Five new researchers at UTHCT bring expertise in population genetics, immunology, lung injury, cancer, and aging

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Five new research faculty members who have joined The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler have expertise in scientific areas such as population genetics, immunology, lung injury, cancer biology, and how aging affects the biology of the cell.

“We are very pleased to have recruited five faculty that bring new competitive science to our research program. These investigators all have secured impressive extramural funding, such as National Institute of Health funded grants, to support their research,” said Steven Idell, MD, Ph.D, UTHSCT’s vice president for research.

“They are all strong additions to the UTHSCT research corps, and we are fortunate to have such fine investigators doing their nationally and internationally recognized work here in Tyler,” Dr. Idell said.

Zhenhua Dai, Ph.D., studies immunology. Dr. Dai is investigating the biological mechanisms that determine if a transplanted organ or tissue will be accepted by the recipient’s immune system. At UTHSCT, he is probing why some transplants are rejected and seeking ways to switch off this process. Strategies he’s developing to prevent specific pancreatic cells - called islets -- from being rejected after they are grafted onto another individual’s pancreas could provide a cure for type 1 diabetes through islet transplantation.

Before coming to UTHSCT, Dr. Dai was a research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine for four years. He was a postdoctoral fellow and a research instructor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. In 1995, Dr. Dai was awarded the Ph.D. Scholarship for Excellence from Beijing Medical University in China. His other awards include the American Society of Transportation Council’s 1998 Young Investigator Award and the 1996 Amgen Clinical Research Award.

Pedro Flores-Villanueva, MD, studies population genetics and immunology. In population genetics, researchers analyze the genetic makeup of populations or groups of people. He also conducts research into the genetic variability of the immune system. At UTHSCT, Dr. Flores-Villanueva is investigating why some people develop tuberculosis while others possess an innate ability to control development of the disease. He is examining genetic factors that may make some individuals more susceptible or resistant to TB.

Dr. Flores-Villanueva was an instructor in pathology in the Department of Cancer Immunology & AIDS at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School in Boston before joining the Health Center. The institute is one of the major teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

He earned a master’s in medical science that was fully subsidized by the Scholars in Clinical Science Program at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Flores-Villanueva also has a master’s in immunology and microbiology from the Paulistan School of Medicine of the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru. He was a research postdoctoral fellow in medicine in the Division of Viral Pathogenesis at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and a research postdoctoral fellow in immunology in the Department of Pathology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. In 2000, he was honored with a Bridge Award for outstanding minority faculty from Harvard Medical School Minority Faculty Development Program.

Jian Fu, Ph.D., studies cell biology and injury to the lungs and blood vessels. At UTHSCT, Dr. Fu is exploring inflammation in cells. He is looking at the early stages of inflammation, when white blood cells attach themselves to the interior walls of blood vessels, and how this causes changes in these vessels.

Dr. Fu was a research assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago for two years before joining the Health Center. He was director of the Electrophysiology Lab in the Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, at the University of Chicago. There his research focused on diabetes.

He completed a senior postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Fu received his Ph.D. from the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his focus was cystic fibrosis research.

Rakesh Srivastava, Ph.D., studies cancer biology. At UTHSCT, he is developing new drugs to treat breast and prostate cancer. He hopes to develop new drugs that are both potent and only affect cancer cells. In addition, he is investigating the molecular mechanisms of chemical agents that are active against cancer cells and help prevent their spread.

Before coming to UTHSCT, Dr. Srivastava was an associate faculty member of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Experimental Therapeutic Programs at the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. He also served as an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Maryland. Dr. Srivastava has been a research associate at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Srivastava received his Ph.D. from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and a master’s of science from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s in Canada.

Dongming Su, Ph.D., studies the biology of the cell and how aging affects it. At UTHSCT, he is examining the relationship between the thymus gland and the immune system. The thymus is located behind the breastbone and plays a crucial role in the development of the immune system during childhood.

Dr. Su was an assistant research scientist in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., for three years before coming to the Health Center. He was an assistant research scientist at the Department of Pediatrics and Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the Medical College of Georgia. Dr. Su also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at the Medical College of Georgia. He received his Ph.D. in molecular medicine from the Division of Medical Science Graduate School at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan.

He was awarded a Scholarship for International Peace from Kyushu University in Fukuoka in 1996. In 1994, Dr. Su received a two-year special scholarship for honor study from the Japanese Association of International Education.

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