Greece, India, Mexico or Russia.
Other courses – including professional certificate programs, a variety of writing classes and an "Investor Bootcamp" that teaches the basic rules of investing – will take place over several weeks.
The college's professional development offerings were designed to meet growing demand by employers for formal job training, Martinez-Purson said.
"Business, industry, nonprofits and government agencies are expressing the need for new skill sets in an economy that requires top-notch, up-to-date knowledge," she said.
Registration is now open for the classes, which are priced as low as $39 and will be offered at various times throughout the semester, with the first ones starting Sept. 5 and others starting as late as December. Classes will be taught by a mix of UA faculty members and subject-matter experts from the community and will be held on campus, online and at a variety of locations throughout Tucson.
This year's new courses are just the beginning, Martinez-Purson said.
"This is our initial launch of a broader approach to noncredit continuing education. In the coming semesters Tucson will see us fill out a growing portfolio of offerings," she said.
"We recognize that now is the time to address the interests of adult learners through a broad range of both professional and development and personal enrichment offerings."Editor: Pila MartinezWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University CommunicationsExtra Info:
Here are just a few courses community members can sign up for through the UA Outreach College this fall:
- Successful Remote Interview Techniques
- Managing Change
- Improving Team Performance
- Project Management Certificate Program
- CEO's Guide to Protecting Your Digital Assets
- Fundamentals of Superior Customer Service
- Publishing Bootcamp
- Hiking and Science
- Mountain Biking
- Italian for Travelers
- Archaeology of Tucson
- Southern Arizona Winery Tour
- Notorious Painters and Paintings
- Investor Boot Camp to Increase Return and Reduce Risk
A full course schedule and descriptions are available at http://outreachcollege.arizona.edu/non-credit.
Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The UA Outreach College is launching more than 150 new noncredit course offerings for the public.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, dozens of people from the University of Arizona and local communities gathered in front of Old Main for a traditional American Indian "sunrise ceremony" meant to welcome students and the start of a new academic year.
About 50 UA students, faculty, staff and administrators, and also local community members, attended the ceremony, which was organized by Steve Martin, program director for the UA Native American Student Affairs office.
Originally started by the UA's American Indian Studies Graduate Student Council, the ceremony has been held at the University for five years for spiritual renewal, to foster a sense of identity and to strengthen the community, said Karen Francis-Begay, the UA's assistant vice president for tribal relations.
"We had a great turnout. The weather was beautiful, and it really was a beautiful beginning to the new academic year, especially for the students," said Francis-Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation. "The ceremony centered on them, giving them the feeling that the University respects and acknolweges who they are."
Jesse Navarro and Tomasa Jose of the Tohono O'odham Nation conducted the ceremony, which was followed by a reception.
"We also acknolwedged the traditional homeland, the Tohono O'odham Nation," Francis-Begay said. "We pay our respects and honor the first peoples of this place, meaning the place where our University is located."
Members of the campus community will host similar events in November, during Native American Heritage month. Details on the month's events are forthcoming.Editor: Alexis BlueWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: To welcome students and the new academic year, UA and Tucson community members gathered for a "sunrise ceremony" led by local American Indian leaders. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
Divorce is associated with an increased risk of future depressive episodes but only for those who already have a history of depression, according to a new University of Arizona-led study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
"Stressful life events like divorce are associated with significant risk for prolonged emotional distress, including clinically significant depression," said psychological scientist and lead researcher David Sbarra, associate professor of psychology at the UA. "At the same time, we know from considerable research that the experience of divorce is non-random. Some people are much greater risk for experiencing a divorce than other people."
This led Sbarra and colleagues to wonder: Is it divorce, or the factors leading to divorce – such as marital discord, neuroticism, or hostility – that increase the risk for depression?
To investigate this question, the researchers took advantage of data from the longitudinal, nationally representative Midlife Development in the United States, or MIDUS, study. The researchers matched each participant who had separated or divorced during the study to a continuously married person in the study who had the same propensity to divorce, based on a number of previously identified factors. By comparing participants to their match, the researchers were able to account for the fact that it's impossible to randomly assign people to divorce or stay married.
In line with previous research, the results showed that divorce had a significant effect on subsequent depression.
But, as Sbarra and colleagues found, the full story was a bit more complex.
