March 26, 1999
Volume XXXII No. 12

Cancer-aging scientist Vijg
recruited from Harvard Medical School

Dr. Vijg

Jan Vijg, Ph.D., an internationally respected expert in the molecular genetics of aging and cancer, joined the Health Science Center and the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) in December. His titles are professor in the Department of Physiology and director of basic research at the CTRC's Institute for Drug Development.

The Dutch-born scientist left associate professor and section director positions in the Harvard Medical School to join the San Antonio institutions. His arrival bolsters an already strong molecular genetics program in aging and cancer at the Health Science Center.

Aging focus
Winner of the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award from The Gerontological Society of America in 1994, Dr. Vijg has already joined other faculty conducting research under the umbrella of the university's Aging Research & Education Center (AREC).

"We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Jan Vijg's caliber in San Antonio," said Dr. Arlan Richardson, director of the AREC, professor of physiology and VA Career Scientist. "He is a leader not only in aging but also in the area of cancer. He is particularly recognized for his innovative use of transgenic animals in studying aging and cancer."

Ten years ago Dr. Vijg and his colleagues published the first of a series of articles on transgenic mice--animals that are altered to express genes for study of various states related to heredity or disease. "The mouse models allowed us and everybody else to quantify and characterize gene mutations in different organs and tissues of an animal," Dr. Vijg said. "When we published the first of a series of articles about this novel type of model in 1989, this was really the first time you could look directly at the DNA mutations that might give rise to a tumor much later in that very tissue."

Tests of hypotheses
The model, or variants of it, now is generally used to test the hypothesis that tumors are inherently genetically unstable, and also the idea that aging is caused by a slow accumulation of mutations in different organs and tissues, Dr. Vijg said.

"Recruiting Dr. Vijg to San Antonio was a real coup," said Dr. Charles Coltman, professor of medicine and president and chief executive officer of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center. "He is an expert in the molecular biology of aging and brings new genetic methodology to San Antonio."

"Getting Jan was important," Dr. Richardson added, "because it has gained us recognition at the national and international levels because of Jan's sterling reputation."

NIA program project
Dr. Vijg brings a multimillion-dollar National Institute on Aging program project to study the role of DNA repair in aging. DNA is the genetic blueprint found in the nucleus of every living cell.

"He recently helped organize a Keystone Symposium on Aging, one of the top international meetings in the field," Dr. Richardson said. "In the last few years, he has had several articles published in Nature, one of the top journals in the biomedical sciences."

Dr. Vijg's arrival is a giant step toward development of a top-flight geriatric oncology program, Dr. Richardson said.

Born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Dr. Vijg earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the State University of Leiden. He completed his Ph.D. in 1987.

From 1987 to 1990, he served as molecular biology department head at the TNO Institute for Experimental Gerontology in Rijswijk, The Netherlands. In 1990 Dr. Vijg founded a biotechnology company, Ingeny, and agreed to serve as its scientific director for three years.

Through another agreement, he was recruited to the Harvard Medical School in 1993 as associate professor of med-icine and section director of molecular genetics at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston.

Shock Center director
"He was the director of the Nathan Shock Center at Harvard and he is co-director of our Shock Center," said Dr. Richardson, the other co-director. "Our goal is to be designated a Pepper Center on Aging and Cancer, as funded by the National Institute on Aging. It would be more clinically oriented than the Nathan Shock Center, which focuses on the basic mechanisms of aging. We are optimistic and hopeful than Jan will be involved in putting together a proposal for a Pepper Center."

The Pepper Centers are named for the late Claude Pepper, longtime U.S. representative and senator from Florida.

Naples takes reins as chairman of Department of Anesthesiology

Dr. Naples

Joseph J. Naples, M.D., is the new chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Health Science Center. He succeeded R. Brian Smith, M.D., as chairman in January.

A member of the anesthesiology faculty since 1990, Dr. Naples is known for his work in cardiothoracic anesthesia and transplantation anesthesia, both busy areas of surgery for Health Science Center faculty.

Dr. Naples has served as chief of surgical services at University Hospital since 1996 and director of anesthesia there since 1991. He is a member of the attending staff of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie Murphy Division. He is certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, is a Fellow of the American College of Anesthesiologists, and holds certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology and National Board of Medical Examiners.

He was listed, by peer selection, in The Best Doctors in America: Central Region, 1996-97, and is an honorary member of The Aust Society.

Dr. Naples inherits a well-rounded Department of Anesthesiology. "We pride ourselves on providing subspecialty coverage in the various areas of anesthesia, including pain management, anesthesia critical care, and pediatric, obstetrical, neurosurgical, cardiothoracic and transplantation anesthesia," he said.

