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Dr. William Gerthoffer, professor and chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently received the Joseph R. Rodarte Award for Scientific Distinction from the Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function of the American Thoracic Society (ATS).
Dr. Gerthoffer will be recognized in May at the 2017 ATS international conference in Washington D.C. “I was surprised and honored by this unexpected award from my scientific peers,” he said. “This award is given by my peers who have all made important discoveries that describe how the lung functions. We are all interested in defining normal lung structure and function and how diseases such as asthma and COPD change the lung.”
Dr. Gerthoffer said receiving this award is a great honor because it is given to researchers who have made important contributions to respiratory physiology and medicine.
During his post-doctoral training at the University of Virginia, he reported the first measurements of myosin light chain phosphorylation in airway smooth muscle correlated with muscle shortening velocity. “Murphy’s ‘latch model’ of smooth muscle contractile system regulation was described in 1982 and I tested the generality of this model in airway, vascular and GI smooth muscle over the next ten years,” he said. “We and others found a number of cases that the model could not explain and I proposed that contraction might also depend on phosphorylation of actin-binding proteins, calponin and caldesmon.”
According to Dr. Gerthoffer, his lab was the first to measure these phosphoproteins in airway smooth muscle and to show the phosphorylation events influenced actin sliding velocity in vitro. They were also the first to describe the function of MAP kinases in airway smooth muscles, which are important enzymes that control expression of inflammatory proteins in many organs, including the airways. “As part of that work, we pioneered the study of airway smooth cell migration, which is thought to occur during lung development and in inflammatory lung diseases,” he said. “To facilitate these studies we developed the first immortalized airway smooth muscles cell lines used by us and others in the field.”
Dr. Gerthoffer said the USA Center for Lung Biology has been an excellent environment to conduct his work in respiratory cell and molecular biology. “The USA College of Medicine and the University as a whole deserve credit for continuing to support the influential work that goes on in labs supported by the center,” he said. “All of the work in my lab was performed over the years by a wonderful group of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scientists and skilled technicians. Their dedication and skilled efforts are really the basis of everything that is being recognized by the Rodarte award.”
In 1974, Dr. Gerthoffer earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology from West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va. He completed post-doctoral training in cardiovascular sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and post-doctoral training in cardiovascular physiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. He has been a member of the ATS since 1997.
The Joseph R. Rodarte Award for Scientific Distinction is in honor of the late Dr. Joe Rodarte, a distinguished member of the American Thoracic Society and the Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function. Learn more about this award here.
To learn more about Dr. Gerthoffer’s research, click here.
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