Specifically, divorce or separation only increased the likelihood of a later depressive episode for those participants who reported a history of depression. In fact, nearly 60 percent of adults with a history of depression who divorced during the study experienced a depressive episode at the follow-up assessment.
For all other participants – including those who had a history of depression but hadn't divorced, and those who divorced but had no history of depression – there was no elevated risk for a future depressive episode. Only about 10 percent of these people experienced a depressive episode at follow-up.
The magnitude of the difference between the two groups – 60 percent versus 10 percent – surprised the researchers.
"These findings are very important because they affirm the basic notion that most people are resilient in the face of divorce and that we do not see severe disorder among people without a history of a past depressive illness," Sbarra said. "If you've never experienced a significant depression in your life and you experience a separation or divorce, your odds for becoming depressed in the future are not that large at all."
The findings suggest that separation and divorce may exacerbate underlying risk but don't, in and of themselves, increase rates of depression. It's possible, the researchers speculate, that people with a history of depression have a limited capacity to cope with the demands of the transition out of marriage, but they caution that the specific mechanisms have yet to be explored.
"Do these people blame themselves for the divorce? Do they ruminate more about the separation? Are they involved in a particularly acrimonious separation? These questions deserve much greater attention," Sbarra said.
Sbarra and colleagues also note that the research can't speak to potentially interesting differences between those adults who separate versus those who divorce, since the two categories were combined in the study.
Nonetheless, the researchers believe the new findings have significant clinical implications.
"It is very important for clinicians to know that a person's history of depression is directly related to whether or not they will experience a depressive episode following the end of marriage," Sbarra said. "People with a history of depression who become divorced deserve special attention for support and counseling services."Editor: Alexis BlueByline: University CommunicationsExtra Info:
In addition to Sbarra, co-authors include Robert Emery, Christopher Beam, and Bailey Ocker of the University of Virginia.
The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging
The University of Arizona has been nationally recognized for its leadership in sustainability after incorporating green initiatives into its varsity and campus recreation sports facilities, events and programs.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, released its Collegiate Game Changer report Aug. 26 at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in New York City. The report includes in-depth case studies of 10 leading universities, including the UA.
"The University of Arizona has been recognized several times over the past few years as a leader in sustainability in higher education," said Joe Abraham, director of the UA Office of Sustainability.
"By working with Intercollegiate Athletics, Campus Recreation and all the UA units and programs that support their facilities, and events, we're extending our campus goals to the tens of thousands of fans already engaging with the University through UA sports.”
The online report also includes results of the largest survey to date of green initiatives associated with college sports events and facilities in the U.S. The survey was administered by the UA Office of Sustainability with the support of the NRDC, the Green Sports Alliance, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.
The survey yielded responses from 148 colleges and universities, most of them in the U.S., and reveals steps that higher education institutions are taking to be more sustainable in areas including alternative transportation, composting, energy efficiency, green building design, recycling, renewable energy and water efficiency, among others.
"It's the best snapshot to date of all the various programs," said Abraham, who said that the study was designed to "figure out who's doing what, and figure out what they're doing in terms of incorporating sustainability into sports and recreation."
Abraham said the survey results help advance sustainability efforts and best practices in collegiate and professional sports facilities, events and programs by incorporating and building upon initiatives that the UA has undertaken to "green" its sports and recreation programs.
The Student Recreation Center earned LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green building Council, which maintains nationally accepted standards for green building and design. Platinum is the highest LEED rating a building can achieve, and the UA's recreation center was the first facility of its kind in the nation to earn the platinum rating.
"Facilities like the Student Recreation Center can become a showcase for positive change," said Lynn Zwaagstra, director of Campus Recreation.
"Numerous UA departments collaborate to assist with design efforts to create every efficiency possible. Students have a tremendous interest in actions that positively impact the environment and often generate creative and innovative ideas," Zwaagstra added. "They take pride in assisting by recycling and using the water bottle fill stations instead of purchasing plastic water bottles."
In addition, students have partnered with UA Facilities Management at home football games to institute recycling programs and engage fans in sustainable practices. In 2011, collaborators diverted more than 25 tons of recyclables from the landfill at six home games, and they hope to do much more with the continued cooperation of UA fans.
"Arizona Athletics is proud to partner with our campus sustainability team and is excited to help advance best practices nationally through the Green Sports Alliance," said Greg Byrne, UA athletics director. "We know that taking care of the environment is a passion for our fan base and our campus and we are excited to pursue all options that enhance the recycling efforts and a healthier lifestyle."
