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UMD-Smith Professor Facilitates, Recounts Davos Summit Discussion on Innovation

February 12, 2013
Contacts: 

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

Anil Gupta in a Davos Summit panel discussionCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Industry icons like Bill Gates, Nobel laureates like economist Dale Mortensen, and other well-known thinkers such as Nouriel Rubini gathered recently for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at the Davos mountain resort near Zurich, Switzerland.

Among other global leaders invited to the 2013 event themed "resilient dynamism" was University of Maryland business professor Anil Gupta, who participated in the summit's mission to "catalyze and facilitate global, regional and industry transformation."

Gupta, the Michael D. Dingman Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship for UMD's Robert H Smith School of Business, facilitated panel discussions covering "Policy and Practice for the Age of Talent" and "Building National Innovation Capacity."

In the former session, he joined Nobel Laureate Mortensen and the CEOs of Heidrick & Struggles and Egon Zehnder as a discussion leader on the topic of how governments and businesses can build human capital.

Respected economist Nouriel Rubini (right), takes a break with Anil Gupta during summit proceedingsIn the latter session, he served as a chair and moderator to facilitate a discussion on what governments and businesses can do to build national innovation capacity. Other panelists in this session included Malaysia's Minister of Science and Technology, the Governor of Colorado, the Dean of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and the COO of Telefonica, one of the world's largest telecom operators. This session was rooted in the premise that "innovation increases the productivity of labor and capital and is the single-most important driver of long-run economic growth."

While every country hopes to thrive and create wealth through innovation, "it is not at all easy to become or remain an innovation power," says Gupta. "Just look at pharmaceuticals. In 1980, Europe was far ahead of the United States in pharmaceutical R&D. Today, the picture is exactly the opposite."

Gupta noted that the panelists outlined the following as the "main ingredients" for building innovation capacity at the national level:

  • Focus: "Except for large economies like the United States, China or India, no country can afford to aim for technological leadership across all sectors. Nations should focus on areas where they hold unique advantages."
  • Investment in R&D: "Nations must spend more than the global average of about 2 percent of GDP on R&D in order to excel at technological innovation. An example is South Korea, which spends more than 3% of its GDP on R&D.
  • Strong Educational System: "South Korea again stands out as an exemplar with its very strong higher education system."

Gupta, a regular columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek, has presented at the Economist magazine's annual Emerging Markets Summits for the last two years. He'll also speak at the Global Entrepolis in Singapore in fall 2013 and at the forthcoming World Economic Forum summits in India ("India Economic Forum") and China ("Summer Davos"). For the latter, he moderated an agenda-setting session at Davos with the likes of IMF Chief Economist Min Zhu.

In addition to Gates, Zhu, Rubini and political leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, other participating notables among the 2013 summit's 2,500 invitees included Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and about 100 academics ranging from scientists to economists and business professors. "It was a delight for me to represent the Smith School and The University of Maryland at College Park," Gupta said.

About the Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

UMD Selected as Host Site for National Digital Stewardship Residency

February 11, 2013
Contacts: 

Eric Bartheld, UMD, 301-314-0964

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has been selected by the Library of Congress to serve as an elite training ground in a new residency program for professionals who work with digital collections.
 
As one of 10 host sites for the National Digital Stewardship Residency program, the university joins other institutions in the Washington, D.C., area, including the Folger Shakespeare Library, The National Library of Medicine, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
 
The University Libraries and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) will partner to offer the nine-month residency which begins in September 2013. 
 
"This honor shows not only the maturity of our partnership, but also our value to the national library community," says Patricia Steele, dean of University of Maryland Libraries. "We're proud to share our expertise in this innovative program that's helping to define the future of libraries."
 
Joanne Archer, a special collections librarian who will help train residents, is pictured in the offices of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the HumanitiesThe residency program aims to advance the nation's capabilities in managing, preserving and making accessible the digital record of human achievement. At Maryland, the focus will be on "born-digital" materials, or materials that are electronic in form from inception and often cannot easily be recreated in print form.  Email, images from digital cameras, word processing documents and video games are examples of material that would be considered "born-digital."
 
The survival of such collections depends on their discoverability, accessibility, and usability by diverse constituencies. As more institutions add born-digital materials to their collections, they will need individuals capable of developing and implementing policies and access models where none existed previously.
 
