Six researchers at UT Health Science Center at Tyler promoted

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler recently announced the promotions of six biomedical research faculty members. They are: Barbara Brown-Elliott, M.S.; Xiuhua Pang, Ph.D.; Buka Samten, M.D.; Amir Shams, Ph.D.; Rakesh Srivastava, Ph.D.; and Dong-Ming Su, Ph.D.

Brown-Elliott, who came to UTHSCT in 1988, was promoted to research assistant professor of microbiology.

She also is a medical technologist.

Brown-Elliott is supervisor of UTHSCT’s renowned Mycobacteria/Nocardia Lab, which identifies mycobacteria samples sent from all over the world and tests them for susceptibility to antibiotics.

Dr. Pang, who joined UTHSCT in 2004, was named instructor of microbiology and immunology. He is exploring how tuberculosis bacteria genes create corresponding proteins under different conditions of stress.

His research could lead to new and more effective therapies against tuberculosis.

Dr. Samten, who came to UTHSCT in 1998, will assume the position of associate professor of microbiology and immunology, effective Sept. 1.

His research focuses on understanding the human immune response to tuberculosis bacteria.

Dr. Samten is examining why some people are more susceptible to TB, enabling researchers to develop strategies to protect these people from the disease.

Dr. Shams was promoted to associate professor of microbiology and immunology.

He has spent the past two years studying how natural chemicals produced by the body boost the innate immune response and protect the body against the flu virus.

Dr. Shams, who joined UTHSCT in 1999, hopes to harness these natural chemicals and create therapies to help prevent influenza.

Dr. Srivastava was named professor of biochemistry.

He is investigating whether certain slow-acting, nontoxic chemical compounds can help prevent pancreatic cancer.

He also is developing therapies that target and kill only cancer cells.

Dr. Srivastava, who came to UTHSCT in 2005, is exploring how specially designed molecules bind to “death receptors” on the surface of cancer cells and force them to die, leaving normal cells unaffected.

Dr. Su, who joined UTHSCT in 2005, was promoted to associate professor of biochemistry, a position that he will assume Sept. 1.

He is probing the genetics behind the production of T cells – the immune system’s gatekeepers – in the thymus gland. T cells identify bacteria, viruses, and cancerous cells and direct the attack on these disease-causing organisms.

As people age, they produce fewer varieties of T cells, allowing some disease-causing cells to elude the body’s defenses.

Dr. Su wants to keep the thymus producing these infection-fighting T cells throughout a person’s life. His research could lead to therapies that improve the health of older people and help remedy the effects of autoimmune diseases.

For 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatments, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. With an operating budget of more than $125 million and biomedical research funding that exceeds $10 million annually, UTHSCT has a major economic impact on East Texas. Its two medical residency programs – in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities in East Texas and beyond.

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