Oct. 19, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 42


Of Note


UTHSC scientist receives prestigious Glenn Foundation Award for aging research

Portrait of Dr. Hornsby HORNSBY

It's the stuff you expect to see in a good sci-fi flick: A team of scientists takes a cluster of cells out of a petri dish, injects them into a human brain, and cures a patient of Alzheimer's disease. It's also the idea that earned Dr. Peter Hornsby, professor in the department of physiology, this years Glenn Foundation Award.

The prestigious award is given to scientists who have made significant research contributions to the biology of aging. Dr. Hornsby specializes in a process called cell transplantation.

"In the future, cells from a patient could be grown in a culture, age related defects could be corrected by appropriate genetic manipulation and after expansion of the population, the rejuvenated cells could be transplanted back into the patient," Dr. Hornsby said. "It is science now, but could become the conventional medicine of the 21st century."

While the idea may sound highly technical, it has practical applications. Cell transplantation has the same clinical objectives as organ and tissue transplantation: to replace diseased or damaged organs and tissues and to correct metabolic or hormonal defects.

"Our work on cell transplantation and aging can benefit people in two ways.

First, it enables us to better understand the aging process at the cellular level. Second, in the future, cell transplantation will be an important therapy for a variety of age-related diseases," Dr. Hornsby said. "Better understanding of cellular aging will lead to new, rational approaches for the treatment of age-related diseases, whether those approaches involve cell transplantation or more conventional medical therapies."

Dr. Hornsby's colleagues, husband and wife team, Dr. Olivia Pereira-Smith and Dr. James R. Smith, nominated him for the award.

"Dr Hornsby is the only gerontologist who is able to culture adrenal cortical cells and use them for the study of replicative senescence," Dr. Pereira-Smith said. The Smith's won the first Glenn Foundation Award ever presented in 1994.

The Glenn Foundation Award carries a $2,500 cash prize, as well as an expense-paid trip to the Gerontological Society of America's annual scientific meeting, the oldest and largest meeting devoted to gerontological research. Dr. Hornsby will present his research at the November gathering.

Dr. Hornsby joined the Health Science Center on Sept. 1. He is one of the key investigators at the university's newly established Sam and Ann Barshop Center for Longevity and Aging Studies. His work is supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and he is a recipient of an Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholarship Award.

Dr. Hornsby received his Ph.D. in cell biology in 1974 from the Institute of Cancer Research, part of the University of London. The UTHSC recruited the internationally renowned investigator from the distinguished Baylor College of Medicine in Houston last summer.