The University of Maryland will help provide the necessary background to articulate issues surrounding access of born-digital archival collections and the expertise to provide solutions. The resident will contribute important research and be well positioned to provide leadership on issues that librarians and archivists will confront in the coming years.
 
Matt Kirschenbaum, associate director of MITH and associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland, and Joanne Archer, special collections librarian at the University of Maryland Libraries, along with staff from MITH, the Human-Computer Interaction Lab of the University of Maryland iSchool, and the University of Maryland Libraries will work with the resident to gain experience with reference models, user-centered design, and prototyping.
 
The National Digital Stewardship Residency is a new program created by the Library of Congress in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) is a leading digital humanities center that pursues disciplinary innovation and institutional transformation through applied research, public programming, and educational opportunities. MITH has been a partner and MITH directors have served as PI or co-PI for a range of projects on born-digital cultural heritage, digital forensics, digital curation, and the preservation of computer games, interactive literature, and virtual worlds.
 
The University of Maryland Libraries conduct a broad range of digital projects including digitization of materials from the UMD Libraries' special collections and archives as well as digital preservation programs and planning. The Libraries take an active part in usability analysis and design activities pertaining to accessibility and findability of our digital collections and our Web content.  For a complete list of past and ongoing projects, please consult http://digital.lib.umd.edu.

New UMD-VCU Regional News Service to Focus on Maryland, Virginia and DC

February 11, 2013
Contacts: 

Rafael Lorente, UMD, 202-841-2375                           
Jeff South, VCU, 804-827-0253

UMD CNS reporter Jeremy Barr interviews Jesse Jackson at President Barack Obama's 2013 inauguration.COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Philip Merrill College of Journalism's Capital News Service at the University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University's Capital News Service are creating a collaborative, regional news service bringing together several dozen reporters across multiple platforms in bureaus in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

VCU senior Paige Baxter writes a story for VCU's Capital News ServiceThis week, the two student-run, professionally edited news organizations, with bureaus in Washington, Richmond, Annapolis and College Park, will begin sharing and distributing each other's stories and multimedia. The two news organizations also plan to work together on issues of importance to Maryland, Virginia and the District, including the Chesapeake Bay, transportation, economic development, immigration and education.

This unique collaborative effort between student-staffed news organizations will deliver public policy news and analysis to the citizens of Maryland and Virginia in multiple formats via partner news organizations, destination websites, a nightly on-air television newscast and affiliated social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook.

Philip Merrill College of JournalismFounded in 1990, the Philip Merrill College of Journalism's Capital News Service covers public policy news throughout Maryland. Capital News Service reporters have won numerous awards for their Maryland reporting, including the Society of Professional Journalists' Mark of Excellence Awards, the Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards Program and student Emmys. They've covered national political conventions, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and other national stories. Capital News Service clients include The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, WTOP Radio and many of the daily, weekly and monthly newspapers in Maryland.

VCU School of Mass CommunicationsThe Capital News Service at Virginia Commonwealth University was founded in 1994. It serves more than 90 newspapers and news websites across Virginia, ranging from metro dailies like the Daily Press of Newport News to online start-ups such as the Patch community sites in Northern Virginia.  VCU's Capital News Service program has won several awards in college journalism competitions, such as the Hearst Foundation's Journalism Awards Program and the Society of Professional Journalists' Mark of Excellence contest. The program also uses various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr, and it produces a weekly radio program in conjunction with VCU's student radio station, WVCW.

About University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. Ranked No. 19 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report, it has 27 academic programs in the U.S News Top 10 and 71 in the Top 25. The Institute of Higher Education (Jiao Tong University, Shanghai), which ranks the world's top universities based on research, puts Maryland at No. 38 in the world and No. 13 among U.S. public universities. For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Maryland ranked in the top 10 of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine's list of Best Values in Public Colleges for 2012-13. The university has produced six Nobel laureates and seven Pulitzer Prize winners and includes scores of Fulbright scholars and nearly 50 members of the national academies. The university is making entrepreneurship and innovation one of its signature features and is also recognized for its commitment to diversity. For more information about the University of Maryland, visit www.umd.edu.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 222 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-six of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU's 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation's leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

Maryland Named Top 25 Peace Corps Recruiter

February 8, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

Peace Corps Top Colleges LogoCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has been ranked 24th in the Peace Corps' annual list of the 25 top volunteer-producing colleges in the large school category—with 53 undergraduate alumni currently serving as volunteers overseas.  Since the Peace Corps' inception, 1,144 UMD alumni have served, making it the 27th highest volunteer-producing university of all time.

"I fell in love with serving others at Maryland," said Jackie Iloh '07 who is a youth development volunteer in the Dominican Republic. "I would recommend the Peace Corps to Maryland seniors because it is literally an extension of our President's Promise initiative. With the Peace Corps, you will receive a living-learning experience unlike any other, the international experience of a life time, amazing leadership experiences and opportunities for personal development, and an amazing service learning experience where you will undoubtedly gain so much more than you thought possible."

"Every year, graduates of colleges and universities across the United States are making a difference in communities overseas through Peace Corps service," said Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. "As a result of the top-notch education they receive, these graduates are well prepared for the challenge of international service. They become leaders in their host communities and carry the spirit of service and leadership back with them when they return home."

Molly Douglas, the University's campus recruiter and a returned Peace Corps volunteer, hosts various information sessions on campus.  Douglas can be reached directly at 202-692-1051 or mdouglas@peacecorps.gov. For the full list of recruitment events at Maryland, click here.

The full list of colleges and universities on the Peace Corps' Top College list is available here.

About the Peace Corps
Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency's mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/ for more information.

University of Maryland joins Library Publishing Coalition

February 8, 2013
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076

Library Publishing CoalitionCOLLEGE PARK, Md - The University of Maryland, in collaboration with more than 50 other academic libraries and the Educopia Institute, has joined a two-year project (2013-2014) to create the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC). The project emerged from conversations between Purdue University, the University of North Texas and Virginia Tech regarding the need for a community dedicated to advancing the field of library publishing. Maryland will play an integral role in the design and implementation of the LPC as a contributing institution.

Academic libraries and the researchers and organizations they support are facing a new paradigm in scholarly publishing. The web, information and social media technologies, and the Open Source and Open Access movements are changing the framework in which scholarship is created, collected, organized, and disseminated. Yet, as shown by the highly regarded, IMLS-funded Strategies for Success project, library-based publishing groups lack a central space where they can meet, work together, share information and confront common issues.

Through seed support from Educopia and participating institutions, the LPC project will engage practitioners to design a collaborative network that intentionally addresses and supports an evolving, distributed, and diverse range of library production and publishing practices.

More information and a full list of participating institutions are available on the project website, http://www.educopia.org/programs/lpc.

About Educopia
The Educopia Institute serves and advances the well-being of libraries, information/research centers, and their parent institutions by fostering the advancement of shared information systems and infrastructures. Educopia acts as a catalyst to assist and advise libraries and other closely affiliated cultural memory institutions in the creation of new digital means of preserving and providing access to scholarly communication and the cultural record in socially responsible ways.

UMD and ManTech Announce Partnership for Advanced Cybersecurity Research

February 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

Two-year partnership will focus on cybersecurity, including systems engineering and full spectrum computer network operations

ManTech International CorporationCOLLEGE PARK AND HANOVER MD.— The University of Maryland and ManTech International Corporation (ManTech) today announced a two-year partnership to pursue advanced research in cybersecurity, including systems engineering and full spectrum computer network operations. Maryland and ManTech will engage students and faculty in a comprehensive research effort that explores ways to apply advanced cybersecurity techniques to evolving technologies associated with cloud computing and other developing trends, as well as emerging threats.

ManTech's participation in the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) Corporate Partners Program will provide four undergraduate ManTech Cybersecurity Scholarships each year.  ManTech is also joining the Associate Partners Program at the Clark School of Engineering's Institute for Systems Research (ISR), which will provide two scholarships per year for M.S. in Systems Engineering students and opportunities for mentorship in ISR's capstone systems engineering courses.

"We are very excited about working with UMD to explore new ideas, techniques and practices in the field of cybersecurity," said H. Christopher Goodrich, senior vice president of ManTech's Mission, Cyber & Intelligence Solutions, SIGINT Solutions and Cyber Operations Business Unit.  "UMD has the talent and resources to bring new perspectives that will undoubtedly result in new ways to advance cybersecurity as emerging technologies continue to develop."

MC2 is jointly supported by Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (CMNS) and the A. James Clark School of Engineering. ISR is a permanent institute of the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

"This partnership with ManTech is truly special, providing a wonderful opportunity for our undergraduates and preparing them for the cybersecurity workforce," said Dr. Jayanth Banavar, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

"We believe this partnership will offer significant, long-term benefits for both of our organizations," added dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering Dr. Darryll Pines.  "We look forward to developing close collaborations with ManTech in cybersecurity and systems engineering, and to rewarding opportunities for our faculty and students."

About ManTech
ManTech is a leading provider of innovative technologies and solutions for mission-critical national security programs for the intelligence community; the Department of Defense, including its health organizations; the departments of State, Homeland Security, Energy and Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the space community; and other U.S. federal government customers. We provide support to critical national security programs for approximately 60 federal agencies through approximately 1,000 current contracts. ManTech's expertise includes command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) lifecycle support; cyber security; global logistics support; intelligence/counter-intelligence support; information technology (IT) modernization and sustainment; systems engineering; test and evaluation; and health IT. ManTech supports major national missions, such as military readiness, terrorist threat detection, information security and border protection. Additional information on ManTech can be found at www.mantech.com.

UMD Named 2013 Best Value College by Princeton Review

February 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

2013 Best Value CollegesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been named a Best Value College for 2013 by the Princeton Review.  The list, recognizing 75 public and 75 private colleges, ranks selected schools based on a wide range of criteria—from academics to cost of attendance to financial aid. Maryland was recognized by the Princeton Review for its comprehensive aid program, wide selection of merit-based scholarships, living-and-learning communities and top-notch honors program.

"The University of Maryland—College Park is a big school. There are many different people from various backgrounds, as well as numerous student organizations on campus. Some incoming freshmen might find this intimidating, but thanks to the university’s system of living-and-learning communities, which allows students with similar academic interests to live in the same residential community, take specialized courses, and perform research; this campus of almost 27,000 can feel a lot smaller and more intimate than it actually is," says the book's publishers.

The list features 150 institutions -- ranking the top 10 public and private colleges and listing the remaining 65 in each group unranked and in alphabetical order. To generate the rankings, the Princeton Review examined more than 30 factors using data from the Company's 2011-2012 surveys of administrators and students at 650 colleges with strong academic programs.

Read the University of Maryland's profile here.

Documentary by UMD Professor Emeritus to Premiere on Maryland Public Television

February 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Faith Wachter, Maryland Public Television, 410-581-4031

Alana Carchedi, UMD, 301-405-0235

Kiplin HallCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – For 25 years, students from the University of Maryland have gone to England to assist with the restoration of Kiplin Hall, a 17th century manor house known as the birthplace of Maryland.  George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, built Kiplin Hall in the 1620s and his related families lived in it until 1971.

In March 2012, David Fogle, professor emeritus of the university's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Ken Day, executive producer for Maryland Public Television, received a grant to create a documentary of the historic house, its restoration, student work and related events.

Kiplin HallAlmost one year later, the documentary—Kiplin Hall: Birthplace of Maryland—will premiere on Maryland Public Television. The documentary gives viewers a tour of the historic property and shows how it has impacted the state of Maryland and how the enthusiasm of a group of college students, under the guidance of an impassioned professor, can produce results that few would have imagined.  And when one considers that it was a Calvert descendant in Maryland who started an agricultural school that would eventually become the University of Maryland, the cycle becomes complete.

Kiplin Hall: Birthplace of Maryland premieres at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 on Maryland Public Television. The documentary will repeat at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10 on MPT 2 and at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14 on MPT1.

A Black History Month Interview with Archivist Anne Turkos

February 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini 304-405-4076

Anne TurkosUniversity Communications originally posted this interview with UMD Archivist Anne Turkos in 2008. We've asked her to take another look and have updated it for 2013 as we look forward to another Black History Month.

 

 

 

Q – What can you tell the University of Maryland community about the early days of Maryland Agricultural College and African Americans?

Any question we receive in the University Archives about the early history of the Maryland Agricultural College is always challenging. 

Very few college records exist from this period of time; they have either disappeared over the years or were destroyed in the fire that swept through the college's administration and Barracks buildings in 1912. We also have very little documentation from the college's founder, Charles Benedict Calvert, just a letter or short note here and there. The role of African Americans in the early history of the Maryland Agricultural College is particularly unclear, and a group of undergraduate students, under the direction of professor of history Dr. Ira Berlin, sought to clarify this.  They examined census records and published accounts of the college's construction and funding, among many other documents, and the report "Knowing Our History," produced in 2009, was the result. Many people believe that Calvert lent his slaves to the college to help erect the first buildings, but we have not been able to confirm this to date. We do know that African Americans were employed on campus later in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries, particularly in the college kitchen.

Q - Talk about the first African Americans to enroll at Maryland, and why the university is considered to have been a leader in integration.

Hiram WhittleThe first African American students enrolled in the University of Maryland in the late 1940s and early 1950s, well in advance of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that many regard as the beginnings of desegregation of education nationwide. The first black students, Myrtle Holmes Wake, John Francis Davis and Rose Shockley Wiseman, enrolled in 1948 and took graduate-level education courses through the university. They did not attend classes on campus, however, receiving all of their instruction at sites beyond College Park. The first time they were ever on campus was their graduation day in June 1951, a truly amazing story. Our first African American undergraduate student, Hiram Whittle, enrolled the semester that Wake, Davis, and Wiseman graduated. Whittle, an engineering student, transferred before completing his degree, however.

Hiram Whittle and classMany people are also not aware that the University of Maryland had a leadership role in the integration of athletics in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Terrapins broke the color barrier in football (Darryl Hill, 1963), track (Elmore Hunter, 1965), swimming (John Williams, 1964-1965), and men's basketball (Billy Jones, 1965).

 

Q - The University of Maryland has many distinguished African American alumni. Can you tell me a little bit about them?

Many of our African American students have had very distinguished careers after graduating from the university. Several have even been recognized in our Alumni Hall of Fame, including Manning Marable, a leading authority on African American history; Renaldo Nehemiah, track star, U.S. Olympian, and professional football player; Leonard Elmore, lawyer, professional basketball player, and television sports commentator; Carmen Balthrop, opera singer; Evelyn Pasteur Valentine, distinguished educator and founder of the Pasteur Center for Strategic Management; and Parren Mitchell, civil rights activist and U.S. Congressman. Other African American alumni of note include Dominique Dawes, Olympic gymnast; Vashti McKenzie, the first woman to be elected bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Cedric Dent and Delious Kennedy, Grammy-winning recording artists; Aaron McGruder, nationally known cartoonist; and numerous athletes who have been successful in the pro ranks, such as Torrey Smith, John Lucas, Vicky Bullett, Vernon Davis and Walt Williams.

Q - Maryland was also a leader in bringing African Americans to campus as faculty members - and we have some world-renowned faculty today.

Our first African American full professor was M. Lucia James, who taught in the College of Education from 1965 to 1977. Dr. James led the way for many distinguished faculty who call the university home today, for example: Sylvester James Gates, internationally renowned and award-winning physicist who was just awarded the National Medal of Science; David Driskell, leading authority on African American art and distinguished artist in his own right; and Carmen Balthrop, an internationally recognized opera singer.

Q - A lot of our students chose Maryland because of its diversity - they see the fact that the university is multi-cultural as a real strength. It says a lot about how far we've come since the founding of the university in 1856.

The University of Maryland has worked very hard to create a diverse campus community that is respectful of all people, no matter the color of their skin, their ethnic or religious background or their personal beliefs. And the changes have been very visible and very dramatic. 

Over the last 157 years, we have grown from a student body of 34 white males, who enrolled in October 1859 when the Maryland Agricultural College opened its doors, to a student body of more than 36,000 students, 12,299 of them (as of fall 2012) persons of color. Nearly half the student body now is female. Our students come from all 50 states and nearly 130 foreign countries, not just from Missouri, North and South Carolina, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, as our first students did. A University of Maryland student in 2013 has the chance to learn about so many different cultures and points of view from everyone he or she meets on campus. And Dr. Loh's emphasis on each student having an international experience before graduating only adds enormous value to the diversity we enjoy right here in College Park . We are very fortunate to be part of this multi-cultural environment, and I hope that all members of our campus community can take advantage of the opportunities such an environment offers.

Additional Africa and African American experts at the University of Maryland can be found here.

UMD Scientists Discover Protein that Enables Safe Recycling of Iron from Old Red Blood Cells

February 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Offers promise of new treatments for iron deficiency and parasitic worm infections

Human heme recycling: Microscopic image of a macrophage digesting worn-out red blood cells. The blue is the nucleus of the macrophage. The red within the macrophage is HRG 1 protein molecules (highlighted by HRG1 antibodies containing red dye).  The circle of red shows HRG1I proteins surrounding a red cell and ready to take its iron-containing heme.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Humans survive by constantly recycling iron, a metal that is an essential component of red blood cells, but which is toxic outside of those cells. More than 90 percent of the iron in an adult human's 25 trillion life-sustaining red blood cells is recycled from worn-out cells.

Almost 50 years ago scientists first began hypothesizing that our bodies must have a special protein 'container' to safely transport heme -- the form of iron found in living things – during the breakdown and recycling of old red blood cells and other types of heme metabolism. Now a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Utah School of Medicine have identified this long-sought heme-iron transporter and shown that it is the same HRG1 protein that a common microscopic worm, C. elegans, uses to transport heme. In humans, the iron in heme is the component that allows hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry the oxygen needed for life.

The team's findings are based on studies in human, mouse, zebrafish and yeast systems and are published in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

Adult worms are aligned to form the chemical structure of heme, for delivery to a stylized embryo, superimposed over a scanning electron micrograph of an adult nematode. The image is courtesy of David Hall and Iqbal Hamza. Artwork by Chris Crocker”. "Our current work reveals that the long-sought heme transporter that permits humans to recycle over 5 million red blood cells per second in our spleen and liver, is the same HRG1 transporter protein that my students and I discovered in worms in 2008, and which we showed at that time is used by C. elegans to safely carry heme-iron that it obtains from dirt into its intestine," says team leader and corresponding author Iqbal Hamza., a University of Maryland associate professor in the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences.

"Moreover, we show in this current study that mutations in the gene for HRG1 can be a causative agent for genetic disorders of iron metabolism in humans," he says.

First author Carine White, a UMD post-doctoral researcher and three other students from his lab joined Hamza in the research, along with researchers from Harvard, NIH and Utah.

This study's findings are the third major piece that Hamza and his Maryland lab have added to the puzzle of understanding how humans and other organisms safely move heme around in the body. In addition to their two studies showing the role of the HRG1, that Hamza showed in a 2011 Cell paper that in C. elegans there is a different, but related, protein called HRG3 that transports heme from the mother worm's intestine to her developing embryos.

According to Hamza, the HRG3-mediated pathway that worms use for transporting heme to developing oocytes also appears to be an excellent target for stopping the reproduction of hookworms and other parasites that feed on host red blood cell hemoglobin. Together these three findings could lead to new methods for treating two age-old scourges - parasitic worm infections, which affect more than a quarter of the world's population, and problems of iron metabolism and iron deficiency. The latter is the world's number one nutritional disorder. With the help of UMD's Office of Technology Commercialization and the university's Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, Hamza has started a company, Rakta Therapeutics, Inc. that focuses on developing anti-parasitic drugs that specifically target the parasite's variation of HRG1 and HRG3 transporters.

Heme, Humans and Bloodless worms
In living organisms -- ranging from humans to baker's yeast -- iron enclosed in a heme cage is a critical molecule for health because it binds to oxygen and other gases needed for survival. However, because heme is toxic, scientists long ago started searching for the existence of proteins that could safely transport heme between cells and throughout the body.

However, identifying such proteins has been a very difficult task because organisms generate heme in a complicated eight-step process that is hard to control for in studies of heme transport pathways.

Hamza first started trying to uncover the secrets of heme transport in 2003. After  briefly and unsuccessfully studying the question of heme carrying proteins in traditional bacteria and mice models, Hamza switched to a non-intuitive study subject, one that doesn't make heme, but needs it to survive, that doesn't even have blood, but shares a number of genes with humans - the C. elegans roundworm. C. elegans gets heme by eating bacteria in the soil where it lives. "C. elegans consumes heme and transports it into the intestine.

According to Hamza, C. elegans has had several other benefits for studying heme transport. Hamza's team had control of the amount of heme the worms were eating. With only one valve controlling the heme transport, the scientists knew exactly where heme was entering the worm's intestine, where, as in humans, it is absorbed.

Moreover, C. elegans is transparent, so that under the microscope researchers could see the movement of the heme ingested by a live animal. 

 

"HRG1 Is Essential for Heme Transport from the Phagolysosome of Macrophages during Erythrophagocytosis," Cell Metabolism, Feb. 5, 2013.

Scientist Contact:  Iqbal Hamza, Ph.D., associate professor, University of Maryland, College Park; Phone: 301-405-0649; Email: hamza@umd.edu

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