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Two Miller School Faculty Members Elected to Prestigious ASCI Honor Society

4/6/2010

Two Miller School of Medicine physician-scientists have been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the nation's oldest and most respected medical honor societies. Maria Abreu, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, and Myles Wolf, M.D., MMSc., associate professor of medicine, director of the Clinical Research Center and assistant dean for translational and clinical research, will be introduced as new members at the organization's annual meeting on April 23 in Chicago.

Since members must be 45 or younger at the time of their election, ASCI membership generally honors their early-career scientific research accomplishments.
"The ASCI considers the nominations of several hundred physician-scientists from around the world each year, and only elects up to 80 new members, so to have two of those members be from the Miller School is truly an extraordinary accomplishment," said Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. "It is quite an honor for these two faculty members to be recognized for their spectacular research achievements."

Dr. Abreu is considered a leading authority on inflammatory bowel disease and the regulation of receptors that recognize bacteria in intestinal cells. Her current research focus is on intestinal microbes - specifically the innate immune system's reaction to them - and the role they may play in causing colon cancer. Dr. Abreu has conducted groundbreaking research on Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are molecules that alert the immune system to the presence of microbial infections and are normally expressed in the intestine. She's now exploring preliminary data that show a specific receptor, TLR4, is over expressed in many sporadic colon cancers and promotes tumors.

"When I was just starting my research career as a fellow in gastroenterology, I thought of ASCI as a mythical goal that so few could attain," said Dr. Abreu. "I now feel so lucky to be part of this incredible organization. I am also delighted for what it means for the Miller School of Medicine and its strong support of physician-scientists."

Dr. Wolf's seminal work in fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) has helped redefine the understanding of mineral metabolism in kidney disease. Even though much was known about factors that maintain disordered mineral metabolism in advanced kidney disease, his work helped to identify novel initiating factors in early disease and their eventual impact on clinical outcomes. For example, Dr. Wolf showed that increased FGF23, along with a deficiency in vitamin D, are novel risk factors for cardiovascular disease and mortality in patients on dialysis and even those in the general population.

"When I started out in clinical research during my second year as a nephrology fellow, I never even considered the possibility of being elected to ASCI someday," said Dr. Wolf. "I feel truly honored and I am deeply thankful to all my mentors and my nominators for their outstanding guidance, training, patience and support."

New inductees into the ASCI must be nominated by current members of the organization. Marc Lippman, M.D., the Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Miller School, served as the primary nominator for Drs. Abreu and Wolf.

"Dr. Abreu's research focus on inflammatory bowel disease has provided exciting new insights into how aberrant immune responses contribute to disease progression, and her work opens up new possibilities for therapeutic interventions," said Dr. Lippman. "Dr. Wolf is a truly outstanding clinical investigator and his studies hold great promise to significantly reduce the impact of chronic kidney disease."