He credits Dr. Smith, who has been at the Health Science Center for 20 years, with being "an outstanding leader." Dr. Smith remains in the department working in the hyperbaric therapy area he helped develop, and plans to retire this summer.

Dr. Naples received his M.D. from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in 1969. His pre-medical bachelor's degree was completed at Youngstown (Ohio) State University in 1965. He returned to Youngstown in 1969 for his rotating internship and anesthesia residency.

Dr. Naples served two years in the U.S. Air Force as chief of anesthesia at Shaw Air Force Base Hospital, Sumter, S.C., from 1972 to 1974. He was anesthesia assistant chief/service chief for Baylor College of Medicine's Fondren Brown Cardiovascular Unit at The Methodist Hospital, Houston, from 1980 to 1990, and led the anesthesia team during that institution's initial liver and lung transplantation procedures.

Under Dr. Naples' leadership, the Department of Anesthesiology will continue to provide service that helps the Health Science Center become a more-recognized center of excellence in various areas: transplantation; lung, liver, pancreas and kidney surgery; cancer surgery; and laparoscopic and other minimally invasive surgery. "I think we already are a center of excellence for pediatric heart surgery," he said, "but I would like to see us develop a reputation on the national and international scenes as the place to go for treatment and care. It promotes our institution, and anesthesia can play a part."

Dr. Naples' busy schedule includes teaching medical students and residents, dental students and nursing students. Throughout the year, he provides operating room clinical teaching to medical students and residents.

He has authored or co-authored more than 30 publications including book chapters, papers and abstracts. Co-investigator on several grants, his research interests are:

Dr. Naples' wife of 33 years, Roberta, is a nurse (non practicing) who is active in the Bexar County Medical Society Alliance. The Naples have three children, Joseph Naples III, an attorney in Houston; Jason, an MS-III at the Health Science Center; and Jennifer, a graduate student in nutrition at The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

At press time, son Joe and his wife Elaine were expecting the Naples' first grandchild with a March 29 due date.

Hearts for science

Future Scientists

(Left to right) Ray Montes de Oca, Vanessa Moreno, Mercy Edionwe and Jennifer Aguilar from the Rio Grande Valley examine a heart model in a Health Science Center laboratory during a recent visit of participants and leaders from the MED-ED Program. Ninety-three students, including these teens, are enrolled in the program from high schools throughout the Valley. MED-ED, established in 1996 and coordinated by Yvonne May-Kautsch, provides educational programming for students with interest in the biosciences. About 450 students have already completed the program, and 90 percent of them have gone on to college with majors in the biosciences. MED-ED is one of many programs that foster the educational "pipeline" of young South Texans from their high schools to careers as physicians, nurses, dentists, allied health professionals, basic scientists and other people in the biosciences.


Making the Rounds

Dental Science Symposium March 29

Faculty and students will present cutting-edge research in dentistry during the 17th Annual Dental Science Symposium, set for Monday, March 29. Everyone is invited.

The program will consist of oral presentations from 12:15 to 3:30 p.m. in room 2.024 (near the Briscoe Library), and poster presentations and table clinics from 12:30 to 6 p.m. in the lecture hall foyer near the library.

At 4 p.m. in lecture hall 3.102B, invited speaker Dr. Ricardo Martinez will discuss "Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research in the 21st Century." Dr. Martinez is the director of extramural programs for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A reception will follow in the lecture hall foyer. Students will be recognized for the top oral and poster presentations in pre-doctoral and post-doctoral categories. For more information, call ext. 3381.

Miles for Smiles Poster Contest continues

Miles for Smiles, the Dental School's annual run/walk to benefit dental programs, was postponed this spring, but the Miles for Smiles Poster Contest is still on. The deadline for submitting entries is just around the corner.

The poster contest is a separate event from the race but promotes the same programs: fluoride rinses for schoolchildren and athletic mouthguard days.

Stop by the Dental Dean's Office for poster entry guidelines or call ext. 3162 for more details. The deadline for sub-mitting an original Miles for Smiles design is 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 30.

The $100 award for first place, $50 award for second place and $25 award for third place will be presented Friday, April 2.

Index of issues

THE NEWS is published Fridays by the Office of Public Affairs for faculty and staff of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Vice President for University Relations.....Judy Petty Wolf
Director of Public Affairs.....Dr. Charles Rodriguez
Editor.....Will Sansom
Writers.....Myong Covert, Catherine Duncan, Joanne Shaw
Photographers.....Lee Bennack, Lester Rosebrock
Designer.....Kris Doyle
Production.....Printing Services

Office of Public Affairs, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78284-7768
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