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Vol. LVIII, No. 1
January 13, 2006

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Kastner Receives ACR Distinguished Investigator Award

Dr. NIAMS's Dr. Daniel Kastner (c) has received the 2005 Distinguished Investigator Award of the American College of Rheumatology. He was presented with the award at the recent ACR annual scientific meeting in San Diego. Shown with him are Dr. Elizabeth Tindall (l), 2005 ACR president, and Dr. Peggy Crow, 2006 ACR president. The Distinguished Investigator Award is given each year to a basic scientist who makes outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology. Kastner was recently appointed to oversee the clinical activities of NIAMS. He is chief of the Genetics and Genomics Branch and has conducted research in the genetics of various diseases including Familial Mediterranean Fever, Neonatal Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease and TNF Receptor-Associated Periodic Syndrome, which his branch helped define.

Plude Named CSR Bio-Behavioral Chief

Dr. Dana Plude was recently named chief of bio-behavioral and behavioral processes at the Center for Scientific Review. He will have responsibility for 8 study sections providing peer reviews of grant applications in the areas of mental disorders, learning, stress, language and aging. Plude had been a scientific review administrator within the group. Before joining CSR in 2002, he was associate professor and associate chair in psychology at the University of Maryland for 17 years. He earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Syracuse University, where he specialized in lifespan development and mental function in the elderly. His basic and applied research centered on aging, selective attention and memory.

NIA's Wang Receives Fanconi Anemia Research Award

Dr. Weidong Wang, a senior investigator in the National Institute on Aging's Laboratory of Genetics, recently received the Award of Merit from the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund (FARF) for his groundbreaking work on the genetic disorder that affects about one in every 300,000 children. Fanconi anemia (FA) leads to bone marrow failure and is associated with birth defects such as missing or extra thumbs and skeletal abnormalities of the hips, spine or ribs.

Wang was recognized for taking FA "from the realm of an orphan disease into the much broader scientific arena of the cancers that affect the non-FA population," according to Mary Ellen Eiler, FARF executive director. The group's board of directors presented the award at the recent FA scientific symposium in Geneva.

NIA's Dr. Weidong Wang (l) receives the Award of Merit from Dave Frohnmayer, founder of the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund.  

Wang's discovery of a new gene FANCM that plays a role in the development of FA could lead to insights into other conditions including ovarian and pancreatic cancers, as well as leukemia. Discovery of this gene and its protein provides a potential target for the development of drugs that can prevent or alleviate FA and a variety of cancers, according to Wang's findings published in the September 2005 journal Nature Genetics. This is the third FA gene and protein combination identified in the last 3 years by Wang and his colleagues.

"FA is a disease that appears to be the result of a breakdown in vital DNA repair mechanisms," Wang said. "Some scientists theorize that DNA damage, which gradually accumulates as we age, leads to malfunctioning genes and deteriorating tissues and organs as well as increased risk of cancer. We believe that this new gene, FANCM, may be a potent cog in the DNA repair machinery. It is possible that we could learn how to promote the function of DNA repair complexes and thereby prevent the age-related accumulation of DNA damage." Wang's work received support from NIA, FARF and the Daniel Ayling Fanconi Anemia Trust.

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