Honored by Royal Swedish Academy
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences the same group that awards
the Nobel Prizes in chemistry, physics and economics has awarded
two NIH grantees the Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis (arthritis in two
or more joints). This prize is only awarded when a special committee recognizes
exceptional scientific progress in this arena. Arthritis and related joint
symptoms affect an estimated 43 million Americans and many more millions
of people around the world.
Dr. Eugene C. Butcher, a pathology professor at Stanford University,
and Dr. Timothy A. Springer, a pathology professor at Harvard Medical
School, will share the $500,000 prize. The award recognizes their
work on the molecular mechanisms involved in the migration of white
blood cells out of blood vessels and into damaged tissue. Such migrating
blood cells can help heal injured tissue, but they can also attack
tissues, as happens in arthritic joints.
Butcher identified a group of proteins called selectins that are located
in the membrane of white blood cells. Selectins bind to carbohydrate
chains on the surface of blood vessels. They regulate the movement
of white blood cells as the cells roll along the blood vessel wall
toward their target tissue. Springer characterized the integrins,
a separate group of adhesion molecules in cell membranes, and demonstrated
the crucial role of these molecules in cellular immunity. Selectins
and integrins interact in a process, described by Butcher, that ultimately
causes the white blood cells to abruptly come to a halt after nearing
the site of injured tissue.
Eugene C. Butcher
Both Butcher and Springer have produced models to reconcile structure-function
relationships of these proteins, and both scientists are applying
their findings to the treatment of conditions including arthritis,
multiple sclerosis and asthma.
Butcher, a long-time NIGMS grantee whose lab is in the Veterans Administration
Palo Alto health care system, also receives support from NIAID and
NHLBI. Springer is funded by NCI and NHLBI.
Dr. Timothy A. Springer
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