Feb. 22, 2000
Contact: Chris Curran


Cincinnati -- The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the nation's oldest and largest scientific societies, honored University of Cincinnati biologist Edna Kaneshiro for being elected to the rank of Fellow.

AAAS has nearly 150,000 members and 285 affiliated organizations, ranging from astrophysics to zoology. Professor Edna Kaneshiro specializes in the study of single-celled organisms known as protists. She was honored for "major scholarly contributions to the field of protozoology ... as well as for excellence in teaching and mentoring and service to her profession."

Since joining the UC faculty in 1972, Kaneshiro has consistently received funding from major federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has built collaborations across UC's East and West campuses and around the world.

Kaneshiro served 10 years as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology (formerly the Journal of Protozoology). She has helped graduate students and post-docs launch careers in medicine, research, and teaching, while continuing her own extensive research studies.

She has studied many different organisms from the simple, free-living Paramecium to the opportunistic pathogen Pneumocystis carinii which can cause pneumonia in AIDS patients and others with weakened immune systems. Other medically significant work focused on the pathogens Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Leishmania. Kaneshiro is known for discovering the unexpected.

"I try to approach my research without any preconceived notions," said Kaneshiro. "I say, 'Organism, speak to me. If I'm a good listener, I will find out some of your secrets.'"

That open-minded, scientific approach has helped Kaneshiro and her research partners make a number of surprising discoveries in protozoology. For example, it was an undergraduate student named Linda Beischel working in her lab who first noticed that the fatty acid composition of Paramecium membranes changed as the culture aged. "From that moment on, all of our studies looked at the effects of culture age. That observation had a very big impact," noted Kaneshiro.

In Pneumocystis, it was the discovery of an important new sterol Kaneshiro named "pneumocysterol" and the absence of a common sterol called "ergosterol" that might best explain what happens when you are prepared for the unexpected.

Traditionalists in the field, including many pharmaceutical researchers, expected to find ergosterol in Pneumocystis, because it's an important building block in most fungi. Pneumocysterol created another stir, because its size was so different from other common sterols.

"That was exciting, but it upset a lot of people," said Kaneshiro, remembering the reaction she received when reporting her data. However, she did finally receive important recognition for her findings. The results on pneumocysterol were published last year in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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