Zwaagstra also noted that the UA's Office of Sustainability "plays an integral role in all university sustainability efforts. Through their education, outreach and grant program, we all become more knowledge and better able to assist in the collective goal of greening facilities."
The UA Office of Sustainability also is conducting original research that will advance new standards for assessing and reducing the environmental footprint of large events at the UA, and elsewhere around the world.
Said Abraham: "We're using the 2012 and 2013 UA Homecoming weekends to develop a comprehensive 'cradle-to-grave' framework for assessing and reduce the environmental footprint of so-called mega events with several tens of thousands of attendees. We plan to publish our research next year so the transferable framework can be applied elsewhere."
The assessment has been led by graduate and undergraduate student researchers in the Office of Sustainability with support from Abraham and professors from the College of Engineering and Eller College of Management.
"We have so many fans," Abraham added, "that through these efforts we are able to have a positive impact in the larger community. And we have fun with it, too."Editor: Alexis BlueWriter: Shelley LittinByline: Shelley LittinByline Affiliation: University CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
College students who regularly engage in vigorous exercise get better grades, according to a widely reported study presented at an annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.
That's good news for students at the University of Arizona, which offers myriad opportunities for participation in sports and activities – from team basketball to ultimate Frisbee.
Such activities offer friendly competition, social interaction and the added benefit of a fun way to exercise.
And the UA now boasts a new on-campus recreational venue, the Cherry Street Field, which will be used for a variety of intramural and club sports while also providing drop-in leisure opportunities for the entire campus community.
"I think intramural sports provides students a number of opportunities – a way to fight off the 'freshman 15,' a way to remain active and involved and a great way to meet new people," said Mirum Washington-White, UA senior assistant director of sports for Campus Recreation.
The intramural sports program at Campus Recreation offers activities for students, faculty and staff who want to exercise, develop lifetime interests in quality leisure activities and gain an appreciation of cultural diversity through recreational play.
The campus community has more than 20 options to participate in sports leagues and various tournaments throughout the year.
Men's, women's and co-recreational divisions are offered at three skill levels. League play includes teams formed from classes, through residence halls and campus organizations.
And for individuals new to campus, intramural sports offer an excellent way to make new friends.
Activities include flag football, soccer, volleyball, table tennis, tennis, inner-tube water polo, floor hockey and others. Tournament and social leagues include swimming, basketball, dodge ball, sports trivia and racquetball, among others.
"I truly believe in the old adage that sports are the great equalizer," Washington-White said.
"Participants are going to interact and compete with the people across the field from them, but at the end of the day, whether they won or lost, they're going to shake hands feeling better about themselves and feeling better about meeting someone new," he said.
Cherry Street Field Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Construction of the regulation-sized soccer field, the Cherry Street Field, began in January 2013.
The new facility features a 750-seating capacity, a scoreboard, lighting, sound system and other amenities. Contributing to the UA's commitment to sustainability, the field is irrigated with reclaimed water and uses water retention areas, designed into the landscaping on the north and south ends of the field, to collect runoff.
Also, for the first time, Campus Recreation will be able to offer informal, drop-in participation in an outdoor setting, said Lynn Zwaagstra, director of Campus Recreation.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the field will be held Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. just east of the UA Student Recreation Center, 1400 E. Sixth St.
"Campus recreation is excited to debut the Cherry Street Field as a great new amenity for the campus community," Zwaagstra said. "The addition of this sports field on main campus will add tremendous value to hundreds of student-athletes playing in club sports, and allow many students to participate in intramurals who may not have been able to travel off campus to participate."Editor: Alexis BlueWriter: George HumphreyByline: George HumphreyByline Affiliation: University CommunicationsExtra Info:
For more information about intramural sports, call 520-621-8749 or vsit http://campusrec.arizona.edu/intramurals.Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA campus leadership will host an Aug. 26 ribbon cutting for the Cherry Street Field and Campus Health offers on-campus access for intramural, club sports and drop-in leisure opportunities. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image:
Millions of people suffer from sinus problems, which can be tough to treat. When sinusitis, an inflammation of the nasal sinuses, is chronic, it can be debilitating and life-threatening.
