HOUSTON – June 7, 2011
Dr. Malcolm Brenner and Dr. Margaret Goodell received the annual Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Awards. These awards recognize significant and outstanding research accomplishments by scientists at BCM. The recipients present their work during a seminar at which they receive Excellence in Research medallions. The awards also include unrestricted funds to support their research programs.
The awards are funded by the DeBakey Medical Foundation. Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was a world renowned surgeon and scientist and the first president of Baylor College of Medicine. He died in 2008.
Dr. Malcolm Brenner, director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and The Methodist Hospital and professor of pediatrics and medicine – hematology-oncology. Brenner has developed a method that not only targets the killing power of immune system T-cells against specific antigens or proteins found on tumors, but also insures that the levels of these T-cells remain high long enough to be effective. To do this, in a series of elegant experiments, he has combined the specially developed T-cells with CARs – chimeric antigen receptors – that bind to specific proteins on tumors cells and trigger the killing potential of the T-cells. In a recent experiment, he and his colleagues extended the life of this construct by adding a special stimulatory molecule that increases the numbers of T-cells and their tumor-fighting potential. His methodology has the promise not only to kill tumors cell but also will translate well into actual treatment in the clinic.
Dr. Margaret A. Goodell, director of the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Center and professor in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Department of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics and Pathology & Immunology, is also a two-time recipient, having won the DeBakey award previously in 2004. She has shown that hematopoietic stem cells (blood system cells) are an integral part of the immune system’s response to infection.
In an article in the journal Nature, she showed that these stem cells are stimulated by interferon-gamma to increase their own reproduction so that they can produce immune system cells that are needed to fight the TB organism Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
In a second article in Cell Stem Cell, she and her colleagues showed that not all hematopoietic stem cells are equal and that there are subtypes of these cells that give rise to different kinds of blood cells. She identified the subtype myeloid that gives rise to red blood cells, macrophages (white blood cells that engulf foreign invaders in the blood stream) and lymphoid that gives rise to the body’s immune system. This finding has implications for treatment, indicating that those who would use stem cells in treatment might be more effective if they seek these different subtypes rather than looking for “pure” stem cells.