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March 5, 2007

Karen Ottemann to discuss ulcer-causing bacteria in winter Synergy Lecture

"Swimming in the stomach: Ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori and disease" is the title of the Winter 2007 Synergy Lecture by Karen Ottemann, associate professor of environmental toxicology. The lecture will take place on Thursday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in the Current Periodicals Room of the Science & Engineering Library. Light refreshments will be available.

Photo of Karen Ottemann

Karen Ottemann

Ottemann's research focuses on the swimming ability of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its relationship to disease. In the past few decades, scientists have discovered that most ulcers are caused by H. pylori. This bacterium has many attributes that allow it to grow in the stomach and cause disease.

Ottemann's lab studies one of these attributes--the ability to swim. H. pylori possesses several motors called flagellae, which it uses to propel itself. It does not swim at random, but navigates toward beneficial compounds and away from harmful ones. Ottemann investigates why H. pylori has this ability and how it helps the microbe infect and cause ulcers. Her lab creates H. pylori mutants that lack the ability to direct their swimming, and the researchers then study how these mutants differ from their normal parents.

Ottemann and her team have discovered that H. pylori hunts down specific nutrients by swimming, and this ability helps it grow. The microbe also uses swimming to get close to the cells that line the stomach, where infection initiates the development of an ulcer.

More information about Ottemann and her research can be found on her web site.

For more information, visit the Synergy Lecture Series web site, or call (831)459-3141.

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