Dr. Alexander Chiu and his team at The University of Arizona Medical Center are specializing in these challenging complex cases, helping the division to earn recognition as one of the nation's top programs.
Out of about 5,000 U.S. hospitals, UAMC was ranked No. 30 in ENT by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals list of 2013-14.
And Chiu, professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in the UA Department of Surgery, was named one of the 2013 Best Doctors in America.
For patient James Dean, 66, the national ranking isn't high enough.
"They should be No. 1," said Dean, who suffered debilitating sinusitis for 15 years before Chiu performed minimally invasive sinus surgery that changed his life.
"I have never had more confidence in a doctor than I did in Dr. Chiu at our first meeting," Dean said. "My headaches are gone. I have my sense of smell back. I sleep better. I work better. Without Dr. Chiu I would still be sniffling and snuffling and on steroids."
Dean developed allergies after he and his family moved to Tucson from Illinois in 1980. He developed polyps, which prevented him from breathing properly.
"My nose was so plugged that my ears would pop when I swallowed," said Dean, a land surveyor. "My nose ran constantly. It got so bad at work I would turn out the lights, close the door and lie down under my desk.”
Steroids shrank the polyps, but they grew back. He tried surgery, but the relief was short-lived. Dean developed sinus infections and headaches that put him out of commission. His community ENT said further surgery was possible, but it would require opening his skull. "I would have had a big old bumpy scar across my forehead."
However, when a pre-surgery scan revealed erosion of the bone between the brain and the sinuses, Dean's doctor sent him to Chiu. The greatest concern was that Dean could suffer from a dangerous complication, such as meningitis.
"Although we think of sinusitis as a fairly benign problem, its location can make it potentially a very serious problem," Chiu said. "Your sinuses are right next to your eyeballs and your brain. You can have a serious eye or brain condition that started with a sinus infection."
Instead of opening his skull, Chiu went through Dean's nose and drilled open his frontal sinus, removing polyps and allowing it to drain. "He is now safe from having an infection in his brain," Chiu said.
Recovery from the three-hour outpatient surgery was fairly simple. Endoscopic surgery, Chiu's specialty, results in no facial scars, less pain and easier recovery.
"The operation was on a Wednesday and by Saturday I was at estate sales," said Dean, who along with Laurie, his wife of 46 years, is an avid collector of artwork by Tucson artists.
He said he feels great and is infection free.
Author of the textbooks, "Atlas of Endoscopic Sinus" and "Skull Base Surgery and Sinonasal Tumor," Chiu is also editor-in-chief of the leading journal on sinus disease, American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy. He came from the University of Pennsylvania three years ago to start the UA's otolaryngology division.
"I was tasked with building something from scratch," Chiu said. "I came in with a very determined plan to make this one of the best programs in the country.
"What I wanted to do was to focus on the tough ENT cases and these tend to focus around head and neck cancer, revision surgeries (surgeries that have been done two and three times) and complex ear surgeries," he added.
Chiu has recruited national experts to the program, which now has seven surgeons. Among them: Dr. Abraham Jacob, director of the UA Ear Institute; and also Dr. Audrey Baker Erman and Dr. Thomas J. Gernon, head and neck cancer experts specializing in reconstructive surgery.
"From life-saving surgeries for head and neck cancer, to advanced treatments for chronic sinus problems, to helping deaf patients regain the ability to hear, our faculty in the Division of Otolaryngology are committed to improving the quality of life in our community and beyond," said Dr. Rainer W.G. Gruessner, professor and the UA Department of Surgery chairman.
And the department is equipped to handle the most difficult cases, including that of Aundrea Aragon who made international headlines in 2012 when Chiu and Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of the Division of Neurosurgery, teamed up to repair cracks in the back wall of Aragon's sphenoid sinus that allowed brain fluid to leak out of her nose. Both also partner to remove brain tumors through the nose.
The department is drawing patients from throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California.
"We have faculty here that can practice anywhere in the country and we are so lucky to have them in Tucson," Chiu said. "We are representative of the new UAMC, which is bringing premier academic medicine to Tucson."Editor: Alexis BlueWriter: Jo Marie GellermanByline: Jo Marie GellermanByline Affiliation: UA Department of SurgeryHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Nationally renowned surgeon Dr. Alexander Chiu and his team are developing methods to better treat sinusitis, an inflammation of the nasal sinuses.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: