May 2009

From the President
Take 5
Cover Story
Feature Stories
An ounce of prevention
Patent power
Butterfly dreams
Colley CAN
Paying it forward
Around the Arch
Best of show
UGA and CDC partner to fight disease
Musical treasure hunt leads to a gem
Grammy winner!
Ad research again at top of field
Landscape architecture leads the field
Blast from the past
More honors for Faust
UGA gets its first Howard Hughes award
Terry among top in licensing exams
Yoculan’s last bow
Age is just a number
Equestrian wins again
Athletics funding bolsters academics
Let it snow
UGA honors Dooley
Warnell School gets $6.7 million to study Appalachians
Students get Udall, Goldwater scholarships
“All Pro Dad” program extends to UGA
Watching history unfold
President Emeritus Henry King Stanford dies
Going Green—Sustainapalooza
Going Green—Recyclemainia
Going Green—Recycle to win
Going Green—Clean and green
Going Green—Sustainable recreation
Hold the phone!
UGA gets $8.3 million boost for stem cell research
Uga leaves his “papers” to UGA
Alumni News & Events
2009 Alumni Award Recipients
Letter from the UGA Alumni Association Board President
Alumni chapters
Alumni Profiles
On Broadway
Reviving the craft
Lights, camera, action!
Class Notes
Class Notes
Grad Notes
Class Notes Extras
A bulldog’s view of the inauguration
Alumnus, former GM editor, recovers from war injuries
Dancing with the (Athens) stars
Where are they now?
Why I give
Back Page
Arvin Scott

Colley CAN

UGA professor Dan Colley is leading a global effort to control a debilitating disease that infects 200 million people worldwide

Colley CAN

UGA professor Dan Colley is taking on one of the world's most stubborn parasitic diseases with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Photo by: Andrew Davis Tucker

Halfway into a lecture on a disease that most people haven’t heard about and can barely pronounce, Dan Colley displays a slide titled “The Faces of Schistosomiasis.” It’s pronounced SHIS-toe-SO-my-uh-sis, by the way.)

On the left side is an adolescent boy with a belly so swollen that it looks like he’s pregnant. The real problem is that parasitic worms have been breeding in his bloodstream for so long that their eggs have clogged his liver, causing it and other internal organs to swell. On the right side of the slide is a picture of a dozen elementary school children in a dusty village near Cairo, Egypt. One of them is waving to the camera, and they’re all smiling.

The prevalence of schistoso-miasis in this village is 70 percent, the professor of microbiology tells his audience, many of whom are undergraduates aspiring to be public health workers. “

So 70 percent of those kids have schistosomiasis, and one of them is going to get sick like this kid,” Colley says, motioning to the boy with the distended stomach, “if we don’t treat them.”

These children near Cairo, Egypt, live in a village where 70 percent of the population has a potentially deadly parasitic disease that stunts physical and cognitive growth. UGA professor Dan Colley has spent nearly 40 years searching for ways to curb schistosomiasis for the benefit of these children and 200 million other infected people worldwide. Special photo

Schistosomiasis and other neglected diseases have been at the center of Colley’s professional life for nearly 40 years. Now as director of the UGA Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, he is embarking on what could be his biggest challenge yet.As the principal investigator on an $18.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Colley will be leading an international team of scientists on a quest to reduce dramatically the burden of a disease that currently afflicts 200 million people, most of them in impoverished communities in Africa and South America.

As a young post-doctoral researcher at Yale who studied the immune system on a cellular level, Colley didn’t know what schistosomiasis was when he volunteered to teach an immunology class in Brazil and to work on a project to help control the disease there. In the decades since, he’s become one of the world’s foremost experts on schistosomiasis, regularly traveling the globe to share his insights and to continue a longstanding research project in Kenya. He and his colleagues have found that treating people for schistosomiasis increases the amount of time it takes for them to be rein-fected, suggesting that a protein or multiple proteins in dead or dying worms activates the immune system. Identifying and isolating these proteins may ultimately lead to a vaccine for a disease that kills up to 200,000 people each year, impairs the growth and learning of children, and leaves millions of adults too sick to support their families.

The threadlike parasitic worms that cause schistosomiasis can live in the bloodstream for up to 40 years. Understanding how they evade the immune system for so long could revolutionize organ transplantation by eliminating the need for immunosuppressant drugs. Special photo

Colley also sees benefits of his research closer to home. He explains that understanding how the parasitic worms can live in the blood vessels for decades without triggering an immune response could revolutionize organ transplantation by eliminating the need for immunosuppressant drugs. People with schistosomiasis are less prone to allergies and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and understanding why may shed light on those conditions, too.

The Gates Foundation grant—the largest medical grant in the university’s history—is focused on identifying the most efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way to administer drug treatment to reduce the number of people who are sickened and killed by schistosomiasis and, where possible, to eliminate it entirely.

“Fundamentally, what I care about is understanding this situation well enough to do something about it,” Colley says. “These are real people and they have real lives.”

—Sam Fahmy is the science writer for the UGA News Service.